The first time I went to New York City, I moved there for four months.
In the distant future, I’ll say this to nieces, nephews, aspiring writers, and possibly children of my own. They’ll be in the middle of making big decisions, trying to decide whether to play it safe or step out of everything they know to reach for something that won’t come easily. Plenty will tell them to stick to the conventional. I’ll take them aside and encourage them to not let fear control their decision-making.
The first time I went to New York City, I’ll say, I moved there for four months.
And let me be clear: This was my first time. I’d never even been to Long Island or JFK. My only city experience of any kind was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Chattanooga, Tennessee—not exactly cities when you compare them to New York’s population of more than a million—and my only public transportation experience was a zero-transfer Amtrak train from upstate New York to northern Indiana—nothing when compared to the maze of subway lines and bus routes that stretch across New York’s five boroughs.
Moving to New York City, for me, was something of a shot in the dark. A step into the unknown that wasn’t blind only because of the Internet and the help of a few friends and family members.
That’s as much of the story as I have so far. Whether or not my time in New York City will change the trajectory of my life, I can’t say—I’m only a week in, but week one definitely gets two thumbs up.
The main thing I’ve learned in the past week (outside of what buses to take to get to the subway and how to use a MetroCard) is that New York City is a place like anywhere else.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with NYC. I signed out stacks of books from the library—travel guides to NYC. I read everything I could about 9/11 to try to understand how it affected real New Yorkers. In high school, I wrote an 8-page research paper about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. My favorite song was Huey Lewis’s Once Upon a Time in New York City (from Disney’s Oliver & Company).
New York City was this grand concept in my head. This place where dreams hatched from little eggs and took off, leaving the nest and their doting parents behind. Now, a week since arrival, I don’t doubt that dreams take flight here, but I also realize that New York City is just a place, a place where people come and go; live, exist; thrive, waste away; give, take; celebrate, mourn; run, walk, fall. A great many people for just one place, and no one with the same history, but people. Here to do this thing called life. And some soar to great heights, while others stay on the ground, pecking at everyone’s discards, barely moving when crowds threaten to trample.
I stepped far out of my comfort zone to come here. I took three trains, carried three pieces of luggage, and took deep, deep breaths. Now people are asking me, “How’s the City?” and my answer is a shrugging “fine, no big deal,” because it’s a place, like anywhere else. And it’s big, it’s exciting; there’s always something to do, some place to go, something to see—I’m certainly not disappointed. But it’s no better than anywhere else.
Bringing you up-to-date (a.k.a. what I did this week):
Last Saturday (February 1), I took the Amtrak from Albany, New York, into Penn Station. From there, I rode the Long Island Railroad into Queens, a ride which required me to move all of my luggage (one large suitcase, a smaller carry-on, and my backpack) and switch trains. The Burns, the couple I’m renting from in Queens, met me at the train station and brought me home.
Sunday, I went to church with my landlords, met two pastors my dad went to Bible college and seminary with, and went to a Super Bowl party with Krystle, another girl (29) who’s renting from the Burns.
Monday, I navigated buses and the subway for the first time to go to Manhattan for my internship on the eastern edge of the Flatiron District (I have yet to go see the Flatiron Building). I met with my supervisor who introduced me to other people working at City Limits, explained more of the expectations for interns, and gave me a notepad with a full list of tasks relating to research.
Tuesday, I interviewed Taylor grads as part of a project I’m working on with Taylor University Marketing.
Wednesday, I worked from the house for my internship due to weather. I researched from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and sent the information I found to my supervisor. He responded by saying, “This is really excellent work. Exactly what I want.” Exactly what I want to hear.
Thursday, I went to City Hall Library and dug through city records for four straight hours before stepping outside and exploring lower Manhattan.
Friday, I ate really nasty whole wheat pancakes, courtesy of Krystle, went for a run, and burned rice for the first time in my life.
Saturday (today), I met up with Taylor friend and New Yorker, Becca, who took me around Manhattan, midtown. We went to the M&M and LEGO stores, FAO Schwartz, ate real Italian, and walked past Central Park horses and carriages.
I’ve had a lot of people encouraging me in the past week: siblings calling me an inspiration and saying they’re proud of me, friends from school saying they’re excited for me and pushing me to document my “fresh independence and killer internship,” former bosses and aunt/mother figures who are very concerned about my safety, and my current landlords who call me “very brave” to come to the City for the first time with a commitment to stay for four months. All of you are a great encouragement.
The key to living is breathing, in and out. Take things one step at a time and wait patiently for the pieces to fall into place when you’ve done your part. It’s good to step out of your comfort zone, so don’t be afraid to. The outside world is not as scary as it seems.