I was born in China, moved to Japan when I was 3, and have lived in Canada since 6. This is how I began most of the interviews that resulted in the need for this article. I am 23 now, and my 17 year residency in Canada will soon end. I will soon be a resident of New York City.
This is not the first opportunity I had to move to the United States. I had the opportunity when I was admitted to Brown (read: not admitted to the better Ivy Leagues), and chose to go to the Queen's School of Business. I worked briefly in the U.S. after my first year, at a hedge fund. And I could have chosen to work in the U.S. after graduation, but the opportunities at that time were limited.
There were a few reasons that prompted this move. It is by no means surprising, I am sure, for people in my profession to move to New York. But it occurred quicker than expected. In my first year of working, I worked in the credit group of CPPIB, which is one of the best places to work in Toronto. I fell in love with the work and the people. It exposed me to a particular style of finance that I could not replicate in Toronto. As my time in the credit group ended, I started looking for a new job.
As any of you know, finding a job is stressful and humbling. Coming from a non-target school and non-target firm, the opportunity set was limited. But the bright side is although non-target candidates will receive fewer interviews, they will have a better hit rate, even for a terrible interviewee like me. I was lucky to have found what I wanted quickly. My first interview was with the firm I will be working for. They are well known to be highly intelligent (one asked me to prove the set of rational numbers was countable) with a stellar track record. The entire process from reaching out to headhunters to getting a Visa took about four months.
In the last 17 years I had grown well accustomed to Toronto and to Canada. I know where the best restaurants and bars are, where to go for cheap wine tasting, how best to get from point A to B, which streets have bike paths and which to avoid (where the buskers and panhandlers are) and how to get student tickets to the opera. On the contrary, in New York, I still look like a tourist, a sore thumb sticking out amongst a well formed ebb-and-flow.
I will sincerely miss the country that I had given my youth and my adolescence – the country that gave me an education and a spectacular opportunity, yet received few taxes in return. I will still be tied to Canada. My business, Examblitz, will still operate in Kingston. And I own student housing investments in Kingston. My parents will remain in Toronto, though they probably will now be frequent visitors of New York City.
My relationship with New York has been bittersweet. I document that part of my life through my short story (www.randwalk.com/fiction). The city is so full of soul and character, yet empty at the same time. It breeds individualism and materiality, where people are often late and relationships are overtly born out of mutual benefit. These things happen anywhere, but it is apparent (even celebrated) in New York. But then it has such diversity of culture, art, music and food, that there is something to satisfy anyone's desires.
I expect my life to change. At the very least, the stress of a new job will be overwhelming. I will be working more and learning more. I will be outside my comfort zone. My rent will almost double, and I will, once again, bike through yellow taxicabs to get to work. My food-blogging career will restart with a NYC restaurant guide.
In many ways, this is the start of a new chapter. University was a continuation of high school; working life was the continuation of summer internships. My new life in New York City doesn’t feel like much of a continuation of anything. It is as though the random walk jumped to a new co-ordinate system. New city, new job, a few old friends, and a lot of new restaurants. I hope you will join me on this new trajectory, in person or in spirit.