New York City — the location of movies, TV shows, all kinds of great stories and countless songs. People sing about falling in love here, making their dreams come true here and just wanting to be part of New York! As someone moving to the fabulous Big City from a hot, humid Florida suburb a few months ago, I wondered what it would be like to live here, fresh and new to the action.
As a 22-year-old, jobless student, I had no idea what to expect. From years of watching Sex and the City, I could rest assured that I wouldn’t be living anything close to the “Carrie” life. She wore fabulous clothes, went to the trendiest bars with her four hot girl friends, easily found great looking men and, above all, paid for this flashy life with just her writing career. I sat in Florida, wondering how New York would treat me when I couldn’t afford fabulous clothes, had no friends and not only was unemployed, but as an unpublished, aspiring writer didn’t see my passion supporting my lifestyle anytime soon. At least I had a great looking man and was headed for the City of Dreams.
I’ve now made it to the city, and although my expectations were correct, the scariest part is over: it’s no longer unknown. Truthfully, I have no desire to live the “Carrie” life. As I’m getting used to the “Leah” life, I’ve learned a few things about this new city, my new life and the new me.
During my first week here, I walked out of a Dunkin’ Donuts smiling with my cheaper-than-Starbucks coffee in hand. A few steps away, I saw a homeless man asking for spare change to afford his morning coffee. Yes, I knew before moving here that there was a substantial homeless population. Yet the morning reminder of “You’re lucky you can afford coffee” smacked me, which is not a sting I got often back in Florida. I realized that in this city, there are reminders everywhere to be grateful. If you don’t take the time to notice them, though, they’re definitely easy to overlook.
For instance, it’s incredibly hard to find things to be grateful for when driving here. It seems that in New York, road-rage is inevitable. The day I arrived, I hopped in the car with my boyfriend and as we were exiting the airport I was smiling in shock at the rage coming from him toward the other drivers. He laughed and said, “You can’t help it here.” The first time I drove in the city, I realized mid-yell and gesture that he was right on point. What amuses me most is the pedestrian-driver cycle of annoyance. Nothing is more irritating to a driver than a pedestrian strolling through a crosswalk with their head held high and the “yield to pedestrians” mentality spread across their face. However, when our transport method changes from wheels to feet, there’s no second thought before slipping into that mentality ourselves. This creates a circle of aggravated drivers and entitled meanderers, all just pissing each other off. It’s the New York mentality: take advantage of whatever perks you can to get yourself where you need to be. It’s great for life, a bummer for drivers.
The road isn’t a good first impression, but contrary to outsiders’ beliefs, people in New York are nice. People seem to think that every person walking down the block here is mean, but there are assholes everywhere. My boyfriend moved back to the city half a year before me, and when he informed me of this unexpected realization, I gave a doubtful nod and thought, “we’ll see.” Twice I’ve been in a Starbucks wondering how I could go to the counter or even the restroom without losing my seat or my stuff (anyone who does work in New York cafes knows that a good seat is gold). Just in time, a stranger approached me and asked if I’d please watch their stuff while they got up. After a brief character assessment, I asked if they’d reciprocate and they obliged. My boyfriend was right again. On another occasion, I was flying down some steps (if only it were that graceful) to catch the incoming C train when I swiped my Metro Card to find an “Insufficient Funds” message. Under a less time-crunching circumstance I wouldn’t have hopped, but the man behind me (who’d just let me to go first) allowed me to squeeze through the revolving door with him after swiping his card. I was shocked not only by this stranger’s generosity but by yet another reminder from the city to be grateful for the little things.
As a people-watcher, I’m always thankful for a little show, especially with music. I do a lot of train riding between Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, but don’t find myself in the heart of the city often. When I do, a musical performance is practically guaranteed. It could be on the platform, in the car, or both. Even if the music is lame, the performance will generally make for solid entertainment. People here are passionate. They’re trying to live their dream and move past the subway walls. It’s beautiful and inspiring to watch, if you’re looking with the right perspective.
One of my favorite things about this place is the complexity. I know I can’t learn it in a few months, maybe not even in a few years. Every day will bring me somewhere I haven’t been before, teach me something I didn’t know, or make me realize something I’d never thought about. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to forget these things sometimes between work, school and a relationship. The best thing to do when stress is choking your mood is to remember you live in one of the most amazing cities in the world! We can’t always live the most glamorous life that the Big Apple has to offer (not yet, anyway), but thankfully, you don’t have to be a big shot to enjoy this place.
One beautiful day when I was feeling morose and trapped in my apartment, I took myself to Astoria Park. There, I enjoyed the crisp, post-snow air and beauty of the leaf-less snow-covered trees. I walked, laughed to myself while I watched a woman throw snowballs to her dog and took some beautiful photos. I realized again how lucky I am to have this city at my fingertips and that all I need to do is take advantage of it. There’s always somewhere new to go, something new to see, or a new experience to have. New York is pure opportunity. I’ve learned that I just have to remember to go look for it, and most importantly, appreciate it.