New York September 2014

If I’ve got one word to describe New York City, it would be intense. It’s a place with an overwelming amount of possibility, opportunity, and efficiency, but this comes at the cost of affordability and comfort. I often wake up here and wish I were back in North Carolina, where I could slowly wake up, have a cup of coffee outside on the porch, and look forward to a no more than 20 minute drive to the coworking space I work out of in downtown Raleigh. Here in New York, even living in the relatively convenient and central location of Lincoln Square, I look forward to a 40+ minute commute to my company’s (temporary) office in Tribeca.

Most people I meet here are paying $1,500-2,500 for rent (except for the ones lucky enough to live with their significant others and split their rent). Some of them get paid proper salaries for the city and live comfortably. Others are wildly successful - probably success that they partially owe to being in the city - and have more wealth than they know what to do with. Yet others are making little enough to scrape by and are just living month to month, unsure how they would pay rent if they lost their job.

I was lucky enough to find a $1,000/month room here in a three bedroom with two roommates. And for New York, a place for this price in Manhattan is a rare gem. But compared to living in most other cities, it’s a much lower standard of living. I am woken up most mornings to loud construction and trash trucks. Sometimes the construction causes our buildling to shake. My room is the size of a closet. We have portable A/C units which are loud and inefficient. It’s always a choice between being hot and muggy or putting up with a loud humming. I find sitting in a coffee shop or in a plaza can sometimes be more comfortable than sitting at home trying to work from our tiny kitchen table or while sitting on my bed (there’s no room for a desk in my room).

There’s no way to get away from it all here. There are parks but even in the parks you are surrounded by buildings and people. There are beaches if you don’t mind an hour or two train ride, but I hear they are crowded as well.

Yet for all of the discomfort and crowdedness, it can be surprisingly charming at times. Sunday afternoons are the best, where parents pushing strollers and couples holding hands fill the streets, going for leisurly walks to get coffee before heading to the parks. New York still has a healthy family oriented vibe which I’ve always respected. (Some of) the projects are the most human feeling of living situations with countless kids running around playing games and old people walking around catching up with their neighbors. While they are generally considered to be urban planning failures, they remain little oises of slower paced, family oriented life in an otherwise fastforwarded, workaholic city. Unlike other central areas in big mostly suburban American cities, New York feels like a real place. (Aside from Times Square,) it is not a novelty destination. It’s a place where millions of people live and work and survive and thrive. There are people of all ages and backgrounds and income groups and origins. It feels balanced, despite the insane prices.

Perhaps the best thing about New York is the opportunities. Due to being a massive, dense city you can find anything here (except for cheap rent, quiet open spaces, and nature). When I first got here I was worried that I wasn’t going to meet enough people or keep myself busy enough and get bored or lonely. Fortunately, my experience cannot have been more far from that description. I went to a CouchSurfing meetup and a Node.js meetup the first few nights and met so many excellent people - ambitious, friendly, knowledgable, hardworking, and traveled people. There are so many people to meet, events to go to, parks to lounge in, restaurants to eat at, coffee shops to caffeinate at, neighborhoods to explore, companies to work with… the city is endless. If there’s any problem, it’s not that there is not enough, it’s that there is too much. It’s overwhelming and it’s tempting to play too hard and exhaust yourself trying to do everything. I’m used to having to look everywhere in hopes that there is many one or two things going on in a night. In New York there are more opportunities than I know what to do with.