Dear 23-Year-Old Chris,
I’m not sure if you’ll actually read this letter. I know for a fact you gave up on written correspondence during college, and now mainly communicate through two-word phone texts and the occasional Facebook message exchange. Also, I’m pretty sure sending a letter backward through time is impossible, but, hey, I’m no Neil deGrasse Tyson. If this letter does reach you there in 2007, and you have some time between NYC Social Sports Club dodgeball games and shitty happy hours at McFadden’s, I think you’d stand a lot to gain from reading it.
You see, two days ago I turned 30 years old. I didn’t celebrate by getting plastered and making out with coworkers like you’re used to doing. I had a nice, quiet dinner with my mom and fiancée at one of my favorite East Harlem restaurants, and then I went to bed around 11PM. You’d call this a “lame night,” but I call it “just right.” I’m sure you cringed a little when you read that. Wait until you get to be my age — you’ll think clever little rhymes like that are fucking genius.
Anyway, my point is, I’ve done a lot of changing since I was you — a bright eyed, 23-year-old flying from your mom’s comfy, rent-free nest on Long Island and into your first apartment in Manhattan. And not just anywhere in Manhattan — Midtown Manhattan. The corner of 51st and Broadway, to be exact. You’re just steps from Times Square, the cultural heart of the city! Why expand your mind at The Met or The Guggenheim when you’ve got M&M World, ESPN Zone, Mars 2112 and Madame Tussauds at your doorstep? Plus, you’ve got a spiky haircut, an earring, a Plenty of Fish account and enough chummy pals to take every bridge and tunnel bar from here to Murray Hill by storm.
But here, unfortunately, is where it gets a little awkward. The truth is that if I saw you on the street today, I’d punch you right in your smug, uncultured, think-you-know-it-all face. Don’t worry, I doubt we’ll ever have the opportunity to meet. I’ve watched enough hours of Star Trek and Back to the Future to know that coming in contact with your past self isn’t a good idea. So, rather than drop fists, I’m gonna drop some knowledge on you. Here are some big changes of heart you should be prepared to have during your next seven years living in this city.
You will start to loathe large crowds.
From the hordes of frat bros and easy girls at Joshua Tree to the middle-aged yentas at Fairway, places with more than 10 to 15 people will enrage you to no end. You’ll trade Midtown for less frenetic neighborhoods and be shocked you ever chose to live there in the first place. This might sound crazy, being a New Yorker and all, but your need for personal space will grow the more time you spend in the city. You’ll long to be Will Smith in I Am Legend, cruising around a desolate Union Square, and you’d more than happily risk a zombie ripping your throat out in order to enjoy it.
You will keep a maximum of five friends.
Despite how many friends you think you have, you will only have time and patience to maintain meaningful relationships with only a handful of people by the time you reach 30. It doesn’t mean you’ll stop liking of all the people you see on a regular basis now; it just means you’ll start liking doing other things a little bit more (such as sleeping, eating, and sleeping). Also, you’ll get a dog, so a lot of your free time will be spent picking up shit on the side of the road.
You will seek out quiet bars where “you can actually hear one another.”
When you do see one of your five friends, you’ll want to be able to carry on a conversation with them. Oh, I’m sorry. Let me explain. A conversation is where one person speaks, you listen and process what has just been said to you, and then offer a constructive response. You don’t have a lot of experience with this, seeing as your idea of a conversation is drunkenly spurting out sentence fragments at the top of your lungs in between bites of pizza and swigs of beer at Crocodile Lounge, all while, trying with futility to yell above The Killers song that’s blasting at volume 11.
The thought of going out past 10 PM will horrify you.
Seriously. You won’t even entertain the idea of venturing out of your apartment once the 10 o’clock news come on. And if you’re already out, your frail 30-year-old body will impose a strict curfew of midnight. And you’ll take a cab home whether you can afford one or not because it can get you to your bed faster than the subway will.
You will find a whole new set of things to love about New York.
Don’t worry, you won’t become some miserable curmudgeon. At 30 years old, you’ll learn to appreciate and love the little victories in city life, like getting a seat on the subway, being the only person on line at Duane Reade, and finding a Chopped marathon on cable. And when shitty things do happen to you, you’ll get paid to write about them on a website like a hipster Andy Rooney, and that’s…something…I guess?
Your friend in time,