It’s been 5 years since I graduated college in Virginia and moved up to New York. I wasn’t one of many – I was actually the oddball. Most of my peers stayed in and around Virginia – which makes sense, since the idea of moving to the Big Apple is not one that is welcome by most far-away suburban newly-graduated millennials.
But there was something about this city that I was drawn to. I blame the movies – Sex and The City – and every other beautifully-shot photograph showing the iconic skyline that so many people see in and out of their dreams.
Fast-forward five years and I’m still in a love and hate relationship with this city. Why the hate? Well, it’s complicated. And tough. But the reality is – New York City is more often than not, absolutely nothing like the movies. It’s much, much more.
So here are 10 of the things I’ve learned while living and working in New York City.
1. You’ve got to really, really want to be here.
New York is not for the faint of heart. It will push you, pull you, and make you wonder why you moved here in the first place. But that’s the beauty of this city. It will shape you and make you stronger, but you’ve got to be willing to struggle through it. People come to New York City with an idea that it’s all sunshine and rainbows, and leave just as quickly as they came.
Rent is expensive, you’ll have way less space than you are used to, the city is always busy – and you’ll have to do what you can to survive. Work multiple jobs, or a job that isn’t one that you’ve dreamed about – but every day is a lesson. And the more time you spend here, the tougher and more resilient you’ll become.
2. You’ll become a champ at day-to-night dressing.
I’ll admit it. I used to wear a lot more color before moving here. But style changes with your environment. And New York City has influenced my style in so many ways. You’ll think about ways to be creative with your wardrobe, but also prioritize function when making fashion choices. I stopped buying things I can’t wear comfortably. I’m grateful to whoever brought the sneaker trend back. When in doubt, wear black. And I stick to buying pieces that can transition from day (workplace) to night (playplace).
So in honor of my 5-year relationship with New York City, I partnered with Levi’s x Zappos to give you a glimpse some of my go-to spots in New York City – showing you how I wear my favorite Levi’s 711 Skinny Jeans from day to night. (Watch in HD!)
3. People are rude for a reason.
There was always this notion that New Yorkers were rude, mean, impolite – this is more often untrue than not. I believe that New Yorkers are just a bit more impatient than people who live in other cities/places. We’re used to efficiency, and speeding up the process. Faster food, faster cab rides, faster lines – all around faster living. But there’s also a reason why people can be rude – and that’s because someone else was rude to them. I’ve noticed that in many instances – public rudeness is a result of a cycle.
Wake up in a small room.
Leave the apartment to grab a coffee. Wait in line.
Get honked at by a cab driver while trying to cross the street (you weren’t fast enough).
Get to the train. Five people push you into the train car to fit into the stop.
You’re smushed, and way too close to a stranger for any kind of comfort.
Get out of the train – bumped into by five people trying to cut in front of you to get to the stairs.
Walk into your office building. Wait in line for the elevator.
Try to squeeze into the elevator, but too many people. Wait for the next one.
Get to your desk.
This is just an example of a typical weekday morning for me when I worked a full time corporate job. I found that it was very, very difficult to not get frustrated by the time I got to my desk. And that was just my story – imagine those of any and everyone else living and working in the city.
4. Everyone has a story.
One thing that I always loved about this city was the diversity of stories and people. Everyone you meet has a story, and there is inspiration everywhere you go, and in every person that you meet. I always chat up my cab driver – and I’ve had some of my most memorable conversations in them – stories of family, success, finding new jobs, moving to a new city, foods and even relationships.
The barista who makes your coffee in the morning – the woman who works the desk at the dry cleaner – the security guard working the door at your favorite bar – the bathroom attendant in the night club making sure the line moves at a reasonable pace – the part-time model and student who you see in spin class – even the pizza delivery guy. Everyone came here for a reason, everyone came here for a better life, and everyone came here to hustle. The more people I’ve met – as different as they seemed at first – the more I’ve realized that we were all connected by this city, and what it stands for.
5. You’ll become a bag lady.
You’ll get used to carrying an overnight bag as your everyday bag – because you’re most likely going to need everything by your side. If you want to go to the gym after work, you’ll probably have to bring an extra pair of clothes, sneakers, shower products and any other miscellaneous items you’ll need. All this, since you won’t have time to go back to your apartment before going to the gym.
I’ve gotten used to carrying bags on top of bags all throughout the city just to get through my day. Bring a change of clothes to work if you have an event + dinner to go to that evening. Why? You probably won’t want to or have time to go home and come back out.
You’ll become a bag lady. Or bag man? Either way, the bigger the bag, the better.
6. When you describe yourself as a ‘foodie’ – it will almost always be an understatement.
Every. Single. Kind. Of. Food. You. Can. Think. Of. — New York City probably has it. I thought the freshman 15 was bad when I went to college. I gained more weight in my first year in Manhattan than I did freshman year in college.
There are deli/cafes with every single kind of food you can think of – cafeterias and diners perfect for late-night (more like way-early-morning) eats – romantic, candlelit fine dining restaurants – faster food chains that don’t start with an ‘M’ or a ‘BK’ – ethnic food neighborhoods that span blocks – gastropub famous for craft cocktails – beer gardens with outdoor sand pits – and everything in between. The food and restaurant scene here is unmatched by most places anywhere in the world, and there is a place serving something for every craving.
7. It can be the loneliest city in the world, if you’re not careful.
You’d think that because New York City is so crowded, it would be impossible to feel lonely, right? Wrong. Sometimes you can feel the loneliest when there are always people surrounding you.
Personally, I’ve learned that everyone’s schedule is hectic, and it can be really difficult to keep in touch with your friends if they don’t live within a 5 block radius from you. It’s also expensive to eat out and meet up for dinner multiple nights per week. But that’s when you’ve got to get creative, and make sure you do what you can to maintain your friendships. Buy a bottle of wine and invite a few friends over for a home-cooked meal, or better yet – a potluck. Have movie nights for two. Grab a quick thirty-minute lunch during the week with someone you haven’t seen in a while.
8. Your favorite meal of any day will be brunch.
Bottomless brunches are probably the best thing to ever happen for groups of friends. Eat, stay, drink and talk for hours with some of your besties, sitting outside and soaking in the sun. Brunch in New York City is unlike brunch anywhere else, and it will quickly become your favorite meal of any day.
9. Your limits will be tested, but if you make it here, you can make it anywhere.
As cliche as this statement is – I 100% believe that it’s true. New York City will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not paying attention, but it’s this grind that separates the tough from the weak. If you can build up yourself, your career, your business, your goals while surviving in New York City – whether it’s for one year or ten – the lessons you’ve learned during your time here will be invaluable. And living / working anywhere else will be a piece of cake.
10. Don’t get lost in your day to day.
I remember when I first came to Manhattan – I couldn’t stop looking up. The skyscrapers, the people, the cabs, the shops and restaurants – it was like I had a high from the city that felt like it would never go away. But the buzz wears off after you’ve been here for a while. You get caught up in your day to day – work, home, favorite restaurant / bar, sleep. Wake up, do it again. Ask a New Yorker when the last time they went to any kind of tourist attraction – and they’ll probably laugh at you.
What once was wonder in your eyes can easily become frustration + stress. Your slow, sight-soaking stroll will most likely become a brisk walk – everyone’s got somewhere to be, and everyone’s moving like they’re late for something really, really important.
I keep having to remind myself not to get lost in my day to day. Look up to remind yourself of this amazing city, and do something new – explore, always.
This is a follow-up post from my last post in partnership with Zappos and Levi’s – READ: How I Finally Found The Perfect Pair Of Jeans. View the entire Levi’s Women new 700 denim line here. They’re around $40-$50 a pop and thanks to Zappos, free shipping + returns so if they don’t fit, exchange ’em or send ’em back! 🙂
Thank you so much for reading this post. What do you think about New York City – love/hate it? Why? Leave a comment below!