1. There is always a way.
I think the biggest thing to know (and to constantly remind yourself) is that there is always a way to get whatever you need done done. It may not be straightforward and it may not be cheap, but there’s always a way. Whether you’re moving furniture in/out of your apartment, searching for an obscure item, or bringing someone doughnuts on the other side of town. It can be done. Apps/Websites (like Taskrabbit, Seamless, and Soap.com, etc), neighbors, and a whole lot of willpower can come in handy.
Don’t let frustration or hopelessness hold you back. I always work my way backwards trying to come up with creative solutions for solving a problem.
Map things out before you need it. Honestly. Know where hospitals, doctors, dentists, vets, and emergency clinics (CityMD is amazing). 24-hour pharmacies, too. It’s one of those “you’ll want to know when you need to know” kinds of things. And while the city has just about everything on seemingly every corner, it’s only when you really need something that you can’t find it.
Emergencies aside, you should also have a few more “fun” places mapped away. (The best part about this is the discovery through exploration! Put on your walking shoes and keep your eyes open for hidden gems.) Cafes with the best WiFi, 24-hour diners, a tailor/shoe cobbler, the best go-to brunch, a quiet spot, a nail salon…
Just. Ignore. It. You may feel it, but push past it. I think the only way to make the most of the city is to just go out there and make it happen. Apply for the jobs you dream of, go to events alone and introduce yourself to people, take the train someplace new.
Budget your time, your stress, your energy, and especially your money. Know your limits and avoid burning out. Sometimes it takes a little bit of planning, like organizing meetings in the same area or scheduling a phone call during a time when you’re going to be walking or cabbing somewhere. Don’t neglect time with friends by spending too much time with a boyfriend… and don’t skip out on work functions to watch trashy television.
As far as budgeting goes, two key things: 1) be realistic about where you stand financially and 2) save your money. Live within your means by getting a roommate, taking on a side project/job, subwaying everywhere, being honest with friends when you can’t afford something (like a pricey Sunday brunch)… etc. Also, living within your means doesn’t mean getting by with a penny to spare at the end of the month. A little bit of sacrifice now can save you in the long run if an emergency pops up and to prepare for your future too.
People will often say to rent an apartment strategically close to a subway stop, preferably one that will take you to your office. But, it may be just as important, if not more important, to live near your friends. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of money on cabs. (Even if you take the subway most of the time, cabs will happen. And it’s expensive.) Meeting for brunch, grabbing a quick dinner, gossiping over a cup of coffee, staying out late in a neighborhood bar… so much easier when you’re close to your friends!
6. Leave earlier than you think.
Subways will run late. Sidewalks will be swarmed with tourists. You won’t be able to find a cab. You’ll run into a friend. Google Maps will lie to you. Everything. Takes. Forever. I used to give myself 30 minutes to get to almost every place, but now I give myself 45 minutes. And even then sometimes I run late. It’s the worst.
7. People visit, all the time.
Every week, there will be a handful of people from home and college who are “in town.” Your parents’ friends, your friends. NYC is a revolving door. I honestly do try to meet with as many people as possible if they reach out. But if I can’t, I can’t. I keep a running list of some of my favorite things to do in the city (famous restaurants, tourist traps, off-the-beaten road places, my “spots”) so I can share if I don’t have time to meet up. Getting together with visitors is a good excuse to do touristy things though– one time I tagged along for a trip to the American Girl store. #shameless
On the flip side, don’t be hurt if you see that your friend was in the city and didn’t tell you. It happens.
8. Save contacts, doctors, emergency numbers, etc. in your phone.
Remember #2? Have everything on hand. I have numbers stored in my phone and also on my computer. And I emailed myself a list of everything so I can always access it from pretty much any internet connected device whenever I need it!
Not a bad idea to memorize a few numbers too…. like your closest friend-neighbor (in case of lockouts), the landlord (again, in case of lockouts), a coworker, etc.
9. It’s a small world.
It’s a super populated city, but you will run into friends from college, your mom’s friend who is visiting, every single one of your exes, that boss you didn’t get along with. On the subway, in a cafe, on the sidewalk. It can be a good thing (“Omg! I haven’t seen you in six months! How’s it been?!”) or a bad thing (“Oh… hi. Hope everything is good…”).
Awkwardness with exes aside, you never know who might be standing behind you in line or sitting next to you on a subway. The world is small and the best thing to do is to keep conversations friendly and positive when you’re in public.
On the flip side, you never know who you might bump into and what kind of opportunities will pop up in the elevator or on the sidewalk.
10. DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO ANYONE.
This is the last on the list, but it’s honestly the most important, I think. The city can be competitive and from the outside, everyone can seem like they have more, work harder, are getting promoted faster, have better clothes, live in nicer apartments. It can be exhausting comparing yourself to friends and strangers in the city.
The truth is that everyone should do their own thing. The city presents itself in different ways for different people. It can be especially challenging, but if you’re focused on you and not busy comparing, you’ll be happier and more successful in the long run!
(Oh, and a lot of everything is smoke and mirrors. You never know what company is actually dipping into the red or whose apartment is paid for by a parent or who might be thousands of dollars in debt.)
Do you want to move to the city? Anyone have anything else to add to the list?