The only emotion greater than my humiliation was my determination; I left her elegant apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to take a walk through the park. In the summer of 2010, I had big plans to move to New York City. After many twist and turns, I ended up with more than I expected.
The sounds of cars and construction filled the New York air as I made my way to the haven of Central Park. I sat on the stone wall protected from the concrete jungle that roared outside, seething with more emotions than an afternoon soap opera. Nearly a month ago, my best friend and I embarked on what promised to be the road trip of a life time. We threw a month’s worth of swim-suits, shoes, and make-up into huge laundry baskets and hit the road, headed for the East coast. For Ashley, my best friend, the trip was just a spontaneous visit home to see her family. But for me, it was my chance to finally find my place in New York City. This dream had started a year and a half earlier when I visited New York for the first time. Ashley, our friend Sydney, and I rode the train from New Jersey and arrived underground in the big city. As I walked out of Penn station and into the city for the first time, the aroma of snow and lights permeated the air—it was Christmas in New York. We were only there for five hours, but that was all it took. As our taxi made its way through the gently falling snow, I said to myself, “Sometime, in my young adult life, I will live in Manhattan.”
Ashley and I's first of many cab rides in NYC
A year and a half later, I was in Manhattan with the same dream. I knew my cousin had a point, but what about faith? What about hopes and dreams? Do those things not matter in the big city? Janie, my third cousin and I had never met prior to this trip. One day I mentioned to my grandparents how much I wanted to move to New York, and they told me I had a cousin who lived there. With nothing more than her address, I contacted her six months before my spontaneous road trip, saying I would love to meet her and talk about life in the city. We hit it off from the moment we met. She was so kind and eager to help me in my cross- country move. She introduced me to her husband, her nephews and friends. With this new found support, I was certain that I could find a job and finally make my dream a reality. This is it. Of course, I don’t have much money, but that’s what jobs are for. I can get one of those! I have always been optimistic; kind of a “where there’s a will there’s a way” type of gal. Apparently, New Yorkers, even my sweet, formerly supportive cousin didn’t share my same blind- faith mentality.
After an hour in Central Park contemplating our less than encouraging conversation, I knew what I had to do. I remained determined to pursue my goal. So with my new found zeal I set off to get a job and find a place to live. My first appointment to view an apartment was near Old Ukrania, somewhere around East Eighty-Second Street.
“You like it”? The eager broker looked at me expectantly as I peered into the doll- house- sized kitchen.
“I do,” and I did, even though it was a little space challenged. “How much is it listed for?”
“Sixteen hundred a month, plus deposit and first and last months’ rent”, she said.
The words rolled off her tongue and hit me full force. I felt like a little kid, standing outside the windows of Bloomingdale’s with nothing in her pocket but pennies and lint. I thanked the broker for her time and told her I would get back with her. What I really meant was, let me find a job, and then we will talk.
New York is considered the restaurant capital of the United States. Surely, a waitressing job wasn’t too far out of reach. I returned to the hectic streets of mid- town to apply at a popular Mexican restaurant. As I sat down to fill out an application, I noticed the line of people doing the exact same thing. I felt like an Oklahoma version of Dorothy from Wizard of Oz: I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I turned in my resume and application, receiving nothing more than a polite nod. Perhaps my cousin had been right; maybe I wasn’t ready for this.
The city that smelled like snow just a year and half before, now smelled of soot and heat as I walked to the train station to return to New Jersey. The train ride home was filled with brainstorming. I still felt convinced that if I could just find a roommate or apply at a few more places, I could make it. When I returned to Ashley’s beach house, I had an email from my cousin. My heart soared in the hopes that she had seen my tenacity and realized I could make it after all. Unfortunately, that’s not what I read. “This city will spit you out. You are not ready; I withdraw myself from the situation.” Her words jumped off the screen, piercing me like a dull blade. My heart sank; I felt as though I had just been rejected by the love of my life. I knew she was opposed to my move, but the day’s events, plus the realization that I had no one on my side forced me to accept reality—she was right, I was not ready. I was disappointed, but more than that, I was humiliated. For the first time in a long time, I felt too young, too naive and too inexperienced. I could not believe I had fallen for such a fairytale. In the real world, dreams and faith really weren’t enough.
The salty ocean air streamed through the screened in porch of my friend’s beach home, as I sat on the couch with my fairytale gone wrong. Ashley’s uncle peeked around the corner begging me to get out and have some fun, “Come on Kitty, it’s been three days. Why don’t you go outside, you will feel better.”
Reluctantly, I agreed to take a bike ride. The sun gleamed down on my pale, sheltered shoulders in a way that was comforting and inviting. I peddled vigorously along the boardwalk, with thoughts of my future bearing down on me. After ten miles of shore line had passed, I stopped—to think, to plan and to pray. The afternoon waves crashed calmly onto the empty beach, while I sat in the sand; for the first time since my failed attempt to take on New York City, something seemed clear. Perhaps my dream hadn’t been enough to permanently get me where I wanted to be, but it had been enough to teach me what I desperately needed to learn. I had the dreams and the faith, but I lacked diligence and the steady application of work that must be implemented in order to make anything worthwhile happen. Prior to this trip, I did not fully understand that dreams and diligence worked hand in hand. I come from a family that has worked for everything and faith had never really played much of a role in our accomplishments. But for one reason or another, I got the idea that I could snap my fingers and make whatever I wanted happen. I knew what I had to do—work diligently to one day, make my dream of living in New York City a reality.
Fun in the Sun-- New Jersey, USA
Although, my summer did not end with an amazing story about how I overcame all odds and still made it in Manhattan, it did end with a lesson; one that is far more valuable than finest penthouse on the Upper East Side.