I remember my first time visiting New York from my college town of Springfield, Missouri.
I was blown away by the number of people in one place, the excess of culture (and culture of excess), the museums and the galleries and the pizza and the New Yorkiness of it all.
It was a spectacle, for sure, and I wanted to stay. I wanted to stay. Badly.
In fact, I distinctly remember thinking these exact words: “If I walked away from my group right now, would I be able to make it here with just what I have in my pockets?”
Clearly it was love at first sight, and even now, having been here a dozen or so times, I think those exact same words after a few hours walking around the city.
Afraid To Get Too Close
At the same time, I’m a bit afraid of New York.
I’m not scared of the crime, or the griminess or the traffic or the alligators in the sewers, but rather the energy that seems to pulse through absolutely everything. There’s a rhythm to how things operate (just like in every city), and the wavelengths in NYC’s drumbeat sync up so well with my own that if I were to stay here too long, I don’t know that I’d ever leave.
And then there’s the ambition.
Many New Yorkers have a drive that’s unmatched anywhere else I’ve been. It’s so expensive to live here that many people work several jobs just to get by and afford a dingy old apartment, but they do it with pleasure, every single one of them knowing that a big opportunity is just around the corner and they’d better be ready to take advantage of it.
The entrepreneur scene is incredibly vibrant in NYC right now, and it seems like every time I swing through I end up meeting a few dozen really amazing people. The fact that the startup community here has embraced social media to such a large degree and is rubbing elbows with a large number of NYC-based venture capitalists certainly helps, but it’s the personality of the people and the work-ethic (work hard, play hard) of this city that keeps these folks on top.
I understand this mentality more than I’d like to admit because it’s how I’ve lived my life since college. As soon as I started working in my field, I threw myself at it with reckless abandon, shrugging off illness and tiredness and failures like so many raindrops in order to bull my way to where I wanted to be.
I continued along this path until I started up Exile Lifestyle and decided to streamline and refine my lifestyle. The way I originally worked things out, I still intended to work work work and then play play play (from time to time), but the more I travel and refine and reformat, the more I realize that I’m actually enjoying trying out the alternative route for a while: working more thoughtfully, spending more time investing in myself, pacing my life a bit more so that I don’t get completely wiped out (or work more than a handful of hours per week).
This method has paid off so far, but I know with a sad certainty that if I were to move to NYC, I would be sucked back in to the accelerated pace that comes so naturally to me.
So for now, my love for New York will stay a fling. Who knows if it will become more than that someday, but until I’m certain of how I want to live (and where), I’m going to keep this city at arm’s length, lest I settle down and speed up in a moment of careless abandon.
Update: December 22, 2016
I get a small knot in my stomach when I think about this mindset of mine, which pops up when I go places like New York. Not because I’m afraid I’ll give into it, but because part of me wants to, and probably always will.
And I know from experience that I’m far healthier and happier and more productive in so many ways when I live with balance and am not scrambling to pay a king’s ransom for a closet each month, and where there isn’t an amazing networking brunch to attend every morning before a twelve-hour work day at an office I’d have to commute to. I love my life so ridiculously much. And so when something comes along that’s so tempting to a competitive, ambitious side of myself, I can’t help but recoil a little.
I love living in cities, but not when the trade-off is draining away all the things I care about most about my life. New York and I are still good friends who get together and catch up from time to time, but I think that’s all we can ever be.