I was recently sitting on a bench on the High Line in New York City with a friend who is temporarily in town for work. We were talking about life and career and travel. I was eating an incredibly delicious bowl from Eat Offbeat, a social impact food company whose menu is entirely conceived and prepared by a team of refugees and immigrants from around the world. It was a sunny Saturday and I had nowhere to be and all day to get there. It was a good day.
That’s when my friend asked me about how I adjusted to first moving to the city and for a split second I couldn’t remember. Then, I found myself completely humbled. Was moving to New York City an adjustment?
It feels strange to say. After four years in the city, two years away, and now almost a full year back, it was almost hard to tap into what that 21-year-old felt stepping off the airplane at JFK seven years ago. But if I’m honest, boy was it a doozy.
It was like this question unlocked something that I hadn’t thought about. I was reminded of the first Craigslist apartment… the lack of WiFi and excess of roaches and mice. I flashbacked to working for two nonprofits during the day, the temp agency at night, and the breastfeeding resource center on the weekends. I remember when I only took one subway line because that was easier than learning the map and remember feeling like dollar slice was a splurge.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately… what I want to do and who I want to be. Been thinking about the people I want around me and the things that make me feel excited about life. And in times of forward thinking, it can be jarring to think back.
But since this conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about that 21-year-old. Been thinking a lot about the first friend I made in the city and the first time I was asked for directions and could answer with confidence. Been thinking about how every time I’d go for a run or a walk, I’d mentally shade in more of the map with places and neighborhoods I knew. Been thinking about what it means to have a favorite bookstore or bar or bubble tea spot.
Moving to a new city? Starting a new job? Leaving a relationship? There’s always going to be an adjustment period. And I’d be lying if I said I got off that plane and immediately made my mark on the city. It was hard. It was really hard. It was a lot of penny pinching and second jobs and tight budgets. It was a lot of self doubt and insecurity and lonely nights.
But it was also a lot of growing up and expanding understanding and personal discovery. It was simplicity and wonder and one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Perhaps a lot of our big life changes are that way. Perhaps there’s something to be said about pushing through the discomfort until one day, years later, a casual question causes you to look back in awe of what you’ve built for yourself. Perhaps one day, you’ll be able to look back and be really, really proud.