I think it's safe to say that there's just no other place in the world that compares to the likes of New York City; the people, the atmosphere, and much more, are all one of a kind and cannot be replicated, even by some of the world's greatest cities. Growing up in New York City, I've had the pleasure of experiencing a unique way of life—a way of life with an overwhelming amount of culture—and interactions with people of all walks of life.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that New York has shaped me into the person I am today. There's just something about that damn city that leaves its mark on you forever; it's not a simple "fugetaboutit" when it comes to the everlasting presence that New York City has had on my life, ever since my earliest days. To all my fellow New Yorkers out there, here are 7 things that I've deadass learned from our city.
1. Mind. Your. Business.
I'm sure everyone kind of knows the general idea to mind your own business—it's simply proper etiquette to do so—but some people do not really understand what it means to truly mind your own business. Growing up in New York has taught me this lesson in spades, and is a fundamental characteristic that I still have to this day. Going to New York City public schools are no joke; I was fortunate enough to be in relatively safe and decent schools all my life, but I do have friends that have gone to public schools that were not as nice.
Minding your business could mean the difference between walking home, like you always did, or getting into unnecessary problems with people. Not keeping to yourself and/or friend group could also cause beef with fellow kids and their respective friend groups; to be honest, no one likes getting flamed, especially in school. This applies to life after school as well! You see a guy with a piercing in his eyelid? Do not ask. You see a group of people who are not wearing pants? Do not ask. You see a woman with a tattoo on her face? Do not ask.
This idea of "do not ask" is one that is ingrained in every New Yorker, seemingly instinctively. It is not a way of life that we have to learn: it just is the way it is.
I find it pretty funny that a common motto, after 9/11, advertised in New York is "if you see something, say something," because you know damn well New Yorkers won't say anything.
2. Public transportation is actually pretty nice
In New York City, no one really knows the meaning of a car. Obviously, that's an exaggeration, but for many people in New York City, it's true. You need to go visit a long time friend you haven't seen in a while? Get on the Q25/34 and catch the F train at Parsons—it's that simple. I know, for a fact, that out of my entire friend group, only around 2 of our families owned a car. If you need to go shopping, you either walk there and back OR take public transportation. Needless to say, you really had to prioritize when it came to groceries because you knew that you'd have to carry that extra jug of milk home by yourself. You know why this is? Because you don't need one! Public transportation gets you where you need to go... eventually.
Many New Yorkers, myself included, have bitched about the steadily increasing MTA fare prices. First it was $2.00 to get into the subway. Then it was $2.25. Then it was $2.50. Now it's $2.75. Even though these increases, in all fairness, have been annoying, these are still very reasonable compared to the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars you spend on gas, car insurance, and unexpected repair costs. I'll admit, I love having my own car and being able to go where I want when I want. There's just something about owning your own car that creates a sense of euphoria.
The thing is, when the train suffers a mechanical failure, it's the MTA's fault, not yours; and that should give you some bit of closure at the end of the day.
3. If you need it, the deli has it, even if that thing is company
I once tried to explain to my cousins from North Carolina what a deli was. I said something along the lines of: "it's a place, usually on the corner of a street, that sells a large variety of things." I got the response: "Oh, it is kinda like Chipotle?" No... and that's what makes it so great.
Everyone from New York City knows the deli is where it's at. Were you hungry on your way to school? Stop by the deli and grab a bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll. Did you want a snack late at night? Stop by the deli and grab some chips for 50 cents each (used to be 25 cents, sigh.) Your mom unexpectedly ran out of laundry detergent? You bet your ass the deli has a bottle of detergent somewhere, even if it was the smallest bottle.
The best thing about these delis was they were personal. They weren't just another fast-food chain—you KNEW these people. These deli owners watched you grow. They were there when you only had the last 50 cents your mom had in her wallet and there when you could finally go in and buy something with money you'd earned from your first job.
4. You learn to be extremely liberal
When I was old enough to understand politics and such, I was almost shocked that people were not okay with things like being part of the LGBTQ community or abortion. I also didn't understand the concept of targeting a specific ethnic group. You know why? Because growing up in New York City exposed all these "radical" ways of life to me regularly. I didn't have to learn to be okay with these things, I just was, because that's all I'd ever known.
In New York City, you're able to feel comfortable being okay with who you are and being affiliated with certain ideas that other parts of the country may frown upon. I believe this one of the beauties of New York City and an aspect that is found in very few places around the United States and even the world.
5. People are weird, grumpy, unfriendly, and everything in between—but that's okay
To kind of further what I spoke about in the last topic, you see all types of people in New York City. You will see the overbearingly friendly people; people who say thank you when you hold the door for them; people who smile a modest smile upon passing you in the street; people who move over to give you room to sit on the subway, or let alone get up and let you sit outright. You will also meet people who do not give a shit about you.
Two types of people just laughed upon reading that: 1. a person who thinks I'm being comical about the obnoxious behavior of some people in New York or 2. a fellow New Yorker who knows exactly what I'm talking about.
I kid you not, you will meet the most bitter person you'll ever meet somewhere in New York, countless times. Growing up in New York has helped me understand that some people are just bitter for no reason whatsoever. In New York, you can't expect people to do what you do, or have the same reactions to certain things (someone holding the door for you, being smiled at by a random stranger, etc.) because it's not realistic; everyone is different.
After so much exposure to these types of people, I've come to understand that being grumpy is okay. Some people are just naturally... well, grumpy. And, like I said in the first point, that's not any of your business. Have your interaction with these people, whatever that interaction may be, and go on with your day. It's just that simple. I have no one, other than my city, to thank for this thick skin that has helped me deal with the complexities of the real world, and I'm sure many other New Yorkers can agree.
6. Your friend group becomes your family
Perhaps this is a common thing among people all across the world, but the friends I've made in New York have become family to me. Yes, this one goes out to you, Xavier, Josh, Mati, Jack, and so many more. I see you guys as immediate family, and I think we all have our city to thank for that. We conquered the city together, even if these victories were minuscule.
Together, we all pitched in for a 2 liter Coke on a hot summer day; together, we stuck up for one another if someone from an opposing friend group started beef with one of us; together, we accompanied one another to meet a random guy we met online to buy sneakers; together, we climbed fences and caused trouble—as well as getting into trouble.
We had our ups and downs, but the most important part is that we went through it together.
Sometimes we didn't have very much, but we had each other, always.
There's just something about New York City that causes you to have a healthy reliance on the friends you make.
7. You need to hustle in New York
For as long as I remember, people would either tell my mom or me that I was far more mature than my age suggested. I do have my amazing mom to thank for this, but there is credit that needs to be given to something else: my city.
My city helped me grow at an accelerated rate, much faster than other people I know that are not from New York. This is because you NEED to be independent to live in New York. You need to be able to navigate public transportation to get from one place to another; you need to be able to avoid the wrong types of people and mind your business; you need to understand that this city is unforgiving—it stops for no one at all. Above all, you learn that you need to hustle in order to make something of yourself—to get out of the hood—because there is always someone else who's working just as hard for a spot in that school, a position for a job, and so much more.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, is given to you in New York City (not to say that things are given to you in other places, I'm just speaking about what I know) and you need to get things done for yourself AND by yourself.
In the end, I can say confidently that I am extremely grateful for the things that my beloved city has taught me and the way it has shaped me into the person I am today.