I am born and raised in New York, the borough of Queens to be exact. While Queens was not as chaotic as Manhattan, I still consider my upbringing to be Urban. We played Manhunt in the street, we ran through sprinklers on the concrete, and backyards were foreign lands. As kids, we lived off the main avenue so we saw all types of things we probably shouldn’t have. Everything felt normal to me as a child because I was protected. I had an active father and a cousin living with us who would rid us of any bad thing or person if needed. I felt untouchable. However, as I got older things started to happen that made me a lot more self-aware.
The big turning point for me was September 11, 2001. I was in the 7th grade and thankfully home from school that day. I remember sleeping in and being woken by my father to let me know that the world was changed as we knew it. Two planes had driven into the Twin Towers and the entire United States watched as New York City burned. For the first time in my life, I felt fear in my home. Regardless of how big and strong the men in my family were, no one was going to fight this. We were officially overpowered and processing that at 12 years old felt impossible. We all slept in my parents’ bedroom that night, I laid awake staring at the ceiling because there was no distraction available that was going to change that day. Fast forward to present day and I’ve traveled the same path so many did that day for almost ten years now. Each day I’ve worked in Manhattan, I’ve always carried that in the back of my mind.
Living in a big city with popular landmarks, overcrowding, and some of the best tourist cultures will always make you susceptible to danger and it’s a fact that I’ve come to terms with. Traveling in this city can sometimes feel like you’re navigating the most dangerous of places but it can also feel like the biggest playhouse. It’s all about point of view. A lot of times I find myself wrapped up in the negative. It’s easy to feel that with the news and social media on a nonstop loop. It produces a case of the ‘what ifs’ and keeps me trapped in my mind with worry. The solution isn’t consistent enough for me to really produce one for anyone. Some days I’m above the worry and other days, I feel consumed by it making traveling on the trains and busses feel like a weight on me.
Does anyone else feel this in a major city? Or even smaller suburb areas? I hate to downplay New York because it gets a bad rap already but the truth is inevitable. As someone who suffers from anxiety living in a city like mine can be very scary and nerve-wracking. I’d love to hear some feedback on other cities and how people deal with their fears.
I began my full-time work life in August 2010. College didn’t work out for me so I took a job as a receptionist in an allergist’s office in Midtown, Manhattan. Younger me was excited for her first taste of real money, independence, and a new venture. After 15 years in school and living to impress my parents and teachers, I was finally able to get a taste of what it would be like to impress myself. I had zero ideas that I was about to embark on one of the most character building journeys of my life.
I have never fit into the standard description of what society paints a female. I am not dainty, I am not delicate, and I definitely have no clue about fashion. I have self-proclaimed “resting bitch face” so working as a receptionist felt impossible. I quickly realized that the standards for the working woman were higher than I could have ever anticipated. I came to the table with a solid education, an ability to pay attention and quickly learn, and a small amount of people skills. This felt like enough of a starting point but it wasn’t. As a woman in the workplace, you are required to smile, required to dress the part, required to act the part. The world has a laundry list of standards it expects you to abide by and I was in over my head. I began looking for validation once again only this time in my bosses and colleagues. I started drowning in the sea of standards once again.
My anxiety grew in a professional setting. I started to develop deeply rooted insecurities. An array of questions flashed through my mind every day. Am I pretty enough? Do I smile enough? Am I smart enough? Despite, how inappropriate the scenario, I’ve had a boss flat out tell me that she does not like me as a reason to let me go. I began to live in a cloud of second guessing myself which made working in general hard. It’s been an uphill battle of wondering if I’m enough. After six jobs, I finally started to realize that I wasn’t going to find it in the position or the authority over me, but rather in me and the set of standards I would set for myself.
While I don’t fully agree with the set of standards women in working environments need to uphold, I do understand them and try to abide by them. However all standards aside I’ve learned that you cannot find the value in anyone’s opinion of your depiction of said standards, you have to set them yourself. I’ve had a messy journey navigating what’s right and what’s not right for me in a professional setting. I have seen, heard, and felt anxiety and nerves in the last 10 years but I am happy to say I’m better for it now. Every critique, constructive or not has shaped me. I am forever a work in progress but the lessons learned have allowed me to shape my own standards and not live for anyone else’s. You spend a large portion of your day at work so it should be an environment where you can flourish and learn.
Ultimately, you have to make your own decisions in every aspect of your life. You have to decide what works and what doesn’t and make the necessary changes for success. Jobs are not permanent. They can be changed, careers can be rerouted but self-love is forever.