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The city’s claim to fame lies in the pulse of the people, moving constantly, making moves, money, relationships; all motivated by the specific goals and ambitions that brought them here in the first place.
At 21, I knew I had to be in New York. This was the place where I could mature and grow into myself. I had to place myself here, into the ecosystem of dreams and opportunities because it’s true what they say, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Though I wasn’t sure then, I’m sure as hell now.
I never sleep — ’cause sleep is the cousin of death /
I lay puzzle as I backtrack to earlier times /
Nothing’s equivalent to the New York state of mind.
– “N.Y. State of Mind” by Nas (Illmatic)
Nas, one of the GOATs, has perfectly captured the unique mentality of New York City. This is, after all, the city that never sleeps. A classic phrase that may be completely overplayed, but it’s true. When you live here, you understand Nas: you can’t sleep. Your mind altered.
You can practically drink the inspiration here. The vibe of the city, the ceaseless energy, the people, the culture— it pushes you forward. There is so much opportunity here for creativity, ambition, passion, love. All you have to do is lean over and talk to someone and a whole new world opens up to you. Each new world breeds more and more and you’ll quickly find you’re swimming in chances.
Then the fear, doubt, and anxiety kicks in.
After the inspiration nearly fills you to your ears, you find that you can get scared. You become afraid of failure, of being exhausted, of your peers’ opinions, and not making it to your newfound ideals. I believe anxiety is natural in all humans, but there’s something specific to the New York brand. Anxiety floods in like tired folk on the F train, and they overwhelm until the doors click shut and you really can’t take in any more.
The wheel turns all day and night here, and faster than anywhere else. Anxiety, then inspiration. Doubt, then happiness. Pressure, then success. Parties, then meetings. Late nights and earlier mornings. Who’s got time for sleep?
I’ve learned so much in my time here and am still continuing to soak it all in. About work, about relationships, about time, about goals, and most importantly, about balance. I think with anything you do in this pulsing city, whether it’s working or playing, you’ve got to find your balance. Don’t underestimate proper rest and recovery. You’ll burn yourself out eventually. Enjoy a little bit of everything but always keep yourself in check. Find out what you need to complement what you already have and go out there and get it. It’s a process, like anything, and sometimes this city will break you down if you let it. Use that negative energy to push yourself forward, to bounce back, and to secure your next win.
To the people bouncing around all night in these streets, to the insomniacs whose anxious minds keep them up all night, to those who don’t leave their beds between Friday night until Monday morning, and to everyone in between, just find your balance. Do what feels right and best for you.
If this city teaches us anything, it’s that we can be ourselves. It’s just that New York State of Mind.
Originally submitted for Issue 8 of Undo Magazine.
AUTHOR: JEFF CHEN