Every time I have to walk through Times Square—and somehow, even after five years in New York, I’m not always able to avoid it—I tense up. It’s not that I hate crowds; I probably wouldn’t be living here if I truly disliked other people. It’s more the combination of lost out-of-towners, overheated costumed characters and pricey tourist traps that make it seem like I’m walking through a commercial for hell.
So I talked to life coach Dr. Liz Lasky (Ph.D., LCSW) about how I’m supposed to exist between 39th and 46th on the West Side without needing a vacation from seeing other people vacation at M&M’s World.
“New York City can be a crazy mess of a place! My suggestion is to create a safety plan for yourself,” says Lasky. “A safety plan is a plan you make in advance that you can pull out at any time that will help you feel safe. If you know you’re going to be walking through Times Square and the crowds really bother you, pick three things that will help you get through the experience. This might be listening to a funny podcast or a favorite playlist or having a mantra that you repeat to yourself. Preparedness is the key to success.”
Lasky also recommends following up trips to stressful, tourist-filled hotbeds of commerce and overzealous Elmos with some time in New York City’s green spaces. (Apparently, nature doesn’t just consist of watching a pigeon and a rat wrestle over a french fry—who knew?)
I decided to test these tips by forcing myself to visit one of Times Square’s fine establishments. First I asked my friends if they’d like to get a drink with me at the popular Forrest Gump–themed Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Most had quick excuses for such an occasion, including feeling tired and “needing to use up my CSA.” After I realized that going to Bubba Gump alone might put me on a suicide-watch list, I instead headed to Beer Authority, which overlooks Port Authority Bus Terminal but at least has a decent drink list. On the way there, I turned off the sad-bastard music I was listening to and put on some happier tunes: ABBA’s greatest-hits album, because my happy music isn’t exactly cool. “This is fine,” I told myself as a mantra, like that dog surrounded by fire in the widely used meme. I chose “This is fine” because, as far as mantras go, I didn’t want to overshoot—like, if I were to repeat “I’m really, really happy right now,” my inner light would go, “Why are you lying to me, bitch?”
And it was fine! Fine is not great, of course. But if you moved to New York City expecting to only have great experiences, you’d be better off living in Disney World.