Woah, it's official! This week marks my ten year anniversary living in New York City! I'm incredibly proud to finally be able to call myself a real New Yorker! In the past decade, I've changed careers twice, wrote my first novel, found MaQ, the German Shepherd dog I've always wanted since I was a child, and married the man of my dreams. Phew! But it's true what they say, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." One helluva ride, I've been doing a lot of reflecting over the past decade of my life and how far I've come. It's been a very humbling experience and New York has helped me grow in ways I didn't even know were possible. So, here are 10 things I've learned on my journey as a New Yorker.
1. YOU BETTER WORK!
RuPAUL, you are preaching to the choir! Living in NYC is ridiculously expensive and everyone out here wants their fair-shared bite out of the Big Apple. But in order to party hard, you better work even harder. And I mean you better work like you've never worked in your entire life! I've been working since the age of 12 and nothing ever came easy for me. For many years, I've held down 2 to 3 jobs at once all the while working on other projects like my novel or whipping up some new recipes or coming up with a new photographic series. I've worked my butt off to get to where I am today. And that kind of work ethic is vital to be able to live here. It's not even an option.
2. LOVE WHAT YOU DO.
Words are my life and have always been my gateway to outward expression and my release from the trials and tribulations of life. I had dabbled in creative writing such as short stories and some poetry during my adolescence, even getting a few of my poems published while in college. So, I started writing again after transplanting myself from the Motor City to the island of Manhattan. It was like a lightning bolt had struck me, straight to the core. Immediately I knew I wanted to take my writing more seriously. This could be my way of helping and contributing to society and most importantly, do something I love doing, no matter how long it was going to take to work my way towards becoming an established writer. Here if you want it bad enough you'll do it for free, but my firm belief is never work for money and/or success. Your work should feel significant and meaningful to you. Work for a cause, not for applause. The money will follow. Hard work pays off, for real though!
3. CAN'T READ MY POKER FACE.
Ever hear how New Yorkers aren't the smiling type? It's true. Sort of. We're honest folks, pretty blunt actually in it's truest and rawest form. New Yorkers are not about letting people know too much of their business because most people don't care, they're just curious. Nosey. Nobody's got time for that! They want to see you do good (perhaps), but never better than them - something I will never understand. I'm everyone's cheerleader! Why would you want someone to lose rather than win? Because it's an extremely competitive town and after a few years even, being in the Concrete Jungle, I think a person is only bound to build that "don't mess with me" type of NYC mentality. Plus it wards off the cacklers, trollers, fakes and haters of the world while keeping yourself in check!
4. THE FOOD HERE IS UNLIKE ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD.
I may be tiny and petite, but I can eat like a horse. I LOVE FOOD. But my upbringing, in terms of food experience, wasn't very eclectic. I grew up mostly on Korean and American food. As a kid, The Olive Garden and Red Lobster were considered one of the 'nicer' restaurants. But living in NYC where the culinary melting pot is literally right outside your apartment, is one of my greatest pleasures living here. Never have I eaten better or with more wonder and joy than I have in the past ten years. NYC really does have every type of ethnic cuisine you can imagine and I've learned so much about cooking and food in general. Okay, now I need to stop talking about this. My stomach's growling. ;-) But seriously, you haven't had food until you've been to New York!
5. OOEY GOOEY ROMANCE AT IT'S FINEST
When I think of all the sights and sounds of the city, I am filled with so many memories (good and bad, and just downright ugly) of my past relationships. New York City is a great place to be single, but I think it's an even better place to fall in love. Two different types of people with two different types of perspectives, equals countless hours of exploring the city. Different parts of the city. Sure it's great to do some solo-adventuring, but it's the best when shared with someone you deeply love. Some of my favorite memories are nestled in this gorgeous town with the love of my life. My husband and I met in the East Village, he proposed at the Metropolitan Opera and we married in Central Park at Strawberry Fields, right on top of the John Lennon, 'Imagine' memorial. For me, the city brings out your romantic side, at full speed! Unforgettable moments. For reals.
6. NOTHING GOES AS PLANNED.
My dad used to say, "If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans." My five year plan after college was to join the police force. (I know, what?! I'll tell y'all about it another time.) Obviously I changed my mind, ha ha! I'm very thankful for all the experiences that I've gained from the different jobs I've had through the years. I'm constantly evolving as a person, and I think all that personal growth from work has helped mold me into who I am today. When I stopped trying to plan my life down to every single detail, the better life has become. Not to say that you should be some irresponsible hot mess, but unplanned events, both positive or negative, can lead to wonderful things. Don't try so hard because life really does have a funny way of working things out. Letting go can be very powerful. Everything will fall into place whether you like it or not!
7. DON'T LET ANYONE TELL YOU HOW TO LIVE HERE.
Life in NYC is not at all like the way the TV and big screen depict it. It's the fashion capital of the world, but not everyone is running around like Carrie Bradshaw. People dress the way they want to dress. New Yorkers do what they want to do and they do what they got to do too. This place can eat you alive, so never try to live by someone else's way. Be authentic and be true to yourself, through thick and thin, because the city life can get pretty stressful. Sometimes too much it seems. But don't give up. Be real to yourself. If you are, no matter what difficulties life wants to throw your way, you'll be able to figure it out. Look at how much pressure goes into making a diamond! That's the beauty of New York, you never know what can happen!
8. STAY CONNECTED BUT WATCH YOUR BACK.
It's all about who you know in this town but if that means having to force yourself in dealing with highly toxic people, walk away. You don't have to sacrifice your dignity or integrity for anyone or anything. That's far too important, to me at least, and life's too short. Work with those you can grow and learn from. If they're not bringing anything to the table and it's just negative, time to move on. You deserve better. It's tough being appreciated here, because the city of New York doesn't owe you anything. It's nothing personal and no one's perfect after all, but this shouldn't make you have to short-list what you feel is fair or right for yourself. Networking and staying connected is an imperative tool in New York, but that doesn't mean there's no snakes in the grass.
9. MAKE TIME AND SPACE FOR YOURSELF.
I will forever be a city girl at heart. The idea of living in the middle of nowhere with not much to do is a little nerve-wrecking to me. In my opinion that's too much space! But sometimes the city feels like there's not enough space. Trust me, you know what I'm talking about if you've ever squeezed into a subway car train during rush hour like sardines in a can! There is no sense of personal space in the city. So it's good to take a retreat every once in a while. I always feel rejuvenated and revived after spending some quiet time with nature and being outdoors. It does the body and soul good. :)
10. LIVING IN NYC VS. BEING IN NYC
Ambition means more in this town than talent, but that shouldn't deter you from having some kind of social life. Don't just work, play! There's a million and one things to do in NYC and one of the biggest perks living here is being able to do them. I've been to the Brooklyn Bridge many many times, but I particularly wanted to walk it with my boys on my ten year anniversary living here. It is such an epic landmark and was quite the New York moment to have. Make the most of this city because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
Well, New York - I made it. And on my own terms. Feeling pretty groovy and happy to be alive. Keep banging. I will always love you. (But not without my whips and chains, you naughty city you! I need to straighten you out from time to time!) :P
Cheers to the greatest city in the world! Stay tuned for Part 2 of my NYC anniversary extravaganza! ♥