Now I Know, New York.

Everything is scary until you do it.
New York is kind of a scary concept. Millions of people in a small amount of space. Crowded streets, crowded buildings, crowded subways. There isn’t crime around every corner waiting for you. But you do need to pay attention to your surroundings. The sheer number of people means there will be more poverty and homelessness, dirtier streets, more germs. It also means there will be loud, opinionated people. Or sometimes there will be loud, mentally unstable people sitting next to you on the Subway talking to themselves or yelling “You’re all going to wish you were dead!” at you and a friend in the street (yes, that actually happened).
There are a lot of unsettling things about New York. But, having just left, I can say I felt an overwhelming sense of security and like I was truly at home in New York.

Central Park

This summer, I did something I’d always wanted to do. A friend of mine asked me if I had known about my internship before I decided I wanted to live in the city. Basically, what came first: my job or the city? And my answer was the city. The city always came first. If anyone ever asked where I wanted to live most or where I wanted to visit, that was the first place to come to mind. I was just too afraid to really ever do it or say I was going to do it. Personally, I thank God for the courage and good timing to do it.

When I came to New York in middle school with my mom and a friend, I really saw it through rose-colored glasses. This idealistic view of the city continued as I grew up and obsessively watched Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. I viewed NYC as this glamorous oasis with constant excitement, lights, fame, love, beauty and opportunity. And that is absolutely part of the multi-layered cake that is New York. But only part.
Now I know so much more about this place than I ever did.

Now I know Times Square is not the coolest part of the city and it’s actually a death trap full of tourists and guys with comedy show tickets waiting to rip you off.

Now I know that the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and 5th Avenue are beautiful, clean, and well-deservedly famous but some of the coolest, most chic people and places in the city can be found in SoHo, the West Village and Chelsea. That goes for the most expensive apartments too.

My favorite street in SoHo
My favorite street in SoHo

Now I know that having a rooftop with a view is an unbeatable perk to look for, whether in an apartment, club or a restaurant. But I also know it’s impressive to find an apartment with a dishwasher and laundry in the building.

Now I know the other boroughs have tons to offer, you just have to be willing to look.

Now I know that, yes, there are 1.5 million Starbucks in Manhattan but to find the best coffee, you have to go looking. And coffee is always necessary. Always.

Now I know that you fold your pizza when you eat it. That’s really the only way to do it.

Now I know that black and white never go out of style. If you ever want to push your fashion boundaries there is no better place than New York to try.

Now I know that New York has some of the best bakeries and desserts you’ll ever find. Items like the Cronut and the Cookie Shot at Dominique Ansel’s are truly an experience just to get your hands on. But sometimes all you need is a classic black and white cookie, a dessert that I now know New York loves.

The Cronut
The Cronut

Now I know that anywhere unlimited sushi and sake is offered is guaranteed to be two things: 1) loud and 2) incredibly fun.

Now I know that you don’t really have to wait for a walk sign to cross the street. In fact, doing that is kind of weird.

Now I know that it might be worth looking like a weird newbie checking the street before you walk in order to not be pummeled by the bikers that fly by without stopping for pedestrians.

Now I know that you should never really feel lost in New York because no matter where you are, there’s something incredible to see and someone else equally lost to see it with.

Wings

Now I know that people don’t talk on the Subway. Ever.

Now I know that making a plan is overrated. I spent more days than not just wandering around my favorite neighborhoods with no specific destination in mind and that is when I enjoyed myself the most and when I found the coolest spots.

Now I know that the best things come when you’re least expecting it or looking for it. Seeing celebrities, for example, always happened at the most random times in the most random places. New York will always surprise you.

Now I know that if I made it in New York starting from scratch, I really can make it anywhere (Jay Z knew what he was talking about). New York challenges you and pushes you to be tougher and ready for anything.

Street Art 2

Now I know that if you don’t know what to do after college and you find yourself getting an internship offer in New York City and you see no possible way it could work out and you don’t really know what you’ll do after, there is only one thing you should do: make it work. Don’t even think twice.

Now I know that everything is scary until you do it. Then it’s just part of life you’ll look back on and always love that you did it.

A friend I met in New York shared a quote with me that I think perfectly describes the effect the city has on its explorers: “Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.” – John Steinbeck 

Now I know.

Brooklyn Bridge

“I’m from Arkansas.” “Oh, where is that again?”

“I’m from Arkansas.”

“Oh, wow! That must be quite the change.”

“This must be like night and day.”

“Oh, isn’t that by Florida?”

and my personal favorite “Do you guys, like..go out there?”

Any variation of this tends to be the very first comment I hear from someone I meet here in New York. And of course the sentiments about how different it is are true. It is different…But really? The “do you guys go out?” part. I mean, come on, we’re not that weird, I promise.

I’ve lived in NYC for two and a half months now and have learned some valuable things about how it differs from my home state and, more importantly, how it’s really pretty similar.

1) The most obvious difference: prices. Anything and everything is more expensive here. One random exception I’ve noticed is that you can find super cheap manicures and pedicures. I’m assuming those are just sketchy nail salons but I’ve seen a lot of them. Other than that, you have to be prepared to spend more money than you would pretty much anywhere else. Hair cuts are more expensive, clothes are more expensive, food is way more expensive (but so worth it). Oh and renting an apartment? Absolutely ridiculous.

Afford NY

2) The dogs. A lot of NY apartments aren’t big enough for a decent sized living area (Exhibit A: my apartment), much less big enough for a large dog. The dogs here tend to be tiny and adorable, just how I like them. I’ve noticed a lot of french bulldogs, pugs, yorkies and cocker spaniels. Plus, maybe it’s the dirty streets or maybe just because New York dogs are more fashionable than most humans other places, but a lot of dogs I’ve seen have been wearing tiny little boots. Come on…it can’t get cuter than a pug in boots.

3) Brunch. Brunch is a dearly loved event in the city. I know people everywhere eat brunch but it isn’t just a meal in New York, it’s a social-event craze like no other. Brunch is pretty much code for a recover-from-last-night-and-stuff-your-face ritual. It isn’t right unless it’s “bottomless” – unlimited food and mimosas. Pretty much every established restaurant or cafe in the city comes equipped with a brunch deal where you can get an entree, coffee and a mimosa (or other drink) for a set price. A couple of my favorite brunch spots so far: #1) East End Kitchen in the UES, where Charles and I enjoyed a brunch pizza, delicious French toast and drinks for a great price and #2) Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village, where you can get coffee + an entree + bread/croissant + mimosa for $22.

Brunch1 Brunch2

4) Energy. There’s a reason they call it the city that never sleeps. There’s a certain energy to New York that is contagious, exciting and very unique. And, in general, you just get less sleep if you’re a 20-something in NYC. Unlike Dickson Street in Fayetteville, where going out at 11:30 is considered late, 11:30 here is early. Most clubs don’t even open until 11 and it doesn’t get really going until at least 1 in the morning. New Yorkers do more after midnight than most people do in their entire day. Thankfully, my roommates in NYC broke me of my habit of going out at 10 PM. Thank goodness for them.

Energy

5) Viewpoints. This may be another pretty obvious difference but it’s importance is pretty big to me. I’ve heard a lot of differing, even totally new, viewpoints on topics while I’ve been here. The three interns I worked with this summer were from Connecticut, California and Minnesota originally, which means we’re spread out all over the map and have all had the chance to hear and share different opinions on things. I’ve loved being able to hear different, unique opinions and reasons backing them up. It’s a great way to consider new perspectives and grow.

6) Public bathrooms. Just no. They don’t exist. I’ve seen maybe one the entire time I’ve been here and it was in Central Park. If you’re anywhere else that doesn’t have a Starbucks close by, you’re kind of out of luck in terms of using the bathroom.

But enough about what makes us different. Despite what some people seem to think, NY and AR do share some qualities.

1) Well, for one, the hospitality. This one surprised me and will probably surprise others but I mean it 100%. Everyone warns you to prepare for a huge difference from the “southern hospitality” you’re used to, where people go out of their way to be nice to you and help you. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I’ve really not noticed this extreme difference everyone stresses. People have offered directions, offered information about good restaurants and bars, and a random person stopped me on the street to tell me about free kayaking in the city because she heard me talking about it with a friend.

So, no, I’ve not felt this giant gap between New York and Arkansas and how kind people are. In fact, I’ve noticed such a big heart in New Yorkers, full of love for others and, especially, a love for New York.

I think the key difference here comes in the pace of the city and the time at which you meet people. It takes some getting used to always being in a rush or getting pushed by people who are (like when you’re trying to get on or off a Subway train). While some take this fast-paced mindset as a sign of unfriendliness, it is really just something you have to expect in a small area with so many people trying to get things done and go about their everyday lives. There is nothing really “mean” about it. Sure, people in NY can be somewhat more impatient than those in the south, but there are lots of places to be and people to see…so sometimes you just have to hurry up on the sidewalk so everyone can make it where they’re going.

IMG_7661

2) Family. People wonder what it would be like to raise a family in a place like New York. Although it’s hard to imagine being a parent in a place so crazy and busy, I can see from my short time here that New Yorkers place just as much importance on family. Maybe kids grow up to be have tougher skin and be a little more street smart (like learning not to approach strange looking people earlier on and learning how to navigate the Subway instead of learning how to drive a car). But, when it all comes down to it, you’ll still see quiet neighborhoods that are more family-oriented and tons of families fill up Central Park and other parks all over the city on the weekends.

I think recognizing these similarities is so important and really shows us the need for us to see what we have in common with people everywhere. That’s much more important than what makes us different. It allows us to relate, to form relationships, to learn from one another and to grow. If you need more evidence of this commonality I’m talking about, follow Humans of New York on Facebook or Instagram. There’s a reason each post about a person resonates so loudly with people from all over –  not just people from New York. There is a universal humanity that links us and gives us so much more to work with than all of our differences combined.

This is evidenced even more in the fact that New York is so incredibly diverse, with inhabits from every country you can imagine. Even with this diversity, the city retains this characteristic, iconic personality that makes it famous. Why? Because the similarities between all these people do more for this city than the differences.

“Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.” – E.B. White (1949).

 

Week One in the Big Apple

My first week in NYC is officially over and, trust me, it did not disappoint. I packed about as much as you possibly could into one week. It has all been a blur but I really couldn’t be any happier with my situation here. My apartment is in a great, quiet neighborhood with a fantastic view of the city from the roof. I got so lucky to have really cool roommates, fellow interns and bosses. Sumpto’s office is awesome and the work I do is really interesting and fun. Plus there are free snacks, coffee and a super comfy couch available at all times – who could ask for more?!

To top it off, I’ve only been lost twice. That’s groundbreaking.

The view of the city from the roof of my apartment building
The view of the city from the roof of my apartment building

I’m really starting to feel at home and like I know what I’m doing for the most part. I spent the first few days just getting used to the apartment and the area. I live in the Financial District in downtown Manhattan, a fast-paced financial center during the day and a relaxed residential area at night. We can see the Hudson and the One World Trade Center from our apartment. There is also this cool area by the water a short walk from our place called South Street Seaport with great food, drinks and a sense of community. If you can’t tell, I love where I live!

One day, I walked around close to my apartment after getting off work and realized the 9/11 Memorial is incredibly close to where I live. The twin towers of the WTC stood feet from where I get on the subway every morning to go to work. It was a solemn visit to see where the towers used to stand. The memorial was beautiful. I haven’t had a chance to visit the new museum that just opened but hopefully I can do that soon.

9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial

Saturdays and Sundays this summer there is a huge food market in Brooklyn called Smorgasburg. There are 100 vendors every weekend set up from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. My roommates and I wanted to try some of the delicious food so we went Sunday to check it out. This was my first time in Brooklyn ever and, needless to say, it was great! We ended up being really far from the food market and we were starting to get hangry. So we postponed Smorgasburg for another weekend and decided to eat at a cool Brooklyn restaurant called Shelter Pizza. I got a brunch pizza with fried eggs, truffle oil, mozzarella and parmesan. Best food decision so far in NYC! It was so great and something I’d never had before. I definitely want to go back and try more of their pizza before this summer is over.

Brunch pizza at Shelter Pizza in Brooklyn
Brunch pizza at Shelter Pizza in Brooklyn

I’ve also had a chance to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Washington Square Park, both of which were beautiful. I’m already loving New York and there is still so much time here and so much to do. I hope time slows down a bit because I can already tell I’m in love with this city. I can’t wait for my friends, family and Charles to come visit because right now, those are the only things missing from this wonderful city. Keep checking back to find out more about my time in NYC! Let me know if there is anything I HAVE to do while I’m here.