Monday, August 17, 2009

Advice for Young People Moving to the Big City.

If you are a young person from a small place who is thinking of moving to the Big City because it's too boring, small and quiet where you are from, and there are not enough opportunities, excitement, and work in the small place you are, here is some hard won advice. Especially if you have little experience of large cities.

Firstly, go with someone you know really well (a cousin or best friend or uncle who used to live there). Make sure you can trust the person you go with who is going to stick by you, who you can discuss with what to do with what is happening while you are exploring the city world. I know you are young and ready to take on the world with your invincibility (you have conquered your home town, your social scene, your teachers and bosses, and parents, after all), but you will probably could use someone real and trustworthy THAT YOU KNOW on your side.

City people are not like the people where you are from. Firstly, they are often stressed from overcrowding and various lifestyle choices that come from the "opportunities" of the city (damaging levels of alcohol and drugs, crime, debauchery, greed, gluttony and other forms of corruptions). The stress can reach a point of life-and-death, where all the rules of civilisation go out the window, and it's down to basic instinct. They are also removed almost entirely from any form of nature which often causes them to become a bit, let's be polite, peculiar. Most are predatory. Some become downright dangerous. A good rule of thumb when interacting with someone from the city is if they look mentally, emotionally and physically healthy and intact they MAY be alright.

At first you may be excited or even frightened by the huge range of culture available to you in a big city. There will be people there from all over the world, with wonderful foods and cultural experiences. Don't get over excited. Just because someone or something is from somewhere else doesn't immediately make them saints or sinners. Just like people from where you are from, there are good ones and bad ones, and most of them are a mixture of "good" and "bad". The only way to be sure is to get to know them (slowly) and what ethos they base themselves from.

When going to live in the big city for the first time, get a recognised work skill before you go. Even if it's making coffee, make sure you have that skill. Then, when you get to the city, make sure you get a job in that skill as soon as possible. It'll keep you out of trouble (and there's some seriously bad stuff in cities) and start you with a safe network. Also cities are very expensive to live in, and you will be needing that money just to survive. If the dream is to get your band famous or become a movie star or model or scientist, you are still going to need the bread and butter money of a decent job in the beginning.

Whatever you do, don't tell anyone that you are there on your own, not knowing anyone, with no money or job skills, clueless about anything of the big city, miles from anything or anyone familiar, and that you hate your parents anyway. The fact you are looking for accommodation and a job is none of their business, unless they are an employer or landlord. The shifty guy on the street may claim he wants to help you out, but his motives are ulterior, especially if you are female. Also if you are male. They will pretend to take you under their wing or show you around or be your friend, but they are sizing you up to see what they can get from you. And they will go to corrupt levels to get it. They will also part with as little as they can to get as much as they can. The word to use is EXPLOITATION. If they need to make you feel bad to get you to do, be, give what they want, they will. If they need to steal to win, they will. They often go to elaborate lengths to set you up. It is often very subtle. It really is dog eat dog.

It is best if you refrain from telling them anything about yourself that can give away your strengths and weaknesses. Lie if you have to, but if you can't bring yourself to that (their) level, say nothing, or answer with questions (like Socrates), and if pushed for information, just walk away. Remember, most big city people are pretending to be something they are not (posing), so presume they are lying or avoiding the truth most of the time and you will be streets ahead of them. Avoid pouring your heart out to anyone who isn't as willing to share information about themselves. The most frightening thing to big city people is honesty. They honestly think it makes either you or them vulnerable.

Personal safety is paramount. Lock doors, strap money and handbags to yourself, keep them zipped. Use condoms. You are not in a sleepy little village. Ask around about the area. Find out where the rich areas and the slum areas are. Take care in the slum areas at night (take mace or other appropriate weapon anytime you think appropriate, whatever, just take mace anywhere, anytime), avoid it if you can. It is full of rot and crime. Pity the occupants from the afar. Take care in the areas with money during the day. Offending or attracting the desires of people who have money and influence can be more dangerous than a strung out junky looking for someone to mug for a fix. Remember that not all that glitters is gold. It just looks like it. That's part of the eternal illusion of the big cities. Find out who calls the shots in the big city. Big players in money, crime, politics, and whatever industry you are interested in. Find out who's who so you know what to avoid and what to respect.

You may be wanting to make friends and even look for romance. People may seem a little cold at first, big city people often are so they can survive. Just remember, you are a fairly good person (I'm presuming you are fairly well brought up in a fairly caring community and you try to be nice) and YOU ARE THE ONE WITH WHAT THEY NEED, not the other way round. You may be insecure because you are adjusting to a lot, and want to be liked. Don't let that make you stupid. It's the people that go to the city with the skills, time, money and energy for the cities endeavours. There are a lot of people in the city so you have plenty of choice. Get involved in constructive interest groups of whatever you enjoy (a car club if it's cars, an art appreciation club if it's art, political action group if it's politics, sporting club if it's sport, religious or philosophical group if it's spiritual, health club if it's health, environmental active group if it's the environment etc). Then you will save time finding contacts within the kind of thing you actually want to know about, as opposed to accidentally stumbling into the muck of the city.

Romantically, big city people play by different rules to country or small town/city people. Small place people generally want a simple romance with a view to something decent for the long term. Not always, some want to try all the flavours of ice cream, but mostly small place people tend to wear their hearts on their sleeve (even as they attempt all the ice cream). Big city people see themselves as Players a lot of the time. They are image orientated people most of the time (caring more about what it looks like more then what it really is), and will lie about anything to keep up appearances and to gain an advantage over others (which they usually lose when it comes out in the wash). If you start seeing one, you can almost guarantee they will be seeing someone else, or are bisexual and didn't think you needed to know, or some other nasty deceptive surprise, such as already being married, being into B and D, or a porn star and will probably either want to pretend they are as innocent as you are or will "accidentally" let you know about their other "love" interests and hope for a jealous reaction for their enjoyment, or that you will competitively attempt to become as "worldly" as them or the other person. They often use what the normal reaction of being offended that any decent person would have to their "advantage". They see this as sophisticated, when it's actually childish. They also often get into bent forms of sex, whether it's toys, role playing, kinky fetishes, sadomasochism or swinging. Not that experimenting is bad per se, but remember you are the new meat in the scene, so be careful what you believe and expect the kind of nasty pranks any rookie would receive. Also, choose not to blindly follow those who pretend to know better. The nastier elements will use suggestion, pressure, one-up-man ship, intoxication, rebelliousness, any form of "weakness" to bring you down. It can be insidious, and corrupting. It brings out the worst in the best. They see it as sophisticated, but it is actually childish. They are often posers who want to be seen in the right places playing the right people, but it is all in their head. No-one cares, and if anyone who actually does matter notices, they are often repulsed. Honesty, fair play and common decency are far more sophisticated then any amount of trickery. If you date in the big city, date someone like yourself, from a comparatively normal background, from a more realistic place. You are more likely to get something real. And they will be better and more genuine lovers on all levels.

People often think of big cities as an anonymous places where they can lose themselves in the crowd, and indulge themselves in things that they wouldn't normally get away with. This isn't entirely true. Each section has a community, whether it's a suburb, industry or social scene. People know one another and notice things. In fact, in big cities, they are often used to newcomers and have even systematised testing and dealing with them. You will be tested when you are new anywhere. Also, if you think your family and friends back home don't have some idea of what you are up to, think again. Even if they are blind they can still connect the dots. After all, what do they know (of life, of big cities, of you) and what would they do?

Partying is fun, right? Well, it is. However, partying in the Big City is a different thing to back home. My advice is go to cool gigs, but don't get loaded there. Drink or whatever enough to be social but don't get totally trashed. In big cities seriously bad stuff can happen if you go over the top in a crowd or even in public, besides losing face. If you get blasted, you can be assaulted, robbed, ripped off (if the taxi driver sees how smashed you are, you are in for a joy ride), and other much more disturbing stuff. You don't have to cane yourself to be cool, and you won't win any one's respect that way (you probably want to win friends and status in a cool place). If the crowd thinks being off your tree is cool (they are obviously not cool), fake your drunkenness. Always guard your drink because of drink spiking, sadly too common. Nasty people who want to roll you often work in teams using distraction, slight of hand, social pressure and anything else it takes to have their wicked way. If you have had a killer week or your dog just died and you want to get absolutely obliterated to kill the pain, do it at home with the doors locked. If there is someone with you, make sure they are the most trustworthy of people.

Big cities are go, go, go all the time. Work, travel, shopping and partying come at you from all directions all the time. It can be full on in the human element just getting to the corner store. There are sirens constantly, and extremes of people everywhere all bustling and hustling. Make sure you get adequate sleep and nutrition, and time out regularly for reflection and to touch earth and refocus on your priorities and to centre yourself. It is essential, as you risk burning out if you don't. If you don't get enough sleep, personal time and space, or food for energy and healing, you risk making stupid decisions, being harried and pressured into shortcuts that are costly and not having the wherewithal to realise better choices are available. Take time out to get some perspective. Put off important decisions until you have had adequate space to reflect and contemplate the choices. Go on weekend trips out into the country or beaches regularly to slow your world down for a bit.

Crime is another kettle of fish in big cities too. In a smaller population, the local burglar gets busted and goes to jail or makes amends or generally gets dealt with. In large populations, the criminal element is part of the established order. It is often organised. The real yuks and heavies. There is nothing romantic or cool about being brought to all time inhumane lows, which many affected by that world are. It's very uncool. That's why it is smart not to drift too much looking lost and vulnerable, and to get involved with healthier elements of the community. Get a form of income that is safe and decent enough so you don't get desperate enough to take stupid risks, and socially get involved with people who are into something harmless but fun, or even challenging (like helping disabled people). City criminals are different from country criminals. If you score a bit of pot in smaller community, it will be from hippies, metal heads, rebel bikers or even farmer Joe. You will get a fair deal and it'll be clean. If you score in the big city, it will be a very small deal and could easily be laced with something nasty (to get you hooked, knock you out so they can have their way with you, or just "boost" the effect). The people will probably also offer you other things that are a guaranteed road to Wipeoutville. Avoid hard, addictive drugs, no matter how painful things have been. A good rule of thumb is to see how healthy the people you are dealing with are both mentally, emotionally and physically. What is the environment of their particular corner of the world like?

However, if you still wish to try your luck on a big city (life is a bigger and better gamble then any casino), there are plenty of things to benefit from. There are all sorts of cultural things to enjoy, foods of the world, great art and craft of the world. There are educational and entertainment opportunities that you often don't get in smaller places. Take them. Fill your time with stuff that is actually going to benefit you in the long run. You can get better paying (then at home) work and increase your work skills (and therefore income), you can get gigs for your artistic expressions more easily, you have better quality courses available. Just remember, think carefully about the "opportunities" available to you, you don't have to take the first one straight away, there are plenty of others. Think about if you REALLY want to go where that "opportunity" is going to take you.

What would you do if your life was public knowledge or entertainment, and everyone knew what you were up to? What would you put up with? In the cities (and often life), everything you do is being observed. Keep that in mind.Whatever anybody else does or says or leads you to believe, there is no real reason to go to desperate extremes (either to survive or to gain a treasured dream), if you work to cover your bases from the first and have a moderately flexible plan and a healthy sense of common decency. There will be insinuations, threats and promises made by the unscrupulous. See through it. Stay true to your dreams, and maintain your basic ethics and principles. The only person you will always have to live with is you.

Work is also another area to watch out for sharkish behaviour. Because you are young and from out of town where employment is harder to come by, you will be happy and grateful when you score your first job in the big city. Big city people are used to this and probably saw you coming. Insist on decent pay for reasonable hours and basic standards. Rock the boat if you have to, it is your right to expect these things, squawk loudly if necessary. If you let them get away with indecent conditions and expectations, other young people are going to fall into the same trap even if you leave. You will get help and respect for your efforts. You are offering honest hard work and the precious time of your youth, you should be rewarded with basic decency. Avoid letting greed and keeping up appearances turn you into a rat on a overworked treadmill.

I also recommend going there on holiday or general trips a few times before actually moving there. That way you can get a lay of the land, see what you will be dealing with physically, can case the pros and cons, meet people and gage the general livability of the situation you will be in. Don't sell yourself short. You are the future. Expect basic decency, but guard against the less then worthy.
I took some hard knocks so I can tell you this. If you wish to take the advice, you can avoid some of the agony I have survived.

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