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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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!