Upon Returning Home for the Weekend After a Year in NYC: 5 Realizations and Reflections

When I moved to New York City, my life immediately grew a jet pack. I could no longer spend lazy evenings watching Family Guy with my dad, eating six forms of carbohydrates without a single deadline to desiccate my schedule of fun and/or mindless entertainment. No; in New York, my days consist of a series of obligations, each met with a small but all-powerful check mark on my to-do list upon completion. If I’m lucky, I’ll grab some Key Foods apricots that are unquestionably sketchy but provide just enough energy to keep me going.

Sure, now it’s summer, and a break from school is nice. But the lack of class-imposed deadlines really only subtracts the once-constant feeling of impending doom and feasible mental breakdown from my life. In fact, I’ve noticed I no longer gravitate towards every window in a tall building and contemplate jumping out of it. Good for me, right? Baby steps.

So, after nearly a year spent in New York becoming a real New Yorker (I can give directions to tourists! I’ve made it!), I flew home to St. Louis for a long weekend. Within this time frame, I realized lots of surprising, juicy new bits about myself, thanks in part to lots of reflection and my mother’s not-so-subtle observations of how the Big City changed me.

1. I became an incredibly fast and dexterous walker, which proves inappropriate on St. Louis sidewalks

My first week in NY, I overheard a girl in my grad school program complain about how tourists have “space impairment issues,” and I thought she was a stuck up bitch. I even talked a little shit and unfollowed her on twitter. I mean, she’s not a native New Yorker either, so what was her deal? Well, it only took a week for my virtuous Midwestern patience to all-but disappear, along with any notion of sidewalk integrity. I became a monster. For instance, if you’re window shopping, you better get right up close to that window so you can practically smell what’s inside, because I will plow over you faster than you can say “does this Starbucks have a bathroom?” Who cares if I’m only in a rush to beat the line at Jamba Juice. The point is, you’re in my way, and I hate you. Now move. Obviously, this mindset is out of place in St. Louis, where patrons are only walking to their cars parked a block away and are, therefore, in no rush. Being aggressive is a luxury here, not a mindset.

2. Saying “no” is significantly easier than before

I once had issues saying no… to men who hit on me; to low-paying (or non-paying) writing opportunities; to my friends’ requests for intoxicated late nights; to carbs. I’d often acquiesce with a smiling “yes” while silently cursing myself for being such a pushover. But New York has taught me that saying no to almost everything is as easy as saying yes. There’s more men, more opportunities, more bakeries, and more to do at night New York, so saying no then just means saying yes later. I learned from a nervous breakdown last semester that I couldn’t say yes to every writing opportunity that came my way just so I could “get my name out there.” Something worth attending happens many nights out of the week, so missing a Thursday night event will only leave room for a Monday night rendezvous. And saying no to dozens of blubbering disrespectful men who hit on anything with two legs and a hole makes saying yes to a well-to-do gentlemen a hell of a lot more fun and exciting. Now, someone please teach me how to say no to cab-ride temptation and I’ll be golden.

3. I now think I am more cultured than everyone else

This is a classic mistake us new New Yorkers make. We leave our sheltered bubble in Elsewhere, U.S.A, and suddenly the wool (probably from a sheep on a farm down the street) is pulled from our eyes. I have an especially intense case of this new-culturedness because I am in school for journalism, where I was forced to learn a lot about the world in a very short period of time. I have also learned things like Dominican Spanish slang, (“dique” might be my favourite word), how to tell a hooker from a slutty European tourist, measurements and prices for a variety of drugs, and how to spot the vandal squad going undercover as taxi drivers (two in the front seat; who does that?). But I also realize that none of this makes me better than anyone from my hometown. And I need to chill out on starting my sentences with “In New York, we don’t ___________.” When I’ve traveled the world and traversed South American landscapes and solved hunger issues in third world countries, maybe then I’ll be cultured. ‘Til then, I’m still white bread.

4. I have sobered up

I know, I know: it seems like everyone’s boozing and sexing and sniffing in NY. But after living in a city that charges $14 for a drink (that I pay for with loan money) and in turn must nurse for a few hours until the ice melts (upon which I ask for an ice refill for appearance purposes), I appreciate a $3 beer the way a sex-depraved old woman might appreciate a hot young piece of ass: with fervour, graciousness and lots of gulping. I went to a local bar this weekend with a few high school friends, and a vodka-water, my poison of choice, was $4. 4-fucking-dollars. A shot of tequila: the same. And these prices weren’t due to some limited happy hour or a little boob-flashing to the bartender; these were everyday prices. I guess I forgot what it felt like to get absolutely wasted for the price of a few McDonald’s dollar menu items. Now I understand why some people from my school are drunks: while I’m in New York nursing a shitty cocktail for the span of an entire evening, partiers from my hometown are getting hammered for a fraction of the price. And they can do it every. Single. Night.

5. I am confused about almost everything my parents taught me

To be kind to strangers. To clean my plate. There is a God. Money isn’t everything. My time will come. I could go on. I moved to the city with 22 years of lessons stored neatly in my brain. Within a month, these lessons have been remixed, questioned, distorted and/or altogether discarded. I only have a few plates, and I can only microwave two of them, so cleaning my plate is no longer practical nor is it an option. However, I do lick the lids of my Starbucks cups. And in a city where the average price of a home is $1.4 million, and where people turn closets into studio apartments and rent them for thousands, money seems like everything. It dictates where I go, what I do, how I dress, what I read, how I get places and what I watch so much more than it ever did in a city that charges four dollars for a night of intoxication.

And the whole notion of “my time” coming “at some point” if I “work hard” is bullshit. I want success now. I want it fast. I want it because it is dangled in front of my face instead of just the idea of it being mentioned in conversations from afar. My ambition has grown fangs and legs and claws and it has become greedy and impatient. I am trying to remain the nice Midwestern girl my parents raised, but I find myself questioning not just some of the things they taught me, but everything they taught me. I thank them for instilling in me a sense of self-respect New York will never tarnish, but everything else is fair game. TC mark

image – Natalie Nikitovic

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  • Fredric

    wow, i wouldn’t say this is journalism-grad-school-material :/

    • Brianne

      yeah my dean kinda hates me. he avoids me in the hallways and waits for the next elevator if I’m in one. boo

  • JJ

    “Within a month, these lessons has been remixed, questioned, distorted and/or altogether discarded.” You mean have?Who edits these articles…

    • S.H

      Wait, I mean, you’re clearly a hugely interesting and intellectual person and all, but I just don’t feel inclined to congratulate you on pointing out such a trivial detail.

      • Kellon

        Well she is in grad school to be a journalist, so…

  • Kyla

    “My ambition has grown fangs and legs and claws and it has become greedy and impatient.”
    I kinda love that line.

    • Brianne

      why thank you… *bats eyelashes

  • Eastjabip

    Me either. In fact, this article is kind of annoying. Being here ONE year does not make you a New Yorker. Pushing tourists out of the way, and saying you do it, is one of the biggest clichés you can imagine. Did you go to the frying pan after a stop at Lucky Strike afterwards, too? Has NYU really disillusioned you and cultured you more than your Midwestern friends? No. And go to any dive bar and youll find a fantastic drink for $5 or under.

    • Brianne

      well, I don’t go to NYU, but my grad school friends have cultured me more than my Midwestern friends largely due to the fact that they are from all over the world. 

  • Greg

    #3 has almost cost me some good friends. good read

  • Guest

    I was born and raised and continue to live in New York City. I consider myself a New Yorker. It takes longer than a year… 

    • a New Yorker

      Oh STFU

  • Guest

    I was born and raised and continue to live in New York City. I consider myself a New Yorker. It takes longer than a year… 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Evertz/25521401 Caroline Evertz

    All these points are so true. After living in New York (albeit a very short period of time) I found myself adopting all of these traits.

  • Aelya

    One thing New Yorkers love to talk about is the versatility of the city, but so many of them fail to use it, especially in terms of money. New York is like almost every other largely populated city in that certain areas are ridiculously expensive and others are just within your price range. All it takes is a little searching. Buying Starbucks doesn’t exactly help either; there are cheaper places where you can buy better coffee.

    That being said, I still liked the article. Shows how much you can learn simply with a change of environment.

  • http://twitter.com/MarketerProblem A Marketer

    I like this. It’s not a fucking prize winning novel, it’s someone’s thoughts. All you snobby bitches commenting on here need to grow up. 

    • S.H

      Right!

  • Kate

    Loved this. All true. All relatable.  Haters are going to hate. Let them. Keep doing your thing because it’s great.

  • http://twitter.com/Kelsey_Ellefson Kelsey Ellefson

    Congrats, you still put the NEW in New Yorker. 

  • HAAAAAAY

    y’all be snotty up in here

  • Anonymous

    Yessss! Say no to “Midwestern Nice”!

  • spencasaurus

    I mean, it was an interesting article but not going to lie I fucking hate you.

    • Brianne

      you can join the “We Hate Brianne” club. they meet on Tuesdays in a shady basement on Attourney street. I know because one time, when I was feeling low, I went ingognito.

      • Tim

        Incognito!

      • Brianne

        terrible typer. boo

  • Anonymous

    this makes me excited to move out of my hometown next month

  • Anonymous

    this makes me excited to move out of my hometown next month

  • http://melissajclark.ca/blog Melissa Jean Clark

    I’ve never been to New York City. I think this piece really speaks to

  • http://melissajclark.ca/blog Melissa Jean Clark

    Alright, I’ve never been to New York – but, I can really relate to this. I know NYC is a much bigger city, more expensive, blah blah blah. I live in Toronto, and I moved here from a small town on the West Coast of Canada.

    My friends who have visited from my hometown note how fast I walk. I have places to be! I don’t have time to loiter around and stroll down the sidewalk like the tourists do. I’m accustomed to disregarding strangers on the street – they probably just want money or to make a rude comment. I know the value of a cheap dive bar. I can’t imagine moving back to my hometown. I live in the city now. It’s expensive but I love it.

    • dudette

      Same! I’m living in Toronto and pound the pavement like no other, bitch at people sauntering down subway stairs when I can hear the train rolling in, and ignore homeless people, love my neighbourhood dive bar. Love it!

      I do have a great apartment though that was a steal. It is a palace. I looked at 14 places before I found it. Gotta love the annex.

  • Lauren

    I think it’s hilarious hearing the ‘born and bred’ new yorkers banging on about how the writer isn’t a real new yorker after a year. Seriously, I think you’ve missed the point of her list.

  • Nate

    As a born, raised and current New Yorker (Brook-lyn!) I have my hang ups about transplants who are quick to claim authenticity as New Yorkers, especially bands that say they’re “Brooklyn” bands even though they’ve only lived in the borough for a month (a topic of discussion for another time). However, there comes a point when you (native NYer or multi-year transplant) have to accept that no one person in this city can claim ownership over place or identity. The city is too vast and dynamic a place to be generalized; the individual’s experience can hardly characterize the whole of the city’s experiences. So this piece is a bit cliche, but it’s an earnest account of a young woman’s transformation in a place that is constantly undergoing transformations itself. What I particularly enjoyed about reading this is that it raises a very thought provoking question: what defines a true New Yorker? If it’s not about how fast you walk, how much you spend on drinks, how often you say no, and where you hang out, then what is it that most accurately characterizes the authentic New York City identity? 

  • Luke

    God, New York sucks ass… As do New Yorkers.

  • Myemail

    Enough fucking articles about New York already. I guarantee about 90% of Thought Catalog readership has lived or does live there and nobody gives a shit.

    • raige eubanks-barrow

      You know, it does seem to have become the hipster writer right-of-passage. 

      Dear Miss New York: (1) you’ve lived there for a year… you aren’t a “New Yorker,” (2) these experiences aren’t part of an “authentic” New York experience. Sidewalk rage happens everywhere and childhood beliefs are challenged everywhere, (3) I am pretty sure that no one in your wool-covered home town finds you anything but annoying. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

    “The point is, you’re in my way, and I hate you.”

  • raige eubanks-barrow

    I would like to request someone write a “you-aren’t-a-f*cking-New-Yorker-until-you’ve-, article.” I would also like to ask for a “Your-hipster-coming-of-age-story-isn’t-new,” article. 

    • Brianne

      totes not a hipster. my boobs are unfortunately too shapely to pull off that whole vibe. but point taken. 

      P.S. I heart HTML, so thanks )

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