Like anything, it is only when you look back that you can understand all of the lessons you learned from going through certain experiences. I grew up on Long Island, dreaming that someday I may have the chance to live in New York City. While it was never geographically far, it may as well been a million miles away. I loved being in Manhattan as a young girl, but I also knew it was the kind of place that required a certain type of moxie and self-belief to get the most out of the experience. I think every person in the world should live in New York City for a period of time because New York City is the world’s best teacher.
It’s the kind of place where you never feel alone. Whether you’re starting your own company, or starting over in general, often times, this can feel isolating and consuming. In NYC, there are people everywhere you go. Millions of them walking and talking and laughing and doing things you have no clue about. If you ever feel lonely, just take a walk in Manhattan. Pick a block, any block, and for whatever reason, you feel better. The people that you will never know make you feel like you belong. And we all want to belong to something, especially when we are creating and reinventing.
Like a lot of big metropolitan cities, you will find yourself walking—a lot in NYC. Science proves that the brain lights up after just 20 minutes of walking. The neurotransmitters fire more rapidly which equals creativity. More walking, better mood, more creative output, happier life. Makes sense, right?
New Yorkers are notoriously resilient. We adapt easily and often. I saw a big upswing in this type of resilience right after 9/11. We became a city that refused to be beaten by the bad guys. In fact, we went out of our way to make sure they wouldn’t get us down. In a crowded city, that’s not always easy to do, but we do it. When you walk into a subway car, you find a spot. No matter how crowded it is, people move and mold and hold on a little tighter to get to where they want to go. If you wear high heels to work, perhaps you pack them in your purse and put them on last minute so you can walk to work a little faster in your flats. You adapt. In New York City, you must adapt. Same is true in life.
In NYC, you do not have to do your own laundry, go to the supermarket, or own a car. It’s a city of conveniences. You can easily drop your clothes off at the dry cleaner on your way to work, have groceries delivered, order in from your favorite Sri Lankan restaurant and call Uber with a click of a button. The subway runs 24/7 and can take you everywhere. Time is the only commodity we can’t control, but we can control how we spend our time. When you start to focus your time on the most important things in your life, it’s easy to get used to outsourcing convenience for everything else.
Another reason I love New York is because of the diversity. On any given day, I wonder where are these people coming from and where are they going? What do they care about? How can I help them? New York is a city full of differences that ought to be celebrated. I love the street festivals, the celebrations of different cultures and the never ending options that expose me to people who come from other parts of the world. Whether it’s their clothes, food, beliefs or traditions, I am always in awe of the melting pot this great city was built from.
While we all seek to have a balanced life, NYC can be a hard place to find it. The level of stimulation is out of control. You are always on the go, and for most New Yorkers, slowing down simply isn’t an option. I like to believe this pace keeps me young and sharp in my mind and body. Sure, you have to work a little harder to find balance, but it’s not out of the question. If you can find it there, you will find it anywhere. I get a little better every time, but it is hard. Most things that are worthwhile take some dedication and practice. Balance is no exception.
Anyone who tells you, I hate New Yorkers, or New Yorkers are so mean have likely never been to New York, and certainly never lived in NY. New Yorkers love their city and the people that live there. There is a fierce loyalty that is unlike anything I have ever felt anywhere else. People are proud of the city, and therefore are primarily helpful and kind. Sure, there are times life can be a little abrasive in New York, but hey, isn’t that true for anywhere we might live, work and play?
People often ask me, “when is the right time to move to New York City?” And though I want to say, when you’ve saved enough money, have a good job lined up and are ready for anything, what I also know is when you walk through Times Square at 1 am to find it jam packed with people who have traveled thousands of miles to see the place you get to call home and feel good about it. When you want to jog in Central Park before heading to the office or want to go ice skating in Rockefeller Center despite the holiday crowds. When you want to toss a dollar into the guitar case of that great singer inside the 14th Street station or hand loose change to the acapella group on your train ride home. When you want to eat a slice of pizza with your best friend and talk about her new dating life after a brutal divorce. When you want to fall in love with someone new and walk around the city on a warm summer night holding hands and when you want to eat cannoli in Little Italy. I could keep going, but the important thing is to know you want it. With all your heart.
Like Frank Sinatra says, “You want to wake up in a city that never sleeps” and say, “If can make it here. I can make it anywhere.” And when that happens, when you know you are ready for the magic, that’s when you should move to New York City.