10 Things NYC Taught Me

TIA HERE with a list that I've compiled based on my own personal experiences this summer. While some of these things may not have to do with NYC directly, they are all things I learned these past few months, interning and living in NYC for the first time in my life. Hopefully, you'll be able to glean some worldly and lifelong knowledge from this (insert pained groan) listicle.


1. Cities are very, very dirty.

Seem obvious? If you haven't lived in a city before, like I haven't, you don't even know the scale to which this is true. Just because you're wearing something to cover the bottoms of your feet (read: sandals) doesn't mean that the black dust of New York City won't find its way to the bottom of your feet. I've accepted that there's nothing I can do about it--other than wash my feet with great care every time I get home--but I'm still amazed by how dirty my feet get after walking for an hour each day. If you want to save time and don't want to hop into a sink or shower every time you go out, I'd suggest using makeup/facial wipes. I'll take off my makeup each night, and then wipe down my stupid feet. It works pretty well!

2. Everyone moves at their own pace.
And my pace is fast. However, a lot of other people can't move as fast as I do, or they choose not to, and even though it drives me insane, I can't try to force other people to be as efficient as I usually am. The great thing about this point is how it applies equally to both work ethic and walking speed. Slow walkers on the street will be the death of me. Except that they won't. Because I'll force myself to accept that some people just can't fathom the constant rushing that defines my life. That said, not everything in NYC is fast-paced, although as a fast-paced person, I wish that were true. Every moment I spend not running through life is a moment I feel is being horribly wasted (and it makes me more frustrated than anything else in the world), but not all people feel the same way--and I have to understand that.

3. How you look does mean something.

Appearance and style, from hair to clothes to makeup, are not meaningless. People in NYC, more than anyone other people, know how to wear their personalities outside of their skin with remarkable skill. For those who think that how you dress or look doesn't say something about your personality, I've got news for you--it does. It defines you in more ways than you know, and it's kind of amazing. Not "putting effort" into your style is a style in itself, and like every style, from goth to preppy, it says tomes about you as a person. In New York, this falls on a whole new scale with people dressed in styles I never even knew existed, with hair colors and cuts that rival art--and even if I don't know anything about a person, I feel as if I understand how they want to present themselves and, thus, I get a little piece of them in the process. New York makes you want to be proud of who you are, and wear the fire of your personality on the outside--with eyeliner and high-waisted shorts.

4. Don't be afraid to wander aimlessly.

The most effective way to find something in the city is to wander. Wandering aimlessly will never be truly aimless here, as a walk down the street will always reap interesting and unexpected rewards. Maybe you'll stumble across a landmark, a park, an interesting boutique, a cute cafe, a cute boy--either way, the excitement won't start until you go out and throw yourself into it. So don't be afraid to wander--it really is the best way to find something new to do.

5. Living cheaply is the best way to live.

New York City is expensive. If you want to survive, eat in as often as you can, and then save that extra food money to splurge on the awesome pop-up shop you may never see again. There are so many things to spend money on and it becomes difficult to keep the dollars from flying out of your wallet. Budget yourself. Be cheap. Because you never know when that random, amazing, life-changing thing will come along in this city of possibility--and you won't have saved up enough to buy it.

6. Living cleanly is the best way to live.

If you don't throw out your trash efficiently and keep your space clean, you are guaranteed to have a run in with some kind of pest. I've had to deal with cockroaches (thank goodness no mice, but I've seen them crawling around the streets and subway tracks) and those little gnats that never seem to go away. In this dirty city, if you keep yourself clean, you'll be doing yourself a favor. Don't make "to kill the cockroach, or not to kill the cockroach" your defining monologue.

7. Another person's level of talent does not affect your own.

People in this city are incredible. There is so much talent and hard work and ambition that it becomes easy to start feeling like a mouse in a cage of lions. What's important (albeit difficult sometimes) is to remember that no matter how talented another person is, no matter how hard they work or how many skills they've honed, they have no affect on you. You have aspects to your personality and skill set that make you invaluable to some task or some person, and it's your job to figure out what that is. It doesn't matter how many times a mouse tries to be a lion--it will never be a lion. But a mouse can do things a lion can't, so maybe she should be acting more like a mouse than something she is not. To kill the over-extended metaphor: don't pay attention to what other people are achieving or failing at--just do your own achieving and failing to the best of your ability.

8. Even if you give it your all, you will still fail. And that's okay.

To go back to the subject of failure, you will feel like one sometimes, but as long as you keep moving, it won't really be true. The number of times I've failed during my internship while trying to give it my all has been momentous. Sometimes it's with little things and sometimes it's been with bigger things, but I don't think I've failed more than the average intern. Still, when it happens to you, it feels a lot like the end of the world (or at least that's how it felt to me). I don't like making mistakes and doing poorly--it's a guilt that haunts me and one I struggle to shake, especially when I know I shouldn't be feeling as bad about it as I do--but mistakes are an essential part of life. They keep you humble, help you learn, and make your successes all the more meaningful. You will fail. It's okay.

9. Sometimes the things you've strived for all your life will disappoint you when you achieve them. Keep moving.

These points seem to be getting more and more depressing, right? Don't let them get you down! It's realism at its harshest. I always believed that there was one fundamental thing I was missing in my life, but the moment I got it, I felt just as unfulfilled as ever. I was distraught. For a week, I mused over my disappointment, wondering if there was something wrong with me--if there was something wrong with the world. As I see it now, the only things that were wrong were my expectations. A part of growing up is realizing that aspects of how you understand the world may actually be based on fiction. The shifts in your life will be as momentous as thinking the world was flat your whole life, and then realizing it's actually round. The important part about these kinds of shifts is realizing that the world hasn't changed--just your view of it. As you grow older, your understanding of the world will continue to change and all you can do is hold onto doubt and an open mind, so you don't run into too many unwanted surprises.

10. You will always be unhappy. But that doesn't mean you can't be happy, too.

The thing I found the hardest to learn this summer was that happiness and unhappiness are not mutually exclusive. I used to view happiness as a destination. If I achieved the three pinnacles of a good life (a balance of work, social life, and self), I would finally be happy--or at least be more happy than I am otherwise. Plus, I've believed for a while that I am unhappier than most people--not to the point of depression--but rather just notably unhappy. Then I began to realize that I spend a ton of time being happy as well, and that my problem is not that I'm unhappy most of the time, but that I give my unhappiness more attention. Every person is a balance of happy and unhappy, and just because I don't see another person's unhappiness doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. The same applies to me--just because I only see my own unhappy moments with clarity, doesn't mean my happy moments never happened. So if there are two things I want to accept from here on out, they're that: 1) I will never escape unhappiness, because for every happy moment, there must be an equal and opposite moment of unhappiness, and 2) I have to spend less time concentrating on the things that make me sad, and concentrate instead on what's been good or what I want to do next. Maybe my life goal shouldn't be happiness but, rather, internal peace. I think that's a goal I could achieve.

For more, check out Tia's new blog!

Much love,

T.