I have been living in New York City for over a month. Throughout this month, I’ve experienced many new things. In my first week here, I got drunk with a Russian in Greenwich Village. I spent the whole night trying to prove my New York worth by keeping up with the Russian’s thirst for chilled Polish vodka. By the end of the night, we were raising our glasses in the center of a Burlesque Bar. I also attended a live taping of The Late Show with David Letterman. Not only did I get to see Dave before his retirement, but I got to watch him from the dead center of the front row. Within two weeks of being in New York, I’d made my national T.V. debut.
I’ve strolled Times Square at 5 am. For any of you who’ve watched Vanilla Sky, I can vouch for how surreal an empty Times Square can feel. To be in one of the busiest intersections in the entire nation and experience eerie silence is one of the most peaceful memories of my life. I wanted to sit down in the street and meditate right there, among the bright lights, but I also didn’t want to land in an NYPD station, so I decided against that potential memory, though, in the words of Chris Farley, “you can imagine what’d be like if [ I ] did.”
I’ve been flooded by New York’s artistic culture. Free art surrounds you in New York whether it be museums, art galleries, live music, literary events, walls decorated with graffiti, outdoor performances, concerts in the subway stations, and often times, on the moving trains.
While it feels like I’ve already experienced so much of New York, in reality, I’ve seen very little, just because of the abundance of potential experiences that the city holds.
The importance of these experiences is not just to make memories, but to learn about the culture surrounding us, and most importantly, the culture of ourselves. The most challenging experience I’ve encountered thus far is learning to find my footing in this fast-paced city.
Allow me to give you a little background on this. Before moving to New York I was speaking with my best friend, Rachelle, who’d lived in New York previously. We were discussing all of the awesomeness that lay ahead, but I pointed out that there was one thing about New York that I dreaded.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Wearing heels. I’m horrible in heels, but I guess I’ll eventually adjust.”
She looked at me with a sideways glance. “Why do you have to wear heels?”
I turned to her with my famous Michelle Tanner “duh” look and said, “Because that’s, like, the New York thing.”
She smiled her raise-your-spirits-in-point-two-seconds smile and said:
“No one and I mean no one is going to care if you’re wearing heels in New York. You know why? Because they’re too worried about themselves. Just go to New York and be yourself.”
Her advice has stayed with me. Rachelle’s advice runs through my head each day as I’m picking out my outfits and looking through my collection of shoes. I listen to her voice when she says this because I need that reminder. I need to remember to be myself in this city.
I’ve done well with being myself in this city. However, one obstacle I continuously face is, as I said, finding my footing in this city. I’m no longer talking about footwear, but more about the pace I move in said footwear. I want to be a New Yorker so much that I fear being mistaken for a tourist. With a southern accent, it’s a common misconception, but I’m observant enough to know that the biggest “mistake” tourists make is pausing in the middle of a busy sidewalk to take a picture or just gift themselves a long moment of the extraordinary world around them, whereas the locals just keep moving.
New York is another world, and love it or hate it, the sights of this city are extraordinary. If you’re someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to experience it every day, you don’t want to take the sights around you for granted. You want a snapshot, whether it be a camera or just in your mind, but you want it so you’ll never ever forget it.
In my twenty-seven years, I’ve learned many lessons, and many of those lessons I’ve learned the hard way, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to not take anything for granted. I want to be a New Yorker, but like a tourist, I crave that extra moment.
Perhaps I haven’t fully wrapped my head around the reality that I’m not just visiting this grand city. I am a resident. I’m now a part of New York, just as New York is a part of me. Tourists don’t pay rent and utility bills. Tourists don’t have to train their dogs that a 2”x 2” area of grass is the new “potty spot.” Tourists don’t sit on their floor wearing yellow rubber gloves to go through the garbage to make sure they’ve recycled properly to avoid being ticketed by the city. And tourists certainly don’t spend hours upon hours each day applying for jobs.
While it may sound cliché to say, “Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.” My New York vacation has ended. That’s not to say I’ve spent the past month vacationing, but when you first move, especially to a new area, it feels like you’re on vacation, until you start experiencing real life in your new city.
When I relocated to Savannah, I started Grad School within a week, so that vacation ended quickly. But with New York, I came with no plan other than to make a life for myself. I had a full month in New York to hang out with my dogs and to explore my new home. I had no routine, other than taking a few hours each day to apply for jobs; and when you don’t have a set routine, life feels like a vacation.
Of course, I’m incredibly thankful for this time I’ve had to adjust to my new city. I’ve collected unforgettable memories. However, my vacation has come to an end and it feels like the next chapter is finally beginning. My New York Routine has begun. As my sister, Shaundi, said upon hearing I got a job, “You’re officially a New Yorker.” I guess I am.
I’ve had my New York vacation, now it’s time for my New York life to begin, or as I like to call it, my Ramen Holiday.
I look forward to the journey ahead and all of the adventures that may cross my path. And while I’ll continue to try and be a New Yorker, I know better than to take this city, or life, for granted. I’ll be a new breed of New Yorker. I’ll be the local brave enough to pause and take it all in.