Compared to New York, living in any other city in America is like riding a bike with training wheels. Nothing is as hard, as miserable, but also as rewarding as braving the daily battle of life in The City.
As soon as you walk out the front door, the assault begins. Fighting for a spot on the sidewalk, for a seat on the subway, for a table at lunch. The city constantly humbles you — just when you think you’re having a great day, you get trapped on the F train for an hour with someone singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow “ on endless loop.
New York is a city for young people who can contend with its never-ending sadism, who needs its tough but wise guidance on the way to maturity and sophistication. Through its hardship ex-suburbanites are reshaped into New Yorkers, a mutant breed of person capable of thriving in adverse conditions who lives in bagels, Thai delivery, and black coffee.
It’s an essential experience for the young and ambitious. It’s a testing ground to prove yourself and your strength. The pains are plentiful, but the payoffs are equally many.
1. There’s always something to do. In New York, everyone is so anxious to escape their 5th floor walkup and three roommates that they will accept nearly any invitation to get drunk. Social life revolves around happy hours, launch parties, gallery openings, and band performances. You’re always meeting new people, experiencing new things, and discovering new places with bottomless mimosas on offer.
2. It fosters creative energy. When you’re not out, you’re scheming in your studio on how to get ahead so that you can live in an apartment where the bed isn’t next to the oven. Being in close proximity to other creative people breeds collaborations and opportunities.
3. The friends you make in New York will be your friends for life. You are united by a shared sense of ambition that brought you to New York in the first place. You wanted to make something of your life, which is why you moved here and not San Antonio. There’s a sense that you lived something exciting and real together. Friendships are forged over drunken nights at loft parties, endless brunches, and sharing a cab at 3AM when the streets are quiet and the whole city feels like it belongs to you in that moment.
4. There is consistent visual stimulation. The street is a runway with inspiration around every corner. It’s a place where people dress for other people, where style is part of the city’s DNA. Any new arrival to its shores quickly sheds their old skin in favor of all black everything.
5. New York makes you tough. It challenges you at every corner — how badly do you really want to make this subway train? How long are willing to wait in the rain for a cab? Will you trade a hernia for a bag of groceries you have to lug four blocks home and four flights of stairs up?
6. Once you’ve lived in New York, you can go anywhere in the world and figure shit out. New Yorkers are proud that they live in a rat-infested garbage heap; it means they’re survivors. After you’ve contended with Bangladeshi drivers, mutant cockroaches crawling out of the bathtub drain, and an apartment the size of a Mini Cooper, nothing in life seems that scary.
7. People take you more seriously. Having lived in New York gives you a certificate of achievement in life. Courses you had to pass included: being accosted by strangers on the street and in the subway while maintaining a stone cold stare, not freeing to death or drowning during natural disasters, and figuring out how to get from Greenpoint to the Upper West Side in less than an hour. There is a certain intensity and proficiency that New Yorkers develop, a fast-paced drive that is unmatched anywhere else.
8. As unpleasant as the subway is, it’s a great equalizer. You are forced into a small, confined space with people of ever shape, size, color, and smell. You will see all sorts of atrocities — people clipping their toenails, people eating gyros before 8AM (sometimes at the same time as clipping their toenails), to mention nothing of the roving panhandlers, preachers, and various other Metrocard-toting lunatics. After a few years in the MTA, you could ride a rickshaw through Calcutta and hardly bat an eyelash.
9. You appreciate real estate more. When you finally do leave New York, you’ll be stunned to find what your money can get in other parts of the world. What you used to pay for a one bedroom walkup over a falafel stand can get you a house pretty much anywhere else.