Back in July of 1999, just a month after graduating from the University of Texas, I booked my first trip to the Big Apple. It was an open-ended ticket, and I was determined to stay until I'd found either a job or an apartment, whichever came first. I came alone and took my very first cab ride straight to an international youth hostel just outside of Times Square, in the part of 8th Avenue that still remained just a little bit seedy.
It was a real gem of a place. There was no air-conditioning, and I slept on a rickety metal bunk bed with a mattress so thin I could feel its coils pressing into my internal organs. I shared a unisex bathroom with a major drainage problem. If I ever develop hookworm, I can pinpoint its exact origin.
Because I was the only American staying there, I was also the only one fluent in English. I quickly bonded with anyone who spoke Spanish, a language I had an embarrassingly nominal grasp on despite eight years of study.
When my new friends from Madrid weren't
Another day, I put on the suit my dad bought me the week before, and interviewed with a headhunting agency. I'd majored in magazine journalism and was intent on finding a position as a writer or editor. A very straight-forward woman told me I would probably do just fine here, but my hair looked terrible and I really needed to spring for professional highlights.
This was my first northeastern boyfriend, Alex. He could have been an original cast member on Jersey Shore.
She may have had a very small point.
Before the week ended, I had one last thing to do--find a place to live. I found an ad on Craigslist for an open house in Hoboken, NJ, just across the river from Manhattan. Two single girls in their early 20s were looking for a 3rd roommate. The room had no windows and was so tiny that when you opened the door, it hit the edge of a twin-sized bed.
The two girls who lived there hung out casually in the living room while 25 desperate women vied to capture their attention. It was like The Bachelor for apartment shares. I got the final rose that day, and felt like I had just signed onto the craziest adventure of my life.
I packed three duffel bags of clothes and moved in three weeks later.
After 3 months of temping and 25 interviews, I finally found my first full-time job as an editor.
I was pretty excited.
Twelve years later, I'm still excited to be here, but I'm a little more subdued about it.
I'm an urbane and sophisticated New Yorker now--can't lose my cool.
But, between you and me, I still get breathless every time I drive
across the bridge and see that magical skyline.
And I still delight in seeing something weird nearly every day.
And I'm still incredibly grateful for straight-shooting city women like the
one who told me I needed to stop dying my own hair.