While in New York this past week, I was awakened to news of an attack at the 36th Street subway station, in Brooklyn. I immediately reached out to my friends and colleagues, to ensure their safety, while reassuring my family of my own. The surreal nature of the event began to take shape as heartbreaking details about the attack began to emerge. I felt a plethora of emotions as countless lives would unfortunately be changed forever. My heart also hurt for the city of New York, who was once again at the center of yet another tragic event.
That morning, New Yorkers boarded the subway to start their day, and like they had done so many mornings before, faithfully trusting that they would arrive at their destinations safely. The train was full of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, children heading to school, friends heading to work together, and tourists riding the subway for the very first time. Having to sit with these emotions, I thought back to the seven years I lived in New York, prior to moving to Los Angeles. Through this reflection, I felt compelled to share three stories with you today; three life lessons on resiliency I learned while living in New York City.
Everyone Can Dream Big
There is no other city that rewards and recognizes your hustle, hard work, and grit quite like New York. If you are willing to try, in New York, doors of opportunities will open for you. Filled to the brim with dreamers and doers, it continues to be a symbol of hope for all. When I first moved to New York, I was a bit concerned about a few things. Being caught underground on the subway (so I only took it twice), the sheer number of people (hard for a germaphobe), and who can ignore the exorbitant cost of living. So when I arrived, I was determined to live "within my means”, though I had no idea what that meant.
I found a fabulous apartment building that I really liked, and took the second smallest apartment they had; a tiny one-bedroom, just a step up from an efficiency unit. While I chose the apartment I thought I could afford, it was cramped. The fridge was right next to the front door, and there was no true kitchen, just a wall that housed my kitchen appliances and supplies, and a bathroom off to the right. The tiny apartment also included a small living room, closet and bedroom. While my job, my faith, big dreams and business aspirations for greater led me to New York City, my residence would not reflect those aspirations for some time. Eventually, I moved to two other apartment units in that same building, each with more upgrades; as my faith and confidence slowly began to elevate, so did my surroundings. Eventually, in 2017, I moved into a stunning, spacious apartment on the 43rd floor, with a spectacular view of the Hudson River. This would be the apartment where I would spend my remaining three years in New York. In the seven years I had lived there, New York had not only changed me, but it challenged me to elevate what I believed possible. From a small cramped unit, to a waterfront penthouse, New York continues to be my reminder that you can overcome any obstacle – even if that obstacle is you.
Light in the Dark
During those years, I was able to experience so much of the unshakeable nature of its citizens. New Yorkers accept that life can sometimes be messy, but you still just keep right on moving. Stories of 9-11 illustrate this resiliency, when we see how everyday citizens came together to provide emergency services, along with food, shelter, and comfort to those in need. New Yorkers were united in their belief that they would overcome anything together.
In 2019, this united front was once again on display during the massive Manhattan Blackout. The blackout left 73,000 New Yorkers without power, debilitating the city across a 30-block radius. Restaurants were closed, concerts were canceled – JLO was performing at Madison Square Garden that night – and businesses across the city and boroughs were unable to operate. I remember walking down 42nd Street, expecting to see people devastated, bewildered, sad or angry. After all, it was the heart of the summers heat. Instead, people were in the streets talking, laughing, sharing with each other, completely immersed in the reassuring comfort and safety of community. They were creating pods of connection and support in the sweltering July heat, trying to come together and simply make the best of it. Together, they encouraged each other to keep going because eventually the lights would come back on, and they did. To someone reading this right now, it may be dark, so take this lesson from New Yorkers, it's only temporary.
Never Give Up
There is a joke that New Yorkers never know when to give up, and it is perhaps their most resilient quality. If you can survive New York, the universe will reward you for persevering, and maintaining unwavering focus, courage and confidence. Coupled with connecting with the right people who will inspire you and help you build, YOU. I mean, what is stronger than a city made up of dreamers who refuse to quit?
Prior to moving to New York, I had a business accounting error that had created quite a debt I did not owe. I spoke to countless accountants, even lawyers and bureaucrats, trying to resolve this issue that persisted for many years. Despite my feelings of defeat, I knew I was not about to let this obstacle prevail. Frustrated by trying to resolve it on my own, I attended a networking event where I ran into a man who would later become my accountant. In conversation, I expressed my frustrations, and he just looked at me and replied, "my firm can help you get that sorted." In no time, he was able to deal with the matter quickly and efficiently. All I could think was, “where else but New York?” The people in this city simply get things done, and keep fighting until the desired outcome is achieved.
A Final Reminder
We are reflections of our experiences and surroundings. The many life lessons learned while living in New York, today creates for me a bit of nostalgia. I learned to be resilient because the city is such. Living there anchored my unstoppable spirit, because I was immersed in a city where people . . . keep moving.
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