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Free Press Free Write: What I’ve learned so far moving to New York

~ The New School Free Press (Free Press Free Write series) 

Published Mar 30, 2021

One of the hardest things about moving to New York from Florida is leaving behind the comforts of living with my parents – the rent-free life, unlimited homemade Filipino food from my mother and being close to my friends from college. And, of course, the tropical climate and ability  to wear cute summer clothes all year round.

However , as part of my journey to self-discovery, I made the brave and difficult decision to move to a brand new city. I left almost everything – my relationships, memories, and belongings. From the one storey house with a beautiful lush garden to a tiny apartment in the East Village with rats if you don’t clean up after yourself. It seemed like an unnecessary move – especially in the middle of a pandemic – but I thought I needed a change in my life after what the lockdowns had done to me. Through it all, I learned a lot about myself, the city and life overall.

New Yorkers really are rude

One morning, I was getting on a bus at Port Authority as I was about to head to New Jersey to visit family. I was lost and tried to ask someone if this was headed to the county I was going to. In London, where I used to live, someone would usually stop and take the time to help me, but instead, I was met with pushes and shoves and “I don’t know, ask him”.

There are a number of times  I almost got run over or hit by a cyclist. My first week, I was walking home from the subway. I’ve been slowly growing the habit of jaywalking since so many people do it. A van tried to squeeze past a parked car so I decided to walk; but once it squeezed past, it sped up as I was halfway crossed and they honked at me.

Speaking of cars… drivers honk like the orchestra

I’ve listened to thirty second honks. Vibrato honks. Ones that sound like morse code. A series of honks that almost sound like a familiar song. Police sirens that kind of sound like the beginning of a dance anthem. Rather than the fluttery notes of birds in the morning, people in the city wake up to the noise of road-raged and impatient drivers.

Expect people to not give a damn

One of the first things I’ve learned is that there are too many weird people that people don’t care what you do. I have seen someone doing some hip-hop pole dancing on the subway, a guy dancing to the sound of guys skateboarding in Washington Square park, and people playing music loudly and vibing while walking through the city. That’s one of the things that I love about the city – the sense of freedom it has. I grew up in small towns in the suburbs of London and Orlando, so I knew almost everybody. I felt self-conscious about how I looked, even when I walked in a shop, worried about
people judging. But in New York, nobody really cares and people are more comfortable being themselves. It’s especially satisfying since I recently ended a bad relationship – I felt like the image of Nicole Kidman walking from her lawyer’s office after her divorce from Tom Cruise was finalized. To know that I’m single and in New York felt like I had the city in my fingertips and that anything was possible.

I learned the New York mindset

One thing I noticed and learned was how New Yorkers have that New York mindset. From the way people talk, walk on the street and drive, they always seem to hustle and move onto the next step.

It’s one of the things that I seem to love and hate – I love how people are always on the move and people know what they want and how to get it. It’s a trait in people that I’m always drawn to. At the same time, I don’t like how people are always looking down instead of enjoying the city and the liveliness you feel when you walk around. I met up with New School Free Press social editor, RJ, and we were walking down Mulberry St towards Washington Square Park when we came across a giant golden statue of a boy wearing a hat, holding a spear and looking in a mirror. He was positioned in the corner of the building by, what seems like, the fourth floor. RJ told me that despite living in New York for over a decade, she’s “never noticed it before.”

The city truly never sleeps

When I’m usually walking home from work around 11 p.m., I notice the streets are still busy with couples, groups of friends, and people vibing. There’s a lot of music, mutterings of conversations and, especially in the East Village, people skateboarding along the streets and pavements. I usually listen to music during my walks, but sometimes it’s relaxing to listen to the liveliness of the city.

Although I’ve only lived in New York for a little over a month, I feel that I’ve learned so much – not just about the city but about myself. As RJ had told me, people who move to the city move there to be themselves. They know who they are, but they go to the city to be closer to become their true selves.

I’ve always been drawn to city life – I remember being always bored of the suburbs. I hated seeing the same places, faces, and going the same route and I always felt like I needed to be somewhere else. I finally broke up with my ex, packed my things, and hopped on a plane. From time to time, I still find it surreal that I’m here. I wrote a time capsule letter around five years ago where I wrote “I hope that in the next ten years, you’ll find yourself living in the East Village doing what you love.” To be able to say I did it gratifies me. It makes me wonder what the next five years or so will look like now that I’m in New York City.

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© Nicole Abriam 2020