I have come home every day for the last three weeks exhausted. My feet aching, my ankles covered in blisters from shoes that I believed to be comfortable but have thus far betrayed me, my back damp from sweating on the subway platform and my hair frizzy from the humid city air. (Gross, I know. I’m a vision.)
Every time I make it home I feel relieved because I’m back in the safe haven that is my concrete basement apartment that seems to be perpetually a work in progress. But it is familiar and predictable, and for that, I am grateful.
New York City is not familiar and predictable. You could step in dog shit accidentally and not notice all day or miss an e-mail telling you not to come into the office until 11 when you woke up at 6 or be on the wrong subway for 20 minutes and not realize it. The city is not predictable, but my apartment is predictable. My apartment is slow-moving, and my roommate is loving and comforting, where the city is not. And I relish in those facts.
I graduated in May and all I’ve been thinking about all summer is how much I want to go back. Things were so much easier in college and I realize now that, while I did not take many of the professional and networking and classes for granted (I did pretty much all I could do and interned and worked nonstop. Yeah, this is a humble-brag), I definitely took the social aspect of college for granted, except maybe my last semester of college where I lived for going out on Thursday nights for karaoke.
In college, all your friends are right there, all the time. You could text your girl friend and ask her if she wanted to get a drink with you or watch a movie and she could say yes and then you’d both be at Viva, frozen margarita in hand, or splayed out on the couch in front of your roommate’s Apple TV in 10 minutes.
In the city, hanging out with someone is an ordeal. You have to text someone hours, sometimes days in advance. You have to find somewhere to meet that’s in between where you both live/work or it’s a hassle for both of you. I work most days from 10 am-5 pm, so I can’t do really anything during the day. Classes at NYU start next week, so then I’ll be there doing that from 6:30-9 pm, and then the day is over and then I’m going to pass out from exhaustion and the hectic city work-class-sleep-repeat cycle will start all over.
I’ve been having not the easiest time mental health-wise here. I’m going to be honest– transitioning from Ithaca to Harlem has been HARD. Other than transitioning from living in Croton to living in Ithaca when I was 18 years old, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
When I was a kid, I always wanted to live in the city. I always wanted to know the city like my dad knows it. The city has ENERGY. The city is ALIVE. There are always people doing things– moving, thinking, creating, living. The city is where all of the people who are doing the things that I want to be doing, working in book publishing, lived and thrived, and when I was a kid I would think all the time about how, one day, I was going to be one of them.
I have been here for almost a month, and I am learning that it is a lot harder to be one of those living and thriving people when New York keeps kicking my ass with its vastness and its unpredictability.
I have learned that I am terrible at dealing with change (but I kind of knew that already. Moving here has just reiterated that). And I have learned that New York is a really hard place to live. It toughens you up, and I was not a tough person to begin with. I am basically an uncooked noodle in the boiling pot of water that is New York. (I realize that that was a terrible visual comparison but I’m going to leave it anyway because now I’m rereading this blog post and cracking up.)
Here is what I’ve learned so far: New York makes you try. You can’t just exist here. You have to be actively existing– doing things to make money, better yourself, talk to people and find human connections. The city out there is scary, and I’ve learned that I have to dive right in, no toe dipping, diving, or I’m going to fail, and failing is not an option for me.
Classes at NYU start in a week and a half (!!), and I am scared out of my mind. I’ve heard that the professors and students in my program are really nice and supportive, which is encouraging. I know I’m going to have to dive in order to survive there, and I’m terrified about that. I have been feeling kind of defeated, but what I think I have to do is just get used to living here, toughen up a little bit and find where I belong, and everything will eventually fall into place.