I’m going to be 100% honest with you (because this is my blog, and this is where I’m forcing myself to be honest):
I didn’t like New York City at first.
No – same, fam, same – ME NEITHER.
Dude, okay I know, Blake/Serena – I KNOW.
For many eons (years), I’ve dreamed of visiting NYC – ya know, the city where literally every movie, TV show, and book takes place? The one Frank Sinatra tells me I NEED to be a part of? THE CULTURAL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD? Yes, that one.
Every year I’d ask, “Hey Mom, Dad, can we go to NY this winter/summer?”
And every year, “No” they dismiss me out of hand.
(That was a Hamilton reference AKA the reason for the questionable grammar – so if you don’t know squat about Hamilton you’re probably thinking I’m insane. In which case, you’d also be correct).
Their reasoning was always fair enough:
- “Sarah it’s too cold in the winter, the tourists are all there because Christmas/New Year’s, and you waited too long to plan this.”
- “Sarah it’s too hot in the summer, the tourists are all there because SUMMER, and you waited too long to plan this.”
- There’s also that tiny itty bitty mountain, called ENOUGH MONEY, but it’s whatever (it’s not whatever).
Long story short, I went to Europe and back before I got to step foot in the world of NYC.
Common English banter between me and my mates:
“Wait, have you been to NYC? Do you live in LA?”
“No, no, actually I’ve never been to either city…”
“I thought you said you were from America..?”
Turns out, living in the state that’s geographically farthest from both LA and NYC makes me as unpatriotic as you can get. Go Braves.
Point is, I was determined to go up to NYC. Not only to visit, but this time – with the plan to live there. That’s obviously easier said then done (on all accounts). But where did this new-found I-want-to-live-there-pretty-please drive come from?
This may be a bad reason, but it’s a reason nonetheless: ever since I came back from London, I’ve been dying to go back (physically & emotionally, whoops). These are rants for another post, but sometimes it’s spectacularly hard to readjust to life when you make one place your home for five months…and then you’re just completely torn away from it. Without any idea when you’ll be back. Every study abroad-er understands this, but I feel like we never talk about it that much, except for the infrequent, “oh yeah, I miss it, really badly…” End convo.
But what’s NYC got to do with London? Well, the whole time I was in London, and every time the whole “YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO NYC?” thing came up (why was that such a big deal to people?), I’d ask how similar that city was to my London.
“Definitely different. But if you’re looking for this type of big city vibe, then I’d say they’re pretty similar in that respect.”
I got that idea lodged into my brain (I have a problem with this. Letting ideas grow in my brain), and with the knowledge that living/moving to/working in London was not something, I, Sarah Johnson, a recent grad, who’s never had a real job before, could feasibly do right after graduation – I decided the next best thing could be my goal. I mean why not New York, right?
My mom could give you a whole list for that, but for me, NYC was in my dreams, my vision, and where I was going to be applying to. When I was in London, I kept thinking to myself, “I think I’m a city girl. I think that’s where I need to make my way.” Not sure if you can get that right from living in a city for five months, but I’m just going by what I felt.
I craved that city life.
But I didn’t just look at this from a dreamer’s standpoint. I also looked at it logistically – with my major, minor, and my career path explained, most people would agree: NYC is the way to go. Creative minds make it there, and if they can’t, they have to say they at least tried. I scoured the job market and most places really did point me back to the Big Apple. Between writing for a medical journal in Atlanta or writing about pop culture for a magazine up in NYC, I’d always choose the latter.
So I spent the summer perfecting my cover letter, applying to 1000+ job applications (more like 46), and okay yes – going to Disney World (priorities). But when the end of July was nearing, I finally got a response back from a few freelance online magazines located in NYC – one of them even turned into a Writing Internship (Monologue Blogger)! Yaaaay!
But alas, Poor Yorrick – the writing internship was great for my portfolio, but being unpaid and freelance meant I would be stuck in the ATL writing from my parents’ house indefinitely. That’s all well and grand (and I’m SUPER thankful I have parents who will allow me to come home whenever I’d need to), but the gig couldn’t help me get up to making my own way, my own money, and frankly – get me the heck out of Roswell, GA (which contrary to my rantings, is a lovely town. Great for families. Come visit).
Then God did some major big things that I still need to take the time to step back and thank Him for. Not long after I got that first writing internship, a PR firm called Group SJR (a branch of Hill + Knowlton that deals with media marketing & creative content campaigns) told me they loved my cover letter and were looking for someone like me for their Editorial Internship Program (I may have also sent them a follow-up email with a gif in it. Gifs save lives, spread the word)! Long story short, after some correspondences, a Skype panel interview, and a written article test, I got the offer!
So I took it! I WAS ACTUALLY GOING TO LIVE IN NYC!! Again, I really need to take a step back – realize that this doesn’t just happen to most recent grads. Getting what I want that quickly? It feels almost selfish.
But for a company in the infamous NYC, to want me, and to like my writing – I knew I had to leap at it. Again, this is mostly easier said than done. It sounds glamorous. It is not.
I was left with only two weeks to find housing – meaning my mom and I had to jet-set up to the city this past weekend in the hopes of finding some. We hadn’t secured anything when we had left last Monday (*shudders in disappointment*), but lo and behold, the second my Dad used his super internet skills to search for an apartment KABOOM – he finds one with all our requirements, and with a super nice land lady. Only problem? We weren’t up there anymore.
Long story short (that’s not possible with me), my home girl/sorority sister/general pal/all around awesome person, Rachel went to scope the place out for me (honestly, bless her and her friendship). She gave me her trustworthy thumbs up, and then we proceeded to chat on the phone for over an hour (again, #UnironicBless).
So now I have a place to live at in the Midtown/Turtle Bay area (THREE CHEERS FOR HOUSING HAPPY ENDINGS). This update is very recent, and I’m still super ecstatic about it. But dang, it took a lot of work and prayer to get there. And also, really good friends. Finally, I have a place that’s mine.
Anyways, the main point of this post though (oh are we getting to that now, Sarah? Thought we’d have a cup of tea first. Chat about the weather, maybe…), is that it took me a while to see how great NYC is – remember, I’d never been there before. And I had spent my 22 years romanticizing it, idolizing it, and comparing it to London in my mind – this had to be the greatest city in the world right??
Let’s follow along the weekend’s events, shall we? (Disclaimer: if you wanna give up reading now, I won’t hold it against you – you’re in for the long haul if you continue any further! For what it’s worth: more pics, less gifs)
FRIDAY 8/26: My mom and I arrived in NYC at 10:20am – meaning I had been up since 4:00am, with literally one hour of sleep in my body (why am I so self-destructive?). So when we arrived to the city, seeing the infamous skyline for the first time was superb and probably a-once-in-a-lifetime thing – but I was feeling groggy, distracted, and tired and don’t get me started on how I hate botching up once-in-a-lifetime things…I should probably get over that.
We took an Uber ride from the airport with this SUPER nice man as a fellow passenger, and he told me every little tip about NYC I’d ever need (realistically).
4 Rules of NYC:
- If it’s too good to be true, it is.
- Do not be afraid to say “no”; people will stomp all over you.
- Your mind will be opened; you’ll see things you’ve never seen before.
- You’ll always know what terms you’re on with others; NYC has the most honest people.
After we arrived at our hotel, we headed up and unpacked, then came right back down to go visit the first apartments on our list.
Our hotel was in Midtown East (same area my new apartment’s in WHATUP) in Manhattan, which is super bustling and super busy – all things I love. But looking around at the city, I couldn’t help but wonder, “what makes this place any better than any other city in the world?” It definitely wasn’t London. I’m bias in thinking that most cities are better than Atlanta (because I’m an ungrateful child), but even I couldn’t help but wonder, “what really makes NYC superior?”
We saw our first few apartments, and we left feeling super dejected – these didn’t look like the pictures? What is this dump? Why does everything always smell like 100% garbage mixed with cat vomit?
It honestly felt like even if I had a budget of $5,000, I’d still be dealing with sketchy walk-ups and cramped closet-like rooms.
It soon became very clear, we only had one path to go down:
So as you know, the weekend came and went without us locking down anything (I won’t bore you with details on things that fell through/broker fees that scared us away – what’s that? You’re already bored? Yeah, I know), but I bring up this first day’s apartment hunt because of the mood I was in.
Perhaps it was the sludge and the let-down of not finding anything that first day, mixed with my lack of sleep, but it gave me this version of the city that felt not like what I had expected. This was the city of dreams – but it was like any other fast-moving city? The people weren’t exceptional – heck, they weren’t even British. The landmarks – well, I hadn’t seen any yet. But I didn’t want to just love a city because of what made it visually famous. Does that make sense?
Either way, in reality, it wasn’t either of those things that made my dream-vision a bit foggy. Not-so-fun-little-known fact: for a long time now, I’ve dealt with OCD and anxiety, and sometimes, they can be all consuming – especially in new and stressful situations.
I was pressuring myself so much to love NYC and to make this trip be the breathtaking, first-glance of New York that I’d been waiting for, so much so that the two disorders were taking over my mind – and man, I hate it when they do that.
Point is, this mixed with my actual exhaustion summed up the disinterest with the city I was having that first day. I could feel it in the air, and in the way I was taking in the sights – even in the way I was walking down that hot concrete.
So flash-forward through sleeping-like-a-baby and waking up the next morning. With a good night’s rest and a new mindset (I was trying), we headed off to brunch. This was probably the greatest thing for my mental state. Food, my friends, it the secret to well living (okay, it’s more than that, but it’s a start).
SATURDAY 8/27: As soon as we stepped out the hotel doors, the city felt different to me. A little more familiar, a little more tangible. It felt a bit more relaxing, even as the taxis sped by, honking for no reason. Even as the garbage smell filled my nostrils, and the people shoved me as they walked by to whatever destination they had that day. It felt different. I was still in a weird mood, but I said to myself, “I think I like NY.” Big leaps.
Anyways, we decided upon “The Smith” via some online recommendations I’d seen (thanks The College Prepster!). Since it was 10am, I didn’t order the famous Mac and Cheese, but there will be time for that later, I’m sure.
I ordered poached eggs and salmon on toast, with some avocado on the side, because duh. Also duh, got the tropical punch cocktail. DELISH.
After the fulfilling brunch, I summoned my inner Audrey Hepburn, and pretended that I could afford anything in the Tiffany’s window. We can take comfort in knowing that Holly and Paul could only afford to engrave a ring they found in a Cracker Jack, so.
We walked up to Central Park, and so perfectly below it is the Plaza hotel – I know this hotel is well renowned for its luxury and beauty, but let’s be real. I went in for Eloise.
The inside was gorgeous, and I’ll probably spend most of my free days here loitering around the lobby and in the Plaza market that’s underneath the hotel.
Eloise’s gift shop was within the market as well, and so was this portrait.
The Eloise films were also constantly playing in the gift shop, so I watched until Bill left the screen, because WE ALL KNOW WE HAD A CRUSH ON HIM WHEN WE WERE LITTLE. My 22 year old self is not afraid to say it out loud.
We then walked around Central Park for 2.5 minutes, after which my mom declared she’d “seen it all” – oh, okay. She also stated 500 times, “this looks like the bridge someone in Law & Order got murdered under. Don’t go under there, Sarah, even if it’s 3pm.” Oh, okay. Still, we snapped a pic.
We made our first subway ride to the 9/11 memorial museum. It’s an interesting destination to want to visit, in that I feel strange wanting to look at it all – from a history standpoint, the stories and revelations of that day are constantly fresh and horrifying.
There is something to learn from it all, but at the cost of seeing our nation in its gravest moments. Still, I recommend the memorial and museum to everyone – the tears will definitely start flowing, but you’ll come out of it feeling the triumph of, and hope for, the human spirit.
I feel weird posting lots of pics from it on here, but here’s a piece of art that was truly inspiring. The artist, Spencer Finch, titled it “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky that September Morning.” He took 2,983 paper tiles all water-color-painted from Finch’s attempt to remember the color of the sky that morning.
The plaque explaining the exhibit went further to say:
“Finch’s work centers on the idea of memory. What one person perceives as blue might not be the same as what another person sees. Yet, our memories, just like our perception of color, share a common reference.”
Just when I had declared, “Well, this city really is different from London…” BAM. We found a Pret a Manger y’all. And my heart skipped a beat – my true love and I, we were together at last. Mom needed to charge her phone, and I said “Momma – Pret provides.”
So we stopped to recharge and I got my sea salt popcorn and well, water. Recharge. Refresh. Rejuvenated. Pret, I love you baby.
I honestly don’t even remember what happened the rest of the day (did we walk through Times Square? Grand Central Station? What’s happening). But that night I definitely remember going to “The National.” What’s that? Oh, it’s only the delicious and accommodating restaurant owned by Food Network Star and Iron Chef Geofrey Zakarian.
“Sarah…who is that?”
If you’ve watched Chopped at least 5 times (we all know you have, don’t lie), you’ll recognize him as the Silver Fox who always wears those dark rimmed glasses.
He’s pretty mild with his comments, but he’s a real sweetheart and his chef skills are to be feared. When he was crowned on “The Next Iron Chef” I may have shed a tear. This is mostly a sign that I watch way too much Food Network, but regardless I freaked when I saw him on the menu. (His picture y’all, not like actually him. Cannibalism will be judged accordingly on this site).
Here are some pics of our food to look at, because you know – food.
Geofrey, I was impressed, and also I love you.
After all was said and done, I declared NYC likeable after the second day. This was the difference between “Why NY?” to “Alright, okay, I see you, NY.” Recharge, rejuvenated. And so I went to bed watching Geofrey’s new show “Cooks vs Cons” (lol wut), dreaming about what tomorrow would bring.
SUNDAY 8/28: The next morning started with a plan to go to brunch again because 1. OBVIOUSLY and 2. it did wonders for how I felt the day before, so why not? We decided upon “Lexington Brass,” another stop that was close to our hotel. And as soon as we walked outside, I felt it again. Something different in the air. Suddenly, the city didn’t just feel tangible, it felt real and alive. It felt inspiring. It felt like anything could happen – that everything was a possibility, and everything was to be bounded towards; all inhibitions left at the door. I could finally see why NYC.
Lexington Brass ended up having a 20 min wait time, but it was absolutely worth it.
After the FANTASTIC brunch, we went to a few more apartments, and walked up some on a whim, but again, all of them either fell through, or were complete dumps. My new found ideal vision of NY was not squashed though – I was more so just like,
One place we saw again, looked nothing like the glamorous pictures on the net (I know this is a thing but like, I was expecting it to be livable, you know?). So deceiving; people are just out for themselves. Sigh. Such is life.
Either way, we carried on and decided to change the scenery by stopping by the Rockefeller Center. This was a good decision, because it began with a pre-stop at Magnolia Bakery nearby. The banana pudding y’all…
Also the plaque with the Rockefeller quote on it – inspiring. Wish I could have gotten the whole thing in a pic:
Then we stopped by the place where dreams are actually made. Still can’t afford a show even though I’m in the same city now, but hey.
We decided to end the day by trying out the Marriott’s revolving restaurant called “The View” – I got the buffet, and it was super dang delicious. Also, 10/10 would recommend because free view of the city from up above!
We later checked out Times Square at night and DIDN’T DIE – told you, mom. We called it an early night because we were leaving tomorrow morning. I was still in a very chipper mood – my mother, not so much: we still hadn’t found housing.
But she decided the trip wasn’t a total waste because the next morning we got a quick (nope not quick: the line took 30 mins) bagel at “Ess-a-Bagel” down the street. My mom doesn’t go bonkers for bagels, but she sure does for tennis. Like she unhealthily loves tennis. And we casually saw Sam Querrey, a US Tennis Player, in line. I am known to freak the freak out about things, but I had to do damage control for my mother. She had ZERO CHILL. If I hadn’t been there to tone things down, he probably would have never agreed to snap pics with us. But alas, it happened!
but more importantly, this bagel with scallion cream cheese and lox happened:
It took me three days to fall head over heels for the big NYC. So much so, that on the plane back to Atlanta I kept thinking…I know Atlanta is a great city; it truly is. I’ve heard fabulous things about Chicago. D.C. is beautiful. London – well, you know how I feel about London (in fact, I won’t go as far as to say which city I like more, but simply to revel in the fact that they are indeed quite different).
But after all is said and done – there really is no place quite like New York City; nowhere else in the entire world. It’s gritty, it’s bright, it’s ugly, it’s beautiful – it’s like everything contradictory about a person you’ve ever met. You can’t take the good without the bad, but why would you want to?
NYC, I think I get why people flock to you now. No where else gives you that feeling that perhaps, this city was made to make your dreams come true.
Thanks for reading this novel of a post – I don’t know how to write for myself any other way 🙂 Check back next time for when I am finally in NYC for good. I’ll be moving up on the 8th, and starting work on the 12th! Prayers and goofy text messages are always appreciated 🙂