Wherever you grew up, the lessons you’ve learned from your environment have no doubt influenced the way you are and the person you’ve become. The rare upbringing that Michelle and I had of growing up in New York isn’t an exception. In this city, we’ve learned how to navigate the ways of our numerous backyards, whether those backyards are known to us or not. Growing up here is a rarity, one we’ll always hold on to and one that we are extremely thankful for, no matter how resentful we can get at times. To my friends who’ve had the same upbringing, I know you understand. For my friends you haven’t, as the humorous Kevin Hart once said, “you gon’ learn today.” Here are 8 things growing up here has taught us.
1. To always hustle.
The first and most important lesson is that if you want to survive, you’re going to have to work. A LOT. New Yorkers take pride in their 24-hour work ethic, and although, we wish the city would slow down, its people wouldn’t be who and where they are today if they didn’t constantly work toward their goals. Hustling here comes in a 1,000 different ways, but I guarantee that everyone you meet has had more than a few jobs at once in their time whilst here. If you don’t hustle, you starve. And we all know how good the food is here, so best not to let that happen. In New York, you work hard, play hard.
2. To have thick skin.
23 years later and I still struggle with this one. Growing up in a city of 8 million means that a lot of people have opinions. It also means that a lot of those people will throw their opinions at you, even if you didn’t ask for them. It’s very important to understand that if the people commenting on the way you live your life don’t know you personally, then don’t take what they say personally. Here, we had to grow up quicker than a lot of people our age elsewhere. We had (and still have) to constantly be conscious of our surroundings and the people within them. At this point, we’ve pretty much heard it all. As a result, we’ve become stronger, tougher and more resilient to the crap that tends to come out of people’s mouths sometimes. Learn to ignore the bad and take the good, constructive criticism positively. And remember, what other people think about you is none of your business.
3. To “fake it ’till you make it.”
Nobody got to where they are in this city by being totally confident in themselves. And whoever says they are is lying. The huge population means that there’ll always be a few 1,000+ people who share the same goals and who are trying to reach the same dreams as you. The competition can be fierce, but living here, it’s very much okay to pretend to be the person that you want to be, even if you’re not completely there yet. The more you fake who you are into the person you want to be, in time you’ll get there and become that person. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, it’s okay to tell a few white lies, if it gets you what you want. Fake that confidence, until it’s real. Then go off and achieve those goals.
4. To worry about yourself.
Sorry to say, but despite all your friends and lovers, everyone around you is worried about one person and it isn’t you. Learning to rely on yourself and being independent is very important in NYC, but also anywhere you wind up in the adult world. Of course, you will have people around you who care about you and want nothing but your best interest and well-being, but make sure the first person on your friends’ list is always you.
5. To take the time to listen (and be open-minded).
“Every person you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.” …one of the most important quotes I now live by. In a city of so many, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own world…which you should! But listening to your friends and your peers, even strangers (sometimes) is SO important, too. You never know what kind of person you’ll meet or what you’ll learn about someone you already know if you take the time to listen. NYC has shown us that everyone has a story and you should never judge any book, no matter how tattered the cover may appear.
6. To learn the value of your money.
Excuse my French, but NYC is fucking expensive. Period. There’s no way around it. In a city like this, if you want to survive, you have to hustle, but you also have to save your money. Going out to drink every weekend isn’t going to help your bank account. A Starbucks every morning won’t either. You think I buy a bottle of water when I’m thirsty? (no…). Over time, Michelle and I have learned to save our money and spend it on things that matter to us. Because experiences mean more than getting drunk every Saturday. That’s not to say we don’t have that kind of fun , but even when we do, we always try to be frivolous with our money, no matter what. Start bringing a water bottle everywhere, wake up earlier and prepare your own meals/coffee. Sell your old clothes and then go buy new ones. Be conscious of your spending habits. Simple actions make big changes (and big bucks).
7. To be assertive and ask for what you want.
If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. If you do ask, the probability that it’ll be ‘yes’ will always be 50/50. It’s important to be vocal about your needs and wants in NYC, because if you’re not, it becomes very easy to get lost in the crowd and be taken advantage of. If you don’t like something, say so. If you need to communicate something to someone, act on it. Don’t be afraid to take initiative. It all comes back to being independent and confident in who you are, no matter the circumstances. Asking for what you want gets you further in life more than if you were to sit quietly and say nothing. We’ve learned this the hard way. Although we do hesitate at times to ask for what we want, we both do well in pushing the other to stop thinking so much and just go for things.
8. To never take anything for granted.
Like we said, we know how rare it is and how lucky we are to have been raised somewhere as diverse, open-minded, bustling, and unique as New York. We don’t take the knowledge we’ve gained and the experiences we’ve had for granted. EVER. Knowing how to walk the streets always observant of our surroundings and learning how to navigate public transportation on our own from 12 years old can never be a regret in our lives. We are extremely humbled by our upbringing and the wild 20-somethings we’ve become from living in a major global city as a result. With all the chaos, all the grit and the grime, there’s no place we’d rather have done it in. Then again, we didn’t have a choice, did we?
Growing up here, we’ve learned that we never have to fear that we won’t make it, because we already have.
Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions about growing up (or moving to) New York in the comments down below.