This week, I turned 30. Next month, I’m moving to LA. Here are some things I’ve learned, some advice-to-self, and a few things I’ll miss about New York. The list is no particular order, and is by no means exhaustive (it’d be very sad if I could fit seven years of New York into list form, and even sadder if I could fit 30 years of experience in). But it seemed a natural juncture to jot a few things down, in case it proves interesting to others and noteworthy to myself in the future.
50 things I’ve learned and/or will miss.
1.) Everyone who’s in their 20s in New York goes through a Vanessa’s Dumplings phase. I’m glad I had mine, and likewise, I’m glad it’s over.
2.) I knew this before I turned 30, but it only becomes more true over time. Titanic is the best movie in human history. And if a dude will watch it with you several times, that dude is of serious caliber.
3.) This story begins in kindergarten. One particular day, I stopped in the hallway and stared down the immense corridor toward the other end of the school, where the 5th graders had class. They felt so impossibly far away from where I was in life. And it occurred to me that the odds were greater of me dying than of growing old enough to reach the 5th grade. To age that much felt, frankly, insurmountable.
It seems silly now. But back then, every year felt so substantive, so long and filled with limitless promise and possibility. I’ve learned that your sense of time changes as you age, and it seems like the older you get, the faster the years go. But I try to remember my little kindergarten heart. Because it was so certain that every year mattered so much.
4.) Nothing beats watching Clueless with friends who were around when Clueless was the only thing that mattered.
5.) Get the mouse traps that instantly kill mice, not the sticky tape ones.
6.) There are few personal issues that can’t be fixed with ice cream or wine at 11pm. At the same time, there are few global issues that can be fixed this way.
7.) Over-communication is better, and that goes for jobs and relationships. This is a note to self though. Maybe you’re a person who needs to tone it down. I really couldn’t say!
8.) This thought will occur several times: “You’re just going to forget how to do math entirely, aren’t you?”
9.) Flee far and fast from self-identified “influencers.”
10.) For better or worse (it is worse!), nepotism seems to land more jobs than genuine book smarts or talent or potential. I got my first job through my aunt’s friend’s rabbi in Cold Spring, for example. The rabbi did not care that I majored in English with a concentration in creative writing and double minored in gender studies and art history — and no other employer has either.
So much depends upon who you know. No one gets anywhere alone. It’s a thing to be gracious about and also enraged about. Because if you don’t know anyone who can help you, how can you move upward? People who ascend have a responsibility to reach back and reach into new corners, to do the work to uplift those who we don’t know.
11.) Going to any other city and saying you live in New York is just fabulous.
12.) This is one of my most heartening, joyous discoveries from my 20s: you can actually experience brand-new emotions as an adult. Things you have gone 20-something years without encountering can be stirred in you. Regardless of whether they’re incredible or melancholic emotions, it is something of a wonder.
13.) You don’t need to keep up with every ex just because you can.
14.) It’s kind of nice to discover music you overlooked when you were an adolescent. For example, in 1999, I hated Blink 182. I listened to them a few years ago, and was like, actually, hell ya?
15.) People in New York talk about New York as if they’re actually dating New York. That’s because everyone in New York *is* dating New York. There’s no other way to explain it.
16.) Nothing in all of the heavens beats living with your best friend in Greenpoint for three years.
17.) Even after all this time, if you’re going to end up puking on the sidewalk, the Lower East Side is still the place to do it.
18.) Older men are not necessarily more mature. They are, however, worse at technology.
19.) At some point, weirdly around age 25, people will start saying “I can’t drink like I used to!” as if they are somehow lightyears beyond their youth. The truth is, you could drink as much, but people start getting their shit together and finding meaningful hobbies and it becomes socially untenable to bring PBR to a party around age 25. This is not a bad thing.
20.) Artists and investment bankers have more in common than you’d first suspect.
21.) There’s nothing more New York than being 10 minutes late to work because of a gyno appointment and an extremely long bodega wait for your bacon, egg, and cheese.
22.) Being single is great and terrible. Dating is great and terrible. Everything is both all the time!! #philosophy
23.) After college, people start to fork off very aggressively into their respective life paths. Some people get married. Some have kids. Finance people start earning ungodly amounts of money. A lot of people go into stand-up comedy for some reason. Etc. One nice thing about entering the work force full-time is befriending people of different ages. You discover a 45 year old may have more in common with you than someone who is your own age. Cultivate a friend group that includes people older and younger whom you truly love.
24.) Et tu, Xanga? The internet changes and dies quickly.
25.) As a New Yorker, it’s enjoyable to read quotes about New York. Literally just Googling “new york quotes” for an afternoon. Sure, it’s somewhat masturbatory, and I suspect it’s the kind of behavior people would be disgusted to hear about from a New Yorker. But I freakin’ love doing it and saying “yes, yes, yes!” in my head when I read a really great quote I identify with. So here you go: “One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” – Tom Wolfe. Yes yes yes!
26.) More book clubs.
27.) When I first moved to NYC, I subsisted on off-brand Cap’n Crunch (s/o to King Vitaman) for an entire year from the bodega downstairs. My blood pressure hurt, but the bank account stayed afloat. I will miss the comfort of bodegas.
28.) Lots of touristy things suck. But Central Park is simply magical.
29.) If you can handle a few moments of shame with a cashier, you can pay exactly one penny and go to the Met. It’s a great thing to do with friends who are visiting and experiencing sticker shock at every turn.
30.) You’re going to meet a lot of people who are very successful. You’re going to meet a lot of people who are really struggling. In my experience, it’s best to just be as kind as possible and proactively try to dismantle the really effed up systems that oppress people along the way. 🙂
31.) This is a good mantra: “Don’t spend more of your money on that shit.”
32.) This is an obvious one, but it’s worth writing down: keep up with your friends, no matter where they are. Sarah lived in Russia and Chicago, Al in SF and LA (and now several places in the South), Jesse in London. Other people seem shocked or impressed that my closest friends are my lil’ crew from high school. But friendships aren’t accidental — we’ve put in the work to stay in touch. And I’m going to lean into that because we have big plans to be in retirement homes together.
33.) Sure, Sex and the City has its problems. But you know damn well that during Fleet Week, everyone on the street hears Samantha in their head saying, “Ladies, seamen, 12 o’clock!” That’s unity, people.
34.) I recommend trying one of my friend Hannah’s “Hangoritas.” Or, beef jerky from her purse.
35.) Because men are not socialized to be emotionally open with other men, they are often completely dependent on the women in their lives to meet all of their emotional needs. It’s worth remembering this and being sensitive to the cultural environment in which we were all groomed. But also, feel free to kick their ass to their curb when needed.
36.) Hiiiii, first strands of gray hair!
37.) You’ll go from being the youngest person at the office to being slightly less young at the office to, I imagine, being old at the office. You’ll find yourself prompted by Justin Bieber, of all people, to philosophize about the nature of youth and pop culture, and why no “old” people really break into entertainment industries when ostensibly they have the most wisdom, talent, and expertise to share. Ah, well, you’re headed for that aging group, ol’ gal!
38.) Dinner with your parents + your mom making you tea afterward + vegging on their couch in Chicago are still the ideal ways to spend vacations.
39.) Being a phone-call person is going to come back. I can feel it.
40.) Studying gender studies was a tad prescient. At the time it was still somewhat freaky to my peers. Now it’s in their FACES / I’m really happy we’re all starting to grapple together with a lot of things despite the fact that it’s had to come with centuries of suffering and the current political and environmental shitstorm we’re in, the likes of which I could not have imagined in my wildest apocalyptic nightmares.
41.) Just go to the Bluestockings’ “Women’s / trans’ poetry jam” event hosted by Vittoria Repetto — “the hardest working guinea butch dyke poet on the Lower East Side.” Just go.
42.) Surprises keep your endorphins flexed. Bryan showed up at my door at 1am on my birthday, having secretly flown in from LA. It was the kind of thing that up until that point I assumed only happened in movies or paid influencer Instagram stories. I want to maintain the comfort that ritual brings, without forgetting the virtue of spontaneity.
43.) Sometimes you just gotta buy an egg challah and sleep for 14 hours.
44.) Note to self: host a Britney Spears and feminism workshop with Suri, why don’t you?
45.) I recommend wearing really weird shit sometimes. For example, I have a polk-a-dot dress from Trash and Vaudeville where the sleeves are attached to the dress itself, so you can’t lift up your arms. Wildly impractical? Yes. Conversation piece? Sometimes!
46.) Moving is terrible. You’ll do it 457 times.
47.) You will never learn how to install the metal support thing that’s supposed to go under your A/C unit.
48.) Some people get married from work relationships, so I can’t 100% discount them. But in general, if your friend is hooking up with someone at work, the safe route is to persistently tell them it is a terrible, terrible idea.
49.) It’s easy to make excuses for not traveling (money!), not writing (time!), not running errands (mozzarella sticks!). Come now, we know most legitimate reasons can be worked around.
50.) You can’t ever really leave this city even if you leave because you love it so much and all the people here and it’s part of your heart and bones and brain, right? There’s a quote about that somewhere … right?!?
Love you, big bad apple. </3 Ready to grab you by the cojones, get my groove on, and organize my file cabinet, LA + 30s.