"If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." Does this phrase stir youthful ambition in your chest? Then don't move to New York City, because it's a savage catch-22. If you can make it here, anywhere else will move in slow motion. Of course you could make it there -- you just won't want to, because after living in NYC, any other place is second best. The buildings are smaller, the food is worse, and the bars aren't open as late. In other cities, "downtown" lacks a corresponding "uptown" and the subway either doesn't exist, or is dreadfully limited. New York poisons your vision, making the rest of the country seem like the minor leagues.
The money is too good to walk away from, so don't move here if you don't want to get trapped chasing it. While you'll never have quite enough of it to live comfortably within city limits, you'll probably never have enough to leave, either. If the idea of hustling your ass off sounds like a foolish way to spend your time, stay where you are. Find an office park, lease a sports sedan, and drive it there. You'll be much happier.
In NYC, youthful optimism is a liability.
Don't move to New York City if you've just broken up with your college sweetheart. This place doesn't give a shit that your friends told you that "you should really enjoy being single in NYC for a few years." Dating constantly, hooking up randomly, rarely connecting emotionally: this is being single in New York. The city will demand that you identify your emotions instead of hiding from them in doomed relationships. If that sounds like too much self-examination, too much work, NYC is not for you.
Nothing can isolate you the way NYC can. You're surrounded by 8.5 million people who don't know you exist. They'll live their entire lives not knowing, and they won't care. You'll move here, and you will Instagram the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. Strangers will swirl around you in a well-dressed herd. Are you afraid of being alone? Of course you are. Do you have the guts to make new friends? Who knows -- but if you'd rather not find out, you won't enjoy living in New York.
Did you grow up seeing gritty crime dramas, reading manic novels, and listening to soaring anthems to this glittering dystopia? Don't move to NYC. The lows here plunge lower than the English language has words. No literary epiphany will deus ex machina your narrative back onto the rails after NYC throws its wrench into the works. If your life plan is not open to constant line-by-line revisions, New York City is not a good fit for you.
Don't move to New York City if you know your comfort zone. It will be shattered, and shattered again, by the smell of Chinatown garbage mountains broiling in August heat, or by the anxiety that courses through your skull while you scrabble from payday to payday in a booze-rinsed haze, or by the terrifying frankness of wanting to kill -- to literally murder, at least for a moment -- every last one of the jackasses who packed like sardines into your rush-hour L car. The malaise is constant. If you're not able to deflect it, it will consume you. If you can't roll with the punches, NYC will knock you out.
If hope is a dangerous thing, NYC is the world's most dangerous place. Your casual post-college optimism is a liability here. Either stuff it in a box and leave it in the suburbs, or stay there with it. But don't bring your doe-eyed naivete with you when you move here, or it'll be taken from you. New York City asks you to sustain yourself on briefly shimmering fragments of happiness nestled amidst the wreckage of daily reality. In other words, it asks you to grow up. Don't move to New York City if you're not ready to yet.