Learnings From 1 Year in NYC — Fearfully & Wonderfully Jo

(Photo: Unsplash)

On October 10th, I hit my one year New-York-aversary! 😀

I’ve never considered anniversaries of living in a certain city to be a significant milestone… until New York. Perhaps it’s a reflection of all the exciting things I’ve been able to experience in the city, all the people I’ve met, all the great food I’ve tasted (+ innovative drinks I’ve drank lol), all the spontaneous places and proceedings I’ve encountered. Or maybe it’s more of an exhale – the relief of knowing I’ve survived the chaos of the city, a sign that I’m not doing too bad in life.

For me, it’s both! Thinking back to when I first moved here, I’m reminded of the jitters and anxieties I felt – a teeny tiny sojourner in a grand, glittery mecca, trying her best to find her niche amongst the throngs and swells of a thousand bodies. Looking at my life today, it’s so amazing to see how things have evolved. One year has gifted me confidence – an aura that is especially apparent as I strut the streets of NYC in 1-inch heels that I have only recently dared to venture out of my apartment with.

Being able to call NYC “home” used to seem so aspirational to me. How could a hurried, sometimes hostile city like New York become a cozy, safe space for an irenic, heart-emoji-loving individual like moi??? My answer to that is the same answer to most things in my life – people. Knowing there are people here who care about me and whom I care about has made all the difference (more sentiments on this below!).

I find it quite difficult a task to summarize all the things I’ve learned from this city, but consider the points and musings below my best attempt!

People Are The Heartbeat of a City

In just a year, God has led me to amazing, talented, passionate, funny, loving, thoughtful people who bring me such joy. Getting to share experiences with these people has given me a new lens through which I view the city. Everywhere I go now holds meaning – evoking memories of happy and even sad times. Koreatown – where I’ve shared many delish meals with my church community; Central Park – where I allowed myself to fully and freely feel my loneliness in my early days of being a “New Yorker” BUT where I’ve had many picnics with good pals ever since; Harlem – where I had the privilege of serving the communities there alongside dear friends; the Seaport District – where I had my first IRL team outing with Small Girls, and so much more!

All these moments spent with people, when stitched together, weave a narrative that transforms a cold, foreign city into one that feels familiar and safe. The people drive + maintain the pulsations of the city, whose heartbeat mine has begun to beat in tandem with.

Money Is Meant To Be Spent

Growing up in an Asian household, the value of saving was always impressed on me. Though my parents never hesitated to spend on my brother and I (for which I am very grateful), I quietly observed as they’d put money into various types of savings accounts, always emphasizing that it would come in handy further down the road.

Before I even moved to NYC, I had already started worrying about money. PR isn’t exactly the highest paying job, so a massive prayer request was that God would provide and give me a rock solid faith in that provision, if He was truly calling me to this hecka expensive city. And He has! But as I continued my residency in the city, with its overpriced rent and food and taxes, I found myself obsessing over the number in my savings account. Seeing the number go down would give me so much anxiety and I found the first thing I usually cut back on was food.

As expensive as it is, I truly believe one of the reasons God brought me to NYC was to reveal to me what my relationship with money looked like. He definitely showed me that I actually don’t have the healthiest relationship with money (tbh I don’t really know if anyone 100% does) and at some point, I just felt Him convicting me of it, telling me that the money I earn every day is meant to be spent. I’m not saying you shouldn’t still save $$$ – I think you 100% should. But I think we’re often so stingy with it, and in addition to lacking generosity for those around us, we end up denying ourselves of needs and justified wants as well.

Knowing how to manage your money is not easy by any means and there is no step-by-step rule book. But I think being in constant dialogue with God about it has helped me. Not only has He granted me more than enough to sustain a lifestyle here, He’s also given me opportunities to use it well for His kingdom, for others around me, and even for myself (I’ve had many “treat yoself” moments at Le Pain hehe).

There Is Beauty + Value In the Transience

I’ve definitely said this here before, but NYC is SUCH a transient city. It seems like everything and everyone is moving 24/7 – in and out, up and down, through and around. Almost like we’re all just constantly vibrating, tiny micro-movements at all times, restless. Though it does make life exciting + new, there are cons that I have come to really despise. Oftentimes, I’ll meet someone, but not know when the next time I’ll see them is since people are always traveling or just busy with life. Or I’ll meet someone, become really good friends with them, and then they end up leaving me to go somewhere else within just a few months. Sad 🙁 Things/circumstances are always changing in the city, making it hard to get comfy in one spot.

BUT on the flip side, I have come to realize the beauty of transience. Living amongst the transient gives me opportunities to cross paths with so many amazing human beings. For me, the more people I know, the greater my understanding of what love looks like grows. I am definitely challenged in each relationship I hold, but God is constantly revealing to me His heart for us through them.

Because every inch of the city is in movement at all times, the moments that I do get to spend with people almost feel like special insulated pockets, frozen moments of time where I can just relish in the space I share with another human being, away from the sirens and the restless chatter. I also feel that NYC magnifies the intentionality behind the time someone shares with me. In their day-to-day, I, a singular person, could just be a passing particle, a fleeting moment. Yet they make the choice to pause and be still with me for a portion of their day, giving of their emotional energy and even physical resources (can you tell quality time is my love language lol).

Finally, the transience reminds me every day of the everlasting nature of God. In a world where nothing is promised, God’s unwavering love and presence is made that much more apparent. Investing my hope into the things this earth pinky promises me will inevitably lead to disappointment, but surrendering my hopes + desires to a God who always pulls through? I’d choose that any day.

This beautiful city has taught me so much in just the span of a year. When I arrived, I felt overwhelmed, not knowing what my relationship to and role in this city could look like. Although it’s a constant journey, and I’m still discovering how exactly I fit into this mosaic of a city, I can say one thing with full, unabashed confidence. I am where God wants me to be, and if He wants me here, He will be faithful and He will be with me through the high rents, through the smelly subways, through the heartbreak of every person’s departure, and through the most beautiful downtown sunsets. And just as God’s love for me is unconditional, I will choose to love NYC for all that it is – jumbo-sized rats and magically vibrant air alike.

xoxo, jo

Other Things I’ve Learned From NYC:

  • What going uptown vs. downtown means

  • You can’t really control the heater in NYC apartments bleh

  • Central AC is a PRIVILEGE

  • Grab your packages as soon as they’re delivered or they WILL be stolen

  • The pedestrian crossing lights mean nothing – just observe the cars lmao

  • Leave an empty seat between you and the next person on the subway

  • Take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt (words, actions, etc.)

  • Bike lanes are often more of a threat to pedestrians than the actual road grrr

  • Expect delays at all times

  • When you go grocery shopping, map out the route you’ll take through the aisles and walk like you’re on a mission – you have 1 minute MAX to scan, compare prices, and snag

  • Cash is still p important here (+ coins for a laundromat)

  • 75% of the NYC population is on Hinge… or at least it feels that way

  • What “double parking” means

  • Always be prepared to walk

  • There are no REAL Targets in the city 🙁 I miss Target

  • How to create personal space (both physical and emotional/mental) in such a densely populated city

  • I live on an island lol

  • Make resys whenever you can

  • Deli food is THE best food, hands down

  • Crying in public is ok and quite normal

  • Restaurants will never split your check (unless it’s all even) so don’t even bother asking

  • It really is a small world :’) – all worlds converge in NYC

  • Food from the roadside halal carts are actually yummy (and safe and affordable)

  • Laundry day is basically a workout day esp. if you live in a walkup

  • Streetside scammers are verrrry convincing

  • For the biggest urban mecca in America, NYC has so many outdated processes IMO

  • Times Square is truly the worst

  • Don’t forget to look up – the sky-high buildings can often create the illusion that beautiful blue skies don’t exist but all you really have to do to see them is look up. They’re still there. :’)


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