When I was growing up, moving to New York City was never a dream of mine. The first time I visited I was 16 and I didn’t feel the butterflies most people claim to experience. I thought, this place is smelly, dirty and people are nasty. But now, I’m proud to call this smelly, dirty, nasty place my adopted home.
After living in NYC since 2016, I’ve learned more lessons than I could ever imagine a city would have taught me. Below, you will find these lessons along with my experiences learning them and any advice I have to help you on the way. But be prepared, this list is not all rainbows and smiles. It consists of tough love advice that has helped me survive in the city.
Moving to New York City was the best decision I have ever made for myself and I don’t regret a single second of my time here. I’m thankful for these lessons because I’ve learned how to become a stronger, more resilient woman and I’m extremely proud of myself. If you’ve learned any of these lessons, you should be proud too.
So whether you’re looking to move here (DO IT!) or you’re already a Big Apple resident, I hope you enjoy this list and can relate to it in one way or another. I’d love to hear what the city has taught you, so please leave a comment below or write to me here.
Embrace the Discomfort
If you’re wondering how I ended up in the city, it was thanks to Genesee Community College. This is where I earned my associates in Fashion Merchandising before moving to the city to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology. The professor who ran the fashion program at GCC, Mr. Dudkowski, was a tough yet brilliant man and he taught me the most important rule in life that I have ever learned…
“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”.
Yup. Read it. Read it again. Put it on a Post-It note on your fridge. Make it your phone background. Tattoo it on your forehead. The most valuable lesson I’ve ever learned is that if you want to grow and establish yourself in one way or another, you MUST get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s what drove me to the city and to this day, I abide by that rule throughout every major decision in my life.
Before moving to New York City, it was something that petrified me. It made me anxious. Nervous. And most of all, it made me uncomfortable. The second that I recognized my uneasiness, I told myself, “let’s do this” and I’ve never looked back.
Whenever I recognize that uncomfortable feeling living in the city, I take it as a challenge and I learn to lean with the discomfort and embrace it. This is how I’ve proven to myself that I can do anything I want, regardless of how uncomfortable I am.
You Must Be Independent in Order to Survive
I believe that everyone who moves to the city comes with a moderate sense of independence. It is likely something you already have within yourself if you decide to pick up your life and move to New York. But when you get here, that sense of independence will heighten to levels you never thought possible. There are many ways you have to be independent when living in NYC. No one is going to hold your hand and walk you through life anymore. And if someone is, you better cut that cord real quick or the city is not the right place for you.
There are many things you need independence for when living here, especially when it comes to finances and how to navigate the city. However, the best part of the independence I’ve gained surrounds my urge to do activities on my own. Mainly because I love spending time with myself. I love being able to do anything I want, whenever I want, alone. If I told 18-year-old Hailey that she would be going to museums, and parks, and restaurants by herself FOR FUN, she would have probably cried. A lot. But I do all of those things, happily. And I’m beyond grateful for learning independence and being able to live in a place where I can blissfully spend time with myself.
To Stay Sane, You Must Practice Patience
When you are surrounded by strangers 24/7, having patience is absolutely key to surviving. If you’re already a moderately patient person then congrats! You’re clearly Mother Theresa. But if you’re like me, you will struggle. You’ll be annoyed, frustrated, and shamefully rude towards people and places that test your patience. But, with time, you will slowly learn that most things in the city are out of your control. People walking 0 MPH on the street are out of your control. The train being over 10 minutes away is out of your control. The lines at the museums are out of your control. How other New Yorkers behave is out of your control.
You’ll come to understand that all you can control is yourself, your reactions, and your attitude. I learned this the hard way through months of projecting my anger on others because of my lack of patience. So what I will leave you with is this. Shake it off. Let it go. Get over it. And maybe silently curse whatever is bothering you to make yourself feel better (or curse it out loud, New Yorkers won’t think twice about it. Do you know the stuff we see every day?)
Feeling Lonely is Normal, Take Advantage of it
It is absurd how lonely you can feel in a city with 8 million people around you. You may have countless friends, some family, or maybe even a significant other here, but loneliness happens and it sucks beyond belief. But you will find comfort in knowing that everyone feels lonely when living in New York City and it’s completely normal. In my opinion, loneliness is a blessing because it teaches you how to become more comfortable with yourself. You will discover things that you like to do alone which will, in return, guide you to build a stronger relationship with yourself. Always remember, nobody has your back like you do.
Personally, I love going to museums and parks by myself and I find that my mental health remains steady when I’m able to make time for activities that I love. I encourage anyone reading this to discover things you like to do with yourself and make time to do them. It’s important for your mental health and overall quality of life.
Your Perspective on the World Will Change
Everyone thinks they’re woke AF, right? Well, you realize that this is far from the truth when you move to a city with millions of people with various backgrounds, personalities, and upbringings.
Before moving to New York City, I thought I was an open-minded person. I thought I knew everything and always made sure that my opinions were heard. But slowly and surely I started meeting people whose stories of their lives made me awe at their bravery which, in return, heightened my level of awareness and understanding regarding the people around me. It made me smarter, increasingly empathetic, and built a sense of compassion in me that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And for that, I am grateful.
Perspective is not only about the people you meet. It’s about what you see every day on the streets of New York City that truly open your eyes. Poverty is amongst the top things that will give you a quick reality check about your “bad day”. The exposure to this type of environment will hopefully encourage you to get involved, help out, and recognize your privilege.
If you want to expand your mind, the best advice I can give anyone reading this is that in New York City, you need to stop and listen. Listen to your peers. Your co-workers. You fellow New Yorkers. A trusted news source. Everyone has their own personal perspective and the only way to learn and grow is through the knowledge of others.
Click here for a good website that you can check out in order to aid with everyday issues we see throughout the city.
Hustle (Even If You’re Miserable)
New York is the city of dreamers. Everyone has something they want to accomplish and that’s what makes New York City so incredibly motivating and inspirational.
Here’s the story of my hustle. While attending school, I transferred to the Old Navy in Herald Square. The store was completely different from what I was used to at home and although I was 5 years into working at the company, the work culture at this new store was unbearable. But I made the best of it because I wanted money and I’m proud that I worked my butt off for the things I wanted all while going to school full time.
During my senior year, I spent months looking for internships while I was studying at FIT and was turned down by too many to count. I ended up at an internship that hired me full time upon graduation. I spent 1.5 years GRINDING at this company, in order to pay my bills and to establish myself in the fashion industry so I could find the next best job for me.
It took me four months to find my current job. And let me say, if I didn’t hustle at the previous company, I would not be where I am today. I must tell you is that a majority of companies that I interviewed with (including Gap Inc) turned me down. Why? Because I was overqualified for the position. Therefore, it’s important that you DO NOT sell yourself short. Always trust the process. Aim higher than you think you should. And if you hustle day and night, the universe will reward you. I promise you.
Moral of the story, in New York, you must be prepared to work your booty off. You will have nothing handed to you here.
What These Lessons Taught Me
These lessons have taught me how to respect myself and have allowed me to be proud of my accomplishments. I’m a better person now than I was when I moved here. I owe that to myself, my perseverance, and for New York City for kicking my butt.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! Please let me know what the city has taught you below or message me here.