It's 2016. You're finally a senior in High School. It is now time to (ideally) make use of the countless hours of research you've dedicated to choosing a college. You know you want to pursue acting, and you know that you've never truly felt the freedom of living anywhere outside the confines of your Southern suburbia. Keeping these facts in mind, you decide to make a power move. You're going to move and attend school in New York City. Have you ever been to the city? No. Have you ever really taken the time to research the ins and outs aside from watching "Sex and the City"? Again, no. Despite this, you're confident that there is no other place in the world that would put your big fish- little pond complex to rest quite like Manhattan would.
Fast forward a few months once the application process is finished, and you get accepted to the illustrious N.Y.C. School! You don't feel any nervousness regarding a move to the city. Besides, if you got accepted, that must mean something... right? You belong in New York City, and now you're tingling with enthusiasm knowing this city life fantasy is soon to become a reality. What is one thing to do when, upon moving, you're barraged with a seemingly unwelcoming population, a ludicrously expensive cost of living, and the stench of piss and garbage flooding the streets that you had believed would sparkle with hope?
A very common error in young people that move to New York City is the ridiculously idealistic and romanticized views they hold of the city. Admittedly, it's quite difficult to avoid these ideas as Manhattan is so often presented to the public in a way that the only images that seemingly stick with many people are those of a bustling, cosmopolitan lifestyle perfectly blended with youthful creativity. With it constantly being lauded as "the place where everything happens", as a sanctuary for the weird and the creative, or a glistening metropolis where dreams come true, it stands to reason that the majority of New York's migrants have some pretty glaring misconceptions about the "concrete jungle". Because of this, it isn't uncommon for new residents to go through a necessary adjustment period during which they try to come to terms with the fact that they may not have been shown the most accurate depictions of New York City growing up.
I, as many of my college peers, experienced a sort of initial disappointment with the city we were finally exposed to after moving. This disappointment, as I've come to understand in hindsight, likely didn't really have anything to do with the real New York City being necessarily worse than the one that was illustrated for me in the media, the disappointment came from the realization that I was now being faced with a complete lack of preparation as to how to survive in this new place that I felt I had never seen before.
The bottom line is that living in New York City is tough with a capital T, though I fear that's likely an egregious understatement. In order to make it through, it's probably best to try and reevaluate your expectations sooner rather than later. Like I already said, the N.Y.C. that you'll come to know after actually living there isn't, I believe, worse than the N.Y.C. you grew up admiring. However, it's important to acknowledge that the two are almost completely different entities, comprised of somewhat different values, culture, and ease of livability.
Something most New York residents hear unreasonably often when visiting other parts of the world is the extremely common sentiment that all New Yorkers are mean and will eat you alive. While I believe this to be completely untrue, I will agree with the underlying insinuation this idea presents, which is that grit is a necessity for any person who wishes to feel comfortable living and interacting with New York's residents.
In my experience, the city's inhabitants aren't actually mean, they actually tend to be quite a kind and considerate population. I always make it a point to characterize New Yorkers as kind rather than nice, because I think there's a difference, and I definitely don't think that nice is a valid descriptor for the average Manhattanite. First, I want to detail the denotative differences in the words 'kind' and 'nice', with 'kind' being defined by dictionary.com as "of a good or benevolent nature or disposition" and with 'nice' being defined as "pleasing; agreeable; delightful", three things I would say New Yorkers, in general, are not.
Coming from the South, specifically Texas, the virtues of gentility and hospitality are qualities that I'm quite accustomed to, but once I was able to make the distinction between 'kind' and 'nice', two words that are very often considered synonymous, I began to feel more comfortable with my daily interactions with people in the city.
While "mean" New Yorkers aren't even close to topping the list of the scariest aspects of New York City, I use them as an example of how a slight shift in perspective can help you start to see the silver linings within these fears. It's easy to feel guilty when you begin to question your compatibility with the city, especially given the fact that, for many, Manhattan is a fantastical destination that can make the pieces of their misunderstood lives come together. It's definitely not an easy feeling to deal with, and it can bring forth a great deal of self-doubt and anxiousness, but it's vital to keep in mind that everything you see is defined solely by the way you perceive it.
The phrase "mind over matter", cliché as it is, can be re-appropriated to mean that you, the individual, must decide what you're going to learn from your surroundings. Encountering rude people on the street means that you'll start to grow some thicker skin, high rent prices means that you'll start learning how to stretch your dollar a bit more, and being in a clustered people-per-inch city, where the things that make you special in your hometown make you nothing more than average, means that you'll get to really let your metaphorical hair down and really begin to discover yourself in a city that, for all that it's worth, has no problem letting you be you.