ONE YEAR IN NEW YORK: WHAT I'VE LEARNT
Tomorrow marks my one year anniversary of living in New York. Here are a few things I’ve learnt about work (and life) in the past twelve months.
You Need to Come Here with a Plan of Action
When I moved to Los Angeles from my hometown of London at the end of 2012, most of my friends were surprised that I hadn’t opted for New York (“But you’re such a New York girl!” was the common response.) But there was a method to my madness. I knew then, and I still believe now, that New York is not a place where you go to figure things out on your own time, as I wanted to do. It's not conducive to any form of navel-gazing self-exploration whatsoever, in fact. The pace and price of living won’t allow such luxuries. I’m glad I waited to move to New York until I had a much more solid concept of what I’m here to do, and a more concrete way of finding the means to do it. Speaking of which…
This is the Most Goddamn Expensive Place on Earth
I’ve been coming to New York since I was 17, so I was more than familiar with its astronomical rent prices and money-burning way of life. Actually living here is something else. Rent prices are eye-watering (I wrote a whole column/rant on this for Courier) and food shopping is pretty much a joke (I wrote a column/rant about this, too).
People say London is expensive, and it is, but the crucial difference lies in the lifestyle: socialising in New York is all about being out of the house all day, most days of the week. Socially, London is more of a weekend city and there isn’t a comparable culture of eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On top of that, there are so many other little things that you don’t think about when you’re visiting - the cost of a membership to a decent gym, for example - that really rack up when you’re here full-time. Of course, the salaries and freelance rates counterbalance this reality, but it’s still an incredibly pricey place to be.
The Hustle is Real
The high cost of living in New York + the sheer density of talent = the New York hustle continues to thrive. People here work harder than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Unless you’re a rich kid (and there are definitely a few of those floating around), you pretty much have no choice but to live and breathe your work. If you’re at a point in your life when work is your primary focus - as I am - this makes it a good place to be. If you’re not, choose somewhere else to live.
If You Want to Live and Work Here, You'd Better Toughen the F*ck Up
The flipside of this highly-efficient working culture is that people are stressed, impatient, and extremely direct. The dominance of the media and the density and interconnectedness of the creative industries creates a fishbowl effect - everyone knows what everyone else is doing; everyone is gossiping and comparing notes. I’m a very chatty person, but sadly I’ve had to learn the hard way that you really have to watch who you share your ideas with in this city. The sense of competition is profound, and people can be absolutely ruthless in ripping you off.
Anything Can Happen in a New York Minute
On a more positive note... I’ve never lived somewhere with a more palpable sense of energy and opportunity. I’ve never met so many people in such a short amount of time. I’ve never looked back at my to-do list at the end of the week and so frequently been amazed at the amount of sh*t I’ve managed to get done. Time takes on its own, strange quality here - days race by, but they’re so full of things, and people, and places that it’s rare to feel like you've wasted them. And, of course, you can get anything you want, whenever you want it. Even in our on-demand world, that’s a extraordinary way to live.
You Must Learn What You Need to Feel Well
Pretty much everyone in New York seems to have some form of anxiety - the sheer energy of the place is as draining as it is exhilarating, and the work culture (see above) only heightens the effect. I soon realised that I would really have to know what keeps me on the right physical and mental track – the people, places, foods, supplements, sleeping hours, yoga classes, etc. that would enable me to stay sane and productive.
This might sound slight daunting, but it’s actually been a really positive exercise in self-awareness. If you want to be happy and healthy in New York, you have to get really good at knowing what makes you feel that way. This city certainly won’t take care of it for you.
You Have To Leave to Stay in Love
Like many people, I fell in love with New York the first time I came here at the age of 17. I knew that I would live here one day - it was just a matter of when and how. Now that I’m here, I still love New York but, as with personal relationships, living with your lover is a fast way to kill the romance. You need to be in love with New York to live here - it just doesn’t make sense for any other reason - and absence truly makes the heart grow fonder. When you see that skyline after a few days away, you get that bubbly frisson of energy that makes it feel like the first time, all over again.
The People Make It All Worth It
For all its opportunities and heartbreaks, highs and lows, there’s one thing that always makes New York feel like a good idea: the people. The city continues to lure some of the best and brightest minds in the world with its siren call, and I’m glad to say that I’ve made some amazing friends (both personal and professional) in the past twelve months. If you are the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with, then I’m more than OK with my New York five.