New York is probably one of the most common settings for movies and TV shows. And after seeing the cityscape time and time again, people tend to have unrealistic expectations of what life in the Big Apple is like for actual New Yorkers.
Whenever I have had friends visit me from other states or countries, they seem to always ask questions like, “Since you live in New York, you must go to lots of Broadway shows, right?” or “Do you hang out with your friends at bars like the gang from How I Met Your Mother did?” They would look at me expectantly, as if they were awaiting some colorful and exciting response.
Unfortunately, the answer would almost always be no. As a full-time student at NYU, I mostly spend time in the areas around campus and going north of 20th Street is quite honestly a special occasion for me. Whenever I would mumble these less-than-impressive answers, I felt almost ashamed that I wasn’t living up to the ideas of a perfect NYC life.
This stereotype — which is held by many people other than just my friends — is unfortunately all too common. Many people still champion the idea that all New Yorkers should live an incredibly exciting life since we have so many opportunities available to us at all times within the city; it doesn’t seem reasonable to be a couch potato and just Netflix and chill on a Friday night.
However, views like this are not only wrong, but they are also incredibly damaging. It creates immense pressure for New Yorkers to live up to that expectation. Even on a casual sunny Saturday afternoon — one where we would probably just want to chill and read a book in our cozy apartment — we would somehow still feel obliged to do something momentous. We feel that it’s our responsibility to live this extraordinary New York life.
But, thankfully, the true New York lifestyle has always been (and will always be) less fabulous than what you see in fiction. It’s not likely that most people will have the power to go hang out at the bar every night and still make it to work on time, nor can one really attend every Broadway show without going bankrupt. The reality of the situation is that most college students on a budget don’t have the resources to live the glamorous lives our friends and family want to believe we live. New York is great, but it’s not the paradise of excess our friends and family think it is.
It would be nice to live your life like a movie once in awhile. But most New Yorkers do not. We live in the cold reality where there is rent, work and annoying house chores to do. New York is indeed a charming city, but we are not supposed to be judged if we fail to live our lives like those fictional characters. It should be our right to choose the life we want to live, without the fear of being judged.
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A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct 11th print edition. Email Phoebe Kuo at [email protected]