City Stories

Three Months In: What I’ve Learned

Last week, I marked three months living in New York City.

Rather than wax nostalgic about the last twelve weeks (done before!), I’m going the practical route. Here are the things I’ve learned – sometimes from firsthand experience, sometimes from sympathetic souls who spared me the embarrassment.

Keep your Metrocard in a safe spot. Floating around loose somewhere in your purse is not such a spot, and it will disappear on you. $112 gone just halfway through its 30-day, unlimited-use lifespan.

Taxis are for when you’re feeling fancy – or late to a meeting. Unless it’s 4p on a weekday. Then you’re better off on the subway. Or walking.

Walking is honest-to-god the best way to get around – you can craft your own route, take in the views of the city and all its people, stop on the way anywhere that strikes your fancy. You’ll be amazed how quickly walking 15, 20, 25 blocks becomes “a nice stroll” (provided you have the right shoes).

I haven’t missed driving for one single moment; I haven’t missed the car and insurance payments, either.

Things that were once your go-to become afterthoughts when, in a one-block radius, you have a dozen different, one-of-a-kind options. Eating at a chain becomes a weird sort of comfort food – my favorite black bean soup from Panera is no longer the best/most convenient/nicest option. It reminds me of home, while I walk by it to the deli next door.

Seamless will change your life.

Grocery shopping is a different beast in NYC. Everything really is cheaper “off the island” – I tend to stock up on basics when I zip over to Target in Brooklyn. I frequented two different local chains before falling in love with Fairway, which is a bit further from my apartment but worth it in selection and price. Also, shopping at 9p on a Thursday is not only likely, but smart – there are still lines, but they’re not as insane as they are at 2p on a Sunday.

That closet full of heels you have is cute…to look at. Invest in flats and, out of necessity, rain boots. Sneakers with business suits hasn’t been seen since 1986, but a pair of fun, comfy flats will get you through your day looking chic and avoiding blisters.

Never pay full price for a cut and style. Or mani-pedi. Or wax, threading, blow-out or massage. Lifebooker will save your budget and keep you looking and feeling like a human.

The jeans/cute top/heels uniform you wore to work every day in Indy is tired and boring in NYC. You’ll go three weeks without wearing jeans (partly because it’s 90* and hotter, sure) and not even miss them. You’ll come up with new outfits from your closet you wouldn’t have considered in the midwest for the heads they’d turn. Here, where fashion is quite literally born every day, they barely raise an eyebrow.

I have a folder on my phone dedicated to NYC apps. Most used: Embark NYC. I still get lost on the Subway if it’s outside my home – work – grocery store – home commute. I have apps for Central Park (awesome maps/tip), New York Public Library (check which branch has the book before you go); and MoMA (free audio guide!), too.

I’ve learned so much in three months – about my surroundings, but also about myself. I can not only get by but thrive in 200 square feet – so long as they’re my 200 square feet, with my wardrobe and books and pictures and refrigerator magnets, sometimes opting to stay in all day in my own space just because. Or, I can leave my apartment with no plans, just an urge to be outside, be in the city, and end up eating dinner by the fountain in Lincoln Center, snapping a family picture for a young couple and their toddler enjoying the same clear evening I am.

I read somewhere that it’s surprising how quickly a transplant will become a New Yorker, how it can happen in the blink of an eye. It makes sense; this city moves at such a driving current, if you don’t figure out how to navigate it quickly, you’ll get cast off, thrown against the rocks on the shore while the rest of the city rushes by you. I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to the incessant flood of activity, the overwhelming options and experiences. I’m not sure I’ve mastered the waves just yet, but I’m managing to keep my head happily above water.