10 – Always have a contingency plan.
In New York, nothing is set in stone, even when you sign on the dotted line. Anything can happen. You should always have a place you can go to in the event of an emergency (a friend or family member – one in the city and one easily accessible outside of the city). No matter where you go, always have a couple subway routes planned out in your head. I guarantee there will be some sort of signal error/power outage/”train ahead” that prevents you from taking your usual route from time to time. #ThanksMTA. Always have an emergency $20 in your wallet in case you encounter an unexpected “cash only” vendor, which are super common. Have your super’s and landlord/leasing office’s info saved in your contacts. Always pack a snack, phone charger, bandaids, and umbrella in your bag. Be over-prepared for everything. Just trust me. Shit happens.
9 – Your home is just as much outside of your apartment as it is inside.
You sign your lease and move into your apartment. You furnish it, you put up pictures, you chuck in a couple of throw pillows, a blanket or two, a scented candle, and presto! You’ve created a home! …So now what? Sure, your apartment should be an oasis to retreat to, but it shouldn’t be where you spend every hour of every day. Plug yourself into the city that you’ve worked so hard to get to and live in. Make friends, attend classes, build communities of friends that turn into a chosen family. Create spots that are yours. Find your favorite booth in the bistro on the corner of your block. Find the tree in central park that casts the perfect shadow over you and your book on a Saturday afternoon. Find the spot on the second floor in the back corner of a coffee shop where you have your best ideas. Create little pockets in the city that make you feel like you belong. And you will.
8 – It takes time to get settled.
You think you need two weeks. Then you feel like you need three months. Then a year goes by and you realize you are JUST starting to find your groove in the rhythm of the city. Building a new life in a new place takes time. You WILL stumble, you WILL fall, you WILL mess up, you WILL have to ask for help, you WILL feel challenged, you WILL get impatient, you WILL feel defeated, you WILL want to leave. BUT! If you can just hold on and stay grounded, you WILL come out on the other side. Think of New York as an exclusive controversial fraternity. You have to survive a semi-brutal hazing period, but once you’re in, you’re in for life.
7 – Money evaporates in this city. It just does.
This one almost doesn’t make the list, because it’s the first thing everyone actually DOES tell you when you announce your decision to move to NYC. Some may think it’s crazy to want to pay an arm and a leg to live in conditions that are universally less-than-ideal, but guess what? It takes a LOT of strategy, grit, creativity, and prioritization when you choose to live in the second most expensive city in the United States. You should always give yourself credit for that. Money doesn’t behave the same way in NYC as it does in other places. While the average American aims to spend roughly 30% of their income on rent, it is not uncommon for New Yorkers to spend as much as 60-70%. Priorities shift, as does perspective. While other people your age are going on elaborate world excursions, building the house of their dreams, getting married, and having babies, you may be doing mental math to figure out how many meals you can siphon out of your Chipotle bowl. They may not understand it, but you do, and that’s all that matters.
6 – Everyone exists in different circumstances.
This is the biggest one. Everyone enters this city from a different context. Some have parents who have lived here and know all the inside info, some come for college and are semi-sheltered in an academic setting, some have had plans of moving here for years, some come to pursue x, y, or z dream, some are running from a lack of belonging in their hometown. No matter what the motives, everyone is here because they WANT to be. You can’t fall into the trap of comparing your circumstances to others, or you will be perpetually unhappy. Some people live in beautiful luxury apartments that their parents pay for, some people live in a one bedroom with four other roommates. Some people were recruited by companies and walked into this city with a well-paying job, some people have been hustling for years and still aren’t really sure where their next paycheck will come from. There is nothing wrong with anyone’s circumstances or decisions, and you cannot judge someone for having any more or less than you do. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s super easy to fall into the rut of comparison when people are able to do things, experience parts of the city, or live in a certain way that you aren’t able to. It’s all relative. As long as you go to bed at night feeling pride in what you have and how you got it, that’s really all that matters.
5 – New Yorkers aren’t mean, they’re just efficient.
New Yorkers get a bad rap for being abrasive. They’re loud, obnoxious, and unforgiving, right? Wrong. They’re just PRODUCTIVE. New Yorkers all think that the work they are doing in this city is more important than anyone else’s, and if you interfere with that, THAT’S when you’ll experience the hostility. Things like not standing clear of the subway doors, walking in the bike lane, taking up the entire sidewalk, taking too long to place an order, hesitation of any kind, basically any instance of being ill-prepared or unaware of the people around you will make New Yorkers irritated. But that’s justified, is it not? We have things to do! Just get out of the way, dammit!
4 – You’ll never get tired of answering questions about New York.
People are fascinated with the culture you live in. “HOW much is a cup of coffee!?” “You walk HOW many steps a day!?” “Your apartment is on the FIFTH floor and there ISN’T AN ELEVATOR!?!?” When a tourist asks you which way the Uptown 6 train is and you point with confidence, when friends who are headed to the city ask you to recommend “non-touristy activities,” when your family visits you and you get to show off your spots and experiences, it’s just the BEST. And it will never get old. Because you have it figured out. And that kind of makes you a figure of authority. Congratulations!
3 – Loneliness is inevitable, and it’s not a bad thing.
New York is a bit ironic at times because it can feel extremely isolating, despite being surrounded by millions of people daily. You wake up to the sounds of people leaving their apartment to start their days, you lock eyes with maybe 50 people on your commute to work alone, you pass by anywhere from 500-5,000 people a day, you’re just submerged in a sea of humanity constantly, and yet sometimes you feel like an insignificant speck on this tiny island. There is so much happening in the city at all times that you will always feel that you’re missing out on SOMETHING. Ubiquitous FOMO, if you will. But, loneliness isn’t a bad thing, it’s an opportunity to grow, to get to know yourself, and to be alone with your own thoughts. It’s a chance to come up for air from the craziness and reflect, which is invaluable. In the grand scheme of it all, this is the time for self-discovery, and it will ultimately have a larger impact overall on your evolution as a human being more so than any flashy experience, late night rendezvous, or Instagramable moment. Sit in it. Learn from it. Don’t be afraid of it.
2 – You’re part of a secret club.
Once you’ve lived in New York, you get it. You’ve survived and thrived in an environment that could have crushed you and you have prevailed! You will forever be connected to anyone else who lives or has ever lived here. You’ll find yourself bumping elbows with other current or former New Yorkers out in the wild (ya know, the Midwest and other parts of the U.S.), talking about the neighborhoods your frequented and the crazy time you fell asleep on the D train and ended up in Coney Island. You’ll catch insider references in various TV shows, movies, and comedy acts, you’ll forever roll your eyes at anyone who complains about lack of space or how much things cost, and you’ll never be afraid of anything ever again. You’ll be ruined in the best way. It’ll be great.
1 – You will be tested and pushed to your limits, in every way, and you’ll be better for it.
As the old saying goes, “when it rains, it pours.” New York is no different. There will be days that kick you in the gut and make you want to disappear into the concrete. Days where everything goes wrong and the strains of the city just make it all even worse. There will be times when everyone is out of town and you’re lonely in your apartment, times when you run out of money and find yourself paying for each individual subway ride because it’s all you can afford, and times when you are quite literally battling mother nature as you stomp your numb, frozen, boot-clad feet through snow and slush and puddles of who-knows-what on your commute. You’ll get harassed, bumped, maybe even hurt (hey, subway stairs). You’ll experience heartbreak, devastation, over-stimulation, anxiety, and stress of every kind. But, you WILL feel more strong, resilient, and unbreakable than you ever have in your entire life, and you’ll have good ‘ole NYC to thank for it!