Growing up, I never really gave a second thought to my hometown. I grew up in New York, but all my friends did too, and that was what was normal for me. I didn’t have anything else to compare it to.
So I was somewhat surprised at how frequently I have participated in the “Wow you grew up in New York?” conversation in the past year. Honestly I was expecting more of that in college, since I left the city for college, but no – most of those conversations have happened in New York. For example:
Person A: So what do you do in the city?
Me: I have been freelancing and networking in the publishing industry. What about you?
Person A: Oh I [insert job here]
Me: That sounds cool.
Person A: So how long have you been in the city?
Me: Well, I grew up here.
Person A: Really?
Person A: Wow, that’s so strange? What was that like?
It’s understandable. So many people come to New York to start their careers, and it is definitely a destination spot, but until I went to college all of my friends had at least spent some of their life, if not all of it, growing up in New York. So it’s not weird to me. I also don’t have anything to compare it to. If I had moved from the suburbs when I was 10 for example, I would have a frame of reference. But instead college was my frame of reference. I knew I wanted to leave New York for college, but I also knew that I wanted to return afterwards, and I am definitely glad that I did.
So how is my life different than the average American’s? I don’t know. I was probably younger than most people were when I started to go to school by myself, because I didn’t have to drive there. The first words that I probably learned how to read were Don’t and Walk, way back when before the crosswalk signs had the little walking man and red hand to give directions. I don’t remember anyone telling me specifically not to go into Central Park at night when I was little, it was just kind of a known fact. And instead of a back yard I played in playgrounds in the park.
One of my favorite “you grew up in New York” conversations happened last weekend. I was waiting for a friend of mine (who also grew up in New York) at church, and I was standing off to the side eating a bagel. A woman walks up to me and we started chatting, and when my friend and I said that we grew up in New York her response was “But you’re both so nice!”
I appreciated the compliment, but it also got me thinking about New York’s image. It is definitely a tough city with a competitive streak and lots of intensity to it. But if you look around every now and again you will see some very nice people. They are out there. Even in some of the tougher industries New York has to offer (Wall Street etc.) they are there. So don’t let New York scare you off, because you never know who you might meet or what will happen.