The Upside of Being Anonymous in New York City

10932467344_509b4e4e32_bYou’ve caught me in New York City on day two of a trip for work. We’ve had a hectic start to the week already, and I know it’s only going to get even busier. So naturally, as I sat here writing this in my hotel room last night, all I could think to myself was, “You really need to get some sleep. Seriously.” After all, it’s 11:30, and tomorrow, there will be a bright and early start waiting for me. (OK actually, it’s a before-the-sun-comes-up start.)

The problem is that I’m in the city that doesn’t sleep. (Thanks for the tunes, Frank.) When I’m here, I turn into a night owl – for those of you who know me, you know that I’m not a night owl. Not at all, not even close. And on a regular morning, I don’t begin my day with a caffeinated beverage to wake me up. Here in New York City – you guessed it – I do like to start my day with a hot cup of tea or a latte. It feels natural, as if that’s my daily routine.

What’s interesting to me is that this shift happens every time I’m here without exception. It happens immediately after landing at LaGuardia – my heart beats faster, I get that pep in my step and it feels as if my mind is suddenly jolted awake.

Granted, New York City will infuse a new supply of energy into almost every visitor. The skyline and the millions of people and the constant movement on the streets will make anyone’s eyes open wide in wonder and curiosity. For me, New York City infuses a new supply of creative energy – that, my friends, is what turns me into a night owl.

When I’m here, my mind simply doesn’t rest. And the wave of ideas rolling their way into my thoughts without ceasing are only compounded by the fact that, as long as I’m in New York City, I am completely anonymous.

No one knows why I’m here. No one is watching me. No one knows who I am. And I love that.

That sense of anonymity leads me to believe that I’m completely free to think, speak, do and feel whatever I desire without having to worry about meeting anyone’s expectations. And I’m moved to act on that – to go through with what the creative, less rigid side of my brain is pushing me toward. Like a child, I can do and be whatever I want. 


Now, that is not my norm. My creativity and spontaneity are stifled because I put the expectations of others before my own.

I realize I’m more concerned than I should be about what others think of me. For my entire life, I’ve been internally driven by the acceptance I receive from peers and superiors alike, and that train is showing no signs of slowing down. (Even though I know the truth is I don’t need anyone’s acceptance – evidence here and here.)
But what if that train did slow down? What if, for one day, I tossed my concern for whether others would accept me to the side? What if I allowed myself to think, speak, do and feel whatever I desired in that moment?

I’d be bolder and more courageous – less timid and afraid.

I’m grateful that New York City brings out this side of me that is bursting from being held in for so long. It shows me just how much I’m missing from day to day – or rather, just how much I could gain from day to day if I would only refuse to act solely according to my desire for acceptance from others.

How have you gotten past the tendency to make decisions based on what others might think or expect? Leave a word of advice in the comments!

photo credits:
‘Late Afternoon Sun’, United States, New York, New York City, Park Avenue via photopin (license)
Bliss Street via photopin (license)

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