I couldn't come up with seven, so here goes the five I thought of on my subway ride....
STAGE ONE: AWE
This is it. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. No more Second-City complex. You've got unlimited choices and unlimited potential.
It's during this stage that you're a little, well, in awe. You carry the Not For Tourists Guide around with you to figure out how to get around town. You watch your fellow straphangers a little closer to make sure no one looks shady or will steal your wallet. You're on sensory overload with all the people, restaurants, stores, bars, museums, sporting events, activities, etc. but you're enjoying taking it all in.
STAGE TWO: INDOCTRINATION
You're settling into life as a New Yorker. You may have stopped doing touristy things and instead have settled on a few neighborhoods to hang out in or maybe even limit yourself to the three-block radius around your apartment. You swear by NY 1, curse Duane Reade, avoid midtown at all costs and even begin to develop that smug sense of New York superiority (deserved or not) because you live among artists, writers, entertainers and powerful people. Because you can get bagels, bialys, samosas, sushi, foie gras, and a slice of pizza all on the same block. Because your subway ride to work is a venerable microcosm of the world. Because now you get the local references on Sex And the City. Because you're at the center of it all. You begin to wonder why you never lived here before and pity those poor bastards stuck elsewhere who will never experience this lifestyle.
It's also during this stage that you develop an unhealthy and warped perspective on money. When $100+ dinner for two is considered "not bad", $2000+ a month for a rental apartment is considered a "deal", and when you realize that despite the fact that you make good money it is never enough here and certainly insufficient to ever buy a home in this town. You're jaded, consumed with real estate, and aware of the constant presence (or absence) of money in this town. Nevertheless, you remain steadfast. You're officially a New Yorker.
STAGE THREE: BACKLASH (REBELLION)
This stage typically occurs during the months of July or August when the city quite literally smells like human excrement, when you're forced to pack into a subway car with people who don't share your same sense of hygiene, and when some facet of our city's infrastructure fails us (see ConEd's blackouts, the recent steam pipe explosion, the even more recent mass transit disruption due to rain, etc.). This phase may also be triggered by some random-ass event that could only happen in NYC, like the Yankee player who crashed his plane into an apartment building, which though not tied to terrorism, still reminded us of the constant underlying belief that we collectively share as New Yorkers: terrorists will strike this city again.
It is also during this stage that the characters you once found charming for their "New York-ness" are now simply just "assholes". You also realize that it is ridiculous how much you are paying for rent, how little space you have, and how "not normal" your lifestyle is. You realize how the "standards" for NYC apartments and landlords are so much lower than what's reasonably expected and are thus willing to put up with poor service and treatment because after all, it's New York and after all, it could be worse.
You recognize that it's not necessarily healthy for your ears to be exposed to the deafeningly screeching sounds made by subway cars while simulatenously your i-Pod blares to drown out the omnipresent subway preachers and panhandlers. Nor can it be healthy for you to inhale the stagnant, pollution-filled, humid air. Nor can it be good for the soul to not be near green grass or a clean body of water.
During this stage, it's best to avoid visiting other big cities like Chicago, San Francisco or Seattle - all of which seem to exhibit healthier lifestyles, more affordable housing, and an enviable quality of life - so as to not drive yourself completely crazy.
STAGE FOUR: ACCEPTANCE
The honeymoon now over, you begin to recognize that New York may not be the place you settle down in permanently. But you knew that all along, didn't you? This was the deal you struck. The trade-off you agreed to. You didn't come here to save money. You certainly didn't come here for the fresh air. You didn't come here to escape a rat race. You came here to experience this city, to pursue opportunities, to not have regrets. You remind yourself why you came here and how it never was supposed to be long-term.
STAGE FIVE: RENEWAL
This stage often coincides with spring (just in time for the release of Cadbury Creme Eggs) or perhaps fall (just in time for Back-to-School season). You begin to recognize that you might just leave NYC in a couple years and start looking at things with fresh eyes, as if it will be one of the last times you see those landmarks, hop on that 2 train, laugh with those friends. You realize that there is much more to see and do. More of New York to be experienced. More goals to be reached. More opportunities to be had. More memories to be created. Maybe you ought to make the most of this time in New York. To steal from The Lucksmiths, maybe you'll look back and remember this as The Chapter in Your Life entitled 'New York'.
Or maybe you will stay after all. Wait, I just remembered that rent check. Fuck it, I'm out of here in two years.