Circadian Rhythm

A year ago, I was stuck in a very odd position in both my work and my home. 

For work read this. For home, we can talk about that another time. 

Fast forward one year and a lot of changes have been made. I accredit a lot of this to my friend Ying, who moved to NY from LA in late January of 2019. 

The one thing I have always been sure about, even in times of uncertainty and exploration (maybe, ESPECIALLY during those times), is New York. 

I truly truly truly love New York. There’s really no logical explanation as to why anyone loves anything, but for me, New York is a place where I immediately felt at home in from the very first time I stepped foot in Upper East Side when I was a young child. As a child, I only ever really felt alive in Shanghai. Everywhere else in the US bore me and as a result of my boredom, I was very sleepy all the time. My parents genuinely thought I had a sleeping disorder and wondered how a child could be so sleepy 24/7. There was a brief second in my childhood where I woke up and felt energetic and that was when I was in New York. 

My dad was extremely confused and told me a lot of times, “don’t know why you don’t love [another city that was not NY], it has all of your interests!” but nah, when I visited that city, I was so sleepy and wanting to escape that I left behind my camera that had all my family photos [bad idea]. 

This is very juxtaposed to my life in its current state where for the first time in my life, I have endless energy. Not only can I function on 4 or 5 hours of sleep, but I can also stay positive and enthusiastic about what I’m doing during the day as if I got 8 or more hours. 

I accredit this sudden burst of energy into a few things:

  1. Stability in home 

  2. Passion in career/work

  3. Healthy mind/spirit/body

  4. Social interaction + side projects

In my previous life, my passion for my work never lined up with what I was currently doing. For example, in college, I really wanted to be a writer. That didn’t line up with my undergrad business degree. Then I worked in corporate America where honestly it did not fit my style of thinking. It was more about perception versus actual doing and a string of events forced me to wake up and start doing things that excited me. 

This led me to Relax Coffee which sparked and lit a joy for building CPG (consumer packaged goods) products. I guess I have been interested in CPG all my life and in the art of creating value (no matter how small or instantaneous) for people in the world, but never thought of it as something I could help build day-to-day. 

The other thing I am really passionate about is branding and I think the merge of great branding + CPG is something that is fairly new. I am not passionate about building, let’s say, Clorox or Lysol wipes. But if it has great branding that adds personality to the product, suddenly I am way more interested. I think this comes from my love of writing and stories and people. Great branding is essentially turning packaged goods into a person. The new wave of customers also appreciates it more when the branding speaks to them. 

My third passion is working with people who are very specialized in something. This is what led me to start 52 Stories, where I combined my love of two things, New York & people, into one project. Prior, I only got to do that as a side hobby. Now I get to work with specialized people at work in order to launch products (i.e. chemists! Designers! engineers!) which has been extremely mentally stimulating. I love learning about what other people do without having to actually commit and do it myself. At the end of the day, I love the process. The process of bringing something to life, whether it’s a website, an essay/novel, a film, toothpaste, a razor, etc. is what is truly beautiful to me.

And last, but not least, I wanted to be inspired by people. I look up to and respect people who are really passionate about what they’re doing, are hardworking and just genuinely good people. Not people who brag all the time or people who feel insecure about themselves so they put others down. I wanted to be around people who are real, find purpose and meaning in the things they do and the relationships they hold and are driven by more than just the pursuit of materialistic components. I have seen a lot of different world cultures in NY and I have to say that it’s pretty rare to find a work culture (and friend group) that is like that, but that was exactly what I was looking for. I feel grateful now to go to work and feel all in, all together with great people along the way. Same with my friends. :) 

I remember walking along the East River last year thinking surely there must be a place for me in New York where the people are nice, yet ambitious and where friends connect with you on a deeper level. I think I have found that now; although, granted a lot of it did come from one of my friends moving here and us exploring together, but hey, sometimes that is what it takes in life. And now the 3 amigas who room together are wading the waters of NY and adulthood together. <3

Yesterday, I was walking along the Hudson River to walk back home (2.6 miles; 55 minutes) and I thought about three things. 

  1. Last year my entire life existed on the east side. Now it exists on the west and it couldn’t be more different, yet also better in every way.

  2. I would have NEVER walked a 55-minute walk in the past, but now nothing seems impossible or tedious. The 55-minute walk was gorgeous with the sunset falling to my left over the glistening water. 

  3. The water bank with Jersey in the skyline reminded me of the Bund area in Shanghai and I thought about my family. The thought of home made me feel at peace and safe. I feel like I was chasing the feeling of my childhood in Shanghai this whole time and now I have found it.

I feel inspired.

On Undocumented Workers & Growing up in Texas

At the time of writing, I am currently back in Houston at my parents’ house. 

Growing up in Houston with a very large Hispanic population, I’m sure I went to a Mexican restaurant with my childhood friends before I ever went to an Asian restaurant with them. The Mexican presence is large and bold and in a way, shaped who I am today and how I view their culture (which has merged with mine). To me, when I think of the Hispanic population in Texas, the first words that come to mind are: faithful, hardworking, sacrificial, and full of community. I see a lot of similarities between them and the Asian culture because for both, a child’s well being comes first. If a mother or father can sacrifice or work harder today for their child to be better off tomorrow, they’d happily and willingly do so because there is no choice.

Starting from the time I moved back to Houston from Shanghai, I had seen lots of undocumented workers who worked tirelessly at the jobs that most Americans wouldn’t dare to do. One of those jobs is cutting grass in the 100+ degree Fahrenheit Houston heat which scorches our lawns year-round. In the blistering sun, these workers use extremely loud and heavy equipment to make around $20-$50 per lawn (depending on size). The average is probably around $20 for both the front and back yard. This is a job that you couldn’t even get teenagers to do because it is quite extreme, harsh, and difficult. Teens would rather work at a froyo shop with A.C. where they can check their phone during the off periods and still get paid for being there. 

One of the things that severely irks me when people say that undocumented immigrants are “stealing our jobs” or “taking jobs from the citizens” is that they are working jobs that no one would want to do, even if you paid them twice to do it. I’m sure if we offered someone $50 or $75 to mow the lawns in the summer heat, they’d end up in the hospital because they haven’t been conditioned to work in such extremes. I have heard of multiple stories where the fathers of the family (who are often doing the work that requires labor) get caught by the police for being undocumented, get sent back to Mexico, and make it back to the US to be with their family again. I can’t imagine the fear, pain, and worry that these families must have to know that 1) they can’t communicate with their family members who get deported and 2) they don’t know if they will ever see them again because the journey back can be quite dangerous. 

Undocumented workers aren’t taking our corporate jobs or jobs that there is high competition for. They’re taking the jobs that America needs but doesn’t have supply for. I view their existence to be extremely important to our ecosystem and society. They also mostly keep to themselves to not capture attention which might deport them.

When I was in high school, one person especially stuck out to me. His nickname, when translated into Spanish, means “champion” and he is definitely worthy of that nickname. He told me he worked so hard tirelessly every day with only one day off a month so that he could save up to send his daughter to community college. His daughter was my age and had gone through so many experiences that I couldn’t imagine going through. I remember my mom gifting him a really large Minnie Mouse plush toy when she was young and he was so grateful. These things that most people take for granted can mean a lot to people who just want stability and something promising for their families. At the root of who they are, they are similar to you and I. As I have aged throughout these years, I’ve seen him age as well and he has become a presence that has immersed into our families. I want all of his hard work to be for something and for his children to have a better future. 

To be an undocumented worker is a huge risk in many ways. You don’t get any benefits; you have no protection; you can’t call the police for help if anyone troubles you. You’re on your own in this world and the fact is that they left behind their home countries because this state of existence is better than what they had before. They were willing to take that tradeoff. The idea of leaving your home country is not an easy one. To move to another country where you don’t know the language, you have no protection from the government or law enforcement and you have to work hard, laborious jobs is not a decision that is easily made overnight. If America is the land of opportunity and we were all once immigrants at some point in time, can’t we empathize and cut them some slack? There are bigger fish to fry and better places we can invest our resources in than in capturing undocumented families and ripping their families apart and destroying an ecosystem that was working just fine before.

Having grown up and seen the amount of sun damage that occurred to some of the workers that have lived in Houston over the last twenty years, it pains me because that could have been anyone. We don’t choose the conditions under which we are born into and it could have very easily been any one of us in their shoes.

I see people saying they want to “send them back” but then go into Mexican restaurants where their food that they love so much is cooked by the very hands of those they want to send back. Who will make that food when everyone disappears?

Mentorship is Key to Life

In life I have always tried to seek out mentors or people that I can learn from. One of the things I love about NY is the endless opportunity for growth and knowledge from those who have tried it before you. It’s why I love reading and talking to people and one of the recent things that I’ve been in love with is Merit.

I first discovered Merit on Twitter. Someone that I followed liked something that one of the co-founders had tweeted and I went down a rabbit hole of discovery. It took me probably 1 second to decide to sign up for the intro video call and once I talked to the co-founders, I felt like the whole process was very seamless.

In their own words, they describe Merit as:

"Merit connects learners to expertise to grow their craft, team and career. It is as simple as picking a topic, coach and scheduling a video call. Merit is free to use. Merit is for junior to mid level designers, engineers and product managers. Our experts are senior leaders in design, engineering and product. They volunteer a few hours a month to practice leadership, teach the next generation and grow their network.

If you are interested in using Merit, the next step is having a 30 minute video call with us. During the call we will explain how the platform works, understand your career goals and see if Merit is a good fit for you.

Please use this link to schedule time with us."

Merit was created by co-founders Kirk and Randy who have worked in tech for a while and had a mission and goal to make coaching and mentorship more readily available to everyone who seek it. In society, knowledge and coaching is sometimes kept within certain groups of people who help each other succeed while leaving others out and Kirk & Randy want to break that mold. I noticed while interviewing that those who get the job do so by seeking out mentors and coaches and afterwards, while in the job, they succeed by seeking out advice. The whole process of learning from others never really stops, no matter what stage of life you are in. There are tons of coaching companies out there who charge upwards of $250 a session and Merit is absolutely free. The only thing required is that you show up willing to learn and open up about what you are seeking help with.

After each session I feel like I’ve had some kind of takeaway that I can use to apply to my life not just in my career but also in life and as a human being. As someone who is the oldest sibling, I sometimes feel like Merit is the older sibling I never had. Along the way, I feel like I’ve not only gained mentors, but also senior peers/friends that I highly respect and inspire me. Tbh, I feel really grateful to have been an early adopter and to have found this company at the time that I did. It has helped me tremendously in this transition period in my life.

I believe that friends and family members can mentor each other as well, but in terms of getting specific within design, engineering, or product, it’s nice to have people who have already done the role, experienced the situations, grown, and can now let you know their side of the story.


A Lesson on Being Yourself

the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side, my friends.

this post is for everyone, but mainly, it's for me. I need to be reminded of this quite often, you know.

in this post i will cover:

  • -the grass being greener on the other side

  • -tradeoffs

  • -being yourself

Also, I just drank vietnamese coffee and now i feel like i need to type furiously or else i have too much energy so I am going to write this entire thing in one go and not go back/edit or reread. so please bear with me on the capitalization and/or spelling and just read on!

when i worked in big 4, i thought that the BEST THING ever would be to work in "industry". Industry just means that you aren't client-facing and you work for the clients. I also felt that if I just made $20K more, I would be way, way happier.

So fast forward a few months and that happened. I was making more working in industry and I was excited!! Sort of. I was excited to do something that was more in line with my goals, but I learned very quickly that there are TRADEOFFS in life in everything you do.

For example, when I worked in Dallas, I had the most chill yet awesomely collaborative environment ever. I was head over heels in love with my badass female boss who to this day I still cherish and keep in touch with. I felt like everyone at work was nice and I felt super confident and happy being my authentic self. Looking back, I really lucked out in my first corporate experience. I could have seen myself going to partner level if not for the CPA/EA requirement (I was not an Accounting student).

But I wanted to move to New York. It was always my dream and I was getting pretty bored in Dallas outside of work. I wasn't growing and even though I spent all my free time either exercising, hanging out with friends, or writing (I wrote a poetry book and collection of short essays about my childhood/thoughts on life), I felt like something was missing. I wasn't inspired.

Once I moved to New York, the tradeoff was HELLO inspiring city, but BYE BYE to inspiring team. All of the really great mentorship I had in Dallas was now gone and replaced by a very work hard/"don't talk to me" type of new manager. She literally worked until 3am or later every single day and even told me that the most satisfaction she received from her day was knowing that she could sleep having given all of her clients great work.

My mind was blown. What?!?!?!??!?!?

This was a huge juxtaposition from my Dallas team that spent a lot of time with their families, on hobbies, on clubs (extracurricular clubs, not dance clubs, and exuded PASSION.

On top of that, everyone on the team was planning to quit or actively (and I mean ACTIVELY) interviewing to leave.

I sat in this makeshift office (sometimes the closet turned into an office with no windows) and did random tax work all day. Needless to say, I got depressed. It was like every ounce of my being was saying....this is not the job for you. This is not the environment you want to be in.

I looked at my coworkers who genuinely liked their jobs and had a great time sitting in that closet and wondered to myself, "What's wrong with me? This is a pretty decent job and honestly, I can't complain about much."

You see, as a child, there are two kinds of hobbies in life.... the kind that will MAKE YOU MONEY and the kind that will MAKE YOU NO MONEY. I was always great at the ones that make you no money. I was naturally great at Literature, English, History — anything with stories, I was fine. I could write 17 page papers in a few hours and still get A's. I didn't need to edit or re-read. It was whatever. I loved doing that kind of stuff.

But physics or any sort of complicated math? Snooze. It wasn't that I couldn't understand. It was that I found no deep connection to it and therefore found it boring. Once I find something boring, it's very very hard for me to put in the time and effort into learning it.

And here I was in this role where it was extremely, extremely boring. I tried my best, but it just wasn't working out. I called my entire team in Dallas and let them know how I felt and to be honest, they supported me 100%. Thank you, family.

Now back to the tradeoff part that I mentioned earlier. Fast forward to my next role at a bulge-bracket bank (I believe that's what you call it — I just call it a bank or financial services firm). The pro about working in consulting/financial services earlier is that your projects CAN CHANGE. Nothing is permanent! You have the illusion that you can always change clients, teams, projects, branches. In industry though, you're set. This is your team and this is your job that you will do every day. There's no illusion of change and there's no deadline or billable hour so you have a lot of time to do whatever you need to do in comparison. Also working for a bank I didn't even have a work laptop.

Being in tax consulting previously, I was kind of silo-ed. I wasn't in a position to be picky with my next role, but I wanted something a bit more creative or could teach me skills that would open up more doors. So I went into Data.

And that was the beginning of the decline.

Well, first I should talk about what was great. My original manager (the one who hired me) was great. We were a very complementary team. She was technically strong and I was enthusiastic and strong in public speaking/presenting/storytelling. Together we were Batman and Robin. I was pretty happy. She was so sweet and I'm the type of person where when I get along with a manager, she is now my FAMILY. Dude, I will do anything for family.

Anyways, long story short, she lost her visa to stay in America. And that's when all the problems and sh*t show began.

She started managing me from a country that has a time difference of 13 HOURS from NYC. She did her best. I did my best. We eventually found a system that worked through FaceTime and even onboarded a new hire to the team who was really great at coding. Omg, it was great. We felt like a family and she really understood what each of us liked and didn't like and pushed us in that direction. I almost cried in one meeting when she described each of us and she knew us so well!

Okay. So. Then the crazy work politics began.

I'm not sure what the heck was happening in the background but lurking in the weeds was a tiger who was trying to destroy/eat our team. It was actually the most shocking and horrifying experience I have lived through in a corporate setting and was traumatically scarring. I went to therapy; I wrote copious amounts of notes (COPIOUS. As in I could publish a book on all the stuff that happened) and had panic attacks for the first time in my life.

Next to our team (all Asians) was a team of all Caucasians. They were all very similar in that they all had very affluent dads and were all born and raised in NY/NJ. This team's manager was up for promotion against my manager. His team was okay. I wouldn't say they were very strong in anything and to be quite honest, they were of mild intelligence. But nothing against them. From just the people at the bank, I do think immigrants or people of Asian background grow up with a certain type of hunger that pushes them to want to do more, be more, learn more, whereas some of the people who have lived in America for ages in very comfortable lifestyles tend to just coast sometimes because they’ve always had comfort. That was kind of this team, except for the manager who was very HUNGRY for promotion.

He started sabotaging my manager in any way he could. He couldn't attack her technical skills, because she was much stronger in that field, but he could attack her leadership/management skills. And the #1 target and way to do that was to target me.

On the outside, he had the most chill/easy-going persona, but on the inside, he was recording down my every movement. I found this out when my manager called me to let me know that someone had spotted me reading at work and taken a picture and sent it to our Executive Director. My first instinct was this other person on our team who sometimes trolls me for fun, but he swore it wasn't him and that it would be really serious for him to do that. "No, Stephanie, that's not good," he said. "Whoever did that is actually out to get you."

I narrowed it down one by one and then it hit me that it was someone I would have never expected—the chill/casual tall ex-frat guy sitting RIGHT next to me.

It was a bit chilling to realize that all of a sudden a monster is right behind you and has been watching you for a while.

After that, my coworker would let me know that every time he walked behind me, he would stare for a while at my screen to see what I was looking at. Since I had my screen monitored 24/7, I just kept my work up at all times.

Then, he would notice when I was away from my desk. If I was gone for "too long", he would ask my coworker where I was. One day I was with developers working on a digital product downstairs and he got upset that I wasn't at my desk. He wanted me to work at my desk and only my desk.

While this was happening, he also wanted me on his team. And I realize now that he didn't actually want me on his team. What he wanted was for my manager to be team-less and have no direct reports, which is what ended up happening when he had planted enough seeds of "evidence" that she was a bad manager from abroad.

Writing all of this is pretty triggering and brings back a lot of bad feelings again. My blood starts boiling. I am very protective of my team and team members and when I see this kind of injustice occur, I get extremely upset especially when I can't do anything about it.

Once I was on his team, he started attacking my work. This email had a word that would confuse developers or that email could have had more bullets. I had to send him an email for approval before sending out any other emails. Sometimes hours would go by before he approved the email which meant I delayed my response to the teams by hours. I asked the developers if my emails ever confused them and they said "no, not at all." If anything, my emails only confused my manager at best, because he lacked the technical expertise and also didn't really care to learn.

He joined every single one of my meetings with product managers — meetings that my previous manager had given me the freedom and responsibility to take over because I had earned her trust. Once he joined, he released me from those projects. The product managers would sometimes try to recreate meetings without him just to add me back in, but it was no use. He strictly told me to add him to every single meeting and I had to obey.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

You know how they say you can't appreciate the sun without rain? That's so true. During this difficult period of my life where a lot of ethics and integrity was questioned, I was slapped hard in the face. I was in this situation because I didn't clearly state what I wanted to myself and because I was too nice to say anything about it. All of my life I wanted to be in the arts and I put myself into some kind of corporate bubble and forced myself to be someone that I wasn't. I was a chameleon and I fit in easily, but I was also an easy target. Not once did I speak up about his bully-ish tactics because I was scared and because I didn't have anyone mentoring me, telling me that I could.

Can I work hard? Yeah. Can I write an email? Duh. Can I learn Excel? Sure. These are all things that are easily teachable and coachable and most people can do these things, which is why there are millions of jobs in the world that are just office-style work.

But at the end of the day, the MOST important thing to me are the people. The people are what inspire me, get me out of bed, get me to do the mundane/routine tasks and other people are what make work meaningful. When I have no team, I have nothing.

What I should have done in college was try to discover and explore. What I should have done when I tried to leave my previous company was ask about the culture. What I should have done was be more specific about what I wanted.

But the thing is that I wouldn't have known. You don't know until you try. You don't know until you gain more experiences. There are a lot of things in life I don't know, but the #1 thing I should be trying to understand is to know myself better. And these past two years have taught me more about myself than ever before.

It's okay to not do what other people are doing. It's okay to be yourself. But you need to know who "yourself" is, before you can be her.

The journey in life continues!

New York: The Ultimate Saleswoman

Something that I struggle with in New York is the idea of not being or doing enough. It’s not that I compare myself to others, but rather, it’s the fact that New York is great at selling you the idea of perfection and “success”. I think New York is the world’s greatest marketer because you really are paying for an experience or feeling whenever you come here.

New York City

The SELL: You are on fire. Your job is rewarding, high-paying, and you work with the brightest and most passionate people out there.

The REALITY: There is some component of your job that you hate and you work with some pretty robotic privileged people. There is no such thing as a free lunch and you pay for everything you get in some way, shape, or form.

The SELL: You have endless energy to work 80 hour weeks, drink 3X a week on rooftop bars, and you’re taxi-ing from Eleven Madison Park to Per Se every weekend in between shopping at Chanel for your parents!

The REALITY: You are pretty tired from working and the idea of going out isn’t fun except for special occasions. It costs $10 to leave your apartment and $20 for a cocktail and $500 later, you have no money.

The SELL: The subway means endless opportunities to travel and hustle about the city!

The REALITY: The next train is 18 minutes away and it’s packed from delays so your nose is now touching someone’s armpit. The last time the NYC Metro was cleaned was in 1828 and your white shoes are now black. Congrats.

The SELL: There are a million people here so you’ll definitely find a significant other fast!

The REALITY: New York is known to be lonely for a reason.

The SELL: You’ll walk a lot and therefore be super skinny!

The REALITY: You’ll walk a lot, but you’ll also drink and eat out a lot.

The SELL: You pay more in rent, but you also get paid more!

The REALITY: Except for people in Finance, this doesn’t really apply. It’s more that some jobs exist here that don’t exist anywhere else. For example, if you want to work at Saks Fifth Avenue, you’re going to be in New York whether you like it or not, but they’re not necessarily going to give you $100,000 just to do entry-level positions to pay your $2,000 Manhattan rent.

The Real SELL that you don’t see: Learning to find a way to YES. You find a way to make it work; to pay rent; to get to your destination when 3/4 of your transportation options are out of the picture. It isn’t all glitz & glam, but that’s kinda what makes this city interesting.

A very personal 1.5 year anecdote to NY

It’s been a short 1.5 years so far since I first officially moved to New York and it’s been an incredible ride. I’ve learned more about who I am and what my values are here more than ever. Such milestones come at steep prices, a price we’re willing to sacrifice, and I think that I can now give a more full,/3D picture of what New York encompasses.

When I first moved here, I was infatuated with a city in all its glory. Like the start of a crush or relationship, my relationship with New York at first meant noticing only the good things about the city. Anything that was bad, I accepted as part of the package and I was absolutely in love with the energy, the fast-paced lifestyle, and endless opportunities of things to do. I went to so many events that fueled my passions related to topics like fashion, art, history, startups, tech, literature, and so on. It seemed like I was meeting lots of people every day and they were so cool! so unique! so different from texas! Although I never talked to most of them again, they all made their marks on me in a little way.

1.5 years later, though, I have a more realistic grasp of the city and in a weird way, it’s taught me a lot about being grateful and taking the time to appreciate the bare bones of my life. Being in a fast-paced city, I now appreciate the act of slowing down and just relaxing for the first time ever. I understand the concept of “the grass is always greener on the other side” because no matter what you get here, you will always want more and never feel good enough. I think that’s the common trait that bonds New Yorkers — we ask ourselves ‘are we genuinely happy'?’ Are we content? It’s hard to be content in a city where everything is always bigger and better today than it was 5 minutes ago. The city tries very hard to outdo itself in everything and you’re not an exception. We pay $20 for cocktails to live in the greatest city in the world to us and accept that we might have the worst subway system. We feel this void within us day by day that gets pushed away by the distraction of working long hours. It’s a grimey, concrete jungle and the animal kingdom isn’t nice or patient, especially here.

There was an article about how New Yorkers love crying in public. But only because they are never truly in private. You’re either at work, on the subway, on the street, in an Uber, at a restaurant or bar. Most of the time you’re in public. And yet you don’t know most of the people around you. You get used to seeing others as strangers, not as friends. You may meet many new people, but only a handful will click with you enough to remain friends. People come and go; events come and go; winter comes and goes and before you know it, it’s winter again. Eventually after some time, everything becomes the same,…

…except you.

This entire time you’re growing & learning & figuring out who you are again. I’m a firm believer that you change the most in periods of discomfort and every other day I’m in discomfort about something. There’s a reason why NY is in love with CBD oil and will gladly wave $20 in the air for anything that encourages relaxation and calmness. It’s because we really need it. The anxiety of real-life events & growing up is too real.

I wouldn’t say that New York is kind to those who aren’t comparatively wealthy. Some cities are kind and gentle to the ones who don’t have extra spending money. New York is not one of them. They take the $5 you have and tell you, well because you don’t have $10, you can’t have a window. You can’t have a W/D. You can’t have easy subway access on the weekend into Manhattan. Each dollar that you lack is another notch on the suffering scale and the threshold for comfort is pretty high. To buy an apartment in Manhattan you need around, let’s say, $1 million. Even then you are only average at best and still probably not good enough. A realtor won’t be impressed with your $1 million—but you learn that in New York no one will be impressed by anything. You aren’t living to impress.

The biggest takeaway I’ve had from my time here so far is to stand my ground and to never take no for an answer. Being a fairly easy-going, pushover type of person in the past, I learned pretty quickly that if you don’t fight for yourself here, you aren’t getting that window. You won’t make it onto the subway in time for your job and your boss won’t forgive you for being late. Every decision has consequences and you’re the boss of your own life. In the past, I took whatever life gave me and tried to make the most of it. Here you will get thrown with so much sh*t that you have to be more responsible for your journey. It’s up to you to stop hanging out with people who don’t really add inspiration to your life and find those that do or to say no to a job that seems stable and nice, but is toxic and drains the energy out of you. You are never trapped as long as you keep fighting.

Eventually people stop fighting and move back home or move to a calmer, less intense place. For now though, I wouldn’t trade this for any other place in the world. I wanted to move out of Texas to learn about myself & be in situations that I hadn’t been in before. I wanted easy access to great food, shows, events, opportunities. I wanted something more. Someone once told me that you don’t want easy. You want hard difficult things because that’s when you grow the most. We’re all learning together and finding out that the thing that connects humans to each other isn’t the easy stuff, but the messy, difficult things that take who you are and make you better.