This month marks my ten-year anniversary living in New York City. It seems like just a few past lives ago that I signed the papers for that first apartment in Brooklyn and packed a few suitcases, bought some cheap lamps and a bookshelf from Ikea, and started a new life. I remember feeling like a cat that had climbed to the top of a tall tree—panicked—but calling this crazy place my home has been quite the adventure.
I came here thinking I’d work in publishing or PR and write poetry and personal essays on the side. While I was interested in nutrition, I had no idea I’d go back to school and become a registered dietitian or, later, a health coach or college professor or author. I also had no clue what amazing friends I was going to make here.
As I look back on the past decade I thought it would be fun to share ten things I’ve learned in the past ten years as a New Yorker.
10 Things I’ve Learned In 10 Years As A New Yorker
1. The subway is usually faster than driving…unless it’s having problems! NYC street traffic is absolutely awful, so when it’s running smoothly the NYC public transportation system is efficient and reliable, but check service advisories and sign up for e-alerts for lines and routes you take a lot. Construction, weekend changes, signal malfunctions, and the like can throw you off if you’re not prepared.
2. It’s true that New Yorkers walk really fast. I don’t know why—maybe all the coffee we drink? You’ll notice this more in some parts of town than others, but if you’re visiting or new to the city, please keep up or step to the side. For real.
3. Be nice to your feet. Even on days we don’t work out, many New Yorkers easily clock 3 or 4 miles of walking, just getting to and from work, running errands, and going to appointments. I learned early on that comfortable shoes are a must. I just don’t understand the pretty shoe part of Sex and the City. Just…how? Also, make sure you treat your feet well by moisturizing, keeping your nails trimmed, and giving yourself foot rubs to ease pain. Want to wear heels, ladies? Me too—just change into them when you reach your destination. I’ve sure learned that one the hard way.
4. Everything costs more here. Those rules about what percentage of your monthly earnings to allot to living expenses, entertainment, and savings? Yeah no. Does not apply here—you have to be willing to make some sacrifices. The one upside is that when you travel to other places, everything else seems so affordable! On the flip side, looking up real estate prices in other regions will make you cry or cause you to temporarily doubt your life choices, so be careful with that.
5. Wash your hands regularly. This is a big one. The city is crawling with germs. If you think too hard about it, you will make yourself nuts. So just make sure you wash up when you walk in the door, before eating or cooking…all that stuff. Seriously, just get in the habit.
6. Nurture your immune system. Speaking of germs, there is really only so much you can do. Washing your hands is a great front-line defense, but supporting a healthy immune system from the inside out is vital. Eat a well-balanced diet (and include plenty of probiotic-rich foods), get enough rest, and get a handle on your stress levels. These things can all help your immune system fight the good fight. And make sure you have a good doctor.
7. It’s not worth competing with or comparing yourself to others. New York is a city that attracts ambitious people with big-ass ambitions, and you can’t even get away from it in a freaking yoga class sometimes (here’s looking at you, all you people who just HAVE to harmonize or hold the loudest, longest “om”). Trying to do what someone else doing or getting sucked into feeling like you have to “keep up” will only drain you and chip away at your self-esteem. Spend your energy on what makes you feel happy and aligned with your individual goals.
8. Someone is always having a crappier day than you. We all have tough days, but honestly, it could always be worse. Even when you want to wallow, look for something positive in the day, or at least something you can learn from the experience. On a related note, you are probably not as crazy as you feel. Just get on the subway and see what real crazy is. Ditto for when you’re having a bad hair day. Just look around you, and you’ll be, like, “Oh, my hair is totally fine.”
9. Be kind to people. That person in front of you on line at the store, next to you on the train, in the elevator…you never know when you might cross paths again. Plus, being an asshole drags you down right along with whomever you’re being an asshole to. As an aside, you really never know what’s going on behind the scenes with someone. Maybe there’ s a reason they’re in a bad mood or said something odd. Maybe they didn’t even realize their purse was in your face. That guy or girl who ghosts you? It probably has nothing to do with you—unless you happen to be the alpha-nut in the subway car, but if that were the case, you probably wouldn’t even be wondering about what you did wrong.
That said, there’s no excuse for harassment, violence, or someone threatening you. Or if someone sets off your creep radar, listen to those feelings—just be mindful that you need to pick your battles and that sometimes, if you need to take action, it’s best to seek help for your own safety rather than try to address it right then and there all by yourself.
10. It’s okay to make your own rules. If nothing else, living in a city where people dream big and live large (or at least expensively) has taught me that you really can chart your own course and go after what you’re passionate about. You don’t have to do what’s expected and you don’t have to give a fuck what anyone thinks.
Unless we’re talking about not blocking the flow of foot traffic—Seriously, just don’t.
The question I can’t help asking now is, Will I stay in NYC another ten years? Maybe. Maybe not. I do feel pretty sure, though, that there will be plenty of surprises and challenges and lots of stories ahead.
What are some of the things you’ve learned in the past decade ?
This has been another installment of the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.