What a wild ride it has been living here for the past (almost) year. When I moved in last September, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had an internship at a little-known website in Chinatown, a living room- and oven-less apartment in Queens, and a dream of working in magazine publishing. Here are a few things I learned along the way…
1. Queens can become home. It just takes a while. I’ll always remember asking my friend Sabrina, a Queens native, if Jackson Heights was a good neighborhood to live in when I was planning my move. Her response: “It’s okay, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” What did I do? Move to Jackson Heights. It is basically the opposite of anywhere I’ve ever lived with its plethora of Indian restaurants, 25:1 ratio of car dealerships to Targets, creepy cab men, and occasionally crazy inhabitants. Add to that the loonies I was surrounded with in my apartment building and I was a little terrified. But somewhere in between a stand-off with my cursing landlord (hey, we got the oven) and the long treks back from the subway in the frigid winters and lugging my suitcase through hail, rain, heat waves, and snow, it has become my little home in a way that I never saw it before. Our tiny kitchen table has become our living room, a space to vent and laugh and cook and cry after long days at work. My room has become my quiet place with its special touches and makeshift bookshelf and mountain of pillows. Wine glasses fill the cupboards, leftovers clutter the fridge, and my roommate-turned-friend is just down the hall. I don’t get scared on my morning or nightly runs anymore, and my favorite bagel place is not in the city, but just a few blocks up and around the corner. Queens is impossibly imperfect and strange, but I love it.
2. (Almost) Everything happens for a reason. This is such a hard lesson for me to learn, but I undoubtedly believe it’s true because of living here. The city kept me here even when I was fighting like a feral cat to go home, but only so I would end up where I am now. Here’s a little timeline for ya.
Intern at Shecky’s for three months. Running out of $ and hating life. Prepare to move home.
Get full-time, paid editorial internship at O, The Oprah Magazine through following-up skills and a little luck.
Towards end of internship, secure several interviews for magazine positions.
Extend internship end date so I can interview for said positions.
Nothing works out. Cry in beauty closet. Prepare to move home.
Someone goes on maternity leave. Friend at magazine suggests me as temporary replacement. Accept.
Go to Sarah Dessen signing at Union Square Barnes & Noble. Start to realize I want to do book publishing, not magazines.
Secure book publishing interviews/meet-ups.
Nothing works out. Cry on subway.
Put in contact with Chronicle Books through books director at O, who used to work there.
Keep emailing them every couple months.
Position opens, interview, offered position, accept. Cry on subway.
I know some people think of this ideology as some sort of an excuse or silly need for an explanation, but think about it (at least I do). What if I never attended that Sarah Dessen signing? What if I never met the books director at O? Sometimes I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out what I’ve always known: my passion is books. Reading them, touching them, seeing them, hearing them, collecting them. How did I ever think I’d fit in at a magazine alongside someone who buys magazine subscriptions like I buy books? I am so happy I figured this out sooner rather than later.
3. Stick up for yourself or bust. I cannot be more grateful to NYC for showing me my own strength. If you don’t stick up for yourself in this city, you will absolutely positively definitely get run over. No one is here to help you. No one cares if things aren’t going your way. Coming from a small town and going to school in one, it’s easy to become accustomed to the idea that everyone is there to help you. People are friendly, they want to see you succeed. Such is not the case in NYC. There is no one there to demand respect, money, or time for you if you don’t do it yourself. This is such a huge part of growing up—one that my parents were forever impressing upon me (“you need to learn to do it yourself!”)—but it was only when I moved here that I learned the immense truth and necessity behind it. I am proud of myself for that. If you want something, GO AND GET IT.
4. Wait for the right thing, Halal food is more amazing than you think, and life isn’t going to look like you thought it would. I’m beginning to think that’s okay.
Thank you, New York. Until next time. ♥