In 2007, I left a fairly comfortable life in Boulder, Colorado to move to New York City.
I was a 23-year-old probation officer, partially scared out of my mind, running away from heartache, searching for adventure, new experiences, knowledge. I had found myself in a position of responsibility and power I wasn’t sure I was ready for, so I packed two bags and left.
Manhattan has taught me many things. She has become and will forever be a symbol of hustle, grit, resilience and home. Her unpredictability and continual excitement is like fish bait, hooking you in such a way that despite sweaty, smelling, oppressive summers and exorbitant rent bills, you never find the perfect time to leave.
Most New Yorkers develop a love/hate relationship with her, one moment bragging about some hidden speakeasy and then whining about unreliable public transportation the next.
Her urban hardness and kindness have frustrated me, inspired me and challenged me in ways I could have never imagined. She’s given me a lofty master’s degree, a wad of debt, a new career, a host of new friends and stories for dinner parties to last a lifetime.
She’s become a catalyst for personal and professional growth.
As I look back on that initial moment of departure, the simultaneous sadness that comes from walking away from familiar routine and the excitement of stepping into the unknown, I am filled with deep gratitude. All of the lessons that come with relocation and discovery—the shaking and baking and making it work; the thrashing your way into a new life, new career opportunities, new relationships, new home; embracing each step of change along the way—are worth every ounce of fear and discomfort and flexibility required.
I’m sharing some of the things I’ve learned, hoping it inspires someone else to take a risk, make a jump or simply appreciate the little things today:
1. Walk as fast as you want, you won’t get anywhere without considering those around you.
2. On your worst day, something (or someone) will surprise you and show you kindness.
3. On your best day, something (or someone) will knock you down, humble you or disappoint you.
4. There’s always someone better than you.
5. There’s always someone with less than you.
6. A smile can disarm anyone.
7. You’ll only be happy if you’re true to yourself.
8. The company you keep will help define you.
9. You have the ability to reinvent yourself. Every day.
10. Most of the limits you see are created in your own mind. Sprint past them when possible and refuse to get in your own way.
11. Relationships take work.
12. There really is someone for everyone.
13. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. Look for this beauty in everyone you meet.
14. Set aside time to nurture those who are important to you.
15. Communities are essential. Find one aligned with your interests.
16. Learn how to set boundaries and take care of yourself.
18. You can view each day as a battlefield or a marvelous adventure. You have a choice.
19. There is always more money to be earned. Learn to be content with what you have.
20. You probably have more than you need.
21. Find something to be grateful for every day, no matter how small it seems.
22. You will be tested. Eventually, you will realize you are capable of much more than you think.
23. Grocery stores don’t need to accommodate small cars. People get along just fine with hand baskets.
24. It doesn’t matter what it looks like or how many square feet it is, home is where the heart is.
25. Movie stars are people, too.
26. You can put your body through some really grueling activities. It’s capable of amazing things. Respect it.
27. Be kind to yourself. This kindness will radiate towards others.
28. Get a bike. And get a damn good lock. If you don’t have a good lock, carry your front tire with you.
29. It doesn’t matter how cute your shoes are, they’d better be comfortable, durable and ready for a sprint across the street.
30. The outdoors are closer than you think. Don’t neglect blue skies and trees.
31. There is no reason to eat shitty food.
32. Challenge yourself to find something new. Try new things regularly.
33. Refuse to settle.
34. There are plenty of jobs. If you don’t like the one you have, life is too short to waste another day.
35. Be open—to possibilities, different opinions, new ideas, different beliefs, new opportunities. If you are willing, your world will explode with options.
36. Everyone is creative. Express it in your own way.
37. You really can create the life you want.
Michelle Welsch is the founder and CEO of Project Exponential, a series of curated networking events that encourage authentic conversation and meaningful connection among industry leaders and creative professionals. Her signature dinner events have resulted in new business partnerships, client leads and lasting relationships. Before immersing herself in the tech and startup world, Michelle was a probation officer in Boulder, Colorado and worked in a variety of therapeutic settings. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University, a psychology degree from the University of Colorado and is a New York State Licensed Masters Social Worker. Learn more about Michelle at her website.
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Asst. Ed: Amy Cushing/Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photos by Michelle Welsch