Today is October 1st, 2014. I have lived in New York City for exactly one year.
I’ve learned a thing or three.
This is my story of the past year and, unfortunately, I will not tell you everything. The thought of it overwhelms me. You will know what you desire to know. You will be fed. I will be as honest and as accurate as I can be. I will tell you what I know to be true.
This my telling of how a country boy from the Midwest moved to the concrete jungle that is NYC. Although I am aware that putting two and two together is not a difficult task, some (if I felt it necessary) identifying details have been purposefully omitted (changing them is weird) to protect the privacy (and feelings?) of individuals and places involved. You’re welcome and I’m sorry.
I graduated from Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS with my BFA in Graphic Design in May of 2013 and spent the summer working on my portfolio and applying to design firms in San Francisco, CA. I moved back home to Burlington, CO August 1st.
September 2nd, 2013 I was in Manhattan, KS at a cousin’s wedding that a best friend of mine from high school was a bridesmaid in. She took me aside later that evening and offered me an opportunity that would change my direction entirely. She and another best friend of ours from high school and her girlfriend had a room become available in their Brooklyn duplex on Bushwick Avenue.
I had 29 days to get my shit together. I did a nice job pretending.
One year ago today I was brave and boarded my one-way flight from Denver International Airport to LaGuardia airport after hugging my mother goodbye and thanking her profusely for everything. With two suitcases, a carry-on, and my backpack, I flew 1,632 miles worrying about my 21.5 in. iMac that I had packed between a pillow, clothes, and a blanket in a hard suitcase that was surely being crushed beneath me (luckily, I was wrong).
I had fearlessly chosen to be permanently away from anything and everything I was familiar with.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. The hierarchy is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid (Google it) with the largest, most fundamental levels of needs (physiological) at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top.
Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or next higher level of needs.
I currently live with two girls on the first floor in a gorgeous three bedroom/two bath apartment with separate kitchen, living room, and dining nook along with a back outdoor space in Bushwick, Brooklyn. We got lucky. I’m an adult and do my own laundry around the corner. I don’t have time to pay someone else to do it. This summer while my mom was visiting for two weeks, we literally moved six blocks down the road. I filled up suitcase after suitcase of my belongings over the course of a week and walked my possessions the six blocks and left the large items for the moving truck on our official moving day.
Our former apartment was fairly spacious, but severely outdated. I lived in the basement by way of a spiral staircase (beautiful, but not practical for furniture) without a closet, but a rack for my clothes, desk, bed, and nightstand. I used to hand deliver our rent check each month to our landlord because they were sketchy and I had read some scary things about them online; I do better research than the FBI. It is unbelievable what people will pay to live in something that looks as if it was built by a heartless and blind contractor and then smashed down to a disgustingly disproportionate size. People live in microscopic apartments stacked sky high.
Once you live in an apartment here, you immediately and automatically become a hotel for any and all friends and family visiting the city.
Just so you’re aware, because I fully was not: if you’re ever considering purchasing furniture from IKEA (or any other furniture store for that matter) and don’t have a vehicle or plan to have it delivered, know better than to do it yourself. My very first trip to IKEA resulted in me carrying home a desk+legs, chair, rug, and two lamps on the subway ALONE because I was too stupid to ask for help in the event of inconveniencing someone else. I have learned my lesson.
At a discount clothing store in the clearance section I once saw a cardigan I liked that was originally $525, now $325. I actually said, “Fuck no.” out loud.
Food is expensive as is everything else. Grocery shopping could become a nightmare, but I never let that happen. I generally hate grocery shopping with others because I feel rushed, so I go alone. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are what seem to be the major grocers in the city, but I also go to Pioneer Supermarket down the street from my apartment. I’m not here to warn you about lines or to complain about prices, I’m merely going to tell you to be a patient and kind person; it’s going to be okay. I hadn’t ever seen the little shopping carts residents tote around, but now I understand their purpose; the majority of us don’t have vehicles to transport home bags and bags of groceries. I often leave my debit card at home when I know I’ve got groceries to come home to after work. Smart boy. I try to prepare food as often as possible at home, but yes, eating out is fairly common. You could eat out every night of your life in New York City for the rest of your life and never eat at the same place twice. In 2008, the New York Times estimated that there were roughly 25,000 restaurants in greater New York City. That means you could go to a new restaurant every night for 68.49 years (68.45 if you count leap years).
It is truly gross and disgusting here. It is not as beautiful as the photographs you see. The photographs you see are taken from rooftops and airplanes that show the twinkling lights of the skyscrapers, but not of the filth lining the streets. They are taken at eye level and filtered. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that New York City is a clean place. Trash lines the streets. Also, public restrooms are mythical creatures.
My commute is 20 minutes on a single train, no transfers. I know I have it good and I’m thankful. I read and write on the train. I’ve read more for pleasure here in a year than I did in 4 years of college. My commute is also where I do a lot of my responding to text messages. People here have a warped sense of time. Many commute hours into the city on any given day. No way in hell would someone commute 2 ½ hours from say, Burlington to Denver every day.
I’m awful with directions and knew upon moving here that I would have to learn a subway system and that was fine by me. As long as I wasn’t in control of the method of transportation, I was okay. I don’t have a smart phone (those people exist?!) and have survived an entire year in this metropolis without one, not to mention nearly 24 years. You either think I’m crazy or you’re envious, I know. Living here without a smart phone has forced ME to be the smart one. I carry around maps and on occasion have to ask the nearest person to clarify for me or to hold my hand and point me in the right direction. When I whip out my map, I am usually asked where I’m visiting from and when I respond “Brooklyn” I’m then asked where I live. The look of confusion on their face when I repeat my last answer is priceless. I write down directions on a piece of paper and follow those precisely once I leave the apartment. I do my homework. There is no re-routing. I get lost.
Comfortable walking shoes and a jeans with the crotch reinforced are a necessity.
I landed my first job interview while I was still in Colorado sitting on my couch. My interview for what was later confessed to be (but not advertised so) an unpaid internship was on October 11th in Manhattan at a company that is a marketplace for small, creative businesses. I was early and very well dressed. I was hired on the spot and was officially working on a team of two art directors, a photo retoucher, video editor, and copy writer. Nobody ever asked to see my résumé or portfolio. They got lucky that I’m me. I began working Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Eventually, my hours were cut and I was to only work on Tuesdays.
It was a wonderful job; I was given tasks that were out of my comfort zone and I made some great connections. I created a lot of really fantastic work. I was collaborating with intelligent people and pushed to do things I hadn’t done before. Unfortunately, because I was under the direction of a creative person that wasn’t educated in graphic design specifically, I was to compromise on design aesthetics that I shouldn’t have had to compromise on. It was difficult, but I managed and was successful.
Worked seemed to pick up and slow down all at the same time. One afternoon I was told that my two art directors were going freelance. I was out of a job. I will always have a special place in my heart (and on my résumé) for my first New York City job.
My next and current job was/is located right down the street. I applied online and the night of my group interview I was sick as a dog. I didn’t know how or if I could reschedule, so I went anyway. I later went in for my solo interview and knocked it out of the park.
I’m fortunate to work for a really wonderful company that sells unique products that truly improve the lives of others. Employees are treated well. I am surrounded by some of the most intelligent and caring people I’ve ever met. I keep networking at front of mind.
I do a lot of freelance design work through Etsy and by way of networking.
I’m currently applying for positions within my field.
This has been the toughest section of living here thus far.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m still very new to the city and am still trying to navigate my journey to where I feel accepted. Making friends has been a challenge. I did not go to school here and therefore didn’t have a place where I immediately belonged where potential friends were ever present and waiting to be made every day. Socializing can be tricky; if a bar is the only place you go to socialize, you’re boring as shit. I don’t like alcohol, coffee, or tea and don’t smoke. Seems everyone here partakes in all four simultaneously.
I’ve taken dance classes and gone to board game nights and worked in community gardens as an attempt to make friends I had things in common with. I once met a wonderful woman in Manhattan at work and after having a pleasant conversation, literally asked if she would be my friend. We hang out now. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Family is my everything. My everything is in Colorado. Although I speak to my immediate family regularly, nothing compares to the in person experiences. It breaks my heart that I can’t be with them on a daily basis. Luckily, my siblings see my mom enough that it almost makes up for my absence, almost. I have such a grand support system within these people that really motivates me to keep going. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to my mother and father. My sister came to visit in March for her spring break; WE.DID.EVERYTHING. All the touristy things happened. Remember, I do not have a smart phone and had only been in the city 6 months. Talk about a week of running around like chickens with their heads cut off!
Oh, the complexity that is dating/love. I went on a handful of dates around this time last year and was lucky to have met a beautiful and creative individual that soon became my boyfriend. He worked in film and television as a costume designer. I poured my heart into him and spent a memorable six months together before parting ways by way of his choosing. I will not get into logistics because quite frankly, it’s nobody’s business but ours.
It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply. You don’t just walk away from people. You don’t just throw people away. The unsaid will go unsolved; talk things out. Love is a conversation.
After having done my healing, I’ve been on many great dates with some extraordinary fellas.
I am not an option. I am a priority. I am a quality human being and am capable of absolutely incredible things. I am a handsome, intelligent, and interesting man. I will be respected.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the things I want in life for myself over this past year. Those choices are constantly evolving, but I know where my standards lie. My intentions are gold and my heart is pure. I fall more in love with myself each day. That doesn’t make me vain or selfish, it makes me indestructible.
I’ve been to see Sara Bareilles at Madison Square Garden and Kristen Chenoweth at Carnegie Hall. I’ve gotten a ticket for trespassing. I remember the moment I realized it didn’t matter what I looked like scarfing down a slice of dollar pizza on 6th avenue because I’d never see any of those people ever again. I’ve sold an acoustic guitar that didn’t belong to me. I’ve used someone’s diary entries to wrap a gift and make an envelope for a letter. I was an extra in a movie. I’ve lost my 21 year old sister in the Forever 21 in Times Square. I’ve seen Hilary Duff in person. I’ve been to the Macy’s Day Parade and purchased a Christmas gift for my mother on Black Friday. I stood outside in the freezing cold for 12 hours in Times Square on New Years to see the ball drop and confetti fall. I’ve cried on the streets of Harlem. I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty. I’ve done many things most people only dream of doing. I go all in with everything I do because I don’t know any other way of operating.
I have not accomplished everything I have set out to do, but as my list dwindles, I dream a new dream.
Moving to NYC does not guarantee you will become fashionable. I will be buried in gym shorts and a t-shirt. My personal style continues to be called “I don’t have the funds for my preferred aesthetic.” I’ve taken up yoga, not only for the physical benefits, but more importantly because it’s nice to have someone say nice things about me for an hour. A wise friend recently said to me, “You’re more mature and in touch with your sense of self and feelings than most people in our age range.” Although this was something I previously knew about myself, it felt good that someone else had noticed, too. I absorb information like a sponge and applying it to my experiences. With each passing day I’m becoming a better person. I have not yet reached my full potential and I have yet to become the most I can be.
I did not choose New York City, it chose me.
Sometimes I feel like giving up, but then I remember I have a lot of motherfuckers to prove wrong.