Onset of Quarter Life Crisis
There’s nothing quite like NYC to give you a sense of anonymity synonymous with loss of identity. Nothing quite like NYC to give you a sense of feverish purpose coupled with that of being a cog in a dirty machine. Nothing quite like NYC to give you a sense of knowing many people but understanding the depths of none of them. To buoy you with charm and possibility only to be offset by eventual jadedness and apathy. There’s nothing quite like NYC to house many attractive smart people who coincidentally just suck.
Here’s a look into the blocks of time that ensue when one moves to NYC. The story is vaguely different in content and in speed from person to person, but from my interactions with my fellow bumbling humans, the narrative sort of goes the same.
Month 0 — Month 2
Balls to the walls. Your IG is teeming with activity and you’re getting immensely emotional about starting fresh in a BIG city with few connections and/or you’re getting artsy (think graffiti and rooftops at weird angles in black and white). Choose your poison.
There is no going home and watching TV, we out here, living large. Every day after work there is a game plan — you’re catching a yankees game, at happy hour with coworkers, dinner in the west village, grooving at a Sofar sounds concert, getting soup dumplings in chinatown, or just sitting in Washington Squark Park watching people wade into dirty fountain water.
The city is a magical place and each person a wonder in their own right. How many people will I get to meet and talk to today? Am I interesting to them when I cross their paths?
You reach out to that girl from high school you haven’t talked to in years because any connection counts no matter how tenuous — why not, you’ve both made it here from your humble home town. But it takes a while to actually meet up because then you suddenly realize you have super limited time in the city and you’ll deviate towards close coworkers and college friends first. Cancel and reschedule. Cancel again and the line goes silent. And if you miraculously meet up, it might just be one and done or one of those acquaintance “relationships” both people keep up for no good reason other than you feel like you have to (until inevitably you stop talking altogether).
Month 3 — Month 6
Time to focus on your job because being the new hire in training just isn’t going to fly anymore. You hustled super hard to get here and now you’ve got a full blown 9 to 7 on your hands. Side note who actually works 9 to 5 in NYC? No one. (implied: or you’re doing it wrong)
It’s a precarious balance between ambition and complacency, wanting to prove yourself and manage up down sideways backwards, versus seeing the week for the activities that happen after work. It’s an awkward balance between drinking deep Kool-aid and questioning your future growth already, abusing benefits where you can and walking on eggshells to not piss anyone off.
You might have even gone on a date or two, you promised yourself to focus on the job first, but it doesn’t hurt to peek around right?
Parents have started to ease into the you’re in a “dangerous” city thing and seem generally happy to see you’re happy.
Month 7— Month 9
You’re finally feeling like you have some right to take vacation and strut around like you know things at your job. You know who’s your go to people at work, for question, for hanging outside of work, that sort of thing.
Some NYC bloke, honestly maybe multiple, have swindled you of naivete and optimism for love in the city. You’ve realized the only people you seem to match with are in finance and no one has time for romance.
Likely there’s a deeper saga that went on with one particular fellow who you no doubt fell pretty quickly for. It seemed like it was going well, but then he started watching your snapchat stories before replying to your text, then he would be flakey when you tried to make plans, his Fridays and Saturdays never seemed to be open….
You have a solid group of friends or maybe a few groups of people you flock around with now. And then a few one-on-one friendships to fill the days with. But it’s a constant ebb and flow where one day your frat group is in and the next day your ski club group is in. Then you meet a hip musician at a party and suddenly you have a new group of hip Brooklyn artists.
Month 10— Month 12
You’re kind of the shit. You’re feeling pretty darn good.
You’ve got a ton of friends in the city, you watch some TV now but a good number of nights you’re still out till 2am at the bars, brunching up a storm (getting some sick photos of food and hot friends), and taking an occasional weekend trip or day trip somewhere with trees or ocean.
No longer dirt poor, you give yourself permission to splurge a little more. Do you really need that $80 dress or that $120 boot? Ehh not really but everyone else looks nice so you got to keep up a little. You don’t want Stacy being the only one getting eyes at office. Yeah you might be “dating someone” but you still want your hot coworkers to have a crush on you.
You have hometown friends who still live at home or are pursuing whatever else in smaller places ooh-ing and ah-ing at your instagram life, messaging you about how awesome your life seems. Although the real people whose opinions matter more aren’t watching your stories.
Month 13 — Month 15
You’re feeling a little bit stuck, like things are okay, good I guess, but there’s just something in the air.
Could be you still don’t have a partner in crime…could be you’re already getting tired of your job or don’t see a future path and hit a plateau…could be something about the city has already started wearing on you….could be you’re getting sick of the same roommates….
You do something to get a reset on life. You just need to a break to take a step back and evaluate, a hard moment to come by in a city where it’s just go go go and when you blink, suddenly over a year has gone by.
You decide you need to refocus yourself into hobbies and passions again. Maybe I’ll volunteer.
Month 16 — Month 19
You fail at refocusing. Life is still kind of the same. BUT. You did succeed in at least making one firm decision.
And just like that you plod along towards this decision.
Let’s say it’s to get a boyfriend. But it could be to change jobs. Either you’re interviewing hard or you’re dating for a purpose.
Boyfriend — You break things off with every side bae, hook up, “dating”, booty call situation you got going on. Clean hard break, no fuzzy lines. Then you go on a date. Say no to a second if you can’t marry him. Ask him sooner rather than later “do you see this going anywhere?” Repeat.
Job — Less free time with friends and more time prepping for calls. You don’t really know what is happening in the background of your life while you’re focused on the job search. Somehow this job search is both harder and easier than out of college job search. You have more experience. How many doctors appointments can you make up? My eye is falling out, I swear…
And rather miraculously it happens for you.
Month 20— Month 24
This time goes by in a doozy. How has it been 2 years? It’s difficult to recount stories anymore because all the time just seems smushed together.
It’s been a whole year since John dumped me?? It’s been 3 months since I’ve seen Sarah? I still haven’t been to that bowling spot yet?
Your ambition to go out and see the world wanes because well, the world has become smaller. You’ve “been there done that” and occasionally someone will stumble in town and you get to show them around and rekindle some magic. But how many times can you walk the Brooklyn Bridge and be excited by it?
How many of your friendships have fizzled to forced interactions every 2 months or has become “that one friend you sometimes see at pregames” sometimes? Do you throw parties any more? Not really…
You’ve probably had a roommate move out at this point. Change is the name of the game in the city. Never get too comfortable.
Month 24— Month 26
And yet you’ve reached this place of comfort. Somehow in a city that’s a constant rat race and things never stop changing around you whether it’s your industry or the people you see or the subway construction, things don’t really shake up your reality anymore.
You’re sitting pretty where you are, to be sure. Nothing is wrong and yet again something isn’t right.
You still like New York, and there’s no where else that offers the same caliber of convenience, diversity, and commotion. That you still firmly believe.
And yet, you consider for a minute that you might move away eventually. There is no solid game plan because you have considerations now, whether it’s a boyfriend or a job or friendships or your lease or maybe you got a dog.
Today is a weekday and you’re eating Chipotle watching the Office in gym shorts. But a little over two years ago you’d be eating at Russ and Daughters in the West Village in a new Zara dress.
And you think…maybe I’m getting old. Maybe that’s what this is.
Or maybe…I need to move somewhere else. Maybe that will fix it.