What I wish I knew when I moved to a new city

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember a time before I lived in New York City. There’s so much about this place that’s ingrained in me, so much that’s comfortable.

Even before I made my move here permanent, it wasn’t difficult for me to find my way around or to navigate the subway. I may have been born and grown up in suburbia, but I’m pretty sure this place has been calling my name even before I knew whether or not I could answer.

It all happened so fast that, looking back on it now, I’m not sure if I was entirely prepared for my relocation. I had about a month to find an apartment and move in advance of a brand-new job, and I remember thinking I’d be grateful if I could manage it without completely falling apart. That was almost three years ago, and while I approach my anniversary of my big NYC move, I’ve been reflecting back on what I would tell pre-city me if I could.

You’re tougher than you think

A month after I moved to New York City, Hurricane Sandy struck. While I’d come from a land of hurricanes aplenty, it was still pretty scary stuff. To this day I consider myself more than lucky to be among those who never lost power, but it was a reminder that Mother Nature is no joke—even when you live in one of the biggest cities in the world. The effects were devastating and are still being felt in some areas, but New York survived – and so did I. For me, it was something that created the mantra that I periodically repeat to myself when the going gets tough: you survived this, you can survive anything.

You’ll adjust to getting around without a car

It’s not always fun to be at the mercy of public transportation, especially when you’ve got places to be and things to do. Having to rely on trains, buses and taxis to get me where I need to go often makes me long for the days when I used to have a car, if only for being able to sing along with the radio at full blast. Not having a car means you have to get a little creative when it comes to travel, but sometimes there’s no better power of transport than your own two feet.

The way you take in the city is your own unique experience

People talk about the “New York experience”, but the truth is that the experience looks differently for everyone. When your friends and family from out of town come to visit, you can take them to all your favorite places, but they’ll be left with entirely unique impressions. And when you hit the streets on your own, you’d be amazed at what you’ll find just by putting down the map and wandering. I’ve made some amazing discoveries simply by taking the train into a random neighborhood, picking a random direction and just walking. This city constantly surprises me; every time I think I’ve seen it all, I stumble across something completely new to me.

Little moments will restore your faith in humanity every day

It’s easy to become discouraged or disheartened, especially with all the rough stuff going on. But there’s also the tiny representations of goodness in the world, and when you have the opportunity to witness it, it can remind you that not all hope is lost. Whether it’s someone offering their seat to an elderly person on the subway, or seeing a stranger smiling at someone else’s baby because they just can’t resist the cute – they’re proof that we’re all human and we’re all out there taking it one day at a time.

When this place feels like home, it’ll take you by surprise

It comes out of nowhere – but before you know it, you’ll realize that you consider this place your home now, more than anywhere else you’ve ever been. It might be the fact that you can walk into your local bodega now and make small talk with the folks behind the counter, or it might be that you’re not afraid to give a tourist directions. Your friends are here now – the ones you’ve known for years and the ones you’re only just getting to know. You’ve loved and lost here, had your heart broken and slowly pieced it back together here. And yet in spite of all the ups and downs you’ve had in this city, you wouldn’t change a single thing.

[Image via Columbia Pictures]