7 Reasons Why New York City Is Not All It's Cracked Up To Be
For the past several months, I've been waking up miserable. It's like this dull, blanketed feeling lurking around that I cannot shake. I've been going through the motions, making plans, living my reality and fulfilling my duties... but still a piece of me isn't present.
I have my dream job. I have incredible friends and family close by. I'm romantically fulfilled. The summer is finally here, so I know it's not some kind of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Why then, had I been feeling so restless and so unsatisfied with my remarkable good fortunes?
Up until recently, I couldn't pinpoint the exact cause of my troubles. I had been more cynical than usual and generally hating on the world, and every person I encountered. Needless to say, a two-week trip to Israel in late May couldn't have come at a better time.
Perhaps because it was my first time there or maybe I just needed a break from home after working without significant time-off for almost three years, but I immediately felt a renewed sense of self during my 14-day adventure. My former intrigue and curiosity that had gone missing since I graduated began to creep back into me.
My soul, my spirit -- it all felt connected and alive once again, like the first real day of spring when the flowers are in full bloom or the initial jolt of electricity after a power shutdown. It was, for lack of a better word, an awakening.
I had already been questioning if New York City was the right place for me prior to my vacation. Growing up in a nearby suburb of New Jersey has afforded me special visiting privileges. I had family living in the boroughs, I had school trips to museums, and once my sister moved to Manhattan, I had a couch to crash on for extended stays.
The city had always felt familiar, not like those glorified stories from elsewhere-America transplants who were in awe of the bustle and the concrete. Everywhere is concrete. This gets old fast.
So when I finally had the chance to really escape this urban jungle (no, not by going across the bridge 40 minutes away to my quiet home in Jersey), I was more than ready. Especially on top of my unshaken grief. I needed to prove to myself that the vivacious, exciting Laura was still there, just lying dormant for all these months.
Israel spoiled me. The country has all the things that I subconsciously felt NYC had been lacking, although I didn't realize until after leaving. It has a novel, awe-inspiring landscape with deserts and seas and mountains and sites holy to all religions. It has beautiful people who possess kind hearts, compassion and fascinating histories that they are more than willing to share.
It has adventures, outdoor hikes, biblical lineage, impeccably fresh food, constant sunshine (at least not during rainy season), and a certain air of perspective and happiness that elevates the quality of life. I couldn't help but make superior comparisons to New York throughout the entire duration of my stay.
Of course I was just a visitor and everything is more glamorous when you're on a vacation in a foreign country.
But the larger, macro-theme here was that maybe, after years of buying into this unfounded idea that I was supposed to graduate, move back to the East Coast, find a competitive job in New York City and flourish on this Island of Opportunity, is not actually the right plan for me -- or for lots of confused and conflicted people like me, for that matter. At least not yet, and not while I have the freedoms that come with my young age.
The place for me might not be Israel. In fact, it probably isn't a permanent solution. Israel just came as the perfect respite at a crucial time in my life when I felt inexplicably borderline depressive. New York City has this unique way of making you feel totally alone and trapped, despite the rush of thousands of people and endless possibilities.
It's prime real-estate for ambitious individuals, yet the constant pressure and expensive hustle quickly wears down on its inhabitants. The city -- pardon my clichéd metaphor -- is not unlike a drug: It sucks you in with that strong, initial high and then eventually leaves you empty, with nothing to show for yourself except a hollow wallet and hardened attitude. And for the rare 1 percent who do come out successful, just ask them about the immense struggle and resilience it took to finally use this drug effectively.
There's a certain threshold of happiness that exists here and it never goes above a specific level. A “true New Yorker” is one who lives in a shoe-box and complains of the streets smelling like piss while waiting two-hours in line for an overpriced brunch that you rushed to get to -- and there is something profoundly wrong in that.
Compared to most other cosmopolitan cities, NYC (or the few parts that aren't completely gentrified) is gritty, tough and boisterous. And I'm recognizing now that, at this particular moment, it might not be the appropriate environment for me.
But that's the great thing about leaving the city that never sleeps -- it'll always be up waiting for you when you're ready to return.
Here's why I'm sick of New York City:
Constant work, working out, or work to get out
Let's take each one at a time, shall we? First off, New Yorkers are constantly working and when they're not in the office, they're using their mobiles remotely.
There's no such thing as checking your work at the door because everyone is always checking a phone. Same goes for working out -- no one sits still or enjoys the beauty of people watching because there isn't enough time to “waste.” And in terms of working to get out: Have you ever even tried to merely approach Penn Station at 5 pm on a summer Friday?
Culture is for insiders
Sure, there is a ton of interesting, cultural things to do in NYC, but a lot of the high-profiled events are exclusive to an elite group. Only those who can afford to buy the expensive tickets are privy to Broadway shows and galas. Or those who can get their name on a budgeted list are able to elbow their way to a special exhibit. There is a plethora of activities as long as you're part of the privileged scene.
On an island as small as Manhattan, we're all vying for the same resources -- be it jobs, apartments or boyfriends. Due to the properties of supply and demand, you can imagine that the marketplace favors the seller and not the buyer.
Every basic luxury (we're even talking about basic brewed coffee here) becomes a hyped, coveted accessory to your NYC lifestyle because true happiness is just that hard to come by.
What does it say about this city that the only place you can go to be alone is your bathroom -- and even in there, you probably have two neighbors that can directly see into your shower?
The buzzing sound is always present. The light is always on. And, at any given moment, there will be people watching their dogs take a dump on the sidewalk. New York City is its own omnipotence.
Gentrification ruining neighborhoods
Remember when Soho was an artist community or when Bushwick was affordable? Chelsea has become one big commercialized mall with a McDonald's and T.J. Maxx chain on every corner. Not that gentrification is necessarily a bad phenomenon, but it is a real threat to rent prices and neighborhood character.
There's always some kind of underlying pressure that's pervasive throughout your daily routine in NYC. There's a pressure to always be doing something because it feels like everyone else is. There's pressure to continue doing work or else someone else in your same position will get the leg up.
There's pressure to make more money, spend more money or donate your money to the homeless guy begging for it at every street corner. And all this pressure is in your face day in and day out, from the taxi driver who wants a bigger tip to the person waiting in line behind you thinking you're moving too slow by city standards.
No real sense of community
New Yorkers are famous for their “F you” attitudes and aggressive behaviors -- try hailing a cab on a rainy day only to be upstreamed by some ass, wearing a full-on raincoat and umbrella... and see, already I am getting heated just thinking about it.
For the most part, we care only about ourselves and have a hard time believing there is life outside the 100-- zip code. Which is exactly why it's important to get out of it every so often…
Photo via We Heart It