New York City.
The city that never sleeps. The big apple. The melting pot. Gotham. The empire city. The center of the universe.
Growing up, New York City was my dream city. My two grandfathers are from NYC, and I had practically heard about it my entire life. And as a dancer, I always envisioned it to be a mecca for the arts, which it is, and somewhere that I always aspired to live in. The first time I visited New York City was with my mother and sister on a trip during spring break in high school. I was SO excited to visit the place that I had only seen in movies and on Seinfeld and Friends. We went to see Broadway shows, I took a few dance classes, we went shopping, and of course, ate at some incredible deli’s including my favorite, Carnegie Deli (RIP). It was truly a magical trip, we stayed in Times Square, and went to see every tourist sight there was! After that, I knew not only did I want to go back, which I did several times, but that I wanted to live there.
During college, the show, Sex and the City, was in its prime, and all I could think about was how I was going to get there after I graduated. I envisioned the glitz and the glamour, I mean sure, I can’t go buy Manolo’s at lunch, but I could surely afford to go out and enjoy myself, right? Um, let’s just say, I’ll get to that later. But, I made it happen, as soon as I graduated college I had a job waiting for me in NYC. Words cannot explain how excited I was to live in my dream city!
On a sweltering hot day in June, I arrived in NYC, with my 5 suit cases via a train at Penn Station, and I had absolutely no clue where I was going. And yes, in case you were wondering, it was a STRUGGLE for this small girl to get from the train station with 5 pieces of heavy luggage, to a taxi. When I finally made it to the taxi stand, I hopped in, I told the guy where I was going, and where does he take me? Let’s just say he didn’t go directly to my apartment, and $70 later, for a ride which should have cost me $25 MAX, I arrived at my frat house of an apartment in Spanish Harlem.
While sweating profusely, I managed to lug my 5 pieces of luggage up a flight of stairs. Thank goodness it wasn’t a 5 floor walk up right?! The guy opened the door, and showed me to my 10X10 room, half of which was taken up by a bed and dresser and the closet, lets just say, he didn’t clean out ANY OF IT. This, my friends is NYC, it’s the brutal reality of the apartment situation. Let’s go back to how I came across this lovely, $1100 “room”.
About a month before I moved to NYC, I reached out to numerous people via Craigslist to attempt to find an apartment and well, out of the probably 50 emails I sent, ONE replied. Most likely because they wouldn’t have been able to meet me until I moved there, so I completely understood the hesitancy. But the one guy who did get back to me, neglected to tell me a few of the details, but at this point, I was just glad that someone replied and I ended up having a room to stay in. So when I went in the room with my 5 pieces of luggage, he looked at me like I was NUTS for having so much stuff. Literally, the entire room was filled with my luggage. Not to mention, there were pieces of weed all over the floor. Little did I know that he would actually still be staying in the apartment, with his multiple roommates. How many? I don’t really know because it was like a revolving door of frat boys. The first morning I woke up to what looked like a few bug bites on my arm. For those of you who don’t know, when there are 3 bites in a triangle, that means one thing, BED BUGS! Yes, ladies and gentleman, HE HAD BED BUGS. Now, not only is it just gross that there were bugs in his bed and that I was sleeping in it, BUT I also had to wash and spray EVERYTHING I owned in boiling hot water and half of my clothes shrunk. WELCOME TO NYC CASIE. THIS IS THE REAL NYC LIFE, NOT THE SEX AND THE CITY LIFE.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I tried to get out of that place ASAP! A few weeks later, I managed to get an apartment on the Upper East Side. For those of you who have ever apartment hunted, especially in NYC, its like a freaking dating game or job interview. You sit down over coffee, get a tour of the apartment, and get to know each other, i.e. someone is judging every word you say, so you better have stalked this person on Facebook beforehand, so you know what she likes, and I can say that I like it too. Then a few days later, they will email you or text, and say SORRY, but you didn’t make the cut, or they might as well have said, I’m just not that into you. Can we just be friends? Out of all of the things that were annoying in NYC, I would have to say, finding an apartment, tops them all! I remember, walking into an apartment by Macy’s in Herald Square (lord help me, that place literally makes me sick), and this lady tried to rent me a “room” for a cool $1200 that was her clothing studio and my “room” was an area in the corner that had a folding room divider. Another time, I went to see an apartment that was literally the size of a twin bed. There might have been a good 2 feet for me to walk to my bed, but no closet, no storage. WHERE WERE MY 5 PIECES OF LUGGAGE GOING TO GO?! Apparently, I would have to get creative and hang them on the ceiling or something. Then luckily, I met up with the girl, who later became my roommate, and after that, became crazy, and I moved out around eight months later. And the search was on again to find the “perfect Carrie Bradshaw apartment,” for under $1200.
NYC isn’t exactly what you would call a cheap place to live. But, at the time I didn’t care, all I wanted to do was live there, which in hindsight, maybe wasn’t the smartest financial move given I was working for a non-profit right out of college. 30% of my pay check went to taxes, because you pay a city and state tax, and my apartment was $1300 for a little room, and I still had to eat, at least ramen. It was tough, I mean I wasn’t roughing it, but for me, I guess I was. To give you an idea, something that I eat normally is pasta. Pasta in Texas costs a dollar per package, while a package of pasta in NYC costs $2-4 depending on where you buy it. That’s at least DOUBLE what I pay here, an while a dollar difference might not be a lot, when you double things such as face wash, toilet paper, water, and your rent, money becomes much more of an issue. I gave up things that I enjoyed, such as getting manicures, going out to eat, dance classes/working out, going out, and shopping! While I totally sound like a snob saying that, I enjoy all of those things, especially the dance classes and working out. I think I gave up a lot of me in order to live in NYC and after a while, not doing what I loved made me unhappy. I always say to people, NYC is amazing, there is so much to do and see, but if you can’t afford to do the things that NYC has to offer, then why are you living there? I guess for some people, those things don’t matter, and good for them (REALLY!), but for me looking back, and seeing my life now, I think they matter, and I don’t feel like I should have to give those things up if they are important to me. I will say, even though this was my experience, not everyone has this much trouble. Money definitely talks in NYC. If you have it, life is much easier and more convenient compared to someone who was working on a non-profit salary right out of college. Lesson learned, move to NYC = YOU MUST MAKE MORE MONEY!
Another thing that I look back on that I would change is that I had a boyfriend literally from the day I got there, till practically the day I left. While, I am glad that I had that experience with him, looking back, that was my time to date, and have fun, and date JEWISH men! I was so wrapped up in having a serious boyfriend, and traveling to Toronto every other weekend, that I really didn’t take the time to enjoy NYC, and as a result, I think I really had a sour taste in my mouth when I left. Sure, we did do fun things, and I am so grateful for the time I spent with him and the adventures we shared together, and while I don’t regret being with him, I do regret not really living life in NYC to the fullest. I think I took it for granted honestly. And that’s why I always have the urge to go back and try it all over again.
This past trip for me was one of reflection. I have been back to NYC probably at least twice a year since I moved away, and I would say most of the times I have still felt a sense of sadness when I visited. I think while I had closure with my relationship, I didn’t have closure with the city, because in a lot of ways I still love it there. Every time I go back, it’s almost like I never left, I arrive at the BEAUTIFUL La Guardia airport (I hope you can sense the sarcasm there) , I walk outside, am bombarded by a plume of smoke from the cigarettes, then I stick my earbuds in, and wait in the taxi like for at least 30 minutes. But NOW, even better, there is a ton of construction, so the lines are even longer! Yay. I walk a little faster, and ignore the people around me, even when there is a lady on the subway who is pulling out brand new bottles of perfume from under her shirt, and I just keep to myself and blend in. That’s the New York way. Everyone doing their own thing, not really bothered by the naked homeless man, or the crying baby. But again, these CRAZY things, are for the better or worse, what make you say, ONLY IN NYC.
After I tell people that I lived in NYC, they often ask me, “Was it awesome!? Did you love it?!” And I respond back with a meek, “Well, I have a love/hate relationship with this city. I would say our status is ‘it’s complicated’.” Which seems to be a recurring theme in my life these days. Regardless of the smoking, apartment hunts, expensiveness, random water that drips on you when you are walking, bad winters, rats, smelly trash on the streets, sweating waiting for the subway, and just nuts people, there is just something about it that I love.
I went back this time, with open arms… and I wanted to see how I felt, just being by myself. I stayed in Queens, which is not normal for me, as I usually stay in Manhattan. It was like living in a somewhat normal neighborhood. Yes, there are of course differences, but it felt more like a place that I would live, rather than a place I would typically stay for vacation. I walked around the city for hours, visited Central Park, saw a few friends, shopped, and people watched. For the first time, in a long time, I felt no resentment, or hate, or sadness, but rather, I felt like I had come to peace with NYC, and it felt good. I have contemplated for a while now, whether or not if I could or would move back there, and now I can wholeheartedly say, if I found the right opportunity, I would. At this point in my life, I don’t really have anything holding me back. So I guess time will tell… and until then, I will enjoy my nice, one bedroom apartment with a dishwasher, big closets, and a yard, my car, free parking, clean streets, cheap drinks, good BBQ, mild Dallas winters and of course, I can’t forget, a plethora of salsa, chips and queso.