This month marks 5 years since I hopped on a one-way flight with two suitcases to my new home, in the city that never sleeps. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I've been reading a book: Where will you be five years from today? It's really had me reflect on all I've experienced these past five years, and what the next five have in store. 

To say that the time has flown by, would be a slight exaggeration, however I honestly am in awe at how much time has actually passed. It's really allowed me to reflect on the trials, tribulations and triumphs I have experienced in this wonderful city-- and most of all, it has made me extremely grateful for all I have experienced.

Every single thing -- from losing my wallet, to being laid off, to looking for an apartment, to being homesick, to finding a new job, making friends, losing friends, heart break, to the dancers on the subway, I wouldn't take back a single thing. 

You see, when I set out on this journey, I knew two people. I wasn’t planning to stay for five years. I wasn’t really planning my future at all. I was only focused on the present: getting a job in sports and entertainment and then I'd figure out everything else along the way. 

Suddenly, five years passed -- and while this city has drove me crazy at times and there were days I called my mom sobbing and mornings I could hardly get out of bed, more than anything, thing I feel an immense amount of gratitude toward this city for helping me grow into who I am today. It’s become part of my identity, and has been worth all the struggles that come along with it.

While living in New York isn’t easy by any means, I believe that if you can last here long enough so it feels like home, you can look around and marvel at how far you’ve come, and the city will pay you back for all it put you through — and more. Here are five lessons I’ve learned from the big city about work, love, and life in general.

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1. Do what you love! Figure the rest out later.

When I left home, plenty of people thought I was making a mistake (including my parents, although they would likely deny it today). I had a good job working at Google, but I was unfulfilled. I knew deep down, I wanted to work in Sports and that I wanted more out of life. I desired a career I loved and to experience something new and different. 

New York, definitely gave me WAY more than what I bargained for, but I know without a doubt that the trajectory of my career, my views on the world, politics, people and life in general has grown exponentially more than they would have, if I had stayed in Texas where I was more comfortable.

I am now living a life that I love because I created it to resemble my passions. From my job, to this blog,  New York taught me to always do what I love. Being surrounded by so many people doing the same doesn't hurt. NYC has definitely introduced me to some amazing people and entrepreneurs that show me everyday that it's possible to do what you love as long as you have the drive to pursue it.

2. Network, Network, Network

New York can be very lonely, if you're note careful. You’d think that because New York City is so crowded, it would be impossible to feel lonely but at times I've felt the loneliest, in spite of constantly being surrounded by people.

Personally, I’ve learned that networking is essential to both my professional and social life. While, it's expensive to eat out and meet up for dinner multiple nights per week, networking events and meeting people for coffee is a creative way to make sure you are getting the much need social time, while creating friendships and hopefully forging new business relationships if you're lucky.

It's crazy to me that I moved here knowing two people, and now I literally know hundreds. Since being here, I've been able to connect with people, be presented with job and businesss opportunities, speaking engagements, non profit and volunteering endeavors, you name it. 

In New York, the opportunity to network is endless if you are willing to break out of your shell and make the connections.

3. Be Open to Others Differences

In New York City you can find people from all over the world and from all walks of life. And everyone has a story (debatable on which ones are real or not). But regardless, the diversity in this city is what I feel makes it so great. I've met people from various backgrounds, countries, cultures, and religions. Some I've never even heard of, and it's been a game-changer for my own personal growth.

Growing up, I didn't realize how much I had been sheltered from. I don't think it was all intentional, however I do believe it was very narrow. Being in New York City, I feel like I have a new appreciation for things different than me, because I've learned so much from others. Similar to the same feeling/awareness that I experience when traveling outside the country, New York is its own little hub of awesome people and experiences. 

When I came here five years ago, I was in awe and willing to learn. After some self discovery and reflection, I think I've helped shape a more well rounded view of the world and I'm a better, more educated person because of it.

4.  You have to be able to stand on your own.

Living in New York has taught me that nothing in life is guaranteed and you’ve got to be able stand on your own two feet. It may sound cynical, but I’ve learned you can’t necessarily expect anyone—a boss, a friend, a building superintendent—to be there for you.

At one job, I was called in a room with eight other people and they let the entire room go, and had a police escort us out the building. Talk about RUDE! This was the second time in my first year in NYC, that I had gone unemployed but first time I had been "let go".

I definitely had fears this would be the nail in the coffin that would send me back to Texas, but luckily God had other plans. I've been blessed to not experience it again since I've moved here, however in 5 years, I've seen two of my bosses get fired. At another job, I had a handful of close friends get laid off, which while it didn't effect my income, it definitely impacted my day-to-day. We get in these routines with our coworkers, so when they are suddenly gone, it's definitely jarringn and can effect how much you enjoy a job with some of my "work besties" no longer there. At another job, I left right before a huge round of layoffs. It's a cold world, but nobody cares. 

My landlord doesn't care that I lost my job. The person on the subway doesn't care that you're having a bad day. And your boss had to struggle to, so they are just as ready to say, thank you but no thank you! At the end of the day, no matter how many times I got knocked down, I was able to stand on my own (eventually).

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5. Expect the unexpected (and Save $$ for it)

You know that layoff I was just telling you about. I definitely didn't walk into work expecting it. Thankfully, I had some money saved up to help me the two months I was unemployed. However, it wasn't hardly enough. If I had went another two weeks without a job, I would have been screwed. 

You know what else I didn't expect? To owe $2,000 in taxes after I got laid off. I also didn't expect to come home from a trip to Thailand and the apartment above me to have leaked for two days straight because they were also out of town. Or the time I was locked outside of my apartment and had to call a locksmith, or the time I lost my wallet, the day before I had a trip planned out of the country. (Thankfully, someone used my business card inside to contact me after I left it on the subway -- there are good people in this city.) 

I didn't expect to be ripped off, the countless times I have been smh. I also didn't expect for my metro card to inflate (it used to be $110.50 when I first moved here, it's now $121, because NYC decided to.  Or for the toll to be $40 when I had Uhaul when I was moving into my apartment. But it happened, and I was ready-ish.

But at the end of the day, I've survived. Thanks to my ability to always put away something for emergencies.

6. (*BONUS) If You Can Make It Here, You Can Make It Anywhere

JayZ said it best -- this place truly is the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of". If you embrace it, this city will allow you every opportunity to chase your dreams, to explore, to push the boundaries, to laugh, to love, to grow up, and to act younger than your age. New York will raise you up and it will knock you down. And in the end, what they say is true…if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. 

I've never felt so empowered, capable, and confident in my life than I do in New York City. Literally everything I could think of, I've either seen, faced, or encountered during my time in NYC.  

Cheers to the next 5 years and whatever the future holds!