In Praise of New York City: Revisited
by Alex Shippee in Labels:

I've been living, and working, in New York City for almost a year now. New York City, and the streets especially, have a kind of unguarded significance to them. Everything that happens here could be the ultimate conclusion of whatever events are taking place. There's no grand authority figure or reliable order. It accepts what is put into it. That's why corruption is so feasible and opportunity so endless.

When I wrote about this eighteen months ago, I  said that, despite coming from a small town that I "...enjoyed the busyness of it all." Since then, I can honestly say that the busyness is one of the most pointlessly seductive things about life in Manhattan.

The guy dressed in a power suit, ordering an extra-large coffee, and talking on the phone the whole time...

The high-powered executive championing a series of  ambitious projects...

The young go-getter burning the midnight oil to keep bosses and clients happy...

What are they actually trying to accomplish? Can they even articulate it anymore? Or have they distanced themselves so far from legitimate work that they're just in a constant state of shuffling papers?

Everybody's busy all the time. Busy with phone calls, emails, giving updates, running around, putting out fires, talking and explaining things in an exciting way. It goes on forever. The sad part is that this becomes the focus - moving and staying active. It gets to the point where you're working yourself to exhaustion just so you can BE exhausted. Insanity.

One time, towards the end of a meeting, someone asked if I was from New York originally:

"No," I said. "I'm from Connecticut actually."

"I thought so," she replied. "You don't seem stressed enough."

"Thanks. I try not to stress myself out."

In retrospect, I probably should have phrased that differently. The point I was trying to make, that might not have come across at the time, is that freaking out and working yourself into a tizzy accomplishes nothing. If anything, being able to stay calm when everyone else is losing their mind should be an asset. You avoid overreaching and making easily avoidable mistakes.

But the thing is, I like being busy. I like starting early and ending late. I like being able to contribute something to so many different projects and groups. It's a feeling very similar to being needed. But at some point, being needed and having people fight to talk to you loses its appeal. It's a shallow pleasure.

There's so much more to New York City than the churning mobs and being so stressed out that you can't even feel it anymore. Stay away from the people who idolize that lifestyle. They're much more likely to take the boundless opportunity and corrupt it into a pointless collection of low-hanging fruit. Just so they can keep moving.

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