I’ve been writing this post over and over in my head all day. Mainly because I knew that it needed to be right. But also because I just couldn’t quite find the right words to say what I wanted. I knew it needed to tell the right story. My story. The story I still tell when people look at me and ask, how and why.
Deep down, I know that it’s a story about falling in love. Falling in love with the way the sun rises over the reservoir in Central Park, hours before many even roll out of bed. With the smell of bacon at 5 in the morning, push carts lined up on Columbus Avenue prepping for commuters. With the way the sun hits the buildings right around 5 or 6 at night, when the light bounces and refracts and glows in a thousand different colors. With the people I’ve met. With the way those people hustle. With the long walks, just because. With the million different coffee shops and bakeries and dive bars and food trucks and rooftop restaurants. With views like this one. And the way it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. I mean, come on.
I still remember that day, a year ago, like it was yesterday. The day I stepped on a plane with my first one way ticket. Ever. The huge pit in my stomach that reminded me just how big of a chance I was taking. How big of a bet I was making on myself. The day my parents both looked at me, wished me well, and did their absolute best to hold back tears (I’m sure) while they told me I’d be great. You’ll be great. And don’t you ever forget it. The feeling when the plane left the runway, a rush of adrenaline and that “don’t look back know” feeling that’s awesome and awful all at the same time. The few minutes right after we landed, as I was checking my email and confirming (for the second time) my interview that morning. The confusion that set in when I actually had to look for baggage claim at LGA (I’d never checked a bag before), and wandering around for half an hour before I finally found someone who’d help me find my bags. Lugging my bags to the curb. The two suitcases I brought with me, with as much home as I could fit while still keeping them under 50 pounds. The two suitcases that quickly became my entire life. My only New York possessions. That and a few hundred dollars. But they were mine. And it finally felt like my life. My choice.
The moments right after my interview. The feeling of uncertainty as I rode down the escalator, picked up my bags from the security desk, and hopped in a cab that took me uptown to an apartment I’d never seen in person. The hours I waited until my roommate finally arrived, handed me a set of keys and said, “nice to meet you.” That first night.
But most of all, the butterflies. Those butterflies were unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I’d do anything to feel those butterflies again. They’re almost like the butterflies I feel every once and a while when I take a second to step back and pinch myself. To remember that I’m actually here. To take in a scene like this one.
Originally, I had planned for this post to spell out every single thing I’ve learned since moving to New York. But I quickly figured out that a list like that might just read more like a novel. And it didn’t feel organic. So instead, I think I’ll focus on just one thing. The one thing I’d tell my 20-year-old self if I was going to do it all over again. The thing that makes this city brilliant. The reason this city lives and breathes the way it does, makes people into something.
So here it is. Let it sink in. Breathe it in. Make it your own.
There are going to be people and things and jobs and places that put you down. That tell you you’re not strong enough, not special enough, not smart enough. Don’t listen. Take the criticism, sort through the useful stuff, and then tune the rest out. Focus on you. Spend time on you. Don’t burn yourself out. Work hard, stay out late [full disclosure, I’m still working on this one]. Make full notice of the moments that steal your breath. Because those are the big ones. The ones worth remembering. Stay humble. Be nice to people, but don’t let them walk all over you. Remember that at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean a thing if you’re unhappy. So if you’re unhappy, walk away. But if you’re happy — truly happy — cherish it. Make friends, make them fast. You’re going to need them. Make a life here.
Don’t, don’t, don’t be afraid to lay down roots.
Okay, so that might not count *exactly* as one thing. But I tried. It’s the best I could do. I kept it to one paragraph, so that should count for something. I say those things with full acknowledgement that there’s some stuff in there that I’m still working through myself. That I’m still learning and improving upon and thinking about. Stuff about breaking the rules and putting myself in uncomfortable situations, because I know it’ll be good for me in the long run.
So to the city that’s already taught me so much… happy one year new york-aversary. And here’s to me for making it an entire year on my own, paying my own bills, keeping my job, and living to tell the tale. Here’s to a year full of ups and downs and successes and failures and challenges and taking chances. I made a big bet on you, New York, and I’m so, so glad I did.