Two years ago I turned my entire life upside down. I took a handful of the warmest things I owned and shoved them into a suitcase before boarding a plane to NYC -- on my own.
I had never met my new roommate or seen the apartment where I’d unpack my jumbled belongings. I snagged an entry-level job in Midtown in an industry I knew nothing about and had more fingers on my right hand than I did friends in this strange place. I had never seen (or really cared to see) snow before. Why did I leave sunny Florida for this place? My answer changes depending on my mood. Sometimes it's that I moved here to follow my dreams of becoming a writer. Sometimes it's just that I want to try out every single slice of pizza this city has to offer.
If you have dreams of moving to NYC, don’t do it if you’re hoping to:
Pursue your dream job. You want to act, model, write, become a PR maven? Don’t move to New York (yet). Instead, work really, really hard somewhere else first. Find an entry-level job or an internship while you live at home for a year and save money and learn the ropes. Learn everything you can about your industry and make so many mistakes that you have to write down what not to do on sticky notes. Learn how to ask for help. Learn when to ask for a raise. Learn how to be the first in the office and the last to leave. Learn everything you can and then move to New York to chase your dream job. By then, it won’t feel like a marathon. It’ll feel like more of a 5K.
That way, when you’re eating dinner at 11pm at your desk while smooching your endless to-do list or sitting in a crowded room waiting to interview for a job with other candidates with matching resumes, you’ll have the credibility, work experience, and the kind of tough skin that’ll make you stand out. The only way for opportunities to snuggle up in your lap here is if you do this: move here prepared to work so outrageously hard that your friends will start to wonder if you live in that tiny apartment on 31st and 7th or if you live in a booth at some coffee shop in Union Square.
Escape. Don’t move here to run away from your terrible ex-boyfriend, or the wave of depression you’ve been riding, or because you need to leave the twin-sized bed at your parents' house that you’ve been camping out at ever since you graduated from college. Everything, or everyone, you tried to leave behind when you moved, will catch up to you here.
And it’ll be ugly. You’ll be walking home from work one grossly cold evening and you’ll bump into him. Or you’ll find yourself standing on the corner of 57th and Madison and you’ll see something that will make all the emotion and baggage you’ve been trying to hide underneath your bed rise to the surface like a nasty pimple and you’ll cry. You’ll cry so loud and so hard people will think you’re laughing. Tourists will fumble around with their cameras and try to snap a photo of you in your natural habitat of chaos.
Be rich. Because at first, no matter how much money you come here with, you’ll be sure to lose most of it at first. Beginner’s mistake. You’ll have to pay an exorbitant amount of money in broker’s fees to find an apartment that you’ll then have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to sleep and shower in. At first you’ll pay too much money for most things, until you learn not to spend like a tourist. That you should never pay full price for anything you want to wear, eat, do. If you’re paying more than $1 for a slice of pizza, you’re paying too much.
Seriously, don’t move to New York City unless you want to...
Be attached to this place forever. When you first move here, buildings will just be gorgeous buildings. The skyline will look like it needs a pair of braces and will smile at you funny. But soon the buildings and the stores and the street corners will be splattered with recollections. That Sunglass Hut in Herald Square will never just be the Sunglass Hut in Herald Square. It’ll become the spot when you started falling for a guy you just met. The Starbucks on 86th Street will be the place you spent an afternoon crying over the frightening future with your best friend. The nail salon on 3rd Avenue will be the spot you remember falling down onto your knees in hysteria after you learned you got your very first job in New York City. Soon, you won’t be able to walk around this place without feeling like the buildings and the streets are whispering hints of memories, laughing and crying with you as you simply just pass them by.
Never be lonely. Some of the greatest advice you’ll ever hear in your life will come straight out of the mouths of strangers you meet on the streets. Even if you don’t want the advice, they’ll talk to you. They’ll tell you unwarranted comments like your outfit doesn’t match or there’s lipstick on your teeth, or that when you find someone you love, don’t ever let them go. (That piece of advice came to me while I was waiting to cross the street in the Lower East Side by a guy standing beside me in desperate need of someone to tell.)
Fall in love. Because even on your very worst days and even on your very best days, this city will slap you in the face with love. The love will be everywhere. In the faces of strangers, in the opportunities that you earn, carved into the pavement of a street you walk by every day but didn’t seem to notice. Because you’ll start to care for a place you only meant to stay temporarily. Because your life will never be the same anywhere else -– it’ll always yearn for dance floors open until 4am and subway cars that shake up your thoughts and twirl you into parts of the city that cars take forever to get to.
Don’t move here, please don’t move here, unless you’re ready to fall in love. Because you will. And it will be fabulous and it will be scary and it will be unlike anything you’ve ever loved before -- I promise you that.