My Sordid Love Affair with New York

 

My First

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 site, 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.

Most 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.

18 comments

  1. Colin,
    You’re absolutely right about New York. Sadly though, I’ve gotten stuck here. At first, I did have the follow the New York Beat and got a regular job and worked hard and played hard. Recently, and partially with the help of your blog, I’ve learned to scale back a bit while not giving up what I’ve earned. I no longer work full time and I’m working on businesses that will bring in income on their own… So it is possible… well at least what I’ve accomplished so far is. What I’ve found is that the more you recognize the rhythm of New York after deciding to work your own way, the more you’re reminded of how much you don’t want to go back to following it and it drives you forward… at least it did for me.

    Anyway, I missed your Status Quo meetup but perhaps I’ll catch you next time you’re around NYC!

    -Dan

  2. I liked this post Colin, and although I’ve never been in NY, I understand what You mean. NY is definitely on my to visit/live list.

    As long as work doesn’t become a drug to get numb, and as long as You do ‘professionaly’ what You love it’s okay to work (very) hard.

  3. I enjoyed this Colin.

    New York City is a fabulous place to be when you are young and it IS a very ambitious crowd & fascinating place to meet so many at the top of their game in many fields. I loved my 20’s & early 30’s there ( and then became bi-coastal between LA & NYC until Cal won).

    But for most, life has many phases and following your own inner guidance is always best. I don’t think you really have to fear NYC though, it can really be many things to different people at different times.

    The NYC I first knew was different than the one I left for Ca from ( after many years there) and different still on my last visit after being away for a long time. I still have close friends there and NYC will always be one of my homes even as I travel the world.

    Love NYC on a crisp, sunny fall day, because the big energy so matches mine. Still, I don’t think I’d ever want to live there again, especially not in the sweltering summer heat. ;)

    Flings can be good things too!

  4. Easy, Colin – you’re making me pine for life in NYC.

    I can distinctly remember 3 visits to NYC, and each affected me in a different way (note: I’ve been about 6 times; these are just the 3 I remember most)

    First was when I was about 4 or 5 years old, and I was visiting my uncle, who had a place in Queens. We strolled around Manhattan later, and I remember my 5-year-old-self being absolutely enthralled with New York’s enormity. It was so immense, so huge, that I was in utter awe.

    Next up was the spring after 9/11 – I was about 9 years old at the time. The city seemed a little subdued (from what I remember) – but that’s only by NYC’s ridiculously high standards for hustle and bustle. Still, it was eerie to pass by ground zero – from my uncle’s apartment, you could see the gap in the skyline where the Twin Towers once belonged… And they were only about 8 blocks from his apartment in Manhattan (he got a new one in those 5 years).

    Lastly was my last trip to New York – last year. The pulse you speak of meshed so well with mine. I was attracted by the almost cocky coolness of everyone I saw out – that ambition that was behind their eyes.

    That struck a tremendous chord with me – NYC is my kind of place, no doubt about it. Hopefully the gods put me in NYC sometime soon.

  5. Colin,
    You’re absolutely right about New York. Sadly though, I’ve gotten stuck here. At first, I did have the follow the New York Beat and got a regular job and worked hard and played hard. Recently, and partially with the help of your blog, I’ve learned to scale back a bit while not giving up what I’ve earned. I no longer work full time and I’m working on businesses that will bring in income on their own… So it is possible… well at least what I’ve accomplished so far is. What I’ve found is that the more you recognize the rhythm of New York after deciding to work your own way, the more you’re reminded of how much you don’t want to go back to following it and it drives you forward… at least it did for me.

    Anyway, I missed your Status Quo meetup but perhaps I’ll catch you next time you’re around NYC!

    -Dan

  6. Be careful where you live; don’t let the location become your personality. Not a good sign.

  7. I liked this post Colin, and although I’ve never been in NY, I understand what You mean. NY is definitely on my to visit/live list.

    As long as work doesn’t become a drug to get numb, and as long as You do ‘professionaly’ what You love it’s okay to work (very) hard.

  8. I enjoyed this Colin.

    New York City is a fabulous place to be when you are young and it IS a very ambitious crowd & fascinating place to meet so many at the top of their game in many fields. I loved my 20′s & early 30′s there ( and then became bi-coastal between LA & NYC until Cal won).

    But for most, life has many phases and following your own inner guidance is always best. I don’t think you really have to fear NYC though, it can really be many things to different people at different times.

    The NYC I first knew was different than the one I left for Ca from ( after many years there) and different still on my last visit after being away for a long time. I still have close friends there and NYC will always be one of my homes even as I travel the world.

    Love NYC on a crisp, sunny fall day, because the big energy so matches mine. Still, I don’t think I’d ever want to live there again, especially not in the sweltering summer heat. ;)

    Flings can be good things too!

  9. I feel the same way about hawaii & barcelona…if I ever got back, not sure I’ll be able to leave.

  10. Easy, Colin – you’re making me pine for life in NYC.

    I can distinctly remember 3 visits to NYC, and each affected me in a different way (note: I’ve been about 6 times; these are just the 3 I remember most)

    First was when I was about 4 or 5 years old, and I was visiting my uncle, who had a place in Queens. We strolled around Manhattan later, and I remember my 5-year-old-self being absolutely enthralled with New York’s enormity. It was so immense, so huge, that I was in utter awe.

    Next up was the spring after 9/11 – I was about 9 years old at the time. The city seemed a little subdued (from what I remember) – but that’s only by NYC’s ridiculously high standards for hustle and bustle. Still, it was eerie to pass by ground zero – from my uncle’s apartment, you could see the gap in the skyline where the Twin Towers once belonged… And they were only about 8 blocks from his apartment in Manhattan (he got a new one in those 5 years).

    Lastly was my last trip to New York – last year. The pulse you speak of meshed so well with mine. I was attracted by the almost cocky coolness of everyone I saw out – that ambition that was behind their eyes.

    That struck a tremendous chord with me – NYC is my kind of place, no doubt about it. Hopefully the gods put me in NYC sometime soon.

  11. Just reading through some past notes on books that I read and felt the following quote from What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig is something to keep in mind…

    New Yorkers “are both guards and prisoners and as a result they no longer have…the capacity to leave the prison they have made, or even see it as a prison.”

    Be careful. :-)

  12. Very timely for me to be reading this as I plan to leave my 4 year stint in NYC. It's been great, I certainly achieved what I wanted in some way (Job, check. Cute UWS apartment with a deck, check. Social life, check check check.) But, as I dive deeper and deeper into a minimalist lifestyle filled with yoga, mindfulness and other conscious activities, it becomes impossible to live here without feeling like a fraud in some way. The hardest part for me is saying no…there are just so many things to do, people to see, days and nights to fill up with social engagements and other stimulation. I'm ready to throw in the towel (and my calendar) and head off to India and really experience life at the pace it should be experienced. What happens after that, who knows? I'm done planning out my life, ready to take it for a ride and see what I end up!

  13. Fascinating point of view. I grew up in NJ but my parents are New Yorkers and the city was (and is) always a part of me. I needed to be there on my own, so I went to college there and started my career. I lived in three different apartments, the final one being my own studio. I was in love with the city, with my lifestyle, with the endless opportunities, but my job was sucking the life out of me. I worked in advertising. I worked insanely hard, and I partied even harder to make up for it. I knew it had to end.
    I was presented an opportunity to move to San Diego and I absolutely fell in love. While I ended up moving again to DC for grad school and now I’m back in the NY area – I dream about living in San Diego permanently. I really learned how to appreciate life.
    I will always have a love affair with New York City – it’s inspiring and magical. I will always feel at home there. But sometimes you have to know when it’s time to move on…

  14. That’s great you’ve got the foresight – and restraint – to know that the draw of NYC isn’t anything more than plain attraction, at least at this point in your life. I’m preparing for my own re-location to Brooklyn after about a year of contemplation and planning and having heeded the advice of others who’ve taken the same path, I’ve learned the importance of having clear, honest goals in place prior to moving. It’s a place that can give you everything you’d want, while taking everything you’ve got.
    Thanks for the timely post and frankness!

  15. I just left New York City this past Monday. It was my first visit to the city. When I got on that plane,I felt like I was leaving my soul mate behind. Im so glad I found this post. I know I’ll be there one day.

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