As it is now September, I can officially say I survived my first summer in New York City. It has definitely been a roller coaster ride. I’ve learned that the twinkling lights can be deceptive and this city can bite you in the ass harder and faster than the mosquitoes that have been tormenting me since day one. Being a West Coast transplant has allowed me to view the city from a different perspective than I had when I first visited it as a child; but just like back then, I am no closer to having a grip on the Big Apple or the life I want to have in it.
The first major lesson I learned was how NOT to act on the subway. Don’t take up too much space, don’t lean on the pole, don’t make eye contact with the homeless people who come on and ask for money, DO fight for a seat as soon as you see someone start to stand up because even if you feel like standing your sense of balance is no match for an MTA conductor who wants to get through his/her route faster.
The second lesson I learned is that what I thought I knew about budgeting was no match for big city life. As someone in NYC told me, “The city will make you hemorrhage money.” And while the reference to bodily fluids freaked me out, it is so true. One drink in the city costs more than I would spend on dinner back in Eugene, and there are always a million things to spend money on. Since being here I’ve been to concerts, a music festival, and the MTV VMAs. None were cheap. All were worth it.
The third lesson I learned is that packing lunch saves more money than anything else and is 100% necessary if I want to do anything on the weekends with the current amount I am earning.
The fourth lesson has been the hardest: Homesickness is real and it sucks.
Growing up I spent summers away at camps all over the country and plenty of nights away from home and you would never find me crying for my mommy or skipping camp activities because I missed my friends at home. But this move has been completely different. I never realized how much Eugene, my university, and everyone there had come to mean to me. I missed the Eugene summers where I spent hours laying out in the sun after work, floating the river, and strolling around my quiet campus and a city I knew like the back of my hand. I missed my friends and my house and above all my bed. I missed having a space that was mine and being surrounded by nature. And I missed the fact that it cools off at night on the West Coast. It can still be 90 degrees at 11pm in NYC.
I still miss all of these things, especially my friends, and I know this will only get harder when school starts back up and they are all back together, when football season heats up and we battle our rivals, and when I see everyone on Facebook talking about sorority recruitment, midterms, and finals.
The fifth lesson I learned was how to combat my homesickness: acknowledgement and optimism. I had to let myself feel homesick and talk to my friends, and I had to focus on all of the great things about NYC that I wouldn’t have in Eugene, such as going to see Beyonce in concert, seeing a free concert in a laundromat, having a front row seat at the second largest fireworks show in the country, and that little thing called having a promising career future.
The lucky thing for me and my homesickness is that the majority of my family lives on the East Coast. I’ve gotten to reconnect with family I haven’t seen in years, and in a month my best friend will be an hour train ride away. This is something else I have to acknowledge: I’m really not as alone as the city can sometimes make me feel.
That leads me to my sixth and final lesson for now: this city can make you feel like you are on top of the world and in less than a second it can put you right back in your place. You just scored a ticket to your first award show, and on the way home you get on the wrong subway. You just saw Beyonce’s most amazing show, and on the walk home you trip on uneven sidewalks and fall on your face. You’re finally going to bed on time with everything ready for the next day and a giant waterbug scampers down the hall in front of you.
But I think this sixth lesson is the most important of all because it has been the best reminder that no matter where you live, East or West Coast, life will never be perfect. It was unreasonable for me to believe after the heartbreak I felt as I drove my overstuffed car out of Eugene that I wouldn’t be a bit sad and nostalgic when I arrived in NYC. I’m still the same person with the same ambitions, insecurities, passions, and neurosis that I was in Eugene, I just have to learn to adapt all of who I am to NYC. And I have to learn how to be me and live the life I want within the parameters of NYC, not Eugene.
NYC will never be Eugene, but at the same time Eugene was never going to be NYC, the city where I dreamed of living since my first trip there for my sixth birthday and where I knew a successful career in advertising could get the best start. I’ve found the small ways to create a community for myself and to engage in the things I enjoyed most about Oregon. I’ve joined a food co-op, I shop every weekend at the local farmer’s markets, I can still go to movies, and I am fortunate enough to have family all over the East Coast that allow me to escape the city and enjoy nature whenever I can afford the train ticket.
I guess there is a seventh lesson to throw in the mix: This is a big scary, fabulous city and I’m going to be ok here. A part of my heart will always be in Eugene, but in the last two and a half months another part of it has already been won over by New York. Or should I say New Yalk.