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9 Things Growing Up In NYC Taught Me

Eva Amurri martino eats a hot dog on the streets of NYC

A lesser known fact about me: I grew up in NYC! Well, between NYC and Italy…and some other towns for a few months at a time mixed in (Showbiz family). As a born and raised New Yorker, I really consider the city to be a part of the fabric of my personality, of my aesthetic, and of my grit as person and business woman.  Growing up there taught me so much about life, and about myself…even if it’s taken me a few years to really distill what those pearls of wisdom are at their essence. I get asked a lot what it was like growing up in the most dynamic city in the world, and there are so many versions of the answer to that.  My best answer is that it made me who I am today.  I thought it would be fun to break it down even further, and share with you guys the top nine things that growing up in NYC taught me about life AND myself…

Eva Amurri Martino crosses the street in her native NYC

1. Street Smarts Aren’t the same as Book Smarts– but they can get you just as far.

One of my favorite things about NYC is that success doesn’t have just one way of being measured.  Or ten. Or a hundred.  New York City is a world of hustlers, of self-made entrepreneurs, and of people learning through osmosis as much as from a textbook or manual. Meeting people across all industries throughout my life in NYC showed me firsthand that what you get in life is what you put in.  And that no University, course, or degree means that you’re owed anything in the real world.  That’s been invaluable for me and really influenced my work ethic.  I was lucky enough to receive a stellar education thanks to my parents, but I never rested on it.  I am just as proud of my ability to read a room, of my sales intuition, of my drive, and of the confidence that has come from navigating a bustling city from a young age. 

Eva Amurri Martino crosses the street in her native NYC

2. If you can have anyone on your team in a crisis, choose a New Yorker.  

It’s become a cliché to say at this point, but that old saying that you see the best from New York City when the city has to work together could not be more true.  I was a teenager on 9/11, in high school in Brooklyn.  I survived that horrible day along with my family, but many did not– including people I knew and was close to.  What I remember more clearly than the terror of that morning was the strength, the kindness, and the bravery of strangers.  New Yorkers banded together to raise each other up, pitch in whenever possible, and to continue to do so for the months and years following that devastating day.  I have continued to watch New Yorkers at their best during other crises over the years.  Passing out waters for free from Delis in a blackout, hosting strangers during a natural disaster, coming together in peaceful protest or solemn prayer.  These moments have always made me so proud of where I come from.  Kyle always says that I’m at my best when Sh*t hits the fan, and all I can say is that I learned it from New York! LOL. 

Eva Amurri martino eats a hot dog on the streets of NYC

3.  When you don’t have a car, you learn to pack a purse like a champ.

If you could see what I am able to fit in to a regular sized purse, you would give me a medal of honor.  Ha! Most New Yorkers don’t have cars (heck, most don’t drive at all), but New Yorkers are also some of the busiest bees around.  End result: we bring it all with us! Imagine what we suburbanites keep in our cars for the day: water, lunch, kid stuff, gum, makeup, gym bag, snacks, packages to mail, bills to pay, work materials, etc.  New Yorkers keep that on their person all day long.  I am now a packer extraordinaire and I have NYC to thank for it!

Eva Amurri Martino crosses the street in her native NYC

4.  The best culture is a mix of them all.

The thing that makes me the most disappointed about not raising my kids in NYC is the daily multicultural melting pot they will miss out on.  Living in NYC and being surrounded by so much diversity, both ethnic and socioeconomic, was such an important lesson and one I carry with me today.  It also informed my aesthetic! I feel like I pull stylistically from a lot of different cultural influences, as do so many people I know who grew up in NYC!

5.  Foodie for life.

Walking around NYC my whole life, I grew up doing ongoing food tours of Manhattan.  Unofficial of course. LOL.  I would eat about five meals a day, since it’s impossible to walk by a delicious hole in the wall or hot dog stand without stopping for a bite.  I actually lost weight when I moved to LA, regardless of the fact that I wasn’t walking nearly as much, based on the lack of accidental food purchases alone.  I still eat constantly when I go to NYC to visit now. 

Eva Amurri Martino crosses the street in her native NYC

6.  Keep Moving Forward.

You can tell a New Yorker by their walk.  It’s something you can’t teach, and that a true New Yorker never really loses: that fast paced, always moving forward, gust of energetic purpose.  Stop to tie your shoe on the sidewalk in NYC and you will probably get trampled. This is probably the least attractive aspect of New York City to tourists, but the metaphor behind the NYC pace of life is one I’ve grown to admire: Always move  forward, no matter what. 

Eva Amurri martino eats a hot dog on the streets of NYC

7.  Do what you need to do, regardless of whether people are ready for it. 

When I was a teenager, I had an extremely busy life that was packed full of things I absolutely had to do exactly when I absolutely had to do them…according to fifteen year old me of course. LOL. Because I was buzzing all over the island of Manhattan, I had to figure out a way to get around quickly and with very little money.  My solution: roller blades.  I would wear roller blades EVERYWHERE, and would carry sneakers in my bag to change in to when I got where I was going.  People would look at me like I was absolutely nuts…but guess who made it from the meatpacking district to the Lower East Side in less than twenty minutes??? FOR FREE. Chew on that, Haters!

Eva Amurri Martino jumps out of a yellow cab in NYC

8. The Best Day Of Your Life Can Happen At Any Moment.

The true beauty of NYC is that it’s a living, breathing organism that has an energy and life of its own. You really never know what’s going to be around the next corner, and that has taught me from a young age that anything is possible.  There have been countless times that I’ve been having a terrible day, and an interaction, chance encounter, fascinating experience, or some beautiful small moment of kindness that I witness from across a busy intersection has totally changed my day.  There is a certain level of openness and excitement there that I try to tap in to in my everyday life, even where I live now. My best prescription for a tough, sad, or bad moment in life is to take an hour just to sit in a busy place in New York City and observe. I promise it works. 

Eva Amurri martino eats a hot dog on the streets of NYC

9.  There isn’t always somebody better around the corner.

NYC is a tough place to date, but doing it taught me one of life’s hardest lessons: just because there are lots of fish in the sea doesn’t mean that somebody better for you is right around the corner, waiting for you to walk towards them.  I think a lot of people in the city have trouble committing, because it’s a city full of adventure, excitement..and OPTIONS.  I was there too, and I get that impulse.  But when you life there for a few years, you realize that the people that aren’t for you are a lot like each other… all in that same “not for you” category.  LOL. Just because you can have somebody different doesn’t mean your should…or that it will make you happy! I’m so glad I was able to learn that lesson at such a young age…especially since I got married in my mid twenties and ended up feeling actually ready to settle down. 

Are there any other born and raised New Yorkers reading this?! I’d love to hear what NYC taught you that you still draw from today!

Eva Amurri martino eats a hot dog on the streets of NYC

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20 Comments

  1. Mel G says:

    Eek! I’m making my first visit to NYC in a few weeks (from Oz), and I cannot wait!!

    09.05.19 Reply
  2. kg says:

    Hi Eva. I’m not the blog-commenting type, but as a fellow born-and-raised NYC-er I want to say that this list resonated with me. #2, especially (I was a sophomore at Packer on 9/11.) I don’t live in NYC now but miss all of these things about it. NYC peeps are special. Thanks for this.

    09.05.19 Reply
  3. Trixie says:

    Love this! Obligatory not a NY-er but my husband is. Born and bred first generation siberian/african/polish NY-er! He lived in NYC through the late 70s and early 00s. I always say he is the best in a crisis as well. Also, he knows how to layer….especially in winter…hats, gloves, scarf…not just for fashion. Always with an umbrella, too. But most of all he is cultural aware and street smart beyond anyone I’ve ever known! He is the best person to navigate NYC with and as someone who spent many years living in a cobb house in the forest I’ve been converted! I want to live in NYC SO BAD!🌉🌌💜🖤🛸🌞

    09.05.19 Reply
    • I love hearing about this!!!! The street smart thing is no joke…it’s completely unteachable too. City kids are a different breed…for better or worse…Ha!

      09.05.19 Reply
      • Trixie says:

        thanks Eva! Love you guys so much!

        09.05.19 Reply
  4. KayVee says:

    Not born and raised but I spent most of my 20s there.
    Things I learned:
    1) you don’t need nearly as much stuff as you think. Not for living, not out and about, not to make you happy.
    2) the best people, places, and things aren’t always the ones you expect
    3) there ain’t no time to be wasting time
    Things I desperately miss (now that I live in the south):
    1) diversity. Diversity. Diversity.
    2) the food. OMG do I miss the food
    3) NY helpfulness. In my experience southerners are superficially nice – please, thank you, ma’am and sir – but not actually particularly nice or helpful. NYers skip the politeness and the social niceties but they’re genuinely kind and helpful. They’ll just automatically grab the front of a stroller to help carry it to/from the subway platform. They’ll give you directions, hand you an umbrella as they walk out of the storm and you’re about to head in. I miss the brusque, crass, profane true good heartenedness of NYers.

    09.05.19 Reply
    • YES YES YES AND MORE YES!!! Love these thanks for sharing!

      09.05.19 Reply
    • Trixie says:

      love this!

      09.05.19 Reply
  5. Karen says:

    Wow, can’t believe u rollerbladed down the LES! That’s very cool, it’s so busy nowadays. I’m also a native New Yorker, spent a lot of time on the subways. Going from Manhattan to Brooklyn & Queens to visit family. And knowing to go to the front, middle or back of the train depending on the exit station/transfer. Also, which door of that train car would be right in front of the exit stairs of the station. Lol. I love beating the crowd.

    09.05.19 Reply
  6. Isy says:

    Hello Eva,
    I do not live in New York City, but I was born in Berlin and grew up in Cologne, both big citys in Germany. And there are many points very similar, especially number 2! When I visited NYC in 2011, I could easily keep up with every New Yorker 😉😂

    09.05.19 Reply
  7. Glenda says:

    Native New Yorker who moved to Ca at 21.
    Oh my goodness these are hands down true true true. The fast pace walk never leaves you. Always onward! Street smart for sure! The multicultural environment. Yes! I love that i didn’t grow up in a bubble. We explored our city. And when the time came to move I was okay to explore different states and countries.

    09.05.19 Reply
  8. Rehana Lewis says:

    NY taught me that only the strong survive there. You are amongst some of the best of the best in what they do. So, you’ve got to be willing to put in the work that others won’t do.

    I’m working on building my blog Reh+Main Home. My husband and I run a design and consulting firm, we are up til 2:30am every night working because he still works his day job. I think my New Yorker mentality helps me get through those long nights. “Can’t stop won’t stop” as famous philosopher P-Diddy says. 🤣

    09.05.19 Reply
  9. Dana says:

    As a fellow Brooklyn born, raised in a nyc area girl I looooved the post.

    What stood out most to me was your 9/11 comment.

    I was a freshman in college when this happened and like you knew people who made it out and people who didn’t.

    I completely agree; it showed everyone coming together in the face of something horrific and I think it speaks volumes.

    09.05.19 Reply
  10. Marissa says:

    Fellow New Yorker here – LOVE and DYING over your rollerblading LOL! I frequently credit NYC with giving me my “scrappiness” attitude to do whatever it takes- and your roller blading reminds me of just that. But you’re braver than I with those roller blades- I love it!!

    09.05.19 Reply
  11. Caroline says:

    I didn’t grow up in NY but I did grow up surrounded by different kinds of people and my education gave me an appreciation of other cultures. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere where everyone had the same background!

    09.05.19 Reply
  12. Deb says:

    Love this!!! I must visit NYC again soon.

    I do have Zabars everything bagels shipped sometimes.

    09.06.19 Reply
  13. Kathy Parman says:

    I loved this blog….I was born and raised in NY…I’m 59 now and moved to Florida at 29….so it’s been 30 years….and I’ve never stopped waking up and thinking “where am I ???”……
    I also never drove….neither did any of my friends…we didn’t need to…everything was right at our fingertips…
    Growing up in NY taught me to love my own company….I was never lonely. …there were museums to spend afternoons in….coffee shops to grab a bacon and egg on a buttered roll and read the Daily News…..long walks through Central Park in the snow……
    I draw on that now as I get older…..but I’ll always miss my best friend….NYC…

    09.06.19 Reply
  14. Katie C says:

    Thank you for this. I’m going on 10 years in NYC and this is a great reminder of what I love about it and at times take for granted in the day to day normality and craziness at the same time!

    09.06.19 Reply