learn, move to NYC

When seasons change


My last blog was almost over a year ago. Do you ever have a particular date force you to realize all that’s happened in a year? (Okay, New Years is the obvious one, but this draft dated back to–dare I say–Veteran’s Day.)

Since last Veteran’s Day… I moved back to New York–or as I like to think, discontinued visiting D.C. all the time. I got back to running and racing better than before that fractured femur. I qualified for next year’s marathon, earned my first gold medal, and had amazing volunteering experiences.

Beyond working and running (and not blogging), I traveled to Grand Cayman, Austin, San Antonio, the Hudson River Valley, and Napa and Sonoma–actually those were all for work and included running. I stopped in LA for a friend’s wedding and saw a whole new side of it; Koreatown to be exact. I took my annual trip to Nashville, tried enough new restaurants to counter the running, and have gotten to know Connecticut way too well.

There may have been more than four seasons; it’s hard to say. But seasons have changed. Temperatures and colors and yes, wardrobes, have changed (in the way that I feel one with my down jacket). I’m not an expert on change–I admit I do everything I can to avoid it, but here’s what I learned as the leaves turned:

1. Sometimes change is on you.
Everyone has days at work when they’re ready to drop the mic. Everyone wants to secede from their families at times. Everyone needs a day or season off from all the action or exercise or drama. But it’s your feet walking in your shoes. I ran away to New York once a month until I just manned up and moved back, which reset my mindset. And now I have a life and a job again–not a job where I live.

2. There’s always a bright side.
Or as my pastor puts it: There’s gold in the garbage. As it turns out… D.C.’s not all that bad. I find myself recommending its redeeming value to people who typically respond with, “I thought you hated it?” I’m just more of a New Yorker who chose to treat D.C. like a traveler. (I have a long list of picks, but you can’t miss Del Campo, Bluejacket Brewery, the Dolcezza Gelato factory + coffee lab, or American Ice Co.)

3. We get plenty of takes.
Don’t get me started on videos after a year of hosting (too) many, but if you haven’t heard: Even one- to two-minute video clips take hours to shoot and require tons of footage that doesn’t count and several takes on the script. But that’s so the producer has plenty to work with to tell the best story. While we don’t get outtakes in life, it is okay to try a second and third take. Sometimes that last version of the script you completely improvised is way better (and far more natural) than what you’d planned. And outtakes are hilarious.

I’ll catch you up on the latest ways to give back next, but here are a few ideas from my holiday gift guide, which work for everyday of the year.

learn, move to NYC

A thank you to my favorite things in New York

a motley crew

My job…that sounds very glamorous and obnoxious out loud…is to see the world and somehow articulate it on paper. I have the responsibility of fitting unforgettable experiences and indescribable destinations into a number of paragraphs to convince others to follow in my footsteps for a lot more money. While I haven’t seen everywhere or experienced everything, every small perk of my job has been as glamorous as it sounds. But while that sounds very lucky, I worked my ass off to get it.

When I came to New York I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t really know what I was going to do professionally, I had no idea how much it was going to cost, and my college experience did not prepare me to write 500 cover letters. While I was blindly following the general concepts of making money however I could, taking any job remotely related to writing or travel (including a fishing and hunting magazine), and taking advantage of the fact that I lived in New York City, every step of the way has been so different from what I expected.

I was hit by an Escalade on my third day here. I worked at a diner with the most bitter customers alive ever for a full year. And then I spent six months crutching around the most walkable city on earth. Things never go as planned, especially if you plan.

What I also didn’t expect was to have the most incredible group of people around me through it all, and none of you were in my plan. I never thought the day I pledged a stupid sorority in college that four of the girls in misery with me would still be by my side six years later. I didn’t expect my brother’s high school girlfriend to let me stay on her couch for two weeks or be a constant source of inspiration and support in adulthood. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the guy training me on the phones at my stupid diner job, to bond with another waitress so closely we would sneak Kahlua into our coffee together and eventually become roommates, or to take a trip to another continent with my first real intern.

I didn’t expect to meet one of my best friends on a night I felt hopeless and alone in church, to become friends with my sisters sort of ex years after they dated and even love his wife, or to be in a city with my brother’s best friend for the third time. And I certainly didn’t expect my boss’s daughter to be by my side through an entire day of surgery years after we met in a different city where we were no more than coworkers.

The truth is that I thought New York itself was enough for me, and even if it is, God gave me you all anyway. And as much as I’ve learned about the unexpected, I am still surprised that He is taking me to a much lesser city, away from you all. The truth is that I went back and forth with this decision so many times, because I wasn’t positive the choice wasn’t between my own selfish gain and my much more meaningful relationships.

But my passion and my desires very obviously put on my heart by Him, are to travel for a living, and if for no reason than to have adventures with the ones I love. When I look back at the last three and a half years here, those adventures are too numerous to name, and they’re what make my heart swell when I think of New York. It wouldn’t have been what it is if I’d done it alone.

I will never forget sledding in Central Park with Kristin, running a half marathon untrained with Josh, golfing for the first time with Mahaffey, riding roller coasters as adults with Jessica and Mamoona, moving into my first apartment with Lauren, the summer of the Yates, weekly lunches with Cali, and the ridiculous things I can’t even admit from dates with my three sisters. Most of all, I will always cherish everyone’s help and support before, during, and after my surgery.

When Katie first moved back and the guy I was dating met her, it drove him crazy how much we talked about our memories from college and studying abroad. It’s probably driven all of you crazy at one point or another. And it’s no secret that it brings back the feelings that I came here to forget. But he always told me that it was only a matter of time until we made enough memories here in New York to replace all of our old stories.

This may have been the only thing that guy was ever right about, but it has served true with each of you. I have adventure upon adventure with all of you that will soothe my soul when I am lonely or discouraged in my next big city. They are the memories that inspire more success to fund more travel. And while I am choosing to further my career in the decision to move, it is and always has been with the purpose of adding adventure. And I’m confidently anticipating the ones to come both in DC and around the world with each of you at different points.

You always have a place to stay, wherever I go, and you will always have a place in my heart as I go. For now, I at least want a place on your wall…or nightstand or wallet…and have provided the means to make that happen. I have photos from my favorite adventures with each of you as a keepsake and a few more sappy feelings if this wasn’t enough.

Never, ever hesitate to call, write, email or text. I owe you all the world and I promise I am here even when I am not here. I just ask that you don’t forget about me and that you keep adventuring. There is nothing like leaving New York City knowing you took full advantage of it while you could. Thank you for making it the best years of my life. I may not ever get it all down on paper, but I will never forget it.

learn, move to NYC

NYC Year Three: How to last and love it

On my third anniversary in New York City I ask myself what it means to have lived here that long, what I’ve learned, and why I pay four times more to live here than in my last city, and I realize it’s time to move.

Just kidding, I think a ton of people conclude that, but I am just getting started blowing tens of thousands. Still kidding, but it’s true. To celebrate appropriately I invite friends to a FREE event: the last movie with a view at Brooklyn Bridge Park. What better way to toast today than with friends, a park, the skyline and the completely unrelated flick people voted on: Clueless.

This year has been a beautiful disaster. I spent half of it on crutches when I’m already a total mess and what felt like half of it in other cities. When I was here, I learned to love Chinatown and finally feel at home in my own neighborhood, followed a dream and took my first course in Italian, tried at least 100 new things on weekend adventures and finally won in an argument with Time Warner.

It’s hard to narrow down the list of my favorite new discoveries, but I unexpectedly had such a blast shooting golf balls off of Chelsea Piers, finding new rooftops and tastings, pretending to have beach days on Beekman Beer Garden’s patch of sand, and taking advantage of weekend getaways. The spirit of the city motivated me to keep moving and has taught me to not let anything, including immobility, hold me back.

What I’ve learned from New York among a million lessons is that you’ve never really made it. You never reach that imaginary place where you’ve attained the career, apartment, relationships and income you dreamed of, because each new opportunity opens doors to others and every pathway is lined with motivation and inspiration as you come up with idea after idea on your walk (it’s a brisk, efficient walk for us). And you can’t truly grasp that this is actually a good thing until you live here. Because making it implies an end point, and no New Yorker is slowing down anytime soon.

Here are three more lessons on living in NYC–of the million–to last three years and still love it:

  1. You’re going to have to be aggressive. Even if this is not your personality, this is a requirement for staying. Or maybe for staying and not being miserable. Aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean use aggression, believe it or not you can get somewhere without shoving other people or forcing them off the sidewalk, contrary to popular belief. It means you have to call your super the second something’s wrong in your apartment and hound them until it’s fixed. You have to apply and apply and interview and fail before landing your first gig. And you may look at 20 apartments before finding one remotely suitable. Keep at it, everyone else does and it pays off.
  2. You’re going to be late. Not because you become an inconsiderate person, because that’s a real possibility as well, but because you rely on public transportation in one of the most tumultuous atmosphere’s on earth. When you’re first here you’ll stress about this and let your mood be affected and then you’ll arrive and whoever you’re meeting will be even later. Delay after delay you’ll learn to let it be and maintain your composure, and you’ll keep a book on you.
  3. You’re going to need to say yes. This isn’t the place to stay in on weeknights and watch TV…or ever actually. You can budget your time and money and responsibly manage maintaining rent, but you shouldn’t if it means missing out on all the things that make that rent worth it. I’ve said before, unmatched proximity to the best of music, theater, art and eats is included in the price of your rent–take advantage of it. The best experiences I’ve had here are still from nights or weekends when I was exhausted but said yes to an invite. I think this concept applies anywhere if you’re an adventurer, but the return is three times more sparkly, strange and unexpected in NYC. You’ll see.

Sometimes when the chaos, motion, cost or confusion overwhelm me here, I simply go back to my first blogs where I was kicked out of my dorm before I could even get dressed or applying to dozens of jobs a day while waitressing, and re-read how far I’ve come and what a journey that distance has taken me on. My first and second anniversaries are the perfect examples, as each occasion has provided perspective upon reflection.

If you get to New York and inevitably get discouraged, take note of the process, it will comfort and amuse you along the way. Then be aggressive and say yes and don’t worry when you’re running late, you’re where you’re meant to be.

New Yorkers, what’s the best advice you give newcomers?

find a little good, live, move to NYC

If you had one week left as a New Yorker

This week three of my friends are leaving NYC for different cities and all have asked me what they have to fit in before they go. The last week bucket list is challenging, as it depends on what you’ve already done, what you love doing, and what you can’t do where you’re going. Plus, a week in the city and a last week in the city are completely different. I might prescribe a balance and variation for a visitor’s one-week stay, including major, defining city landmarks you can’t miss, but for your last week, you have to relish in the discoveries you’ve already fallen for as much as you check off those last few things on your list. It’s must-see’s versus must-do’s, and here’s my best guess at how to decide…after all, I’m not leaving anytime soon.

What have you still not seen? Those things you meant to do in your first week, but kept putting off: the Statue of Liberty, top of the Empire State Building, a Broadway show, walking the Brooklyn Bridge… The quentessential aspects of New York–and there are so many–are famous for a reason, and to live here without taking advantage of every “best of” in the world would be a disservice to yourself. I mean accessibility to the best singing, dance, fashion, acting, food and culture is included in your rent… This is your top priority to move on without regret or unfinished business.

What has left you disappointed? As a firm believer that New York has anything you’re looking for and that this guarantee is why it means so many different things to so many billions of people, I advise looking for what you haven’t found yet. That Italian joint someone said was the best that didn’t blow you away? Look for the one that will. The show that everyone raved about and you didn’t get what the big deal was? See the performance you would’ve rather gone to. Didn’t get the Guggenheim, but haven’t tried the Whitney? Find your favorite pizza, bagel, deli sandwich, rooftop… It’s here somewhere.

What borough have you boycotted? That’s right, time to fess up and yes, with only one week left it is worth stepping all the way off the island. Brooklyn and Queens are as fascinating and fun as Manhattan in their own distinct ways and you have to at least get a taste of one other borough. On this one, take recommendations if you’re clueless.

What would you splurge on? You’re about to escape the cost of living that’s rocked your world, so go out with a bang. You can budget and save wherever you’re headed, but can you try top-rated restaurants, final world concert tours, trapeze school over the Hudson, or a dinner cruise on the East River? Celebrate having lived in one of the best cities in the world with one last account-emptying affair.

Have you done it all? If like so many others, you’ve spent your entire visit or stay hitting every bar and nightclub imaginable, this might be the week to sober up long enough to see a museum. And vice versa. At the same time, don’t force yourself to do something you know you have no interest in. I personally love a nice combination of art, entertainment, sports and food in my travels, but take inventory of what you enjoy and evaluate if you’ve experienced each here.

That’s it, five simple questions to help you plan one more week in the city that never sleeps. I know you just wanted a list of where to go, but you have to decide for yourself! The Manhattan experience becomes so customized to every visitor and local that I tailor every list of recommendations to the person I suggest them to. If you insist, ask me or read any of my gushing blogs on my faves. Then again, you should probably just stay…

  • a little good here: New York has a ton of volunteering opportunities. I’ve mentioned Bowery Mission before and know Father’s Heart is also in need of volunteers of all kinds.
  • a long way: Even for a day, they could use your help renovating their facilities or mentoring youth or working poor for job preparation.
move to NYC

That time I moved to Chinatown

There is a reason people don’t move on their birthdays…or do anything that is guaranteed to completely ruin their day I guess. I’ve always been an over-achieving, over-booker, but moving the day after my party was beyond ambitious.

Not only did I have to work, but I scheduled movers—my first ever—for 5 pm at night. Rule of thumb: movers don’t work like the rest of my organized, controlled life, they kind of don’t work at all. By 6 pm I was huffing and puffing, sweating profusely, on my front steps with nowhere else to sit as everything was packed. I’d been all over town trying to get as much as possible to my new apartment on my own. I was picturing a much smaller moving truck than what came…at 9 pm.

That’s right, for four hours I sat on my front steps waiting for movers to arrive. And movers did arrive, but not mine, the tenant replacing me’s. She moved her entire life into my little studio with my entire life shoved to one side of the room, then awkwardly left until I was officially out of her home.

The moment my guys arrived at 9 pm, we experienced the kind of rain writers refer to as the sky opening up. The movers, all of my things, and I were soaked through the entire process, then had to endure the traffic a downpour leads to—while paying by the hour—and last had to find parking in the rain in Chinatown. This evening was a nightmare, and one of those experiences that you dread for weeks knowing it won’t be as bad as it seems only to find out it was worse than it had seemed when hypothetical.

I did get a discount for the wait, with which I tipped my soaking wet and exhausted movers extra, and I made it. I finally left little 5A for a two bedroom in a sketchy, questionable, but more convenient location, and as much as I miss it and will never forget how much I learned in my first apartment on my own, I’m learning about letting go. Nothing lasts forever, just like living in Chinatown won’t…

  • a little good here: Chinatown is within walking distance of one of the most well-known and accessible shelters in the city: Bowery Mission. A facility specifically for men, they serve three meals a day, host several church services a week, and have a number of city-wide programs geared toward the homeless. (The women and children’s branch is in the Upper East Side)
  • a long way: You can drop donations off at this location any time it’s open. They accept clothes and food and post their biggest needs online. They also have a mentor program and you can sign up individually or as a group to serve meals.
move to NYC

Once upon a time in a land far far away

My one-year anniversary in New York was a celebration of new things, all I’d tried and embraced for the first time and how I’d learned along the way. It was an ode to spontaneity and ambition, ideals I carried with me into the following 365 days.

My second year became a battle song, the onward fight to secure a job somewhat close to a career and the continuation of self-discovery. More than anything, my time here continues to be a love story, the pages of which now include so many characters pivotal to the plot.

In the last year I served my last Upper East Side lunatic a Blue Plate Special, tossed in the apron, and applied to web internships to expand my experience. I tried my hand at HTML and CMS for a respectable few months before transitioning into travel writing where I’m progressing now. In perhaps the biggest sign of maturity I accepted that working at a magazine wasn’t as important as writing and traveling, and that I’ve already exceeded what I came here to do—a conclusion I’m still reminding myself of daily.

And travel I have, with at least 10 trips to Florida, vacations in Canada and Costa Rica, weddings in Montgomery and Nashville, and work in Jersey, LA, and Chicago. I indulged in three football games, four concerts, a gala, a Broadway show, cooking class, a winery day trip, and so many outings around the city…all chronicled here. It was a year of adventure, adrenaline, and accomplishment.

It had its valleys and disasters as any year would, but I learned so much from the dog days. I learned who will always be there, how invaluable true friends are, and what matters to me. I made some progress on who I’d like to become and grew closer to my God. Through break ups, complication, and uncertainty, I truly experienced heartbreak and may not have overcome it anywhere else.

My family reinforced that we support and defend each other to the death and reminded me I am never alone. Both of my grandparents conquered near impossible health blows and God answered so many prayers from the Days this year. Anniversaries simply offer up a dated opportunity to recognize how blessed we are year after year.

And this one was celebrated with Nadal and Serena at the U.S. Open. More importantly, I savored the occasion with Jessica, the friend God gave me this year, at an iconic New York City affair. We were completely swept up in the competition and simply had such a fun night out.

In the year to come, I can only hope to learn, see, and share even more in and out of this city, and to cherish every second of the experience. I am unabashedly giddy about the potential and unpredictability of it. And can’t wait to write it all down.

What have you learned in the last year?

find a little good, learn, move to NYC

“Why not now, right?”

This is the conclusion my new friend Jessica and I have come to. We met at church one night and both confessed we wanted to be more involved with our congregation, but hadn’t done anything about it. The next week we met for dinner before church and the next week we started reading a book together and we’ve been meeting weekly ever since. We’ve spoken with several girls who’d like to do the same, but never seem to find the time. The solution was obvious, but never as simple as we’d like, you just have to start…now.

When I returned from Costa Rica I had all the wild ideas that come from the high of foreign exploration. Besides the temptation to drop everything, sell my belongings, and become a full-time nomad, my practical plans of continuing mission work resurfaced. And all the little goals and mini-achievements I imagine leading up to that endeavor are do-able, right now.

For example, I’ve wanted to learn Italian since I spent two unforgettable months in the country, but I’ve been dead set on advancing my Spanish first. The travel clarity helped me realize there doesn’t have to be an order. Jessica told me she was interested in Italian classes she’d heard of in the city, so I told her I was in. Two weeks later we’re walking into our first Italian lesson about a month or two before we ever expected to get around to it. The day we inquired with the program they had a new class starting, and in the midst of nerves and minor panic we texted, “Why not now, right?” And we did it! We’re on a 13-week (the longest schedule commitment anyone would ever make in New York) journey through level 1 of 10, and it’s a start. We’re doing it!

The same day Josh sent me a Craig’s List ad for volunteers to babysit a young girl with autism. We walked out of The Help teary-eyed the night before, reminded each other we’ve both been wanting to do some good in the city, and woke up thinking “Why not now, right?” Three emails and a phone call later we were on the tram over the East River to Roosevelt Island, where we would learn all about autism and the Son-Rise program in the back of a Starbucks from a loving, hopeful mom who knows her daughter’s possibilities are limitless. We start working with Lizzie next week. We’re doing it, now!

The night before I was invited to Sleep No More, a Macbeth production that moves through 100 frightful rooms in a warehouse. All I knew was the entire audience wears masks, comfortable shoes were necessary, and the actors were allowed to touch me. I was intrigued, but was not ready to go on a day’s notice. I won’t even watch scary movie previews. But in the spirit of just doing it, I entered that pitch black building gripping the life out of my friend’s arm and ended up completely loving the magical creepiness of the whole production. Not to mention I was weak in the knees for the 20s-themed bar, perfectly fitting performers, and Flapper-esque servers. And I survived, I did it!

The thing is, you have nothing to lose acting sooner rather than later. What are we ever waiting for? My preacher once said, “If you need someone to tell you to do what you’ve been waiting to do until now, I will be that person. Go for it!” That was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to me and he was simply addressing the congregation as a whole. He doesn’t even know me. Time’s a hot commodity, it’s the one thing every New Yorker can agree on. And I’d love to be that person for you–Go for it!

  • a little good here: Another NYC volunteering opportunity is through a local church, New York Dream Center. I met someone visiting my church from here who told me how I can follow them on Twitter and see volunteering opportunities all the time that everyone is welcome to join.
  • a long way: The coolest program they have is Adopt-a-Block, where they spend two hours every Saturday at housing communities asking how they can help residents. They clean and paint apartments, play with kids, and give out food or whatever is needed and plan to cover every block in all five boroughs.
move to NYC

Central Park beats your backyard

My preacher actually said that while defending how much we spend on our apartments here for so little space. He said his apartment comes with the entire Upper West Side; he pays for the accompanying culture and of course, Central Park, not just a tiny apartment. It’s true, the value is living in the greatest and most influential city in the world, and he’s been compelling me and the rest of Trinity Grace to devote ourselves to staying here.

It’s not a hard sell. After work on Friday I met eight friends in Central Park for reading, sunbathing, and just plain hanging out, and I can’t over-emphasize the novelty of having that option in my backyard. We then went to dinner with a group of 14 people: four girls, ten boys, nine native Floridians, and ten new friends I had just met that day. Where else could that happen spontaneously?

That night I would meet up with people from Mississippi, Michigan, Kansas, LA, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska – all in one bar, for one show. This city is a smorgasbord of mutual friends from any and everywhere, and I love it. Conversations go beyond what you do and where you’re from, to where you’ve been and how you got here, how you met every other connection in the room, and what you’re working toward. Rarely is anyone doing what they came here to do, we’re doing what will get us to that end goal, and the process is what unites us all.

The next afternoon my friend Jessica and I attempted to see the Met’s Alexander McQueen exhibit that’d been absolutely raved about and celebrated for the last month. The last time she’d tried, the wait was two hours, a really unusual inconvenience for the Met. This time, it was five hours—two just to get in and three to see the main event, and we both had to pee.

We cut our losses and as a consolation made fajitas and cookies with my friends Josh and Jimmy that night, planning to wake up early on Sunday. We were advised to arrive at 6 am despite the Met opening at 9:30. This was out of the question, but it was our last chance to see it, so we settled on 8 am and grabbed bagels and coffee for the wait. Fortunately, her friend provided a member card and after our initial shock at blocks of lines on both sides of the museum, we were ushered right in and only waited 20 minutes inside.

This was sheer, extremely unexpected luck, and such an exciting way to start the day. The exhibit was amazing—modern and eerie, dark and twisted, moving and mystical. McQueen’s fashions were as enchanting as they were quizzical, and we felt as if we’d been secretly invited into his head for a bit. I am entirely unqualified to evaluate fashion, especially at such an intricate level, but I truly indulged in the experience…right in my backyard. A hologram of Kate Moss in a flowing dress was inevitably the highlight for me, but I left wondering what exactly makes this such a coveted attraction.

What else will people wait five hours in the heat for? What else will I wake up that early on a Sunday for? Not everything in the city is an advantage. We fall for promises of exclusivity and notions of superiority. We get excited when we can skip lines, land impossible reservations, or score sold out tickets all because of connections. But what if we used connections for good?

My preacher brought to our attention that our coworkers probably wish they had 200 or 300 people who had their backs like we do with our congregation. And his challenge is that this be our advantage. That we as a group use or skills and positions and connections to positively impact the city. That we infiltrate each major industry with good news and God’s love and consequently change the world because it all starts here.

We have five (and growing) locations, are united with other local churches, and have people in every workforce here from the arts to finance. The potential for change is boundless and with the power only God can provide I can’t imagine what the years ahead hold. And I want to be a part of it. I want to stick around.

move to NYC

The trinket shop

In a neighborhood already charmed by a century-old bake shop, never-ending canine commodities, and an elderly couple who people-watches from the seats of their walker’s each afternoon an unsuspecting window completely crammed with junk can easily go unnoticed. The only thing indicative of a small shop is a sign on the door with a phone number for inquiries and pick-ups, but this neighborhood knows to return after dark for treasure hunting.

Here what resembles the closet in the guest room or the cubby under the stairs packed with family belongings that are too significant to trash or sell, but too random or outdated to find use for, is the collection of just that from the local community. For decades neighbors have been dropping such items off where they can be gazed at in the window, unexpectedly discovered, or collected by someone who will honor their meanings. The treasures have sustained this building through generations and fascinate passersby who can rarely walk on without dropping in.

The trinket shop began in traditional yard sale fashion and has become a glorified thrift and antique combo shop after years of contributions and advances in renovations. The little store’s lack of structure or organization adds to the attic-full-of-your-entire-past feel. There are no clerks or cash register’s, sales or advertisements, just the young couple who’ve been entrusted guardianship and are typically revamping donations in the back. One has to squeeze and carefully maneuver about, but the atmosphere is relaxed and accompanied by indie rock background tunes.

It’s hard to describe the offerings as often as they change, but I’ve seen anything from an old-fashioned baby carriage, to a vintage trunk, to china sets, records, lamps, art, sunglasses, hats, picture frames, ornaments, CDs, jewelry, furniture and books. The assortment could safely be categorized as trinkets, thus after a night of brainstorming names for our favorite spur of the moment stop, Katie and I began calling it the trinket shop.

This is not the kind of trip one plans. Going in search of something in particular would inevitably disappoint. These are the things you stumble upon, the place you look when you don’t know what you have in mind. The collection’s intended to surprise; it’s a bunch of needles in a haystack and diamonds in the rough. The point of visiting is the process: searching, digging, exploring for something you don’t need at all, but can’t live without. [Note: I’ve found in some cases involving money, you can in fact live without that perfect trinket find, but you will keep looking for a pseudo-version, and trinkets aren’t mass produced. There are no knock-offs.]

Next time you’re up in the 80’s, presumably out to eat or bar hopping on 2nd Ave, and you have time to wander over to First, look for the little store that’s lit and overflowing with junk. The trinkets are as unique as this shop’s style and the charm of the permanent garage sale is irresistible once you’ve glanced inside. You might just find exactly what you weren’t looking for.

move to NYC

Live and learn and move to NYC

If I ran into an old friend yesterday and the standard catch up conversation followed, I’d be tempted to say I just graduated and moved to NYC to pursue magazine journalism, and so on. I’d likely use the word finally several times, and I’d talk about getting settled into my little studio and adjusting to financial independence, and so on. We’d talk about how long ago high school seems or how quickly college flew by and where all of our mutual friends are now, the predictable and completely unpredictable aspects of time, and so on. But that was yesterday.

Today I can finally recognize the reality of time. Today my story is definitive, measurable, quantitative. Today, I have lived here one year.

It has been over a year since the anxiety of finding an internship, the worry of affording this cost of living, the panic of leaving everything behind, and the uncertainty of whether I would make it consumed me. A year past resume building, job site scouring, trip planning, and double-shifts saving. I made it here, I’ve met people, I found my very own home, I joined a masthead, I wrote guest blogs, and I got a byline all in the last year.

I will never forget the moment I saw this island’s skyline through my plane window a year ago today: the vastness and sheer incomprehensibility of it, the busyness of boats navigating all around it, and the sense of activity you could feel from the clouds above. I looked down and felt the overwhelming unknown in my gut. I would live somewhere in there, somehow, and I had no idea what to expect. After dreaming of living in New York City since I could write my outright excitement and anticipation didn’t even leave room for fear.

In the following 365 days I would jump at the opportunity to try anything new here. I covered museums, cafes, restaurants, bars, parks and rooftops. I found an Upper East Side apartment, a part-time waitressing job, a full-time editorial job, and a church home. I ran my first half-marathon, went on my first deep sea fishing trip, shot a gun for the first time, took my first surfing lesson, ate wild game, became a Yankees fan, saw Coney Island, paid my own rent, attempted to cook real food, and assembled all my furniture.

There have been a year’s worth of challenges and obstacles to overcome through these triumphs. My computer crashed with 4000 pictures from Europe and all of my writing clips lost, I was hit by an Escalade and almost died on the street on my third day here, I’ve lost sleep and completely panicked over money and bills and overdrafts and rent, and I applied to over 60 openings before my first job offer, which followed my fourth interview.

The bad proved as vital as the good though and made all the difference in who I’ve become. I learned to budget and save and spend wisely. I learned how important family is and how blessed I am to have such a supportive one. I found comfort in friends of the same faith and hospitality from old, timeless ones. I learned finding yourself takes courage and persistence, and being yourself is just as hard. Most importantly I’ve learned that I still don’t have everything figured out and that there’s always more to learn and see and do and share.

I have a lot more to accomplish in the years to come, particularly here in Manhattan. I have a few museums left on the list, it’s only fair I see a Mets game, I have to find another job in two weeks, and I have to save if I ever want to leave and travel. I have plenty more people to meet and learn from, and more to write as always, and more to give. I may not be much smarter or wiser or experienced, but I’ll take it one day at a time and see what the next 365 reveal.

As for celebrating, I spent the first day of my second year in NYC with my closest friends who shared in my revelry. Katie and Rachel and I painted the town pink gallivanting around town in floral dresses via someone else’s convertible Mini. We toasted with champagne in a rooftop garden and shared in anticipation of all that is to come. Making it here and living out our wildest dreams has been complete bliss, and we have so many more adventures ahead. After all once you’ve made it here you can make it anywhere (Yep, Jay-Z).