Does jumping turnstiles in the subway, jaywalking across Broadway, eating 99 cent pizza in Midtown, sunbathing in Central Park, going to a Yankees game, and doing dozens of other NYC-centric things make anyone a New Yorker? I’m not sure becoming a New Yorker is so cut and dry.
Among the many emails that have flooded my inbox, I received a message from a young graduate student working on a project at the School of Visual Arts. Allison Braund has set out to discover what it means to be a true New Yorker, and if she can seize the title in a few months. Currently, she’s getting her masters degree in branding, and learning how to create a brand from scratch. Her self-branding project involves exploring a subject for 100 days, and she chose New York because of the number of people from different places living in the city. She’s most interested in figuring out which moment makes one say, “Oh, wow! I feel like a real New Yorker now.”
Halfway through the project, she reached out to see if I had any suggestions because she’s had a hard time capturing that feeling. The project, titled “Becoming a New Yorker” piqued my interest and has encouraged me to think more about this subject.
When I was new to blogging in 2011, I wrote a post and I considered this very thought. Many diehard New Yorkers will stick to the ten-year rule – you’re not a New Yorker unless you’ve lived in the city for a decade or more. Others say you’re a New Yorker when you don’t have to get out of the city because it’s too intense, too loud, too crowded, or too much of anything.
I think becoming a New Yorker doesn’t happen with one thing or ten things you do in NYC. Achieving that status requires much more, and I’m not sure that eating a bagel, living in a walk-up apartment, or dressing in a certain style makes anyone belong to this city. In my belief, you’re either a New Yorker or you’re not. Some people don’t live in NYC but are New Yorkers at heart. Others live in the city, but their hearts aren’t in New York. Rather, they prefer to be somewhere else.
I’ve lived in NYC for eight years, but I’ve been a New Yorker since I set foot in Manhattan at the age of 12. I always felt a sense of belonging here, that New York had carved out a special place for me, no matter how small or insignificant to the millions of others, it was my place. My home. I think many people who come to the city and call it home might feel that same sense of belonging.
In my opinion, being a New Yorker is a state of mind – an attitude, a passion, a love. New Yorkers adore their city and wouldn’t live anywhere else. Sometimes they leave, only to return to the city with a clearer, more accurate perspective and a deeper appreciation for all the city is and can be.
New Yorkers are incredibly loyal to their town and defend its honor and integrity. They feel that they live in the center of the universe and it’s theirs because the city is just that.
New Yorkers are tough, yet compassionate.
New Yorkers are fierce –– they work hard and keep working until they reach their goals. They possess unstoppable energy, which is why the city is incredibly frenetic yet inspiring.
New Yorkers are tolerant and accepting, yet guarded, until they know someone and earn their trust.
New Yorkers have each other’s backs. They’re in this crazy life together.
New Yorkers are every age and every demographic. Some speak perfect English, and some speak six other languages. Some are native, some hail from across the globe, and some have lived in the city so long that they’ve forgotten where they came from.
New Yorkers work in the arts, finance, and restaurants. Some are wealthy, and some make minimum wage. Some live in rent-stabilized apartments, and others in multi-million dollar penthouses.
New Yorkers know how to live their lives to the fullest in the city, and get the most out of the city that is theirs, and that magnificent city, the city New Yorkers love, is different for each and every individual.
What is a New Yorker to you? No matter where I live or what life throws my way, I’ll always be a New Yorker.
When did becoming a New Yorker happen for you? I’d love to know in the comments.
Photos in the post by James Maher Photography.