Not too long ago, the one-year anniversary of my move to New York came and went without much fanfare – unsurprising in a city this chaotic and energetic. When I finally did take a moment to think about all that’s happened over the last year or so – moving with nothing but a couple of suitcases, going to my first New York Fashion Week, and running the obstacle course that is renting an apartment in Manhattan – I thought about some of the things I’ve learned:
I’ll be honest, the prospect of learning how to navigate the convoluted New York subway system had me pretty nervous. Most of my early weeks of commuting involved me clutching my iPhone like a life preserver with Google Maps open, praying I was headed in the right direction.
The three essential takeaways I’ve gleaned are these: First, though it’s been said many times, beware the empty car on an otherwise crowded train – it really is empty for a reason (and that reason is not your good fortune). Secondly, over half the battle in navigating the subway is just knowing which trains are going uptown and which are going downtown. And finally, despite the MTA’s campaign, mass transit etiquette is lost on the majority of subway patrons.
Given the several Southern-themed establishments I’ve encountered since moving to NYC – and I use the term “Southern” very loosely here…Timberlake, I’m looking at you – it’s no great shock that being a New Orleans transplant garners largely favorable reactions.
Those who’ve been to the Big Easy immediately start telling the story of their visit and that they can’t wait to go back. The uninitiated just have questions, and speak of New Orleans with an implied (and deserved) mystique – like Atlantis. Or Narnia.
“Bless your heart” is the clear winner among popular Southern colloquialisms, and for perspective, the way people from New Orleans feel about Bourbon Street is roughly the same as native New Yorkers feel about Times Square. And no, it isn’t “all Mardi Gras all the time”…except when it is.
Assume You’re in the Way
One of my favorite things about living in New York is that walking quickly isn’t frowned upon; in fact, it’s encouraged. It doesn’t matter if they’re late for a job interview,or going to a bodega for Cheetos, New Yorkers are in a hurry.
For this reason, I think one’s best bet is to always just assume you’re in someone’s way. Sudden stops, erratic direction changes, and “walking wide” (seriously, it’s a thing) are all highly discouraged – be it on a sidewalk, in a Starbucks, or in the lobby of your building – because inevitably, someone’s coming up behind you and they’re most likely in a hurry.
There Doesn’t Need to Be a Reason for Traffic
This is a very straightforward lesson. “It’s a Thursday, roughly 8:30 p.m., and the weather is pleasant. Surely I’ll have no trouble hailing a cab and getting to my destination in a timely manner.” Wrong.
Morning rush hour, Sunday morning, or an unassuming Thursday evening: there will be traffic, it will make you late, and there’s only about a 60 percent chance that there will even be an obvious explanation, like a breakdown, a fender bender, construction, or a Kardashian sighting.
There’s No Where I’d Rather Be
Perhaps the biggest truth of them all is that I’ve realized there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. It’s an empowering feeling, knowing you are where and when you are supposed to be, and it’s a sensation I hope everyone can achieve if they haven’t already.
For me, New York City is a lot like Sia’s singing voice (stay with me!) – much of its beauty lies in the perfect imperfections. New York is flawed. New York City is expensive, loud, and crowded. New York City has summers that are swelteringly hot and winters that are unbelievably frigid. New York City is stubborn and at times unforgiving.
New York City is, for the foreseeable future, my home. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.