Go Ask Lev #8: New York, New York! It’s a Hell (Of A Town.)

Late Show with David Letterman
Late Show with David Letterman

Hi Lev

I want to move to NY in a year or two, once I’m done with college. I know everyone has different opinions and insights but I’d like to know: what was your experience like living in New York?

-Brenda P.

***

Hi Brenda,

Everyone does have a different experience in New York, and I am no exception. I had a very extreme experience, and I’ll do my best to parse the pros and cons, and explain how they might affect me specifically compared to you.

First, crucially; you don’t have to move to New York! Again, for the cheap seats: you do not have to move to New York. Or L.A. for that matter.

You don’t have to do anything.

But, after college, the obvious evaporates and you’re left with a staggering freedom, more scary than anything else. It’s a void, an absence of direction, and the gravity of New York (or L.A.) is tempting to the ambitious and the unsure. It’s a path, a magnet, a cliche and a promise of, if nothing else, something to do.

But you don’t have to.

So, first things first, if you have no particular reason to go to New York, do not go to New York. Please. New York consumes the unprepared or unsure. Trepidation will get you crushed here. Jaded veterans and thirstier newcomers will trample you here.

If you don’t have a reason, don’t go. New York is not a city for ambivalence.

Now, assuming you have a reason to go to New York — a passionate artistic or professional ambition, a deep love of urban life, a pull towards extroverted adventure or something else — New York has a solid case.

The food, people and possibilities are unrivaled in New York. But so is the stress, the pressure and the cost. Some people love it. Some hate it. Many feel both.
Personally, it wasn’t for me. Coming fresh out of college I felt unguided, lonely, and anxious in New York. But I know amazing people who adore it.

Like anything else, it’s up to you. But wherever you go, thinking smartly about pros and cons will make you wiser, happier and sharper.

If you have more details that might help, feel free to include them in a follow-up email.

2.

Hi Lev,

I am in my mid-twenties and have a good job and great friends in a big city that I just moved to six months ago. Things are going great, except for my relationship with my older sister.

She’s also been bad to me, and I recently received an email from her in which she tells me that she wants nothing to do to me and I am a jealous and negative part of her life. I hadn’t spoken to her since December so that email came as quite a shock. I feel bad that things aren’t going as well for her as they are for me. But she felt the need to send me a hateful email detailing all the things wrong with me and tell me she’s cutting me out of her life.

My initial thought is to pass her off as a “hater” but how bad does that suck to have your own sibling be the nastiest thorn in your side? Lev, I know I’m supposed to just keep stunting and doing my own thing, but I have a weird complex where I want everyone to like me so this is really bugging me… Help!!!

Sarah M.

***

Hi Sarah,

So, I know what I’m supposed to say.

In a vacuum, I’d give you bland positivity about family bonds and love, but I have a feeling that this isn’t a proper fit for your situation, and I don’t want to whitewash what could be a hurtful and harmful situation into some cookie-cutter platitudes. If someone is repeatedly and intentionally toxic, you need to take your distance. And hateful, specific and practiced hate is unacceptable, no matter who it comes from.

Sometimes family ties aren’t perfect. Sometimes that’s an understatement. As painful as it may (or may not be) I’d remind you that you aren’t at fault. This anger and spite from your older sister is unwarranted, cruel, and, uh, bad. I was missing a third word there.
I’d tell you to be the bigger person, but it sounds like you are. I’d exhale and move on as best you can. Time and distance might help you repair. Not lashing back out already makes you the bigger person.

I know you want everyone to like you, and that’s universal. But you don’t owe anyone anything beyond kindness when you can. And when it becomes more hurtful for you than it is beneficial to them, distance, calm and peace may serve you better. TC mark

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