what I’ve learned after 4 years in new york
April 4th, 2015.
Four years ago (ok, four years and some change really), I headed to SFO with a one-way ticket to JFK in hand, far too many suitcases in tow and one very confused puppy in his traveling crate. I was about to embark on a move that I had dreamed about for years, talked about for months prior and then with mere hours to wait at the airport gate, I came to realize I was about to be delayed three times — by about 4 hours, because I had chosen the one day that JFK had shut down most of its active runways. I frantically checked in with the gate attendants because I was worried Elvis was being looked after as he was already on board the plane as cargo and settled into a nervous waiting pattern, unable to read or sit still or sleep.
Which taught me my first lesson about New York: nothing about it comes easily.
But I’ll follow that up quickly with my next lesson that New York has taught me: it’s generally always worth it.
It’s funny being on this side of four years and looking back on my earlier posts in San Francisco, anticipating the move. I had no idea what I was getting myself into or what I would end up learning about myself in the process. This post in particular, written practically within days of moving east, is especially fascinating to me, because I can still almost taste just how eager I was to explore this new city, this new chapter, this new me — and thankfully, that sense of adventure hasn’t really left my side, four years later.
Today, in celebration of my four year New York anniversary, I wanted to share some of the pivotal lessons this city has taught me — some big and some seemingly small — and just how happy I am that I ultimately decided to take a leap of faith and move out here. Let’s dive in!
- New Yorkers may have tough exteriors but there’s a general camaraderie amongst them that shouldn’t be overlooked. 9 times out of 10, when you need help, someone is usually quick to offer a hand and will have your back if needed.
- It’s hard to explain, but there’s something comforting about hearing (and feeling) the rumble of the subway as it passes underneath you, rattling most things in its wake, like a dragon we’ve all come to love.
- Your neighborhood becomes your world — choose wisely. But also, don’t be too precious about leaving it — explore always and often.
- New Yorkers love any excuse to pet a dog — I met a lot of my neighbor friends because of Elvis, including the one time we ran into Hugh Jackman, all because Elvis wanted to sniff his Frenchie’s butt.
- Fire escapes become your second living room. Whenever you can, try to sit out on yours — it’s amazing what secrets of New York you’ll discover this way.
- You are tougher than you think. Remember that.
- You’ll never forget that sense of pride surging through you when you successfully give directions to someone without consulting Google Maps for the first time.
- You develop New Yorker pet peeves: personal annoyances that you can really only develop here in this city. Mine are slow walkers on the sidewalk, especially when they’re in groups taking up the entire path. And folks who take up too much space while sitting on the subway.
- Get ready to stand in lines. Lots of them. For dinner. For the corner store. For tickets to really hard to get into shows. Case in point: I waited over 12 hours on Saturday for tickets to see Much Ado About Nothing in Central Park. Generally, the longer the wait, the sweeter the badge of honor.
- New York pizza is the real deal. The hype is worth it. Weekends are better with a New York bagel (everything bagel preferably, toasted with cream cheese) and no matter what fad diet you might hear about, New Yorkers will generally make an exception for both of these things because their calories don’t count the same way.
- The smell of vendor roasted nuts is oddly both comforting and nauseating.
- The city is a revolving door — you’ll meet and say goodbye to a lot of friends along the way.
- Dating here can be exhausting (believe me, I’ve been there), and then once in a while, the universe throws you one of those first dates that lasts for hours — drinks turn into dinner, which turns into dancing at a jazz club, which turns into more drinks at the perfect hole-in-the-wall bar with dark corner booths perfect for making out. And you suddenly realize why some of the greatest romantic movies are set in New York.
- Speaking of the perfect hole-in-the-wall bar with dark corner booths perfect for making out, you’ll need to have one in your back pocket at all times. Because you never know when it might come in handy. Mine is The OtherRoom and Little Branch in the West Village.
- Taken or not, you should cherish your personal dates with the city itself — go to museums solo, dine alone sometimes, take the long walk home when the weather calls for it. The city makes for a great companion — you’ll never feel lonely.
- Never trust the umbrellas sold at CVS/Rite Aid/Duane Reade. Trust me on this one.
- You will walk everywhere — and, on those ideal days of the season, you’ll be really happy to do so. It’s the best way to see and learn your way around the city.
- You’ll fixate on certain landmarks that inevitably always take your breath away, no matter how many times you’ve walked by them in the past. Mine are Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, the Met steps and both Bedford and W. 4th streets in the West Village. I always seem to think to myself “how did I get so lucky to live here?” when I visit or pass them.
- You will work the hardest you’ve ever worked while living here, partially to prove to yourself that you can and partially because your rent necessitates it, but mainly so you can look back at this crazy chapter of your life and marvel at just how resilient and determined you really were.
- And whenever New York kicks you down, which trust me it most definitely will (see lesson #1 about everything being harder than expected), you simply need to put on your New York song and walk around for a few blocks. What’s a New York song you ask? It’s the song you put on that reminds you of the butterflies you got in your stomach when you first landed here in the city. Frank Sinatra is always a good choice here. As is Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. Mine, however? That will always be George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”
There’s plenty more this city has taught me and will continue to teach me, but I’ll leave it there for today. I hope you all enjoy these photos Grant and I shot at my West Village apartment fire escape, which seemed fitting considering this post four years ago, featured my San Francisco fire escape.
OUTFIT DETAILS: Laure de Sagazan gown and headpiece (borrowed)
Photos by Grant Legan