“You gave yourself a year.”
This past week, I celebrated my first New York anniversary. By this I mean I purchased party hats, got a #1 birthday candle, purchased an assortment of cupcakes, and invited my friends to a bar to commemorate (me).
Basically a year ago, I moved from Georgia, where I worked in retail and wrote in my off-hours. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do for a living, and I had family and friends support me to do it. The thing of it was, I always wanted to come here. It’s a little dweebish to admit, but I wanted to come to New York, since I was nine, which is the furthest back my sister remembers. There was also falling in love with the city during a high school trip with my journalism class, and then falling in love with the city when I came to visit my aunt and uncle on one of my last semesters in college.
The “New York” plan is basically a whim. There was no forethought in it because I talked myself out of it constantly — stranger danger, doubt, and fear were big issues. I just did it, so I could see what would happen.
I gave myself a year to figure out what I wanted to do and to see if I could find a job doing it. I told my friend Laura that I at least needed a year before I freaked out properly — this was a lie as I panicked quite often — and the day after my one year party, she pointed it out:
“You gave yourself a year.”
Past the celebrations and pomp, I had to confront that past self who said all of this. I couldn’t beat myself up for not being hired writing officially because I still think that I’m closer to what I want to do than where I was a year ago.
I started to look at everything I did in a year, and I realized that I accomplished a lot of what I set out to do actually. In stages, I set out to achieve small things: make friends, learn the subway, work in an office (rather than out of coffee shops), try Ethiopian food. Because there were these pocket issues that I needed and wanted to focus on (including eating Ethiopian food), I tackled each in a sort of sad to-do list. Are you unhappy? What do you want to change about your situation?
Past Me was working in Starbucks, scheduling Pins on Pinterest and researching Tumblr demographics. I was stressed because I didn’t have friends to let out steam with. I was worried because I just took on a huge life experiment and already thought I was failing. On the bright side, I was eating more cupcakes and desserts than ever before.
A new problem kept popping up, but I guess we could look at it as sort of foundation blocks to get me to that happier self. I may not have the job, but I wrote on the weekends and explored the city with friends. I reunited with a few wonderful girls from Georgia too. Slowly, I started to create a network of people, I started to have experience in a variety of jobs, and I at least got used to sending out my resume. I could check things off my to-do list, and I can at least say I achieved those bits, because a year ago me didn’t have any of those things.
New York slowly stopped being wonderful at one point. It’s shininess and quirks weren’t that interesting anymore, and I applied to jobs in Georgia out of safety. But then New York would get me with discovering a new place, sitting lazily in the park, or just running into a friend on the subway (those odds!). I became overwhelmed to a point of wanting to give up. “Oh well,” I’d say, dusting my hands on the thighs of my jeans, “that was that,” and I’d walk into the sunset back to Georgia, telling myself that I at least tried.
I realized that the New York honeymoon period was over. Gone were the days I found my laundromat charming or the breakdancers on the subway endearing. Gone were the easy nights of writing in bed or the weekends in the library. I had to come to terms that New York wasn’t supposed to do all of it’s magic work for me. I had to be adamant that I wanted New York, writing, and me to work out like any healthy relationship.
My places in the city became habit, and rather than being tired of it, I figured out that it was actually comfortable, reliable. The city continues to surprise — that glean wasn’t polished off but my attitude and approach to living here has changed in the best way.
Having a job would be the biggest affirmation for my move. Having a job I like would be an even bigger plus to my ego (and life purpose nonsense), but I’m set in a direction I like. It’s a process so many fellow writers have to figure out. We fall in love with what we do, but now we need to figure out how long we’re willing to see it through. The same goes for wanting to live here.
It’s not always easy. I set a date and I might not have gotten to that point where I can say I “made it,” (aka: made New York my bitch), but I at least like to think I have more of the pieces.
They say the first year is the hardest, and I did give myself a year. Technically I failed, but I’m not quite done with New York yet.