Life in New York (Four Years Later)

 PHOTO BY TREY HICKS

PHOTO BY TREY HICKS

Hey, y'all! I hope this finds you well.

I know I'm typing the terrible "blog post intro" that goes something like "Oh, wow! I haven't posted in a month; I'm so sorry." But, it's true: I haven't posted in almost a month, and I am sorry.

Anyway, I'm back now because last week marked four years of life in the city. (I've only had this site for three years, for I was still on my college site during the first year here.) That said, I wanted to share a few thoughts, which should apply to others who live here but hopefully will also resonate with those of you in other cities (especially if you've moved away from home).

1. Don't forget your roots.

I flew up to New York in June 2014. I graduated from college that May and spent about six weeks at home in Mississippi before the big move. My dad traveled here with me, and I'll never forget that week we spent together, looking for apartments and getting settled. (We flew Southwest from New Orleans because it was cheaper and because we could both check two bags.)

Thus, I say, "don't forget your roots" because I didn't grow up in New York. While my life is certainly informed by what's around me now, I hope to always involve my family (who mostly still lives in Mississippi and surrounding states) with what's happening here in the city. Additionally, I hope to reflect on and then share stories from my childhood with my New York community.

It can be so easy to "reinvent oneself" whenever they move to a city like New York; and while I do want to continue to learn, grow and repeat, I never want to cut ties with my family (or my roots) and potentially live a double life. As one of our former presidents once said, "Dance with the one that brung ya," and my roots are what "brung" me. 

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2. Find and contribute to community.

The first few months were both magical and terrifying. The Lord provided such an incredible first apartment for me in West Harlem, but I soon found myself lonely. Sure, I enjoyed roaming the city with my unlimited metro card, but that soon lost its luster. The "real life" rhythm set in: work, commute home, order Dominos, watch Netflix, write letters home.

Luckily, I also was pretty active with my former blog at the time. A college friend was reading it and then connected me to a hometown friend of hers, who'd also recently moved to New York and was writing a blog. That friendship and the others that followed (from similar "friends connecting friends" stories) are what's kept me in the city. (Well, I feel the Lord has placed me here for this season, but it's the gift of these friendships that's brought great comfort and joy. 

However, friendships in the city aren't easy. Schedules are busy, people come and go, and "city winters" really strain the bonds of friendship. That's why I say, "find and contribute to" community. It can't be a passive, consumer thing. 

3. Pray often. 

In those moments of initial loneliness and then the highs and lows that have followed, prayer has been my constant. I was a Christian before moving to New York, but I don't think I'd ever felt more tested in my faith than the years I've lived here (for better or worse I guess).

I remember waking up in sweats a few times when I was still a city newbie. I remember the comfort my parents brought over the phone. I remember the conversations I had with my first boss, who's also a Christian. Remembering the richness of this prayer and the people who have and still are praying for me brings a grin from ear to ear.

There were times when I thought, "Drew, what are you doing?" But, you know what? The Lord always knew, and He always will. Have conversation with Him in prayer. His Spirit hears and will intercede on your behalf. 

4. Experience the diverse opportunities of the city but budget wisely.

There are so many freakin' amazing things to do here. If you're a foodie, this is your place. If you want a concert every night, this is your place. If you want to tour amazing architecture, museums and galleries, this is your place. If you want to shop til you drop, this is your place. 

Just name it, and someone can probably give you a list of ten recommendations without blinking. And largely, they'll all be different experiences. That's the beauty for this place. Culture plays out here, and you can be a part of it as it unfolds. However, take note of your budget and watch it closely. Also, take note of the experience, not just for the 'gram but for an opportunity to experience culture and love and care for others, in your neighborhood and around the city.

This place is expensive, and there's a lot that could be said about that. Regardless, not everything you do has to be up and down Fifth Avenue. Some of the most "New York moments" just happen on a whim, and they're free (or close to it). Just give it time, and budget accordingly. 

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5. Greet people and give thanks.

As you may know, New York is super dense. Initially, I didn't think I'd like this, but I've really grown to love it. However, New York has this phenomenon known as "crowded isolation." People usually have headphones in their ears. We're direct and walk with purpose. It's great at times, but it also contributes to that loneliness mentioned earlier. 

That said, greet people as much as you can. Your friends, your neighbors, the couple who operates your "wash and fold" shop. Greet them, hear their stories and commune together. Then, give thanks for the interaction. Yes, it can be annoying at times whenever someone flags you down to ask directions, and you feel obligated to remove your headphones and assist. But, it's worth it. 

This may be weird, but I'm elated anytime I randomly run into people on the sidewalk or in the grocery store or on the subway platform. It's funny because all of these things would just be "par for the course" back home. But, it's such a treat when they happen here. It's especially cool whenever it happens and you're with a friend who's visiting from out of town. Greet people, welcome them and give thanks!