When you decide to make the move to New York City, you will find that the people around you never seem to tire of warning you how dangerous it will be.
But, as I like to say, when desire surpasses fear, you will be surprised what you’re able to endure. And you will tune their voices down to a low hum, stow a pepper spray in your purse, and hope for the best.
People will tell you that it’s not safe to be alone at night. You will laugh the first time you walk home from the subway at 3am all by yourself because you lost track of time and the trains were running on a demented schedule. But you’ll hear those words come back to you when you wake up at one, then three, then five in the morning. Impossible to get any sleep. Surrounded by more people than you’ve ever known in your lifetime but with no one to talk to. Worries, fears, doubts, sadness creep in. It’s not safe to be alone at night.
People will tell you not to trust strangers. Little by little your confidence grows as you learn to give directions to tourists, chat up the bartender, make conversation on the subway. Strangers, they’re just people! Just like you and me! What’s not to trust? Give in a little. Give a smile, give your number, give your heart. Strangers become friends and lovers and your whole world. Yesterday’s stranger feels closer to you than anyone you’ve ever known. But forget not that they are always strangers, eventually to barely glance at you while they cut you down and break your heart and disappear once again into the massive ebb and flow of strangers jostling each other down the street, nameless faces you may only see once and never again. Don’t trust strangers.
People will tell you to watch your back. And you will, at first. Looking up at tall buildings with wonder and glancing over your shoulder to make sure nobody caught you indulging yourself. You will carefully monitor your wallet, your budget, your grocery list. You will watch yourself so much, your head will be on a constant swivel. Am I being too “tourist”? Too “Girls“? Too hipster? Too crunchy? Struggling to establish yourself as one in eight billion leads to constant self-examination and dread. But look away too long and when you face the mirror again you won’t recognize what you see. You’ll be sucked under the riptide of this giant amusement park of indulgence and before you know it, days and weeks and months fly by. When the lifeguard drags you to shore and resuscitates you, he’ll ask you what day it is and what your name is. Blinking into his eyes you’ll honestly reply “I don’t know.” You lost track of time, self, everything. You forgot to watch your back.
If any of these warnings genuinely scared you, you’d never have come here in the first place. You’re brave. You can keep your wits about you. And the thing that scares you more than these warnings, these sincere and truthful warnings is the two words you never want to hear lying alone at night, or when you look into the eyes of a handsome stranger, or staring back at the stranger before you in the mirror: