LOST IN NYC: WHAT TO DO ONCE YOU’VE MADE IT HERE

LOST IN NYC: WHAT TO DO ONCE YOU’VE MADE IT HERE

I have so many European tales, photos, and videos to share, yet I’ve been procrastinating. Big time. Mostly because of the bullshit “I’m too busy” excuse. When you’re slammed at work writing well over eight hours a day, the last thing you want to do when you get home is write some more. Also my lease was up September 1st so I had to deal with a bit of an unplanned move. If you’ve ever moved in NYC you know just how overwhelming, time consuming, and stressful that can be.

But it all worked out for the best and I’ve since moved from my three-roommate share to my very own studio apartment. Finally, my own place, a good job, a pretty active social life, and the ability to travel a decent amount. I’ve officially got everything I ever wanted since I set out to New York City seven years ago.

My new teeny tiny studio apartment in New York City

 

Despite all of this, I’ve never felt more unfulfilled, and therefore uninspired to write. So I’m in the long and confusing process of trying to figure out what’s next.

A little backstory; I set my sights on New York when I was only 16. It took me five years of saving and busting my ass with work and school, and when I moved here I was hardly living the New York life I’d always dreamed of. I was struggling in every sense of the word, but I was making progress on my dreams and that was the best feeling in the world. Throughout several ups and downs, wins and losses, I continued to struggle. But I was always optimistic that some day it would all pay off.

Then in February 2011 I landed the job that I have now and everything started to get better. I was working at a great place with great people, doing work I’d always wanted to do, and I had the opportunity of working abroad from our London office on the horizon. In a sense, my professional life was flourishing—finally. And as a result, I was financially able to leave the crumbling relationship I’d been trapped in and move into a luxury building on Wall Street. Sure my friends made fun of me for living amongst “the suits,” but at the end of the day I was 26 and living in a fancy building on Wall Street. For a girl from Ohio, I was doing pretty damn good on paper.

Being able to say I lived on Wall Street was a great conversation piece as I traveled around the world. It made me feel like maybe I had finally made it, though I still cringed when I had to admit that I was 26 or 27 and had two roommates. Plus I didn’t like the prejudice associated with living on the same street as some of the most corrupt, money-hungry assholes in America. After all, I’m a t-shirt and jeans kinda gal.

Lower Manhattan, my old neighborhood when I lived on Wall Street

 

So when I moved into my own place it was a very proud moment. A milestone some would say. This is all I’ve ever wanted in New York City, to be financially stable enough to sign my own lease—just me, no roommates, no guarantors or cosigners— and just have my own little slice of one of the greatest cities in the world.

And now here I sit in my studio knowing that “I’ve made it,” but feeling completely detached from everything here. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret any decision I’ve ever made and I’m very grateful and proud that I’ve come this far. But I keep wondering what’s next now that I’ve accomplished everything I’ve been working towards for the last 12 years. Clearly I’ve grown a lot over the past twelve years, and this older, supposedly wiser me doesn’t want the same things that a younger me of even just a few years ago wanted.

Especially since I’ve gotten back from London in May, I’ve found myself regularly questioning things like:

— Why am I still in New York? The whole “I live in New York” novelty has lost its appeal. I could care less about parties, celebrities, or fashion. I don’t have money to eat at any of the world-class restaurants or buy designer clothes, and I absolutely despise the 4AM nightlife and clubs. Not to mention I’ve been here for seven years and while I have made many acquaintances, I definitely don’t feel like I’ve acquired many lasting relationships.

— Is it New York that’s pissing me off, or is it my career choice? Sure there’s never a dull moment in advertising which certainly fits my easily-bored ADD-like personality, but is this really what I should be doing with my writing talents? Or should I be using my creativity to solve real problems and help people in need, or at the very least write about something a bit more meaningful?

— Why do I keep convincing myself that it’s okay to fork over this much money each month to rent a studio apartment, just because it’s in New York City? I could fly to the other side of the world once a month for the price I pay in rent here.

— Why do I own a couch? Okay this is a weird one because sure I need it to fill the space, but it’s just a random clunky thing that’s going to be a pain in the ass when it comes time to move again. I guess I don’t like the idea of owning anything other than a computer and a camera because then things feel more permanent, and well, I don’t want that.

— Am I going to be like this forever, constantly pushing myself to find “what’s next?” Or will I eventually grow out of this and find myself happy and content with what I’ve got? Because if not, I could see this shit being really exhausting.

While these questions keep racing through my mind, I can be grateful that the “I want to settle down and start a family” bug hasn’t hit me like it has most of my friends (and hopefully it never will). But in recent years I have started to notice the lack of meaningful relationships I have in my life. I know that’s partially my fault, but it also has to do with the fact that I feel like I’m not meeting very many people with similar upbringings, values, interests, or goals, so it’s hard to relate or get too close to anyone. I guess it’s a good thing because that makes it even easier to pack up and go, but I’m still convinced it’s a bad sign when you’ve lived in a place for seven years and still haven’t developed (m)any meaningful relationships.

The bottom line is that I’ve spent a lot of time and hard work to get to where I am and as a result I think I’m burnt out. It’s making me lazy and I’m losing some of my ambition. I wish that I could postpone my student loan payments, pay off my credit card debts, sell everything I own, and travel the globe for like a year. Maybe that would lead me to somewhere else with an actual purpose for being there. And if not I’d come back and settle down on the West Coast like I’ve always dreamed of doing “once I got older.” I know that if I did it’d be a huge risk, and while I definitely wouldn’t look back and regret my decision, would it ruin my credit, put me further in debt, and make me worse off upon my return to the US? Probably.

So here I am, lost in New York City. As far as I’m concerned I’ve made it here, so now I can make it anywhere, right? But where? And more importantly, why there? The world is mine to choose from, I guess it’s just a matter of finding a place that’ll give me what I want next. Now I’ve just got to figure that out.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? What did you do? I’ve always been the type to plan things out and work towards them, but now it just seems like a waste of time. I just want to go somewhere and deal with things as they happen. But I’ve signed this lease until September 2014, so I’ve got some time to figure it out.

 


5 Comments

  1. Caitlin September 30, 2013

    this feeling is why i bounced. left new york, made the complete career change, and stopped trying to control what would happen next. and since i did that…i mean i have no idea what’s going on or what’s coming next…but it’s a good life and i finally feel like i’ve made friends i can count on. i totally know how you feel…. 100% it’s always so many people but you always feel so alone. hang in there girl.

    • Just Visiting September 30, 2013

      Thanks Caitlin. I really like this idea of “stop trying to control what will happen next” but if I stop doing anything then I’m afraid nothing will happen. I think I need to take charge and just make a leap and THEN see where things go from there. Who knows though. Hearing so much feedback about this post has already helped give me some direction and inspiration to figuring out what’s next!

  2. Sean September 30, 2013

    I know how you feel too. I’m in a similar situation in NYC right now, though feeling the burn after only 3 years (maybe because housing prices keep getting more and more ridiculous!). I’m pretty sure I want to move to Berlin in the next 6 months, once I get everything settled here with my job and apartment situation, though I know Berlin won’t solve everything either. I think you should only live in NYC as long as you’re able to save up money (by living in one of the outer boroughs, for starters) and then use that as a launchpad to do something you really like. Renting a tiny studio for most of your monthly salary isn’t going to help you in the long run, since as you already know there is no inherent value to just “being in NYC.” I’ll be interested to follow along and see what you end up doing.

    • Just Visiting September 30, 2013

      When I moved here I told myself “I didn’t move here to live in another borough, I moved here to live in Manhattan.” And while I’ve always managed to stay within my means rent-wise, the value of my hard earned money is just really starting to become more clear the older I get. But like most things in life, I guess this phase too has its expiration date.

      It’s good to hear that you’ve got some direction on moving to Berlin soon, I’m curious to hear how that pans out as well! I can only hope my next step becomes this clear to me! Thanks for the read!

  3. Sean September 30, 2013

    Yeah, I understand that sentiment, but like you said… at some point you have to start trying to save money for other stuff. And living in one of the boroughs doesn’t mean you have to be far away; for example living in Long Island City or Williamsburg means you’re closer to most of the fun stuff in Manhattan than you would be in parts of the Upper West Side (or god forbid, Washington Heights). Much of Manhattan is just kind of a dirty trick at this point from a value perspective. If you could live somewhere for (for example) $700 less per month, that’s $8400 you can save up in a year for an around-the-world trip :) I dunno. There’s no easy answers, but NYC makes so many mundane things so difficult and it’s easy to lose yourself here in just every day drudgery.

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