8 Vital Life Lessons I Learned While Living in New York City

*This article was originally posted on 20some.com.

This past summer, I fell in love.

No, it wasn’t with the cute boy I met on the corner of 4th Street and Lafayette or the hottie from my office that I always chatted up while sneaking another afternoon snack. I fell in love with the city that never sleeps — New York City.

This past June, I joined the throngs of ramen noodle-consuming interns who invaded New York City, ready to immerse themselves in the city’s culture all in the name of some good ol’ unpaid bitch work. It was finally my time to take a bite of the Big Apple — and man, did I bite that sucker to the core.

Among the hustle and bustle, I was struck with super useful life lessons, and it wasn’t until I let this summer’s experience truly sink in that I fully learned these lessons. Whether they came to me while I was waiting in line for greasy $1 pizza or people watching in Times Square at 3 a.m., these golden nuggets of wisdom are worthwhile for anyone with dreams of living in a new city.

1. Keep your mind on your money and money on your mind
Ludacris and Snoop Dogg said it best. There’s no denying that NYC isn’t exactly friendly on the wallet. Heck, my wallet was practically begging for mercy at the end of my summer, but the hole I burned in it would’ve been 10 times worse if it weren’t for my handy dandy budgeting app. Being able to see that I had already spent most of my weekly budget by Thursday made me realize I had to say no to that second drink at happy hour.


2. It’s possible to live without a microwave
Living in a dorm this summer meant giving up my ability to quickly heat up Chinese food leftovers. At first, I had a total case of #FirstWorldProblems, but then I used my noggin to figure out that all it takes is a pan, a dash of water, and medium stove heat to make that leftover sesame chicken and white rice taste as good as new.

3. Look up every once in a while, why don’t ya?
Weekly neck massages were much needed for this gal because of the fact that I constantly walked around staring up at the buildings around me. Whether you’ve been living in NYC your whole life or are just visiting for a weekend, the concrete jungle is like no other city around. So take a moment to look up at those skyscrapers every now and then and realize that you’re in the best city on earth.

4. The best form of transportation? The Heel & Toe Express
Although it’s tempting to hop in a cab or take the subway everywhere, I encourage you to take advantage of walking the streets instead. I wouldn’t have discovered half of the quirky thrift shops or hidden coffee shops that I frequented this summer if it weren’t for the fact that I walked everywhere within reason. Instead of spending that $2.75 on a metro ride, save it up for more important things… like a bottle of pinot.

idk this place is iiiight I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A post shared by Victoria Messina (@vicmessina) on

5. Believe in yourself
When I first arrived in the city, I didn’t think I was worthy enough to walk the streets alongside the thousands of tech startup founders, Instagram-famous bloggers, and runway-worthy models. But after one week, my mindset changed when I realized I had no choice but to be confident. My internship required me to take on some pretty big tasks right off the bat, from interviewing a YouTube-famous girl band to talking to Aziz Ansari about his new book. I forced myself to believe I was worthy and capable, and it paid off because my published work turned out pretty dope.

6. Go ahead — photo bomb a picture every now and then
This may sound like a strange lesson, but one of my major summer friendships came about when I was actin’ a fool and decided to awkwardly lean into the background of a random group photo on the subway. When the “victims” of my double chin photo bomb realized what I did, they thought it was hilarious and I ended up swapping phone numbers with one of the photo bombed guys. We became good friends over champagne bottles and endless Friday nights spent at Avenue nightclub.

7. Bagels are actually their own food group… or at least they should be
Who needs love at first sight when you can have love at first bite? Seriously, every single bagel in that city is baked to perfection. My obsession with bagels became so serious that my friends started tagging me in random Instagrams about them because I posted so many photos of them. And I’ll admit to eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a few occasions because they’re just so darn cheap.

Mondaze, man. #baegel

A post shared by Victoria Messina (@vicmessina) on

8. Take advantage of your surroundings — make connections and explore the sh** out of everything
I’m that gal who will stay up until 3 a.m. and then wake up at 8 a.m. when I’m on vacation just so I can squeeze in as many rad new experiences as possible. Instead of Netflix n’ chillin’ on my days off from interning, I was wandering through new neighborhoods or meeting magazine editors for a cup o’ joe to chat about their jobs in hopes of making connections for the future. Though it was nerve-wracking to meet InStyle’s assistant editor at Le Pain Quotidien, I managed to have an actual conversation with her despite the fact that my hands were shaking as I lifted my $4 latte to my lips.

Though NYC’s subways are comparable to sardine cans and a stroll through Times Square is reminiscent of competing in real life “Hunger Games,” one thing is for sure: I’ve been bitten by the New York bug. And it’s one disease that I don’t want to be cured of any time soon. Thanks for the memories, NYC… I’ll be back for ya soon enough.


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