“I began to consider, upon the thought of “permanently” relocating… everything New York had made me. When I arrived, I was like a half-carved sculpture, my personality still an undefined image. But the city wears you down, chisels away at everything you don’t need, streamlines your emotions and character until you are hard cut, fully defined and perfect like a Rodin sculpture. That is something truly wonderful, the kind of self-crystallization not available in any other city. But then, if you stay too long, it keeps on wearing you down, chipping away at traits you cherish and character that you’ve earned. Stay forever, and it will grind you down to nothing”- Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky
This was in a chapter from a book I recently read and when I saw it, I felt like the author had gone inside my head and put my exact thoughts into his book.
I arrived to New York on April 20th, 2005. I was naïve but optimistic and amazed at the immense opportunities this city had to offer. I came with a carry-on luggage to visit a friend and the day my plane was supposed to leave I called my parents and said I was going to stay and look for a job. I was willing to do whatever it took to make it in the Big Apple! I thought I had a pretty cool story about my arrival to New York until I found out that half the population here has the exact same story!
My first position was a dream job for any 25 year old girl. After multiple temp jobs and four months of interviews I landed a job working as the second-assistant to the president of Chanel. The job was eye-opening to the cut throat fashion industry in New York, especially to a small town girl coming from the Midwest. I could write a book about all my experiences while working there but unfortunately someone already did and it’s called the Devil Wears Prada! Speaking of which, that movie came out while I was working there and I got invited to a sneak-preview showing along with the rest of the fashion executive assistants in NYC. By mistake, the first-assistant didn’t get an invite and she was livid and made my life pure misery for a week after! Yes there is truth to that book!
With the help of my mentor, I worked my way up the corporate ladder throughout the years. I was determined to keep climbing all the way to the top to show this city what I was made of and to make more MONEY!! I can honestly say I wouldn’t be in the job I am today without my mentor’s guidance. She taught me everything when it came to making job changes, negotiating, and just being a working woman in this city. Not only was she my mentor but she was also like a second mother and I am truly grateful for her.
So here I am multiple jobs later as the National Director of Training at the most expensive skincare company in the world. I had finally reached my goal both in title and in salary and I wasn’t planning on going anywhere! This job allowed me to live how all outsiders think New Yorkers live (which is totally not the case). At last I didn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck, I took cabs multiple days a week, went on exotic vacations, got a personal trainer, had Lasik eye surgery, ate at fancy restaurants and I shopped and shopped and shopped, buying my first pair of red-soled Louboutins and a Prada bag that came close to one month’s worth of rent! I had finally made it in NYC!
But just as the author mentioned above, New York chisels and defines you and if you stay too long it will wear you down. I realized that I didn’t like the person I was anymore. I was jaded and cold and it was becoming more and more apparent to me. Someone once told me, “take from New York everything it can give you but once it stops giving, get out” and that’s where I was. I knew if I didn’t make the change now I would wake up one day at the age of 40 and have nothing to show for it but a nice job. And while all that is great, it doesn’t really matter in the end….at least not to me anymore. When you die and someone gives your eulogy they will never talk about the job title that you had, they will talk about who you were you as a person, as a friend, as a sibling, as a companion and how you treated people. It only took me 32 years but I now realize money isn’t everything. Who would’ve thought!
So I took the last few months in New York to actually stop and smell the roses as cheesy as that sounds. I experienced this beautiful city for what it is. I tried things that I never experienced in all my time here and revisited places that I haven’t been to in ages. I ate at restaurants that I’ve always wanted to try, went to neighborhoods that I said I was going to visit but never got around to, I took multiple trips to the beach, enjoyed my morning runs in Astoria Park along the East River, gave money regularly to my favorite homeless man outside of my office and I thoroughly enjoyed my morning walks to work down Fifth Avenue waving to all the doorman I had been passing by all these years. I people-watched every second I could and tried to enjoy even the smallest details surrounding me on a daily basis; the smell from the food carts, street vendors selling trinkets, annoying tourists blocking the sidewalks while taking pictures and most enjoyably my morning cab rides across the Queensboro bridge taking in the awe-inspiring NYC skyline directly ahead. After all these years it was nice to experience my last 2 years in New York the way I had always dreamed it would be. It’s been a magical final 8 months and I’m leaving this incredible city with no regrets, grateful for the experience and excited to continue further on…..
view of my daily walk to work down Fifth Avenue