One of my high school friends, Matt, is coming to visit next month and asked me what it’s like to live in New York. Is housing impossible? Is it as hard to live here as “everyone” says? (I’m assuming that “everyone” is non-New Yorkers, as he’s asking me to confirm/deny what “everyone” is saying.)
Thinking about this question made me look back at how I felt about New York before I moved here. I had wanted to live here ALL my life. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy for sure, but even when I went to school in upstate New York, I still had no idea what “the city” was really about. All my college friends were from Long Island, Queens or the Bronx - all I ever heard about Manhattan was looong train rides and how easy it was to sneak into Webster Hall with a fake ID.
Now New York and I have been through thick and thin, richer and poorer, single and taken, repressed and creative:
New York v1.0 ( 2004-2005 )
When I first moved to Queens (for a few months) and then Manhattan, I lived as “Sex & the City” as a single gal could: cosmos, clubs, cappuccinos, boys – all the stuff that makes me vomit now. Living in Hell’s Kitchen was amazing. Plus, I was drunk half the time. Whoooooo!!!
New York v2.0 ( 2005-2008 )
Working in the performing arts allowed me to do good, get free tickets to amazing events and hang out with the world’s greatest musicians. I took a huge pay cut when I moved from a Big Four accounting firm to a non-profit arts organization, but I was happy to struggle a little if it meant working with awesome people and being part of a great cause everyday. I had an amazing new boyfriend, and people thought I had the coolest job ever!
New York v3.0 ( 2008 )
Last year, I decided to become a comedian. Now people REALLY thought I had the coolest job ever. Eating out on Ninth Avenue was replaced with a skillful rotation of ramen, Aunt Jemima pancakes and frozen Ikea meatballs. I also discovered something cheaper than shopping at H&M: not shopping at all. Plus, living on the West Side and having a boyfriend on the East Side was great because I had a short trip home no matter where the gig was!
New York v4.0 ( 2008-current )
Three months ago I moved to Brooklyn, where my only link to the outside world is the G train, I live with my boyfriend, and there are no tourists standing on our doorstep. Polish is heard more often than English in the neighborhood, there’s a washer/dryer in our apartment, and we actually have room to play Wii!
Same girl, or maybe not the same girl. But definitely many, many different versions of New York. And one thing never changes: my love for this fucking place.
This is what I wrote to my friend:
I’m good – thanks for hittin me up! We should def meet up and i’ll let you know what shows are going on!
It IS hard to live out here compared to the rest of the country, but there is no place like it. It’s hard to explain, but basically it’s a COMPLETELY different lifestyle from the suburbs or even other cities like LA and Chicago. And also, what a lot of people don’t realize is that most people who move to “the city” can’t afford to live in Manhattan anymore. Despite the romanticized vision of New York in the movies/tv, most people our age are living in the outer boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island and even New Jersey or Westchester.
Housing is not impossible, but it’s harder than the rest of the country. No matter what your expectation, there is almost no doubt you will get less square footage than you want for more than your budget. Unlike California, stuff is old. It breaks. Everything is more expensive (almost double). A normal lunch (sandwich and a beverage) runs at least $8-10.
All that being said, for people who want to live in New York, there is absolutely no alternative for us! It’s like family: you deal with the bullshit. If it’s truly what you NEED/want/can’t picture doing anything else, you can make it here. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. It just takes being willing to adapt and make it work. And for those of us who love it, that is a tiny tiny price to pay