New York City is a masochist's dream. For its inhabitants, it's both the greatest city in the world and a grand obstacle course, offering a limitless supply of anxiety-inducing daily hinderances.
New Yorkers make a choice to endure a unique set of hardships, all for the glory of living dead smack on the pulse of the world.
Rent is astronomical, the weather is bipolar, and the cost of living would make more sense as a lottery winning.
The streets are dirty, and the stench of scalding trash entwines with billowing fumes of pollution to perfume the air with a scent that is exclusively ours. We inhale the contaminates just so we can exhale hope. A prideful respiration that says, hey, we are here, and you are not.
Even John Updike admitted, “The true New yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.” This is undoubtedly true, though I'm not sure how much of a secret it really is.
Though the majesty of living in the center of the universe does not come without lasting and damaging effects. While New York is certainly the capital of many things, it may very well be the capital of anxiety and stress. In 2011, Forbes placed the Big Apple second on its list of most stressful cities.
For those of us lucky enough to escape any true form of debilitating social anxiety or crippling unease with life in general, we are not without our own bag of strange anxieties. The kind of angst only real New Yorkers would understand.The sort of urban and inherent panic that becomes normal over time.
Yet, in New York, there is no normal.
When you get a slice of pizza that wasn't the exact slice you first laid eyes on.
You instantly reconsider if getting pizza was even a good idea. There's something different about that one slice you really wanted. The way the cheese doesn't quite overlap the crust and the sauce has pooled together in just the right spots. It would have been so much better than the others.
When someone behind you orders the same coffee as you, and you fear he/she will try to take yours.
You're at the kind of coffee place that doesn't take your name and simply calls out the order when it's ready. The person behind you in line places the same order as you. A medium latte with skim milk, let's say. He even takes a step closer to the coffee-stained linoleum countertop than you, now within arm's reach of the barista.
A knot tightens in your stomach. The adrenaline begins pumping through your veins like the caffeine you don't yet have. In that moment you hate this person. You wish his parents never met. You run through what you'll shout out when he reaches for your order.
Your order is called and he doesn't reach for it. A wave of relief washes over you as you step up to the counter, like a student volunteering to write the answer on the chalkboard.
After the first sip, the knot tightens once more, as you consider how much you just paid for your coffee.
When you're doing something personal on your phone on the subway.
If I had any free-time, I'd buy one of those dollar-store ski masks with the eye holes that never quite match up, tie a bed sheet around my back, and spend my days riding the subway and calling out any person I see gazing over another's shoulder at what he's doing on his cell phone. I'd be New York City's greatest hero.
There's no anxiety greater than the feeling of being watched, and on the subway, people love to watch. Whether you're scanning through pics, reading an email from early, or composing the perfect text for when you have service, there's an innate curiosity to know what others do on their phones.
When the sun gets lost behind a cloud, and you assume it's going to rain.
Having your day ruined in New York City is as simple as missing a train, even if the next one comes a minute later. Stepping in gum, knocking shoulders with someone walking while texting, or missing a lunch special by minutes are all examples of instant mood killers.
New Yorkers are so susceptible to these delays and first-world annoyances, that we actually go through the day expecting for it to be ruined. Waiting for it, really.
The second the sun takes a short break behind a cloud, our hearts sink. "Of course it's going to rain," we mutter. "Of course this would happen to me today." It doesn't rain. We thank the heavens. Our days get ruined another way.
When you're unsure how deep a puddle is, but have no choice but to find out.
Throughout our lives, we all come face-to-face with decisions and moments that define us. For New Yorkers, we come across these moments almost every time it rains. We gather on street corners like forgotten prostitutes, staring at our reflections in the dark puddles that encompass the ground around us.
Standing still on a city street is difficult enough on a sunny day. When surrounded by puddles that could either be misleading and shallow or could potentially soak your leg to the knee, the time allotted for strategy is limited.
We all take the plunge eventually, and we all dry off sooner or later.
When you start crossing an intersection with fewer than 10 seconds before the light changes.
The feeling of panic is always escalated when your life is actually on the line, and crossing a New York City street is a lot like swimming across a piranha-infested river. For those of you who've done that.
Luckily, most major intersections have electronic street signs that countdown the time you have left to cross before the light changes and cars will blindly push the pedal to metal.
For some reason New Yorkers find themselves approaching the street they need to cross as the precious seconds are counting. The decision to make a run for it is as exhilarating as it is unnerving. I've never seen a New Yorker not make it to the other side. Yet.
When you avoid a panhandler until accidentally locking eyes at the last second.
Avoiding a panhandler on a crowded subway or city bus is not easy business. It takes a lot of effort to inconspicuously turn the music down on your headphones so you can hear what he's saying while staring intently at a cell phone that clearly has no service.
A panhandler's train monologue usually lasts the time it takes to travel between stations, and it almost always involves a final walk through and personal request for change. The temptation to look up is as alluring as pressing a button with instructions that read "Do Not Press."
If you look up, you're sure to lock eyes. The image of this person's face will be seared into your mind for the rest of the day. You'll think, "Should I have given him something? Why'd I look up, anyway? What should I buy for dinner?"
When you decide to wait on a long Starbucks line with only minutes before work starts.
Coffee is a drug, and most of us are addicted. If you're a Starbucks person, you understand the capricious nature of the line. A short line could have you waiting 10 minutes, a long line could empty out in five.
Jumping on the line with only minutes before your job starts has anxiety written all over it. There's a guarantee that you will check your phone for the time at least 20 times in the span of two minutes.
One thing for sure is you'll never learn from your mistake if you do end up late for work. Though, showing up to work is pointless if you don't have coffee in you anyway.
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