I have always known I was a city girl. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was enthralled by "the city" of the west coast. The thought of New York City, all the way across the continent, excited me more as the older I got. I wanted nothing more to play in the snow in Central Park, be amazed by the lights of Times Square and stroll SoHo and the West Village in the crisp fall weather. One day, I decided to follow my dreams, pack my life up and move to a part of the country that I had never experienced before. Now, almost a year later, I have learned quite a lot from making the move on my own. This city has changed me into a confident, passionate and open-minded person and has taught me invaluable life lessons I've been lucky to find at a young age.
A personal sense of freedom.
When people say that New York City is the melting pot of the world, they weren't kidding. I moved to NYC from Downtown Los Angeles and the initial culture shock hit me hard. The experience of living in New York was so incredibly different than anywhere else I had lived before. I have come across people from all walks of life and many different cultures. I walk the same streets that our forefathers walked, I have access to some of the world's greatest museums with historic pieces of art, Central Park is the backdrop for my morning runs, the things I learned in classes - like the Harlem Renaissance - are engraved into the city all around me. I feel free to explore it all, I have to do it all. The time I had previously wasted doing nothing, I could use doing everything here, from midweek trivia, to museum parties and exhibitions, to cruising around the Hudson River tasting some of NYC's best food. This liberation has not only allowed me to try new experiences but also the freedom to be myself and explore who I was as a person. There wasn't the same social pressure to be someone I wasn't as there was in college and while living in Los Angeles. My experiences have been my own and are independent from anything that my family or other friends have experienced.
What being "alone" really means.
Moving across the country and only knowing a handful of people on the coast meant I had a lot of time to get to know myself better while being on my own. I found that being alone does not equate to loneliness. On the other hand, I was empowered and despite the fear as coming off as a "loser," I never felt less alone than when I was alone. New York City is full of life. So even when I'm on my commute to work I am surrounded by people and sharing this same moment with them. The day after the election, people were consoling each other in the streets, we gave each other looks of empathy on the subway, the city had an eerie silence to it - we were all in this together. There is a great sense of community in New York that I have never experienced anywhere else. I feel safe on the streets and subways because for some reason, being surrounded by these people on a busy Manhattan block, these people I will never know, makes me feel less alone. I feel comfortable being myself in a crowd of strangers because the city thrives off of the individuality and imagination of its residents. The sky's the limit with the things you can accomplish while pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
How to heal myself.
I've found that the farther from home you are, the more you learn how to do things on your own. I was now in a place where, if I was homesick or needed a break, I couldn't just go home for the weekend. My parents were there to talk, but venting over the phone wasn't as comforting as eating a meal cooked by mom or sleeping in your old bed. Despite having instances where I wish I could have run home into my parents' embrace, I learned how to get myself through tough times. Living in the city that never sleeps will make or break you, and if you want to thrive you simply cannot let it break you. It is a constant whirlwind of movement, never stopping for a break, and it can be a lot to handle. My calendar is organized to the minute some days; where it no longer solely consists of work and sleep but of work, volunteer work, social life, appointments, events, etc. with little room for sleep. The greatest lesson my busy schedule taught me is to allow myself to have a break - to have a night or two a week without plans, to turn off my phone and turn on some music. Living in NYC requires a great deal of self-care and self-appreciation and it is so important to learn to accept that it is okay to not be okay, that even people who seem to have everything together get a little overwhelmed sometimes.
How to let go.
Moving into an apartment the size of some peoples' bathrooms taught me how to let go of the unnecessary items that took up so much space. I learned how to say goodbye to papers I thought I needed to keep, to knick knacks that would just sit in a drawer and collect dust. I learned to embrace things like photos, and durable clothes. Most importantly, the distance taught me how to let go of people who no longer played an important role in my life. Moving to a new city and meeting new people is empowering - I was free to be whoever I wanted to be. If people can't support you for following your dreams then it's time to make new friends. You need to surround yourself with people who bring you up and push you to be the best version of yourself, the people who want to see you succeed in life and who support your ideas and growth. Letting go of the things that bring you down only allow you to go higher.
Before moving to New York, I always heard how mean New Yorkers were, how I would be yelled at and eaten alive in a city like this, but there was always a tiny notion in my head that thought New York might be the perfect city for me. Despite the dissuasion, I took the leap of faith and found that despite the moments of trials and tribulation, it's worth it to live here, to be alive here. If anyone ever tells you that New Yorkers are mean, they probably have never lived here. I've found that New Yorkers love their city and they love the people who inhabit it. While sometimes abrasive, people are helpful and kind, but that's how people make it out here. They are straightforward with a purpose. I believe in NYC and that anything is possible here. There is a sense of magic in this city, and I'm incredibly happy to be one of the 8.5 million people to call it home.