I read this article by Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal a week ago, “NYC is No. 1 Forever(ish)”. Gay states that New Yorkers compete on every level possible: careers, apartments, public transportation, sidewalks, real estate open houses, exercise, dining out and vacations. I was a little upset when he decided to use the Mets as his example of non-competitive New Yorkers, but then I decided he must be a Yankees fan (He’s a Sports Columnist for the WSJ. My quick internet research proved inconclusive as to which NY baseball team he roots for. Perhaps he has to be unbiased).
My first reaction was, “I don’t compete with anyone but myself,” and busied myself with other things. Over the next few days I couldn’t stop wondering though if I compete with other New Yorkers.
I know that I am not competing against anyone but me in the career department. Maybe I should be more aggressive and get out there make my mark in the contemporary art world! My 13 years in an art gallery have been in fields where you’re not trying to impress your neighbors with your art collection. Old Master and Modern print collectors and African art collectors are a secretive, strange bunch. They are fascinating people though because they are driven by their desire to collect, sometimes for reasons we never understand, and be true connoisseurs.
My apartment will never be featured in Elle Decor or Architectural Digest. I can’t afford to go to real estate open houses.
Public transportation and sidewalks are another issue. I rarely lollygag. I walk with purpose from point A to B. I usually know my destination and how I will get there. If I’m in the company of other people and it’s a day off maybe there is cause to walk aimlessly down the street. I find that certain crowded sidewalks are no place to amble. I get frustrated with the people who are ambling down the sidewalk oblivious to others. There are too many people to be inconsiderate around here! Pay attention! In trying to avoid these types of people I often race down the sidewalk trying to get as far from other people as possible. Competitive on the sidewalks and public transportation? Check. Check.
How little I may have accomplished really became clear when I attended my sister’s graduation from NYU. Since NYU has several undergraduate schools, they conduct individual ceremonies. There is one big shebang at Yankee Stadium where all NYU undergraduates may attend.
The Gallatin School of individualized Study held their graduation at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. It was long and tedious with numerous awards given to overachieving kids. I applauded loudly for them, and felt pathetic. Most of the kids have started non-profit this, outreach that, built a rocket, learned 25 languages, saved an almost extinct civilization. It was the same when I was in college though. There were a lot of kids who were focused and knew what they wanted to do. Me, I’m still trying to figure it out, and today, that’s okay.
This brings up lists. Since we are immersed in new information constantly there seems to be a need to collate chunks of information into digestible lists: “The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012,” “30 Under 30,” “16 New York Restaurants with Tricked-Out Grills.” No wonder people compete. Why am I not one of the best Twitter feeds of 2012? I only have until 30 to accomplish something outstanding? 16 restaurants with tricked-out grills? MUST GO NOW!!
It’s exhausting. It’s already challenging making all my dreams come true, so to worry about everyone else’s and how mine stack up? I’m going to sit this one out. I choose to work on myself and try to take vacations when possible so that New York’s competitiveness doesn’t lead me to lash out. I do lash out though. Not at people directly, not yet. I just complain to my friends like everyone else.
Gay is right though. There are people running around this city that want to be the very best at everything. Good for them. I hope they sleep well at night.