“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad
If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?”
– “If It Makes You Happy”
Everyone who spends time with me, especially during the winter months, knows one thing. I am a native New Yorker, but I don’t love New York.
There, I said it.
I should feel guilty about that, right? After all, don’t people dream of living here? Come here with nothing but a bus ticket and a dream? Or is that a movie plot from Lifetime …
Either way, it turns out that I’m not the only one who isn’t in an “Empire State of Mind” – in a recent state-by-state study of happiness, New Yorkers came in last. Dead last. As this NYT article so eloquently states, “If there were a National Happy League, we’d be the New Jersey Nets. We’re No. 51 out of 51.”
Here’s a bit of methodology: “One was a survey of 1.3 million Americans done over four years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which asked people about their health and how satisfied they were with their lives. Those self-assessments … included state-by-state variances on quality-of-life gauges like climate, taxes, cost of living, commuting times, crime rates and schools … people knew what they were talking about when they said if they were happy or not. Americans who described themselves as satisfied tended to live in places where the quality of life was good by most standards — where the sun shone a lot, the air was reasonably clear, housing didn’t leave you busted, traffic wasn’t too fierce and so on.”
I would love to have answered these questions. Let’s see – the East Side air quality isn’t so good, so I shouldn’t be running outdoors. But a gym membership will knock me back at least $70/month on my already beyond overstretched budget. Climate? 2009 was awesome. It rained the entire month of June and we had a blizzard the other day. Cost of living? Not only insane, but we are conditioned to rationalize that its totally worth $2K in rent for a one bedroom apartment because it has a dishwasher. Commuting times? Well, let see. The MTA’s doomsday budget eliminates one of the two trains that I can take into the City, beginning this summer.
Okay. So I am being really Debbie Downer. I get it.
Last week, there was this awesome post on Gawker touting the new issue of New York, which included everyone’s favorite annual treat,”Reasons to Love New York.” As Gawker so rightfully states, “an exercise in NYC boosterism which we must grudgingly salute, ourselves being sometimes given over to that overwhelmed feeling of ‘why the f*ck am I here’—a feeling which is probably most effectively addressed by making just such a list. (Because there are so many reasons!)” My personal favorite is #43 – Because We Keep Digging. Good news, folks, in 2017 there will be an East Side subway line and you will no longer be forced to ride the 6 train at 7 a.m. with your face lodged in a fellow commuter’s (or crackhead’s) armpit.
And to continue giving credit where credit is due, I love Gawker’s take on this study. “Research Question: Why are New Yorkers miserable? Hypothesis: Because New York is not a pleasant place to live.” And even better, the last line – “Although this entire line of inquiry is based on the false assumption that New Yorkers give a sh*t about being happy.”
I think that about sums up what makes me unhappiest about New York – even more so than the weather, commuting or the rent on my apartment.
It’s the attitude that you develop when you’re here. Just like that, you don’t care anymore. You get irritated every morning in the 59th Street subway station when people surreptitiously “merge” in line for the escalator, rather than waiting in line. You can’t walk at a leisurely pace – leisurely here is considered speedwalking in any other place. You hate when people order or pay slowly, even when you have nowhere to be. You forget how to smile. Because quite frankly, smiling at strangers is just flat out creepy. People get away with it in other places. I think I did it in San Diego. I don’t think I creeped anyone out. (Maybe.)
So what does it all mean? Who really is happy? According to this study, “People in sunny, outdoorsy states – Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida …” Louisiana? Seriously? I think they are mostly overweight, too. Hawaii? I can believe that. They also pay about $16 for a gallon of gas. Florida? You have to escape New York to move to a sunnier (and more humid) version of it and suddenly everything is okay?
Everyone who knows me well knows that I always wanted to live in California. Put quite simply, it is my happy place.
Interestingly enough, it ranked 46th in the study. Why?
“Many people think these states would be marvelous places to live in. The problem is that if too many individuals think that way, they move into those states, and the resulting congestion and house prices make it a non-fulfilling prophecy.”
So, I-love-New-Yorkers, what makes you happy in a place that does everything in its power to make you miserable? Is it the ability to get food delivered at any hour, even in a blizzard? Is it the fact that anywhere else you go, NY’s version of “it” (museum, restaurant, theate) is simply better? Is it the feeling you get when the Yankees won the World Series this year, when you hear “New York, New York” that even when you don’t love New York, you’re proud of it?
You tell me.
“If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere”
– “New York, New York”