NYC is tough, and it’s getting harder to tell myself I’m tougher. (But I’ll keep working at it.)
When I was 12, I imagined graduating college and floating off into my brand new Adult Life. I would have a job and an apartment, and I’d be able to hang up the posters I wanted and pick out my own couch. (How much could a couch cost? Honestly?)
When I got into college and shipped up to Boston for the next four years, I started daydreaming about finding an apartment near campus and staying there until something better came along, like becoming editor-in-chief at a publishing house or getting married. I was fond of telling myself that there were basically three cities I could live in for the publishing future I wished to have — New York (where I wasn’t then interested in living), Boston (where I was), and London (which was and, even after having visited, remains, to me, an unattainable fantasy land). And I sure as hell wasn’t going back to New York. It’s where I’d come from! I basically lived there. My grandmother lives there. Why would I go back?
Wouldn’t that be failing?
I am twenty-three and I have a job in my preferred field. I have ideas for other things I’d like to learn and do. I have writing projects in mind. And yet, I occasionally still feel the need to tell myself that I’m failing.
But Katie, you say, just move in with a friend!
To that I say, I’d have to get some, first.
Yes, I have some awesome friends. But they’re either happily settled in New York, happily settled elsewhere, or happily biding their time out here with me in Suburbia. Plus, I want my own space. I want a place to put up my own art prints and read my comics and invite people over to.
I’ve been saying I would move out since graduating from college in May 2014. First, my goal was September 1 — take the summer to save up and figure things out. Then it was a fresh start in 2015. Then by my birthday in March. Then the start of summer. And now it’s October, and forces beyond my control (financial, familial, etc. etc.) are having me push back the move-in date once again. I’m hoping for January or February 2016.
I’m not as restless as I was a year, even six months, ago. I tell myself it’s because I’m learning how to live in Suburbia; I’m learning to love the train commute. And that’s true. I love having my car. I love my friends. I love the local bars and I really (mostly) do enjoy coming home to a familiar house, where the internet always works and there’s always dinner waiting when I get home.
But on the dark days (and nights), I start thinking that this complacency is dangerous — it’s failure, hiding under a thin veneer of general okayness. It’s luring me into never leaving. It’s leading me away from my dreams, my goals, and the brand new ideas I’ll have one day and may not ever get to see come to fruition. My heart starts telling my head that I’m failing, I’m losing, and I can never dig myself out of this hole that you good people will all know as Long Island.
I try not to let the dark days (and nights) creep in. But it’s hard, especially when there’s a lot going on at home. And it’s hard to hear about friends with new jobs and new cities and new loves and new schools without letting the darkness seep in through the cracks their happiness creates in my armor.
I’m ready to leave; that’s what’s keeping me sane. I’m not here because I’m happy. I am not complacent. I am restless. I am chomping at the bit. I want to go out. I have plans. The day I stop feeling the darkness might just be the day I really lose. I can be happy where I am, I’m learning now, and still want more, want different — as long as I understand that I just want more and different, not better.
Life is not win and lose, succeed and fail. Life is try, try different, try more. Life is throw a thousand ideas at a wall and see what sticks to your life story. Life is outrunning the darkness and not letting it swallow you whole. Life is broken limbs and arguments and forgotten dreams and curveballs of all shapes and sizes emerging in your path.
Life is triumphing over New York City — maybe tomorrow, maybe in six months, maybe in 2017. Life is finding a guarantor who makes eighty times the rent of that gorgeous pre-war studio in the East 60s.
Life is mine. If nothing else, that’s what the big city has taught me.