1. Everyone is equal.
This is the first city I’ve lived in where I truly feel a sense of equality. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is, where you are from or what your sexual orientation is. In New York, everyone is treated with the same dignity and respect regardless of superficial differences.
I have lived in societies where your skin color to a large degree, determines the potential and propensity for your success and achievement. In New York, your success is largely contingent upon hard work and perseverance, as opposed to factors that shouldn’t matter, like skin color.
2. Everyone is entitled to belong.
In New York, one does not have to be of a particular race to feel more or less “American”, or to experience a sense of belonging. I have lived in countries which claim to be multicultural, yet do not have a truly inclusive national identity. In such countries, claims of multiculturalism obscure the underlying reality that certain racial groups are more readily embraced and accepted whilst other racial groups are excluded and kept at the periphery. Whilst other countries have a dominant culture which minority groups need to conform to in order to qualify as an insider, in New York, you can bring your own culture with you, and that is okay. You are still entitled to belong.
3. Anything is possible.
New York is the city of dreams. The city is bursting with endless opportunities and possibilities. Anything is possible here. You just have to be proactive and seize what the city has to offer. Freedom, equality, and opportunity is available to everyone, all you have to do is take the first step and work towards what your heart desires.
4. The city accepts you for who you are.
From bohemians, to investment bankers and broadway stars, New York City is home to a diverse and colorful group of people – from all races, occupations and walks of life. There is no dominant culture. You don’t need to conform and act and dress in a certain way to fit in. In New York, everyone is different. That’s what makes this city so interesting and vibrant. The diversity is what makes this city so alive.
5. You feel a profound sense of freedom.
Freedom is a human right in New York. This city allows you to do what you want, say what you want, believe what you want and love who you want. And noone will judge you for it.
6. New Yorkers work hard and play hard.
This city values hard work, determination and drive. New York is filled with people who are incredibly passionate, driven and ambitious. Many people move to New York to pursue the “American Dream” – they leave behind their past and come here in hopes of a brighter future. They are driven to the Big Apple to be the very best in their field. In a city filled with people who work to attain a better life, living here encourages you to try your absolute best.
However, life in New York isn’t just about work. Yes, New Yorkers work hard, but they play hard too. They know how to separate the two: New Yorkers are serious about work, but they also know how to have fun and enjoy the finer things in life.
You will never get bored in New York. There is so much to do and so much to see. Central Park, Times Square, MoMA, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Broadway, the Brooklyn Bridge, SoHo, Jazz Bars … the list just doesn’t end.
7. You live with a sense of urgency.
The city teaches you to live by the latin phrase: “Carpe Diem” – seize the day! In a city where people are constantly on the go and time is a scarce resource, living here trains you to live with a sense of urgency. The city urges you to make the most of the present and reminds you not to take time for granted.
8. This city doesn’t sleep.
Literally. I was walking home the other day at 3am in the morning and I felt safe because the streets were still buzzing with activity. Yellow cabs abound and a plethora of people still filled the streets. Life doesn’t ever stop here. This city is a non-stop action movie.
9. There is something for everyone.
Whether you are a vegan hipster, a jazz musician, an aspiring actress or an investment banker working on Wall Street, New York has something for you. This city has something for everyone. New York is composed of distinctly different districts, all possesing a unique character of its own. Williamsburg, Chinatown, Harlem, SoHo and Chelsea etc. all possess a unique charm and appeal. You can find and build your own community where you want, depending on who you are.
10. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
Thanks to Hollywood (think “Gossip Girl” and “Sex and the City”), people abroad often have a glamorized and romanticized view of life in New York. However, beyond the facade of the glitz and glamor, New York City is in reality, not an easy city to live in.
The competitive and fast paced nature of this society means life can get very stressful. Moreover, living here can be incredibly lonely and isolating because people are often too busy and consumed with their own lives to reach out and connect with others. In a large city, it is easy to feel a sense of disconnect despite being surrounded by millions of people.
One of the key reasons I decided to pursue my Masters in New York (mind you, I was perfectly happy where I was before relocating) was because I wanted to grow some balls (obviously, not in the literal sense). I wanted to challenge myself, throw myself in the deep end and push myself out of my comfort zone, not because I enjoy pain. I’m no masochist. I wanted the challenge so I could fulfill my potential and become a stronger person as a result of it. I believe, you can only fulfill your potential and truly grow as an individual when you are out of your comfort zone.
Life in New York is fraught with challenges, obstacles and hardship. But that is the beauty of it. The city forces you to draw strength from within and pushes you to be the very best you can possibly be.
By the end of my experience here, I hope to be a more capable, more confident version of myself. As Frank Sinatra once sang, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York.”