Today we have guest post by Stephanie Florence, 40:20 Vision’s contributing / Millennial editor, as she prepares to leave New York and enter her next life chapter. Read her past reflections about living in this crazy city here: Year 1 – Year 2 – Year 3.
This is the blog post I’ve attempted to write multiple times. But trying to convey how I feel about leaving New York feels nearly impossible. Each time I begin to write to write about what it is I’ll remember most about my 3.5 years in New York City, a few themes emerge.
Why I came. I’m the girl who got homesick living only hours away from her parents while in college, but somehow thought moving states away would be a nice change of pace. Fortunately (that word has never been used in a more accurate way), it was just that. New York was a much more accelerated pace than I’d previously been moving on in Chicago, but it was the change that I needed. Growing up I was a prime example of a person averse to change and in constant need of a plan. I lived by my routine and tried to schedule everything. And if something didn’t go according to plan, chances are I was likely going to lose it. But that’s no way to go through life.
In fact, I feared I was too busy decorating the walls of my comfort zone that I was missing out on so much life outside of it. I made the decision to move at 25 – an age when I had exited the post-grad life timeframe, but hadn’t quite hit the typical “settling down” age. In the beginning, I told myself I was leaving before I got into a serious relationship or had my own family and would have more people to consider other than myself when making big decisions. It took me leaving my comfort zone to realize that I don’t have to follow some typical path into adulthood – where I meet the guy, “settle down” and end up with kids and a yard. People take all sorts of circuitous routes as they age and no one option is better than another. It took me breaking the walls of my comfort zone to realize I can break the norms of other parts of my life, too.
And it was hard. I flew out to New York twice for interviews to land my eventual position. The first trip consisted of 16 meetings over the course of two days. I had my ultimate company in mind, but wanted to make as many connections as possible, just in case. Once I had the job offer and was searching for a place to live, everything about New York felt like it was trying to pull a fast one on me. A pressurized wall? A one bedroom convertible apartment? A rent that high? A roommate you’ve only talked to on the phone? (…who you trusted to find your apartment?!) Is this really how it works?, I often asked myself. I soon learned the answer was yes, that’s exactly the way it is. I either needed to learn how to adapt or well, I never found an alternative.
And as I started getting acquainted with this wild city, she taught me I needed to pay more attention or my wallet and [brand new] iPhone would be stolen. Friends I met early on in my New York life will recall the post-it notes I carried everywhere with me filled with addresses, subway routes and directions. I survived longer than I knew was possible with a phone that didn’t have internet, map apps or photo taking abilities.
Knowing only one person when I arrived in New York meant I could look at this city in one of two ways: as the loneliest and most intimidating place possible or a never-ending network of new connections to make. Choosing the latter meant I picked up potential girlfriends while at the bar and started conversations with strangers on elevators. I threw myself into my work and put in the long hours to both befriend my coworkers and to get the most out of the work I was completing. I’ve seen that a lot of 20-somethings do the same here – we came to NYC to better ourselves and to get ahead in our careers. One of the leaders in my company explained it so well: “No one came to New York to claw their way to the middle.”
This place exudes energy. This is a city that is always on the go and I couldn’t have imagined my last few years any other way. I worried that my homesickness would creep in and force me on a flight straight out of here. But it was the energy that occupied my thoughts and kept me coming back for more. Throughout my time in New York, I’ve had to remind myself that it’s okay to stay in because there would always a show to see, a coffee or cocktail to have and a new person to meet. I believe it’s the taking time for yourself that makes this hectic lifestyle a sustainable one. One of my favorite parts of this city’s energy is watching others experience it. I’ve hosted family and friends on a consistent basis since I made the move. Some who didn’t quite understand what I was thinking until they saw it for themselves. On subway cars, in restaurants and on the streets you run into people from all kinds of backgrounds – people that live here full-time and ones that are only passing through. The thought of the people, and their constant drive to accomplish the next big thing, will stay with me always.
Initially when I thought about leaving New York, I worried I was admitting I couldn’t cut it anymore. Looking at all that I’ve accomplished while here, I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime and I now know that leaving is the farthest thing from giving up. I’ve experienced the purest kinds of happiness and lived through the rawest form of rejection. I’ve said “yes” far more times than I said “no” and I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to be the girl who needs to live her life on a schedule.
By living in New York, I’ve grown into a person that challenges herself and doesn’t allow herself to get too comfortable, which is exactly why it’s time to give Chicago a try. When I left Chicago, I never knew how long I’d stay in New York. Even when people would ask me how much longer I saw myself in the city I never had an answer. I couldn’t quantify my time in NYC. One thing I did know; however, was that I wanted to leave New York still loving it. I wanted to leave on my own terms and if the real world followed the length of time we spend in high school or college, at 3.5 years it looks like I’m graduating New York a tad early.
To the people I’ve met in New York, thank you for fighting alongside me during those hard times and for contributing to the energy that is the backbone of this city. I had a really good life before I came to New York, but my time here proved there’s nothing wrong with going after a little more.
To my family and pals back home, it took me leaving for a few years to create my own definition of “The Second City” – I believe it’s second to none. I’ll see you soon.
Stephanie Florence is a 20-something who can talk to a brick wall and dance to a kazoo. She contributes to the 40:20 Vision as the Millennial editor and on every day that ends in “y” you can find Stephanie meeting people, telling exceedingly long stories and taking the approach of a student…always. Find her dancing around New York City (for another 3 weeks!) in her personalized Chuck Taylors, complete with her Twitter handle: @StephanieFlo.
Like the artwork? Find much more where that came from at http://www.damionismyname.com.