Recently the New York Times published an article about the process of becoming a New Yorker for many 20-somethings making the move to the big city. While many eventually become comfortable and make the city their own, the process is extremely challenging:

Young people have flocked to New York City by the tens of thousands for generations, to chase their dreams and test their mettle. And they continue to come in strong numbers. In 2006, nearly 77,000 people in their 20s had been in the city for a year or less, according to the annual study by the United States Census Bureau for that year.

But for many, the thrill of arrival is often tempered by the sinking realization of what an alienating place the city can be, especially for those who are not wealthy or who do not have a pre-existing network of friends. Nothing comes easily, even if one can get past the dauntingly high cost of living. The subway maze seems indecipherable. People are everywhere, but ignore each other on the street. Friends might live in distant neighborhoods, and seeing them often requires booking time, like an appointment, weeks in advance.

“Any time I want to see someone and catch up with someone, everyone takes out their BlackBerrys and says, ‘This weekend isn’t good; how about three weeks from now?’ “ said Ms. Sirkin, who moved to New York from Milan in June 2007. “How can you form really good and solid relationships with people if you see them once a month?”

The biggest barrier to making it in NYC isn't just about the cost of living. The culture of NYC--needing to have a thick skin and constantly be on the move--is challenging even for us natives.

It has been three months since I moved back to NYC. After five years of living in Philly and its burbs, and only spending a few weeks at a time in NYC, I expected that, since this is my city, adjusting would be easy.

Well it hasnt been easy at all. Moving back to NYC has required more of me emotionally than when I left when I was 17. Aside from having to deal with family issues and disappearing friendships, NYC’s defining characteristic is that it is always changing. As a result, I no longer feel ownership of the city. I feel like a newbie trying to figure out what this big bad place is all about. Stores close, buildings are created, demographics shift, and suddenly Im in a place that still has the creativity and energy I remember and feel better prepared to handle, but I hate this wide eyed confused feeling I get walking around what is supposedly my home.

What steps do we need to take to feel more in control and more connected?

So far I have joined groups, spent time with my family, and I have opened myself up to new people. I still maintain those relationships I developed in Philly but have become invested in mastering a place I thought I already knew. On the one hand it is a sign of growing up and how much I have changed. But on the other it is nothing short of disorienting.


frugal zeitgeist said...

Jeepers, what a great blog. Starting out in the city was hard fifteen years ago, but I think your generation has it much, much harder. Putting you on my blogroll (and hat tip to Escape Brooklyn for pointing thew ay here)