Thursday, 4 January 2018


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You've changed is usually considered an insult, right? But let's be real, if the aim is to morph into our best self, change is essential. Living in New York for a year did change me. Here's how I'm different post-NYC, and how you could be to...

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Photos by Kaye of Fordtography

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1. You'll develop thicker skin

There's no way you can live in New York for more than a few months and not develop thicker skin. When the going gets tough there - and boy does it - every day becomes a test of your mental strength. That sounds extreme, but New York is an extreme kind of place.

Whenever someone asks me about life in New York, I always stress that there are good and bad days. It may sound redundant, but hear me out. The good days are no short of f*cking fantastic. You're taking on the capital of the world, and killing it. On the flipside, there are the bad days. Now you'll find that everything is a struggle and you miss home and you just want to stay in bed but you can't because you have to survive NYC which means hustling every day which means always being busy and and and... you get me.

It may be mostly concrete and buildings, but there are no shades of grey in this city: it's the best time of your life or the worst, it's black and white. As you survive the down days - the rejection, the ghosting, the days when you want to take a break but can't afford to - you'll naturally build thicker skin. Eventually, job rejections won't sting as much. In fact, you'll be grateful that they bothered to reply at all (more about NYC ghosting)! And even when external events do affect your mental state, you'll find that you've developed an ability to self-sooth. The city may wear you down, but it can't break you!

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Jumper: Topshop | Leggings: Primark/Penneys | Jacket: Vintage

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2. You'll become more cynical

This, along with all my points, is relative. I was not an overly cynical person before, and I don't think I am today. However, there's no doubt that I just... trust people a little less since New York. Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of people I met in New York were friendly and supportive, especially my employers. But after being ghosted by so many, and after one particularly bad experience, it's probably sensible to be slightly more weary. I've heard enough New York horror stories to assure me that there are a lot of untrustworthy people at play, so live there long enough and you'll likely encounter a few.

There are a number of reasons why I've never shared my own story here before - even though I desperately wanted to mention said "employer" in this post. But now that I've moved home, I'm in a position to divulge some more information, so here we go: I worked for an entrepreneur for over a month, in person for a couple of hours a week, and from home too. They seemed friendly enough, and the business seemed legitimate, so I wasn't really concerned about getting my paycheck at the end of it all, I presumed it was a given. However, warning flags started flying when they constantly belittled the work I did, saying they couldn't use any of it. At one point they said they wouldn't pay me for what they couldn't use. Finally, it transpired (read: I copped on) that they had no plans to pay me at all.

It was the beginning of my time in New York, I was inexperienced at freelance life. I had not asked the entrepreneur to sign a contract, it didn't even occur to me that this was a done thing. Because there was no contract, because the person completely ghosted me, and because they worked at coworking space at unpredictable hours, there wasn't much I could do to rectify the situation. I was appalled at my own naivety, at the fact I blindly trusted someone in such a big city. Now, though, I'm almost grateful for the encounter. I know it's a mistake I'll never make again. So thank you New York, for that horrible experience. I've learnt from it.

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Image of Claire Petersen in DUMBO

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3. You'll become more ambitious

People from around the world come to New York to make it. Entrepreneurs, creatives, executives... they all flock to the city because they're either already on top or have plans to get there. Why else would you decide to live in such an expensive and stressful city?

I've always been somewhat ambitious, but spending my formative years in rural Ireland forced a cap on that ambition. Moving to New York blew that right off. People all around you are achieving their dreams here. Admittedly, there are plenty of people failing too, but they are so motivated and aiming so high that you know - or at least hope - they are going to bounce back.

Spend some time in New York, and you just may find yourself ditching your goal to open a coffee shop, and replacing it with an ambition to build the next Starbucks. Everything's bigger in the Big Apple, and that includes your dreams.

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Claire Petersen in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New YorkClaire Petersen in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York Page Divider

For better or for worse, New York changed me. If you've ever lived to New York I'd love to hear your thoughts! Or perhaps you're planning on moving there. Let me know and we can have a chat in the comments!

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