Exactly 365 days ago, I white-knuckled the broken handles of two 50-pound suitcases (of shoes) and waved goodbye to the familiar skyline of Chicago, boarding a one-way, non-refundable flight to New York (holy shit) City.
At the moment, I’m on a red-eye flight home from San Francisco. (I’m always airborn, apparently.) It’s 1:13 a.m. and I’m drinking red wine, pouring my heart into a long-winded love letter…
I’m oddly struck by how easy the words come.
Today* is my first anniversary of moving to New York City.
When I stepped off the plane on a brisk morning in 2013, I wasn’t greeted with open arms. I did not descend the escalator in movie scene style. I actually got frisked by TSA, pushed around at baggage claim, cut in line during an hour-long taxi queue and dropped off at the wrong hotel by my driver.
It’s been 365 days with my Manhattan. While it’s not the longest relationship I’ve had, it’s up there… and we’re still going strong.
So today’s post is a love letter devoted to you, dear New York, and our whirlwind romance. Or more specifically, to the naïve Midwestern girl who you’ve since shaped and spit out and celebrated. She’s come a long way since then, and if I could give her any advice before she steps onto that two-hour one-way flight, this is what I’d say:
Dear not-yet-in-New-York Hallie,
I know you’re anxious, so first, go ahead: Do that weird OCD shit you do when you board planes.
Now, let’s start with the good stuff. This place – the American epicenter of all things modern and relevant – is beyond. It will give you this crazy sense of gratitude, privilege and pride. It will give you your independence, a hole in your wallet, a test of your values, and a damn good time.
It will give you 24-hour convenience and the idea that you can get anything at anytime, whenever you want it. Like iced coffee and Gatorade delivered to your hungover ass at 9 a.m. (More on that in a bit.)
On a more serious note, there’s a certain allure to being successful here.
I’m not talking about that “reach for the stars! follow your dreams!” shit — you really have to work for it. Move here hungry and ready to hustle outrageously hard – so much so that your family will begin to wonder if you live in that little studio apartment you’re over-paying for or a table in that coffee shop on Park Ave.
In New York City, there’s a perpetual cycle of change and adaptation and more change – and it seems to happen here faster than anywhere else in the world. It’s exhausting, frankly, but at the end of the day, it’s going to make you love this city that much more.
That’s not to say we haven’t had our disagreements, New York and I. She’ll often make you unjustifiably angry, but I guess love does that.
This city is like a jealous lover. Seriously. From the get-go, she’ll test you. She’s cut-throat, over-crowded and ridiculously expensive. New York City is served bloody rare and you’d better have a strong lining to stomach it. There will be a good amount of public crying involved, and naturally this will occur during rush hour and in the rain. You should buy some waterproof mascara.
There’s roaches, rats and rudeness. Don’t expect to find an island of reprieve or a moment of silence in New York City – oh, no. It’s loud, crowded, littered with light pollution and, well, actual pollution. It’s ALWAYS garbage day.
You’re going pay an exorbitant amount of money in rent – in a 450 square-foot space that you’ll come to love but really only use for sleeping and showering. (Also, pro tip, asshole: You’re going to wind up paying an astronomical dollar amount for the all the times you get drunk and lose your keys, so please, PLEASE; just make a copy of them.)
Despite all of this, a year from now, you’ll be head-over-high-heels in love with your city.
When you first moved here, it was disgustingly romantic how you’d walk up and down the street and marvel wide-eyed at New York’s astonishing skyline. As if the city’s array of sky-scraping buildings was the most dashingly magical thing you’d ever seen in your life…
Turns out, they are.
Soon, you’ll see what I mean. Those buildings may stack a-top and crowd one another as though they’re competing for a prime spot in line at an Alexander Wang sample sale, but after a while, you’ll realize that those buildings aren’t just buildings.
In due time, stores and street corners and buildings will be paint-splattered with memories. That bar in Meatpacking will never just be a bar in Meatpacking — it’s where you over-served yourself with champagne at Charlotte Ronson’s Fashion Week after-party. The Starbucks in SoHo where you debated the frightening future with your best friend. The Container Store on Sixth Ave. where you collapsed in a fit of hysteria when you learned you landed your very first job in the city.
Soon, you won’t be able to walk around this place without feeling like buildings and Avenues are whispering back your secrets in a fit of nostalgia, laughing and crying with you as you walk hurriedly by.
And even on your very worst days – this city will back-hand you in the face with love. So much goddamn love.
A year from now, Hal, your life will never be the same – or imagined anywhere else. It will always yearn for drunk food delivery and dance parties 4 a.m. For champagne-soaked sunrises, coffee bars on every corner and subway cars that rattle your innermost thoughts.
Most notably, you will soon meet and befriend an incredible crew of people who make this expensive, tumultuous, adventurous life in New York City worth living. Together, there will be dive bars, late nights and awkward mornings in unfamiliar boroughs. There will be vodka sodas and soul-confirming conversations. These people will become your family. Your anchor in a city of chaos.
Life has a way of happening and plans often change faster than you can even make them. And as I’ve told you before, don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. So with that, my advice to you:
Live it up, girl.
Treat this metropolitan jungle of yours like a juicy orange on a hot summer day: Suck the pulp dry and Live. It. Fucking. Up.
Hallie (your no-longer-new-to-New-York counterpart)
*My actual one-year anniversary in New York was last week, but I wasn’t quite ready to hit publish.