I write this on the leather couch at my parent’s house in Northern California, with back pain, hand pain, a face plagued by breakouts, and a serious case of New York PTSD. The final straw was my roommate asking me to move out of our Bushwick apartment. New York is the ultimate test of strength and I felt like I had failed.
This is what New York has taught me so far:
1. Sometimes you need to tell people to fuck off.
New Yorkers can tell you to fuck off in one steely glance. I, on the other hand, awkwardly try to appease someone who frustrates me. I wish in this last year, I had told the job that fired me to fuck off. Roommates that screwed me over? FUCK OFF. Men who hit on me on the subway? Friends who are assholes? FUCK OFF! Album engineers who hijacked my bands album and ruined the release? Fuck the fuck off. Period.
2. Entitlement is the enemy.
I floated in the land of unemployment for a few months. A competent, college graduate and look mom, no jobs! If you have ever seen an episode of Law and Order, you know that many struggling artists in New York work in the service industry. For a while, I was convinced that I was too qualified to consider any minimum wage position. Eventually, I got a job as a barista and I loved it. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was a more enjoyable money gig than jobs I was “qualified” for, whatever that means.
3. Don’t hold on to the relationships you left behind.
I am serious. This is New York specific. It is almost impossible to experience the positives of the Big City while holding on to people who live in other cities. Check in with your friends now and then? Go for it. Ride a painful on again/off again roller coaster with your ex-girlfriend in Boston? NO. Maybe someday when you have found your footing in the city, you can call this person. New York has hoards of people for you to meet and spending your time tethered to your past life keeps you from meeting these people.
4. Remind yourself why you came here.
Every day, look in the mirror and say, “I came to New York because….” It is very easy to lose yourself in the grind. The struggle to make rent dwarfs dreams.
5. You will eat, drink, and walk faster.
New York taught me that walking should be done like your wife is in labor. Eating is a luxury and you have 10 minutes. Now that I am back in California, I am trying to appreciate my food again. The lesson is to find a happy medium. I will tell myself this every time I almost choke on a sandwich.
A day after my final breakup with my ex, I started sobbing in child’s pose. My move to New York had taken what felt like everything from me. My band was in shambles, I had no job prospects, and I had lost someone I truly loved. Yoga to the People (Google it) saved my life — not just because I felt more healthy, but also because I was actively doing something to cope my anxiety. Best of all, they offer donation-based classes throughout the day, so even if you can’t afford a drink, you can afford yoga.
7. Cry, but don’t in public.
No one will bat an eye if you cry in public, but I would say part of adulthood is about knowing when and when not to cry. Reserve crying time in your schedule; I like a good before-bed cry. Crying cleanses your emotional palate.
8. Sightsee in your own city.
It’s amazing how long it took me to walk the Highline or sit by the East river. I was so caught up in my crazy life that I forgot that people fantasize about this place. That I used to fantasize about this place.
9. Small, nice gestures still count.
I learned this in the literal sense as a barista because the friendlier I was, the better tips I made. While New York hardened me in many ways, I still smile at strangers on the subway, hold doors open for elderly women, and give someone change if they are short in the grocery line. You could make someone’s day from a small nice gesture.
My best friend and I constantly talk about the struggle being “real.” There’s something about New York that makes your triumphs seem super heroic and your struggles seem like the most intense pain you will ever feel. I let New York stifle a lot of my fire and if I could relive the last year, I would have fought back more. I would have spoken my mind to those who I felt wronged me. Taken the challenge between my teeth and spit flames. My first weeks in my Brooklyn apartment, I stayed up every night playing my guitar. I aced job interviews, organized photo shoots, got drunk on rooftops and made some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. That is the New York I still itch to get back to because it is love and it is pain. My coworker at my most recent job told me “Work smart, not hard.” That is what I hope you take away from this article, if nothing else.