Have you heard about the recent study that ranked states by how happy their residents are? Well, New York came in last. The reasons why people were happy or not weren’t a part of the study, so I’ve been contemplating why New Yorkers are the least happy people. Just like Carrie Bradshaw, I am dating New York and thus feel the need to defend my boyfriend.
In his profound Here is New York, E.B. White explains that this city consists of three types of people. There are the lifelong residents who have shaped the history of their neighborhoods. There are the commuters who bring a sense of ebb and flow. And then there is a third group, to which I belong. These are the people who come to New York in search of something, usually to live their ideal lives. These are the dreamers, the creators, the visionaries, the light that makes the energy of the city shine. I came here to achieve my dreams and immerse myself in a type of energy I knew I wouldn’t find anywhere else. And I am not alone.
So then why are we unhappy? First of all, the study was conducted by state, so we’re not sure how New York City residents would rank as a separate group. There are some obvious reasons why people living here are sad – poverty, homelessness, health issues, unemployment, crowding, noise pollution. But there are some other issues that get less attention. Focusing on my group of dreamers, those of us who’ve worked so hard to be here, I can think of some factors detracting from our happiness.
1. Excessive expectations. We have extremely high ambitions. There’s so much we want to achieve, so much more we want to do with our lives. It usually feels like as soon as I achieve one goal, I’m already focused on the next three. I don’t take the time to appreciate what I’ve just accomplished. Since we want so much more, we are often disappointed. Which is ridiculous because we are achieving many great things – it just takes time to achieve them. In this blog post I wrote last year, I mentioned that it’s possible to quantify happiness with this equation: Happiness = Reality / Expectation. Our expectations far exceed the reality of our present state. Yeah, we’re an impatient bunch.
2. Single life. Studies have shown that people who are married live longer than people who remain single. Being married means (or should mean) that you have a steady support system, which decreases anxiety levels, which decreases risk of heart disease and other ailments. The thing is, this city is filled with single people. It’s typical to be in your 30s or 40s and living more like you’re in your 20s. I get the feeling that if I were living anywhere else as a single woman in her 30s, I might stand out as unusual. Not here.
3. Financial anxiety. There’s a lot to worry about anywhere, but New York is particularly challenging. Rents are outrageous. Landlords can get away with charging $3,400 for an average one-bedroom apartment (that’s in dollars per month, by the way) because the demand is so high. As ridiculous as that amount sounds, there’s always some finance guy or doctor parents that will pay. Rents aren’t the only financial atrocities; even things like detergent and toothpaste are too expensive. But it’s not like we can drive our cars to Costco or wherever and buy things cheaply in bulk and store them in our closets. We don’t have cars. Or closet space.
Despite its challenges, I love it here. And I’m surrounded by people who feel the same way. If you are one of them or are thinking about making a life for yourself here, my advice is to follow your passion. Don’t let the happy states list discourage you. It’s the dreamers who make this city the most amazing place ever. The dreamers know that anything is possible.