The city you spend your twenties in defines you.

As I approach 30, I look at my friends who dispersed to various cities after college and started to notice some trends. For one reason or another, it seemed like all of my friends who were in these cities seemed to become sponges to the city at hand.

The news has it that by July, NYC will fully reopen, something I am very excited about. Even now though, it seems like the city is largely reopening and going back to its old self. I was out with friends this weekend for some drinks and saw it quite a lot over the weekend, everyone out and having fun with their friends. Most people barely wore masks either, it is like they didn’t care.

When I caught up with my friends from other cities, I started to notice certain behaviors.

It almost turns into a chicken vs. egg debate, which came first? Do people with certain behavioral tendencies flock to certain towns and cities or do people become the way they are because they spent too much time in that city? I think both points can be fair points made but for me, it tends to be the latter.

I remember back in my days in Atlanta where I was obsessed with popularity, being a part of the in-crowd, and being seen. Lo and behold, the social culture of Atlanta was very cliquey with social circles established in the school days. The culture did not lend itself to free socialization as people were tight knit in their groups at bars, you were seen as the oddball for striking up a conversation. Then add to that the fact that since it is the south, there was a heavy pressure to get married and have kids by thirty.

Atlanta felt like the city where you were punished if you did not get established soon enough in your youth, usually by college. The only other option were goody-two-shoe church groups where you had to play up the morally self-righteous act to others, something I had no interest in. I felt trapped and I knew nothing good was going to come of me staying the city.

As I reflect on my time in NYC, I notice that when I first came here, a similar mentality hit me. I was the kind of guy who was overly cautious about talking to people and pedestalized certain groups in my first year here or so.

After a couple years in NYC, I started to notice that I transformed. I noticed that I could now give a rat’s ass about the in-crowd and cook kids nonsense because of what I had seen transpire. I regularly saw random guys with tight game strike up conversations with cute girls at bars and take them home. I saw that people were very open and social here compared to my time in Atlanta because everyone was looking to make new friends.

Most of all, I stopped dreading the idea of life after thirty because I just met a lot of guys and girls in this city who were living it up in their thirties. This is a part of the reason why even during the pandemic, I didn’t go back home to Georgia and decided to stick it out in Manhattan, no matter how much it went downhill. I was a bit surprised to find how young a lot of guys can look in their thirties and how they were freely having a great time with NYC nightlife.

I am glad I got out of Atlanta when I did, it was torture being there.

But I started to notice how people in general were reflecting the values and characteristics of the cities they spent a lot of their time in.

My friends who ended up in LA were all social media obsessed, they were all trying to be the Instagram celebrity. Even here in NYC, most girls I have met from LA tend to flock to the most popular nightclubs and flood into them. Same can be said for women from Atlanta which is pretty much LA’s little brother.

I noticed with my friends who ended up in southern cities, particularly Dallas and Atlanta, how quick they were to settle down with a family and buy a house. To them, the hedonists like me were the crazy ones because we decided to drink and party too hard on the weekends.

My friends who ended up in Midwestern cities got married slightly later than my southern friends and kept a laid back attitude to it all. To them, you weren’t some crazy hedonist without morals if you escaped the marriage life to party it up, you were just you.

My friends who ended up in San Francisco were the intellectual types who, deep down inside, craved the idea of being in another city. Almost all were settled and not that accustomed to party life, preferring to stick to day drinking at most if even that. Majority were very work-oriented types and usually high on their morals. I did surprisingly find how, initially, a lot of them came off as very laid back.

Then I had my friends in NYC who are the embodiment of work hard play hard types. Most never really grew out of turning twenty-one and are the best kinds of people you would want at a party. The type who, oddly, would not be that quick to judge others despite the elitist reputation the city gets from the world. Almost like the kind of friends who may even be in their forties but you feel comfortable introducing your young friends to since, they, well “get it”.

So what would I say?

Pick your city carefully, especially the one you want to spend the rest of your twenties in. You will be surprised at the impact your city has on the kind of person you end up becoming likely for the rest of your life. I am seeing it in my own friend circle as to how a lot of people I know in my youth are turning out, this is not even to mention the people I knew who went right to the suburbs and the small towns.

In other words, pick the city you want to spend most of your twenties in carefully.

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