I had been in New York a few months when I read an article, somewhere probably very reputable, that a woman in Manhattan can expect to be hit on about 10 times a day. She may have been waiting in line for a pretzel, browsing Barnes and Noble or even walking her dog, but whatever it was she would be hit on. While it is true that I have no desire to be hit on (being married and all) it did make me wonder (in a very Carrie Bradshaw kind of way) why did I have such a low hit rate?
And if I had stopped and listened very carefully I may have heard a small piece of my ego drop to the floor, bounce, and then roll into the shadows.
Ok, so that is a tad dramatic, but truth be told, after about 5 months in New York City my sense of self worth was a little battered and bruised. I am not exactly sure what it was that made me feel like I was a lesser human being to the one I was in Australia, but I do have some theories.
Small fish, big pond
So this isn’t a new concept. Being in New York City surrounded by so many people on the street, on the ‘2’ train, in Macy’s on Christmas eve (BTW don’t do it), in line to get a coffee at Joe’s, and on the job hunt, can make you feel more than a little inadequate. One of the many jobs I applied for received 184 applications – and no I didn’t get an interview. Also it isn’t just the number of people; it is the calibre of them. New York attracts some of the best minds and best talents in the world and it is hard not to compare yourself.
I hate to generalise, but I will. Americans (gotta love ‘em) are loud, have big personalities, are groomed to lack humility and, worst of all, have perfect, straight white (and occasionally glowing) teeth. Facing this on a day to day basis can make you feel more ‘Perth Bell Tower’ than ‘Empire State Building’, and can also make you question Australian dental care.
Living in one of the greatest cities in the world with more than its share of over-achievers, opportunities and excitement comes with a price – an unrelenting pressure. I am not sure if it came from within myself, from my jealous friends back home, or from that song ‘Empire State of Mind’ but in the beginning I always felt like I should be having an amazing time, doing amazing things and just generally being amazing, and all of this, all of the time (which I certainly wasn’t).
Rest assured, six months on, my ego has recovered, the purple has gone and it no longer hurts to the touch. I have embraced being average (hey, most of us are!) at the same time as daring not to be, I can sit on the couch watching back to back episodes of House Hunters International (at least it isn’t the Kardashians!) or reading something other than the New York Times without feeling inadequate, and I am working on losing some of my Australian humility. Also, I found that if I go down to Chelsea or the West Village on a Saturday night and wander around, I can significantly increase my hit rate.