Turns out a lot of people visit NYC around the holidays, and the ones I knew followed the same pattern visitors to the city always do. They text me they’re in town a day or two before leaving either because they’re out of things to do or can’t decipher public transportation and want help. We then continually correspond that we’ll try to meet up, and I get an apology/goodbye text when they’re at the airport leaving. The classic ending is when visitors return home, add up how much they spent in the city, and realize that people actually live here… at which point I receive some variation of, “What are you doing there?” “How do you make money?” or “How are you surviving?”
It’s a fair question, one too many people don’t ask themselves before moving here. The answer for an aspiring artist of any and every kind, is odd jobs. Because one is never enough. I mastered the art of combining odd jobs in college, when I simultaneously wrote for two campus publications, casted every music taping in Nashville, charged athletes for help with their homework, and sold clothes to Plato’s Closet every time I was in a bind for three years. Here, the methods are as numerous, but not quite as shady.
I began serving at a restaurant, the quickest normal way to stay financially afloat. When that was barely covering my rent I accepted an on-call assistant position with a legal services firm where I worked for one full day. I got my $88 check in the mail and never heard from them again. When I finally landed a magazine job I continued serving on the weekends as an attempt to save. That was exhausting and miserable, but completely necessary as I resumed full-time serving when my temporary stint was up.
I then began the most odd job of all, fit modeling. When a friend in fashion realized my body’s proportional she suggested I be her line’s standard size small/2. Every one to two weeks I try on their newest samples so they can adjust the clothes to fit an actual body as opposed to a mannequin, and sometimes they even take pictures from my neck down. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but has become she and I’s time to catch up and helped me with a little extra moolah. My sneak peek into fashion is quite the perk, as was my adorable birthday dress.
Yesterday I acquired yet another serving job and will train to open a new restaurant in a few weeks. This will be an adventure in itself and help me recover financially from…living here. I’m intrigued to work at a restaurant from its debut and thrilled to start off without any regulars. No customers can claim they know more about the restaurant than we who work there do, because they will literally have never been to one. For a server, this is an ideal feat. For a server who spent the last year in a diner where Upper East Sider’s have come for all three meals for half a century, this is a victory.
Most importantly, in between serving and assisting and standing and changing clothes, I write. I blog about at least two restaurants a week, and I blog here about trying to make it as a writer in New York City. The blogs have provided consistency and experience while keeping everyone at home informed. Likewise, I apply to editorial positions like a fiend still, writing cover letters and following ten job sites daily. I celebrate stepping stones like the travel article I’ll have published in On Holiday magazine and interning for Hungry? City Guides, and I keep writing. My friend the actress keeps auditioning up to six times a day, my friend the photographer continues building her portfolio everywhere she goes, and my friend the former editor takes design classes at night to expand her resume. That’s what we do here and how we survive, we’re all working toward working by working. Our most important work doesn’t make money, and potentially costs money, so we take odd jobs in the meantime. And some of us, after a lot of working, will get there.