Josh and I have always been the type to swim a bit against the current, so it seemed quite reasonable when we decided shortly after having our first child to give it a go living above a bike shop in a 700 sq. foot railroad apartment in Brooklyn.
1 more apartment, 1 additional child, 153 bagels, 731 cups of coffee, 1500 miles walking, and 2 years later here we are, loading our boxes onto the moving truck again. As we embark on our next chapter and literally leave for greener pastures, I must bid this lovely, diverse, bustling city a proper adieu.
Here are the best lessons from NYC life that I will be taking with me (on top of a stronger immune system and a newfound superhero-like ability to have almost nothing shock me, because when you hear “getcha penis outta my face” on the subway before you’ve had a second cup of coffee, it’s just another day in the city).
1. Cut the bullshit. I initially thought New Yorkers were brusque and rude, but it turns out they’re just paying attention. I quickly learned the less I chatted mindlessly about the weather, buffoon smiled and needlessly apologized, the more I was able to better observe and gauge people. I became a better listener and more capable of having sincere interactions with strangers and friends alike.
2. Genuine gestures have genuine power. In a city where you are perpetually surrounded by dozens to thousands of people at a given moment everyone is so anonymous that they can act however they want to, for better or worse. So when someone decided to strike up a conversation or go out of their way to lend me a hand here it was because they truly wanted to. Because of this, NYC moments of kindness have this extra special shimmery lingering effect (that or I’ve been smelling too much hot garbage recently).
3. The importance of being able to be assertive and loud. We are in an intense little microcosm of the world here—it is largely full of really beautiful fascinating, delightfully unique people, but it is also has some not so stellar people sprinkled in mix. Running into a few of the latter helped me learn the importance of being ready to stand up, and stand up loudly, for myself and my children.
4. There is a huge and necessary difference between “pardon me” and “I’m sorry.” Raise your hand if you have a serious problem of apologizing to people all day long. After receiving absolutely zero “no worries!” in response to my stream of sorries my first few months, I learned to stop compulsively blurting it out to strangers as I passed them in the market.
5. Women are looking out for each other. Every time I have ridden the subway as a pregnant woman or mom with children in tow someone has insisted I take her seat—every single time (except once) in my entire 2 years of living here that person has been a woman. Sisterhood is alive and well, ladies.
6. Everything is possible. It really is true that everything is possible in this city. The people at the top of every industry are still, well, people. With enough ambition, time, and dedication dreams totally become reality here.
7. Ask others. Simply that. I learned to ask the universe and people for exactly what I needed–be it the money I deserved for a job, an opportunity to collaborate, a meeting, help, you name it. I found that for the most part people want to help each other succeed, and the key upping your odds is to first ask to meet face to face, then ask for help–preferably over coffee because let’s be honest, coffee makes us all better, more helpful people.
8. Ask yourself. I learned to challenge my own beliefs about what I wanted from life, and learned to not be afraid if over time those goals and values shifted in ways I never anticipated. Starting over stops being intimidating once you do it half a dozen times. After figuring out #6 I had to have an honest conversation with myself. From living here and watching the rat race’s toll on everyone my want list shifted from being career-centric and moved towards the lines of “massive amounts of travel, a thriving healthy family whom I see a lot of, warm summer nights overlooking the Mediterranean, sand beneath my toes as often as possible, strong brave daughters, my own studio, and a garden full of flowers and vegetables.”
9. Choose the road less traveled, together …and maybe throw a dog and some kids in the mix too while you’re at it. It’s slower and more chaotic traveling as a menagerie, but the views are unparalleled when shared.
10. Being an authentic person is better than being a nice person. The beauty of this place is in the diversity of life here. Being freed from expectations on how to dress, look, and act allows outrageous authenticity to happen.
Personally, and again to my surprise, I have found my most authentic self seems to be into beautifying and nourishing from the inside outward, trying to convince Josh that we should sell all our worldly possessions to travel around the world for a year with our children in a retro VW camper van, and possibly give hiking sandals a whirl. Told you it was shocking.
And most importantly, I have learned if your authentic self happens to be pretty nice and you come across another person who is authentic and happens to also be pretty nice—then hot damn, that is where the magic of life happens.
And trust me when I say that New York, and the world for that matter, is absolutely bursting with magic that way.
Thank you for letting us be a part of it, New York.
…Now where did I put those keys…