Well, WE are moving!
Garrett, Teddy, and I have packed up the apartment (but not really, it’s still a disaster) to move to Connecticut tomorrow.
If you had asked me three years ago, as I was putting together Ikea furniture and eating takeout on the floor while I unpacked, if I would ever leave NYC the answer would have been a firm no. Of course, life is funny like that. The best things are never planned and it’s way better to be flexible enough to evolve and change instead of staying on the “plan” just because that was, well, what you had planned.
So much has happened over the past three years. I’m emotional as I reflect, yet excited as I look forward. These posts are always the most challenging to write and I’ve been trying to sum up how I feel to share with you– and also because they end up serving as wonderful memories for me. A tiny slice I can reread and remember how I felt at the time. And maybe one of you has felt this way, or is feeling this way, or will feel this way.
As the next crop of starry-eyed kid-adults move into tiny apartments scattered around trendy and up and coming neighborhoods, I smile… I remember that “welcome to New York” feeling. A thumping heart that feels a lot like excitement but could be mistaken as nerves. That feeling of fresh beginnings with a clean slate; a road paved with opportunities and experiences only this city has to offer.
The one thing I promised myself when I moved here, really above anything else, was that I never wanted to become jaded about living in the city. Especially those first few months living here, I saw all these people schlepping to work, dragging their feet down the subway steps, tired, and annoyed. While I’ve had some bad days, I don’t believe that I’ve become jaded. That makes me relieved and happy. I may not be jaded, but I do feel a bit more enlightened. Where I used to think that NYC was the only place to live and the only place to work, I realized it’s not the whole world and that I could be just as successful (if not more) and just as happy (if not happier) somewhere else. A somewhere else where I have a bit more flexibility and freedom, while not completely disengaging.
I think the biggest thing New York City taught me was independence. There is something terrifying about moving and planting your roots in a tiny apartment in a city where you know no more than a handful of people and declaring that you’re ready for adulthood. I think I moved to NYC with guns blazing, blinders on. And while I have been here for three years, a full year short of my time in college, the changes I have seen in myself have been exponential.
I may be done growing physically but so much about me has grown. My heart has grown. My sense of adventure has grown. My mind has grown. My network, my business, and my bank account have grown. I have grown.
Friends | Finding friends in NYC was something that I was very worried about, but it was probably the easiest transition for me. I was lucky to have started off with a great group of women whom I worked with and an ever-growing industry of bloggers like myself. It didn’t happen overnight but I eventually met people. I said yes to dinners and brunches. I smiled (a smile goes a long way here). I opened up and dropped my walls. I was burned a few times and forgotten a few times more, but I did make friends… great friends.
I strongly believe that friends are what make the city exciting. I do enjoy doing things alone, but it’s the dishing over last night’s event at brunch the next morning, the skipping out of town early from work for a trip somewhere fun, and even the crying with your friend on the stoop of her apartment is what gives your city experiences a bit of color. It’s what gets you through all the grit, and there is no shortage of grit here.
Stress | There’s no shortage of stress here either. I’ve hit some pretty deep lows due to stress. It’s not completely the city’s fault, but stress seems to breed in the Petri dish streets of the city. I think it’s the claustrophobia and competitiveness of it all. It weighs heavily.
I hated going through the high stress situations, but the best things happen when I did. That is, the next time something stressful rolls around it wasn’t as bad. And when a more stressful situation popped up, as it always does, I can handle it. Onward and upward.
Self | Taking care of myself is something I knew I should be doing and I earnestly thought it was something that would just happen. That I’d move into my apartment and automatically be this adult who took care of herself. I’d wake up on time, go for a run, cook a healthy breakfast with produce I bought at the grocery store down the street. I’d work from 9-5, read books, go see plays, go on thrilling dates. It was pretty much the opposite of that. (Except for the waking up early… I woke up really early, but I went to bed entirely too late.)
After ten months, I had completely completely driven myself into the ground. I was exhausted, overworked, unhappy. Burnt out.
It took a few more years of growing up and making mistakes and figuring things out before I felt like I had a better grasp on what it means to take care of myself. Definitely still learning here, but definitely doing a much better job. Drinking water, eating better, doing yoga, reading every night.
(In case you’re wondering, I think moderation is the key for just about everything when it comes to taking care of yourself!)
Money | Oh, money. I wish I could say that I was one of those people who didn’t think money was important. However, financial independence and growth is something that I personally value.
I moved here with a small savings account that was basically for emergencies only (with money I earned in high school and in college). The first six months or so, I honestly ate a lot of toast and eggs for dinner because I’d spend my food budget on lunch’s out with co-workers. (I don’t regret that by the way, those lunches were how we became close!) Taking a cab was a luxury I literally couldn’t afford and one time when I spent $10 on a small book at Barnes and Noble, I felt insanely guilty for spending the money I really needed for lunch the next day!
Slowly, I continued to work hard and save more and more money. I definitely set the expectation with myself that saving was important and that making financial sacrifices was worth it in the long run. The day my Mint.com account alerted me saying I had saved $50,000 was a big turning point for me. It was when I truly felt like “making it” was possible. I still kept my job at that point though and continued to build my blog on the side with the steady paycheck because the financial pressures of the city can be intense. It was frustrating, and frankly still is on occasion, when I hear friends talk about how much their parents contribute to their rent and the like. But the financial independence I built was freeing and allowed me to really spread my wings. (It also makes big splurges a lot more meaningful!)
Happiness | I know I say this a lot, but my college experience wasn’t what I imagined it to be. Although I’m thankful for everything I’ve gone through as I wouldn’t be the person I am today, I wish I had learned how to be happier sooner.
At some point here in the city, I figured out that happiness is a choice. At least for me, it’s not something that comes naturally. I’m no Little Miss Sunshine. But it’s something I’ve practiced and adopted and now feel unbelievably better about my life. I think a great and simple example of this was when I shattered my phone screen for the first time last year. It was frustrating and annoying, yes. But it was just a phone screen. I even laughed after examining the spider-web screen, Garrett watching with wide eyes as he awaited my reaction. I wasn’t happy about shattering my phone but it wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t let the phone screen affect my happiness for the evening.
Business | Although I had started to think I wanted to do The College Prepster full time at the end of my senior year of college, I wasn’t entirely sure that it was even possible. I had, therefore, gotten it in my mind that I would get a job and climb the ranks of the corporate ladder. As luck would have it, I found myself instead working at a tech start up where my first year of work was accelerated at an alarming pace. (See above for the burn out!) It was good though because I learned a LOT about what I thought was important for running a business. I made great connections and really learned how to build a network of supporters. Most importantly, I learned what I didn’t want: I didn’t want to let the opportunity to continue to build something I had started on my own pass by while working to build someone else’s dream.
I made the difficult decision to leave behind my steady paycheck 13 months after I started my first job. I hyperventilated on the way home, scared to death I had made the worst decision of my life. I wish I could go back and tell myself to catch my breath and hold on for dear life because the ride was just beginning. There have been ups and downs, but overall it’s been an incredible, incredible experience to work for myself and grow The College Prepster. I’m thankful that you all have stuck around for the journey and I hope to continue to share more of it with you for years to come!
Love | I think the most unexpected part of living in NYC has been falling in love. When I was 22, I came up with my “thirteen year plan.” The plan noted that I might consider dating at 30. As someone who has never had a real boyfriend, I couldn’t fathom meeting someone I could love so much at this age. That is, until Garrett moved to NYC and really everything changed. It’s not so much that everything changed maybe, but instead everything all of a sudden seemed to make sense. One night, a short while after we met, I had this moment where I thought to myself, “Okay, I get it.”
I know that sounds cheesy and there’s a whole movement right now that says I should put my career above anything else. But falling, and subsequently being, in love has changed my life for the better. I thank my lucky stars at night that my life story and Garrett’s life story happened to overlap at a dark restaurant in midtown one early summer night more than two years ago. We’ve been living together for the past year (he’s been a good sport about my pink couch!) and we’re both really excited to start this next chapter of our lives together in Connecticut!
Because this post is already long enough, I’m going to share a little bit more about why Connecticut in the next couple of days!