Embrace the Unpredictability

New York City is unpredictable. You can't mash this many people together and not crank out some madness. And when the population hits nearly eight and a half million people, you don't dare say the word "bored". There is no end to temptation or opportunity, they're two sides of the same coin. You want to experience the intoxicating pilgrimage you'll be telling stories about for years to come. You want to see the role model you've always dreamed of meeting and hand her your business card with a smile. There is potential for everything. And that's the dream.

But if unpredictability is what we all want from our networking events or nights at the bar, we're going about it the wrong way. Just because there is something to do every night doesn't mean it has to be done. Sure, there are subway rides and dinner plans, concerts and art installations. Drinking buddies and coffeehouses. Dinners fold sixty minutes into three hours. Concerts end with shots at the bar. One-night stands turn into confusing mornings. It's the glamourous, sinful fun of the city. The trouble is when the allure of unpredictabilty comes at the expense of finding what you truly want. You're just throwing it up to chaos, hoping for the best. 

There are people working from their bedrooms, typing away. I'm one of them. I can hear the happy dinner-goers shout conversation at one another over the floating notes of the in-house band. Beyond that I know there are groups of joggers and people playing soccer in McCarren park. Somewhere in Manhattan my favorite authors could just be standing on a street corner having a conversation with someone who is not me. C'est la vie.

But sometimes it's really fucking hard to shut the door and go to work. It is embarassing to say no to so many events after work and go even further to have to defend yourself. Really it's embarassing to feel embarassed. It should be a point of pride to commit to whatever work you have waiting for you when you're alone at home. It should be more captivating than the unpredictability potential the nightlife offers. In all honesty, the embarassment might just come from the desire to avoid it all. Sometimes you need some discipline, some rest, some mental space.

When you're surrounded by millions of people, literally, you're surrounded by billions of opportunities. It can be exhausting just trying to analyze it all. When you're going to the bar, you could be crashing into your favorite director at a workshop somewhere else. When you're crunching some overtime in the office, you could be hitting on the love of your life in the coffee shop down the street. There is no right answer and it's enough to fall into the madness.

There is just a collision of two New York Cities. The grass is always greener on the other side whether you're two pints in at the bar or two pages in at home. 

You need to know your place. You're going to fear missing out every night because there is always something happening, thousands of things happening, every single night. You're not a victim if you don't want to be. Find the balance you need to get something done. 

You came to New York to experience yourself in New York. Now decide and conquer.

Bored of Being Overwhelmed

New York is a wonderful and awful place. There is such an abundance here no one wonders why it's called The City That Never Sleeps. I don't have to tell you there is always something to do. There are books written about it. And even then there is more. 

Boredom is unacceptable. Until you find boredom in being overwhelmed. There is so much it's too much. The glitz fades away and you're just left existing, in your little bubble. 

A number of open letters about New York have crossed my path recently, some disillusioned by New York and others praising it in unique ways. I took pleasure in reading them myself, if only because it is my current home. And, yes, New York is unique and it has style. It is unforgiving and memorable for an endless list of reasons. And just about anything you could say about it could be true. 

And somehow there is pressure just in existing here. It only started making sense when I went far enough away for long enough to appreciate other ways to live. 

It can't only be wild parties and drunken one-night stands. Sometimes we need to sleep. Or run home after work to attempt cooking dinner and reading for a bit. I like to crack my window so the breeze comes in while I write something like this.

The challenge is that New York tends to throw so many wrenches in the works. You have dreams, New York has plans. And parties. And events. There is so much that you need to stop and think for a minute. For yourself. What do you want from your surroundings? What are you willing to do?

After all, the late author David Foster Wallace said it beautifully - "[Learning how to think] means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to, and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.

Just because there is loads to offer doesn't mean you have to accept. You need to make some tough decisions that really aren't all that tough. Don't be fooled. You can strip away the bullshit for what really matters to you. 

I took a knife to some habits this week, thanks to an excellent Zenhabits article. I easily unsubscribed from a dozen mailing lists and social network updates. I started sending everything I really wanted to read to Pocket, a brilliant app, so I can binge on them when I had time to sit and absorb them completely. I've been training myself not to worry about the updates on my phone  as many thousands of times per day and training myself for my first 5K race. And, in the end, if you're not constantly distracted, what are you doing?

In Trust Me, I'm Lying, Ryan Holiday exposes the broken system of blogging today. And in wrapping up his long-view of the media landscape, he said this of modern reading diets: "When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information? Most readers have abandoned even pretending to consider this. I imagine it's because they're afraid of the answer: There isn't a thing we can do with it."

We're devouring a ton of information and experience and we're not quite sure why or if it's even good for us. New York is a test. The Internet is a test. Everything matters because of everything that does not. Only you can decide for yourself what you value of your spot right now.