Saturday, March 24, 2012

LCW TACKLES A TOUGHIE (The Challenges of Starting Life in the City)

Eating a red velvet cupcake in a canoe (next to a gondola) near the Boathouse in Central Park  :)

Question:  What were some of the challenges of striking out on your own, especially in a new place and more specifically in NYC? What about the city actually helped some of these challenges work themselves out?

Answer:  Great question!  As electrifying as it is living here, this city does have its share of challenges:  money runs through your hands like sand, rich friendships can be hard in a city where people come and go like VH1 reality shows, the subway can go berserk with delays and route changes, and the sheer number of people and lights and smells and sirens can be maddening some days.  Since I went to college in the city, a lot of the "Whoa, this place is insane. What in the world am I doing?" has already been worked through, so I'll combine the things that helped me when I first moved to NYC in 2007, and the lessons I've learned since I've graduated and ventured out into the city as a "real person."

1.  Make friends with a native ... they'll help you find your way. Literally.  My freshman year of college, I had a native New Yorker as a roommate who gave me subway riding tips, taught me how to outsmart cabdrivers who knew I wasn't from the city and explained that anything (even ice cream) can be delivered to you (at any hour of the day or night) if you put your mind to it.

2.  Get rooted in a great church.  This city is the definition of sensory overload - you're taking in things 24/7 and soon you stop noticing how many images and messages and attitudes you absorb each day.  Get planted in a place that feeds, grows, inspires and challenges you with life and truth and the presence of God.  You can serve and build relationships and have this awesome bookend to your weekends and launching point into your weeks and ... I could go on forever - just read point #1 of this post.

3.  Go green.  Before I moved here, I'd envisioned walking down streets flanked by imposing skyscrapers, silvery, steely finishes inside my local bank, and an exposed brick wall in my first apartment.  The city's much more colorful and breathtaking than I could have imagined, and I discover that more each day ... but it is still a city and there's something about nature that enlivens and revives my heart.  I'm a person who's super sensitive to spaces and atmospheres and people's vibes, and while I was living at beautiful Columbia, I kind of took for granted having stunning architecture and perfect little beds of daffodils around every tree.  But when I moved off campus, let's just say things weren't quite as manicured and swept all the time.  I had to fill that "beautiful surroundings void" somehow.  And luckily, New York City is full of parks. Not just oversized median strips with potted plants - full blown nature with get-lost-able hiking trails and romantic ponds rimmed with cattails tucked into rolling, grassy, boulder-studded hills.  Spending time in parks on a regular basis brightens my life here.

4.  Find ways to save that pay.  Living in any city is expensive.  What I order at Chipotle in New York costs $3 or $4 more than it does at home in Maryland.  I know ... it's brutal.  But there are little things you can do to help save money and make life more beautiful at the same time.  On a nice day, I'll save the money I'd spend on the subway and walk where I'm going.  It clears my head and it can start to add up after a while.  Or instead of going out to eat with a bunch of friends and spending maybe $15 - $30 bucks each, have each person grab a $5 ingredient from the grocery store and get together for a taco night.  Netflix is also where it's at.  Save the $13 you'd spend on a movie and invite all your friends for a movie and dessert in your apartment.

5.  Phone home.  This isn't a hard thing for me to remember - I talk to my parents like 4-7 times a day. (ha!)  For me, it's amazing to know that someone who really knows you and your whole history and what's on your heart is always a phone call away.  And being able to stay connected to my friends from home I've been friends with since we were 5 is such a treasure.  It's like that song you learned in Girl Scouts "make new friends, but keep the old / one is silver & the other's gold / a circle is round, it never ends / that's how long that we should keep our friends" ... although I never quite felt right about ranking my friends in terms of precious metals :P

I'll probably think of a million more thoughts as soon as I post this, in which case I'll do a follow up "moving to the city" post ... but in the meantime, here are a few helpful things I wanted to share:

  • - Find yummy foods that'll come to you, organized by neighborhood, genre and price! 
  • - Never get tangled up on the subway again!
  • - I know, a little nerdy, but you're not going to be in your car all the time like you are in the suburbs ... and you can't just drive into your garage, so it helps to know if you'll need an umbrella (or a sweater for that night time rooftop party.)
  •'s Event Guide - In the unlikely event that you ever get bored in this city (you won't), NY Magazine's website has a list of every cool thing happening in the city every day.  There's even a list of free stuff that's happening!

Hope this helps!


To read my absolute favorite posts about life in the city, love and relationships, being a singer/songwriter ... for a living, living well, and community, head over to "The Best of Long City Walks."

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  1. I just love your attitude about living in such a big city! You just seem to really have your head on straight about how to manage it all. I would honestly not last long! Also: I absolutely love how close you are with your family. No doubt that's where you got that head of yours screwed on so straight :)

    1. Awww! Thanks so much Naomi :D Yep, my family is wonderful ... I'd be a wreck without them, haha! YOUR family is absolutely beautiful! I've been on your blog just now and I'm a new subscriber. Yay. Your photography is stunning and it's nice to meet a fellow (former) Maryland-er!

  2. Ha! This is great! Btw I used to live right next door to the Eldorado building! Also, I completely agree with you on making a friend with a New Yorker. My boyfriend's been here for 10 years now and I don't think I could have experienced the city the same way without him. xo