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What New York Gave Me That Money Couldn't

“So, where do you see yourself in five years?” doe eyed, I asked my (now) husband after a few months of dating.

Chomping away on a pepperoni pizza, he finally tore off of it long enough to say, “well, I guess I always saw myself in Cali. I love New York, but I don’t know if the expenses are worth the grimy way of living here.”

I almost lost my shit. Here I am, with an incredible man, constantly sweeping me off my feet. And then, all nonchalant, he drops a bomb like this. The nerve!

That night, after we ate our pizza, drank our wine and kissed goodbye, I remember thinking about the day I moved into my first apartment in this city.

It was about 400 square feet, give or take. It was small, but quaint. It opened up to the kitchen, which spilled into the living room; though, I don't know if you can call it a living room because the only people that could "live" in the space was me and maybe two others if they were small and didn't mind standing or sitting on the floor. The kitchen was equipped with five cabinets, a stove, a microwave and a mini fridge.

FYI: during this time, frozen foods were no longer a part of my diet. Not because I didn't love stuffing my face with Ellio's pizza and Breyers ice cream... because it literally wouldn't fit into the tiny cubbyhole that was apparently the freezer.

New York City Coffee Shop Street View

To the right of the kitchen was the bathroom. It had a little step right in front of it. Keeping with the theme, the bathroom was also quite compact. The sink could fit a slender bottle of hand soap, and you either had to blow on your hands or swing them around rapidly to get them to dry since there was no room for a hand towel. The acute position of the toilet was challenging to say the least- if you were over the height of 5'5 you could only pee if you bent down sideways.

To the left of the living room was my bedroom, which could only fit a bed. I shoved most of my belongings under my bed. And since I was on the first floor of an East Village walk-up, I heard everything. I mean literally everything. Couples arguing on the street until 2:00am. Car alarms beeping into the wee hours of the morning. Ambulance trucks blazing down 10th Street. NYU kids puking from another rager at the 13th Step.

All of this costed me $2,000 per month in rent which, if you were to ask any New Yorker, for the location was a steal. I know what you Non-New Yorkers are thinking, "Why pay $2k to live like that?" Well, I'll tell you why.

Before moving to New York, the days were long and they moved slow - picture a beaten, habitual path in a dull animation. Living life as though it were an afterthought. Chasing dreams as though they were unattainable. My mind was mostly stuck in a place of pattern and convention. The weirdest part? I didn’t even realize how accustomed I had become to this humdrum existence. I lived life in routine, and measured it by time.

All of that changed when I moved to New York City.

New York City Street View

In New York, my mind started to crave inspiration in a way I never knew possible. It craved revelation. A euphoric high of which can only be reached when surrounding milieu is empowered.

Growing up in the northern part of New Jersey, an hour bus ride outside of Port Authority, I was always somewhat attached to New York’s orbit-- like a cousin visiting on weekends. I went to the polished areas, I left before the clock struck midnight, I charged forward with the herds of people in the busiest parts of the city.

Even visiting became routine in time: climb into a bus, ride the same route expecting traffic along the bend before the Lincoln Tunnel, walk out of the bus, get into a cab, meet friends, walk back to Port Authority, climb back onto the bus, and so on and so forth. Pressed for time and always just a temporary guest, I never stopped to fully immerse myself in the actual city. To breathe it’s electric air and experience a deluge of unanticipated events.

I always knew this city was a different world filled with distinct people. It’s where I truly understood freedom of expression and micro-cultures of every personage, all the while anonymous in the crowd. I quickly became captivated by my surroundings and the hustle of like-minded souls searching for their footing in a place where talking about your goals is for the weak, but seeing them through proved your worth.

The DOCG, Pujah Shah in Central Park, New York City

After seven years of living in New York, I can't possibly put a price tag on the experiences I have been fortunate to taste. The city blindly gave me an adventurous spirit that will never be pacified. It gifted me perseverance and concentration that will forever be heightened. It showed me how to be a stronger person with acute awareness, increased range and refreshing sensitivity. It patiently showed me how to manifest my fear into curiosity.

If you let it, this city will allow you every opportunity to chase your dreams, to explore, to dare, to push boundaries, to love, to laugh, to dream, to achieve, to mature. New York will raise you up and it will inevitably knock you down, but in the end, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

I know I may not be in this city forever (the things I'll do for my husband...sigh); I also know I am armed with abundant life lessons to prepare me for any place I am destined to reside in. So, to answer that age old question from earlier:

Yes, I would pay $2,000 a month to live in a tiny apartment with crappy furnishings, and walk on streets filled with mounds of garbage because what I have gained here is far more valuable than any amount of money can buy.


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