You Have To Punch Back

There is a saying in NY: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And there is a reason for that. I always say that a relationship with this city is like a relationship with an abusive boyfriend – you just know it’s not good for you, but you’re not able to leave. But there is one difference. In the relationship with a guy, you hope for “him to change.” In the relationship with NY, you just have to punch him back in order for him to change. 

It’s no wonder that so many people are not able to survive in this city. They come here and say: “It’s too much.” I recently talked to a 30-year-old American guy from Orlando who came to NY for the first time. He stayed for three days and I talked to him on his last day. He was overwhelmed and it was pretty funny to watch. I asked him what he thought of NY and he just said: “You guys don’t even have to go out to the clubs, all you need is walk down the street.” I laughed, but he’s right. This city is too much and it just doesn’t want you here. There are so many people who try to make it here that the Big Apple is just tired of all of these demanding asses. Everyone comes here thinking that they are special, that they have something to offer and NY is able to verify it pretty quickly. It will give you a few quick punches at the beginning to estimate how many more you need. There is no way you can avoid these punches, no way. The more special you think you are, the more punches you get. If you hope for a gentle treatment just because “you’ve been through a lot already and you should get what you deserve,” you can pack your suitcases right away. You’re unique, but you’re not special. You can’t avoid the pain and struggles this city requires. The more I live here, and the more stories I’ve heard and seen, the more I’m amused when someone says “how difficult their life is” and “how much they deserve.” The harsh truth is that no one owes you shit. Everyone I’ve met in NY and who achieved a lot (and I’ve been lucky enough to meet people from the covers of magazines) put in a HUGE amount of work before they succeeded. And they got a massive amount of punches; no one gets different treatment.

I’ve gotten many punches already. At the beginning, they brought me tears, and after a while sadness, and after that anger, and now….I’m just amused when the city tries with me again. It’s been seven years already (if I combine all of my visits) and I’m not afraid anymore. What’s the recipe? Be persistent. That’s one thing. The second thing is – as Simon Sinek puts it – you have to have your strong “why.” Maybe it’s your passion, maybe it’s your job, your relationship, getting away from your family or being true to yourself. Whatever it is, it has to be strong enough that you won’t quit. That belief has to be stronger than anything you’ve ever wanted in your life. And you must not be afraid of who you are. If you embrace yourself – with all your faults and failures (which I call lessons) along the way – the city will start looking at you differently. If you’re strong enough to stand alone in the crowd and smile saying:  “I’m fucking going for it,” NY will let you in.  

But what you mustn’t, mustn’t, mustn’t do is give up. Because this is what the city is waiting for you to do. The second you set foot on NY soil, the city is ready to get you out of here. And I can assure you – it won’t be pleasant. It can’t be, because the reward is huge – living in the most unpredictable place on Earth (notice I didn’t say “the best” or “the most luxurious” or “the city of your dreams”) where you can have your American Dream happen.

I don’t get many punches from the city anymore. I think NY understands that I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere and I won’t quit even if it wants me to. I not only learned to punch back but what I started practicing – and what, I believe, helped NY to look at me in a gentler way – is gratitude. Every day I name a few things I’m grateful for in this city. Even when The Big Apple tries with me again, I look up at the sky and say: “I like you anyway, and I’m more than happy to stay.” I don’t surrender.

My suggestion for you for this evening – and it doesn’t matter if you don’t live in NY, because I believe that every city tries with us in different ways – is to sit down in your apartment and close your eyes and think: Why are you in this city? What will you do when the city punches you again? What are you grateful for right now, and how it can help you survive? Whom do you have to become in order to survive? Take a deep breath and fight for it. Punch the city back and see how it starts to change.