This post is 18 months in the making.
Growing up I was never one of those kids who dreamed of living of NYC when I was older. In fact the first time I ever visited at the age of 15, I openly said I didn’t want to ever live there.
Fast forward seven years, I was on a plane with a one way ticket to the Big Apple. I was going to finally get a chance to flex my social media chops working for a ad agency.
I can honestly say I leaned more in the two years living in NYC than any other time in my life.
I became an expert at navigating public transit.
I leaned how to be independent.
And, how to make it in a competitive, cutthroat industry.
Oh yeah, the nightmare of navigating the NYC apartment rental process.
I also met and worked with some incredible folks- many of whom I still consider to be mentors to this day.
As well as the uncomfortableness of watching complete strangers cry in public. Then, realizing you would be doing the same thing quite a few times.
As well as how to just live in the chaos that is NYC.
But all that being said, NYC never really felt like a permanent home. It was like an extended vacation. I was working 60-70 hours a week and out either at “networking events” or happy hours with friends/coworkers at least 4 nights a week. What happened? I burnt out completely at the age of 24. When I didn’t want to go out and drink until sunrise, I suddenly felt very isolated.
NYC is a city that is always on. People expect you to work crazy hard and then to bounce back and party just as hard if not harder. For a self-proclaimed introvert, this can be very overwhelming. And isolating.
Apartments are generally too small to hang out with friends at home. The dating scene is atrocious. That leaves bars as the most easily accessible venue to see and hang out with people.
It can lead even the most cautious person to becoming a functional (or out of control) alcoholic.
I didn’t like that there was almost no chance to see friends in settings outside bars and brunches (for that matter being able to see folks completely sober).
This wasn’t a sudden realization. One that took over 6 months to realize. Much, much longer to sink in.
People get so caught up in the glamor of the NYC lifestyle, that stuff like this gets cast over. Heck, I cast right over it for a long time. Too long, in hindsight.
Sure, people complain about the high rent prices, the disgusting smells of rotting trash (and who knows what else) in the summer time and the homeless problem in the subway stations (Seriously, do not get on an empty train at rush hour.) But, the one thing most people often don’t talk about is just how lonely of a city NYC is. It’s a city that is absolutely inundated with crowds (rush hour on the subway, a packed lunch counter, a weekend walk in crowded Central Park, etc). Every one is so caught up in their own heads in the hustle and bustle of trying to make it big that it winds up being a very isolating and lonely place.
Every one is going from place A to B in autopilot mode with their headphones in. Rarely if at all do you see people stop to talk to one another. Or just say hello.
Nobody knows their neighbors. And everyone is anonymous on the streets. That’s empowering, isolating and increasingly terrifying.
This is something I tried to overlook and then tried to change by volunteering with a community startup called On My Block films. This encouraged folks to get to know their neighbors by creating a film together in 48 hours. A seriously awesome project. And one that I am trying to make happen in Austin. But that’s another post altogether.
No matter how awesome the project was, it wasn’t enough to make NYC feel truly like home.
Looking back 18 months later while I may still struggle with loneliness from time to time (but I increasingly think that comes with the territory of relationships changing in your 20s), I believe moving away from NYC was one of my smartest decisions. At least for my sanity and mental health.
Have you ever felt isolated in the city that you live or lived in? Please share your thoughts below in the comment section or by emailing me directly (if you aren’t comfortable sharing publicly) at firstname.lastname@example.org. (I do read and respond to all emails).