Thought Catalog

What People Talk About When They Talk About Life In New York

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They talk about how things felt when they first moved to the city versus how they feel now. In the beginning, they’d go out of their way to experience a mythic New York. They were just tourists with a New York address back then. They didn’t exactly know how to live their life off the script so they just took their cues from popular culture and dived right in. “Take me to the cupcake place that was on TV. Take me to the naked cowboy.” When you don’t know anything, you cling to the inauthentic things that feel like everywhere else.

They talk about having their favorite blocks. New York is on a grid, which means it’s incredibly easy to navigate. That being said, there are good routes to take and there are bad routes to take. The girl from California will tell you that she first felt like a New Yorker when she knew to always go down East Tenth instead of East Eighth. It’s a way to make the city feel more personal, more like yours, which is something that New Yorkers are always trying to do. How do you make something that’s so claustrophobic and overpopulated feel like it only belongs to you? It’s all in the perfect route, my friend.

They talk about how quickly things can change, just like the seasons. You go to that one bar on Avenue B until you don’t, until you find one in Brooklyn that’s more appealing to you. You’re close with the girl in the Lower East Side until she moves to Queens and falls off your radar. You eat lentil soup every day from that one place in the West Village until you run out of reasons to go to the West Village. The neighborhood no longer fits into your life so you leave the lentil soup behind and go elsewhere.

They talk about high rents, which is seldom interesting, and they talk about how “I love New York but I HATE New York”, which is NEVER interesting or novel, and maybe these people just need to realize that they always will feel ambivalent. Years can go by with you complaining about the same things but guess what? You’re still renewing that lease. Sucker.

They talk about the moments when they felt the most alienated, when they could barely get out of bed because “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.” These times would often catch them by surprise and leave them clutching an airline ticket back to wherever they came from. They never went though. Something came up; they needed to be in the city a little while longer because for whatever BS reason. They’re still here.

They talk about the moments when they felt most connected, when the city was giving them smooth handy J’s on a beautiful day and you were reciprocating by going down on it at The High Line. They talk about clicking with someone at a rooftop party in the summer and watching the sun rise together like old lovers. Relationships in New York can often feel accelerated but they can also burn out just as quickly. And when the latter happens, you’ll blame it on New York. The city can be such a scapegoat for your problems. It gets blamed for your drug use, failed relationships, missed deadlines, flakiness, and poor eating habits. “DON’T BLAME ME. Blame my surroundings!”

They talk about being young and how amazing it feels to be pure in a rotten city. New York loves a young ripe thing. It picks them off the trees and gives them the best sex of their life. When they start to age, however, the city turns its back on them like some disgusting Wall Street broker who’s dumping his wife for a younger model.

They talk about the reasons why they’re still here. It’s because of that one great day in the spring when they felt completely in sync with the city. Or was it that one day in the winter when they spent all day in bed having sex with someone who mattered to them and holding hands in a blizzard to the bodega to get some snacks. Oh no, I know what day it was. It was summertime, when your father came to visit, and you loitered around Central Park. You showed him the life you had built for yourself like you were showing off a lover. That’s why you’re still here—to show off what you’ve built for yourself in a city where everything can crumble.

They talk about the reasons why they might leave—there are many and they all are valid—which invariably include the desire to have more space, more bang for your buck, and needing to make healthier lifestyle choices. Maybe they’ll go through with it and leave it all behind. What they talk about when they talk about living in New York will be treated like a valuable faded Polaroid you always keep in your top drawer. Whatever happens with you and the city though, you’ll always regard it with a sense of fondness, and above all, feel lucky you got to experience it at all. Time has a way of removing the blemishes so after a certain point, you’ll have forgotten about the high rents and the lousy jobs and the tears you shed in public spaces, and choose to remember only the creamy delicious frosting on an otherwise stale and overpriced cake. TC mark

image – AngMoKio

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    • Megan Do

      Teared up while reading this. Another great one from Ryan!

    • Tom

      Ryan is obviously very talented, but god damn these NYC articles are played out. I’ve lived in New York so I suppose I “get it” to a degree, but please get over yourselves.

      • Anton

        They talk about how boring their friends are and how it seems that everyone is some kid from the midwest looking for a barista job.

        • S.H.

          HAHAHA, so accurate!

    • Dideeyay

      as a jdidion fan you’ve probably read “goodbye to all that?” not too dissimilar

    • FART

      OH MY GOD YES ANOTHER NEW YORK ARTICLE WHAT A CREATIVE LITTLE SPIN ON IT THIS TIME HIP HIP HOORAY

      • Raym_george

        FART, don’t be an ass, we clearly need to love the simple things, the living sensation, yes, we are all obsessed but is it bad? are you hurt?

        • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

          “FART, don’t be an ass,”

          trololo

    • guest

      beooklyn

    • kez

      This is great, captivated the whole read through.

    • Max

      Hehe, “Beooklyn.” First misspelling I’ve ever seen on TC. Nice article though!

      • Guest

        You don’t come here often, do you?

    • http://twitter.com/thatchigirl Kennyetta

      i actually enjoyed this NY article.  kudos.

    • guest

      nyc does eat their young

    • Jenna

      This is fantastic…and now that I know that Ryan is a Raymond Carver fan, I love him even more.

    • christine

      and this is why i’m moving to new york

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

      TC has made me hate New York forever. I’m completely turned off. Its like you guys just sit there all day and talk about New York. 

      I’m moving to Topeka.

      • S.H.

        Omg, I need you in my life…

      • aess

        Agreed. Well, in reality, its made me realize why pretentious friends who moved there to “pursue their career” have made such a deliberate effort to make their new “New York lives” seem so amazing… When I know they’re unemployed and spending their time on Twitter because they have nothing to do. Sky-high rent, no job, general feeling of alienation? Mmm, no thanks, I’ll pass… 

    • brn

      Everytime I watch HBO’s How to make it in America I feel like packing my shit and moving to NYC right away but your articles make me never want to move there!

    • Anonymous

      Great article. Makes me proud to be a native.    There  is something for everybody in NY.  It’s not just for the young and ambitious from in or out of state.  If you’re  happy to be at one of the cultural crossroads of the world and you have an open mind it’s all you need to thrive. :)

    • Anonymous

      THIS IS RELEVANT. 

    • http://www.happyhoneylark.blogspot.com Kallie, Happy Honey & Lark

      Eh, I dunno. I’ve lived here my whole life and the only time Manhattan was magical was when I was a kid/teenager but really, anywhere would have been magical at those pivotal times. Brooklyn was also a place that nice girls from the border of Queens/Nassau didn’t go.
      NY isn’t a “thing” when you’re from here. Its just, whatever. Its where your parents/friends/everything is, just like everyone else feels about their hometown. I fantasize about getting out to another city or the country like small town people fantasize about coming here.

      • DC

        Move to another city, and then you’ll see how much you appreciate coming from NYC… the cliches suddenly become a reality.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

          oh geez. get over it and move on.

        • bronx kid

          i dunno, i think after you move to another city you finally realize how much it’s not the “best-place-ever-god-why-go-anywhere-else?” and i just feel like everyone who moves there is so brainwashed about it. i dunno. i left. glad i grew up there but glad i left. now i don’t have to spend my 20’s paying too much for rent, drinks, and everything else ever….

        • http://www.happyhoneylark.blogspot.com Kallie, Happy Honey & Lark

          I have lived in another city and do appreciate NYC, its the people who move here and get annoyed when I’m not starry eyed over NYC things (I admit a good sunset over the city or a fantastic night out can do that, but that’s happened elsewhere too). I’m not sure how to convey this via internet but a lot of people my age act like NYC is the be-all, end-all, its a “thing.” To me it just isn’t like that, it just IS. 

    • Heather

      Sometimes I think the myth of New York is perpetuated by 20-somethings who move there right out of college and mistake “normal adult life in your 20s” with OMG NEW YORK LIFE – SO AMAZING .  Every city offers this stuff. 

      • http://www.happyhoneylark.blogspot.com Kallie, Happy Honey & Lark

        Yea, its annoying to kids who grew up here and are like “Eh, its not that special”

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

        NO. STUFF ONLY HAPPENS IN NEW YORK. NOWHERE ELSE.

        • S.H.

          Ya!!!!!!!!!!

        • S.H.

          Ya!!!!!!!!!!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

        NO. STUFF ONLY HAPPENS IN NEW YORK. NOWHERE ELSE.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

        NO. STUFF ONLY HAPPENS IN NEW YORK. NOWHERE ELSE.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

        NO. STUFF ONLY HAPPENS IN NEW YORK. NOWHERE ELSE.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

        NO. STUFF ONLY HAPPENS IN NEW YORK. NOWHERE ELSE.

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        Stuff happens, but the stuff that goes on here is… a little parallel from the rest of the States. 

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        Stuff happens, but the stuff that goes on here is… a little parallel from the rest of the States. 

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        Stuff happens, but the stuff that goes on here is… a little parallel from the rest of the States. 

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        Stuff happens, but the stuff that goes on here is… a little parallel from the rest of the States. 

    • sftonyc

      I’m moving to New York in 6 weeks and I’m strangely looking forward to all of this…although I have a great job and have spent enough of my life visiting there that I’ve already done all the tourist stuff. Excited for the new adventure. 

    • ok...

      what ryan o’connell writes about on a daily basis: a summary

      so now these articles are done, right?

    • http://twitter.com/victory_nyc Victoria Capdevielle

      People keep writing about what it is like to live in NYC because there is nothing like it. But frankly I’m tiered of people trying to verbalize something that is so unique with so many cliches. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

      Good piece, but pretty much everything you wrote can be applied to “Anycity, USA”.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

      Good piece, but pretty much everything you wrote can be applied to “Anycity, USA”.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

      Good piece, but pretty much everything you wrote can be applied to “Anycity, USA”.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

      Good piece, but pretty much everything you wrote can be applied to “Anycity, USA”.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

      Good piece, but pretty much everything you wrote can be applied to “Anycity, USA”.

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