{stories and snapshots from my new york city life.}

1.25.2012

Welcome to NYC: How I Got Here

I was not always the sleek, sophisticated, urbane New York City woman you see today. (Actually, I'm still waiting for most of those adjectives to kick in...). In fact, the first time I ever came to New York for a visit was a mere three weeks before coming here to live, and it's safe to say I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.


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 trying to put their hands down my shirt around to show me how to use the subway, I traveled alone on a double-decker tour bus. I rode around for hours and hours, afraid to get off and get lost on the mean city streets. I remember meeting a woman and her two daughters visiting from Georgia, and crying to them about how lonely and overwhelmed I felt trying to navigate the city by myself. They let me tag around for a few hours with them. That was nice.

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. 

9 comments:

  1. I love this post so much. Honest and lovely. This is the kind of adventure I wish I'd been brave enough to take about a decade ago!

    Aaaand ... your hair looks way better now. ;)

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  2. I love this post. Everyone seems to have their own coming-to-New-York story, most of which involve cluelessness about the subway and not hinting you could ever survive. I wonder how I'll look back on this period after twelve years?

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  3. Nice post Jenn - you were braver than I ever could have been in my twenties. You came, you saw, you rocked this town!!

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  4. Love this. It's so...storybookish. :)

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  5. Such a great post....it is fantastic that you made your dreams come true. I dreamed of living in NY after college, but I chickened out on moving there. I have since moved around quite a bit, with one 2 year stint in Westchester county, but it's just not the same as living in the city. I have a great life now, but will alway regret a bit not making the leap.

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  6. this is a great post Jenn! There is just something magical about New York. I get the same feeling about the skyline every time I see it...never gets old!

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  7. I just found your blog and love the background story. Moving to NYC really worked out for you. Not everyone can say the same. I love the details in your writing and the old pics too.

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  8. this is awesome, i love your story. im reading mindy kalig's book right now and it makes me wish i had a quirky nyc story but i never lived in a room with no windows. im glad you stayed, the city loves you.

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  9. I love your last comment, Gabrielle. Thank you!

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