How to Break the Frustration of Living in a Crowded City

By Mary Martha Breithaupt


Some days, I get tired of trying to do life in a city with 8.6 million other humans. 

Last Tuesday was one of those days. I woke up tired, and all morning it felt like people were going out of their way to inconvenience me — walking up the stairs extra slowly, blocking the train doors, and having loud phone conversations that drowned out my podcast. You know those mornings. My bad attitude made for a rocky workday, and I spent my ride back home on the N from Soho to Queens plotting a solitary evening involving Netflix, leftover Thai, and minimal human interaction.

I got off the train, pushed through the turnstile, and saw a woman with a stroller at the top of the steps leading down to the street. I felt a pang of sympathy and jogged up, saying, “Let me help with that!” We carefully lifted the stroller and its little passenger down the steps. The mom looked up with a grateful smile and a heartfelt “Thank you.” 

For the first time that day, I took my eyes off of my own life, and it felt good. 


I walked home, and began executing my plans for the evening by heating up my Thai noodles. I curled up on my couch and thought back on my day, realizing how toxic it felt to spend it annoyed by the people around me. I’d spent the day with a bad attitude because I was operating out of selfishness, and I bet the people around me — my co-workers and roommate — felt unloved because of that.

I want to be a woman who brings joy to the people around her. The beautiful thing about living in a city with no shortage of people is there is no shortage of opportunities to do good for those people! 

It’s sometimes hard to remember, but I have to believe that doing good for those people matters deeply to God. In my faith, there’s a verse that says “Turn your back on sin; do something good.”

Easier said than done, right? But, in my experience, small gestures of kindness go far in this city, because they are unexpected. A simple thing like giving up that precious seat on the subway with a genuine smile can mean the world to someone and leaves you with that “afterglow” of doing something kind. Loving my roommate by doing her dishes or taking out the trash might make her day. Loving yourself by reminding yourself who God says you are — beautiful, cherished, worthy of love — is just as important as acts of kindness for others. 


It’s true that we all have bad days because, let’s face it, New York is crowded and often inconvenient. The good news is there’s a way to break that attitude. When we go out of our way to love even just one other person in this city, we selflessly follow through on what God asks — do something good — and it feels good, too.  


Mary Martha is a native Louisianian who took a chance on New York three years ago to pursue a career in advertising. As a life-longer dancer, she's happiest in a dance class but would never turn down a sunny run around the Central Park reservoir followed by a New York diner breakfast.