I owe a lot to the year twenty sixteen.
In December of 2015, I graduated from college. On January 1st 2016, I caught a one-way flight to Europe, intending to take a 90-day internship with a travel company there. I spent two weeks exploring Switzerland, Italy, and Northern Ireland. It was beautiful and I met so many wonderful people. I was having the best time on this new adventure.
But I also recognized that it wasn’t right for me and I was tasked with the incredibly tough decision of where to go from here.
Lesson 1: You should be boldy enthusiastic about every day, and at the end of the day, only you know what is truly best for you.
As a quick disclaimer – I loved every moment I spent in Europe. Leaving was extremely difficult. But I also knew it wasn’t right for me. And so I bought a one-way ticket to New York City as it was the cheapest way to get back to America.
Sometime around January 15, I landed at JFK airport and hopped in a cab – destination: my brothers apartment.
Lesson 2: Never forget the importance of family.
From the second I wheeled my two suitcases into that apartment, my brother had my back. He spent his weekends and evenings helping me look at potential apartments to sublet and he helped me figure out the subway system. He showed me good grocery stores and gave me information about work opportunities.
I would not have survived an hour in New York City without him.
After a couple nights on his sofa, eager to have my own space and get out of their way, I hastily moved into a very inexpensive Craigslist find.
Lesson 3: Sometimes, you should look before you leap.
My first apartment situation was less than ideal. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t use the wifi – something that’s very useful when you’re applying for jobs. I had no direction and on top of that, my living situation was terrible. I felt like I was spinning out of control. For years, my entire life had been dictated by the expected: high school, college, graduate, etc. Now, I was on my own and I could literally do anything I wanted to.
That kind of exhilarating freedom had taken me to Europe and back but now that I was stateside I had no idea what I was doing. I was scared and frustrated and almost ready to give up.
At one point, I walked past a “for sale” sign on a van. Despite the ice that covered the streets and sidewalks, I took a picture, heavily considering buying the car and driving far away. (Looking back, I had no idea where I would go or what the plan was, but hey 2016 was kind of a loose cannon already, right)?
Within a week, I had pulled myself together and landed two jobs in the nonprofit sector. I also began working for a temp agency. One day after I accepted both nonprofit jobs, the biggest snow storm I had ever seen hit New York.
All day on January 23rd, the snow poured from the sky. It was one of the most stunning displays of nature and humanity I had ever seen. Central Park was buzzing with cheer and I couldn’t help but smile at a stranger holding a camera.
Lesson 4: The power of friendship has the ability to turn everything around.
The day of the snow storm, I made my first friend in New York – the stranger with the camera. She was a student from Germany who was working an internship in the city. She lived about a dozen blocks away from me. We spent most of that day exploring the park, pushing cars out of snow, and sipping hot chocolate in a coffee shop.
I will forever be thankful for that first major turning point in my year. And I always smile a little when I think that the first friend I made in a city far from home had the same name as my mother.
In February, I moved to another apartment and took on even more jobs and more responsibilities.
Lesson 5: Learn to love the hustle.
I threw myself into work. It was winter and I wasn’t too involved in the city yet in terms of groups or friends or commitments. Therefore I was happy to spend most of my waking hours working.
I would spend the 9-5 hours at one of the nonprofits and the evening hours into the night working coat check at a museum or helping out with an evening charity event through the temp agency. It was nonstop and I loved every second of it.
That being said, I made sure to set one boundary. I didn’t work on Sundays.
Lesson 6: Find a community.
At the end of my new street was a church. I decided to go one Sunday morning. I met the Pastor and the congregants and the next Sunday, I went back again. It was nice to build a community that has remained constant throughout my time in New York.
I could spend hours reminiscing on the past year, but I’d prefer to break it down into some numbers:
I have had 23 different roommates, lived in 6 different apartments, spent time in 5 different countries, and experienced about 100,1 things that I could have never imagined when I was hitting pots and pans together last December 31st.
Lesson 7: Say yes.
This year was the year of the open mind. I refused to shy away from opportunities – no matter how outlandish they seemed at the time.
I moved into an apartment with four boys I had never met. Some of them became my best friends. I took a job at a breastfeeding store. I learned so much about having a baby that, when they day comes way in the future, I feel like I’ll have a head start on the learning. I signed a lease and made myself to committ to something stable. I’m learning to add adventure to routine.
This year has been a year of love and pain and exploration and defeat and I wouldn’t trade a single moment or memory.
As most of you know, New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday. I’ll be spending the day in thoughtful reflection. I am grateful for what 2016 has given me.
I cannot wait to see where 2017 leads.