4 jobs, 3 apartments, 2 years, 1 city, 0 regrets. I slept my first sleep as a NYC resident exactly two years ago. Some days I feel like I’ve lived here forever, then someone will ask me for directions in an area with non-numbered streets and I remember in New Yorker years I’m still a baby. The past two years have taught me a lot about myself and the world. The past two years there’s only been a short time I thought I was in the wrong place. Now I’m not sure if it’s because I have an apartment I love in my favorite borough filled with creativity, have a job that challenges me, have roommates that I consider friends, have been focusing on personal expression, or because I’ve grown closer with friends I’ve known for years, but I don’t feel like I just live in New York anymore. New York feels like home.
Today reinforced that feeling when we decided to throw an impromptu Memorial Day party and I was able to cook and barbeque and open our home to a diverse group of people (made even sweeter when people commented that my signature cookies were better than Levain). It was a heartwarming day.
(P.S I made a Spotify playlist of all the blog titles here. Thought I’d post it here in case people didn’t make it to the end of this post…it’s long.)
How I Got Here: The Short-ish Version
I first visited NYC in seventh grade and felt the allusive “spark” we’re told to spend our lives looking for and I knew I needed to come back. There’s written documentation in my eighth-grade reflections that coming here was always my plan (and I love a good plan). I thought about taking the easy road and following my friends to Chicago where I’d have an easy and predictable life, but easy and predictable are a few of my least favorite things. After a summer getting a taste of what staying in the Midwest would look like while I interned at Kohl’s, my affinity for NYC was confirmed. I’m not sure I believe in soul mates, but I think Brooklyn is mine.
I moved to NYC with an unpaid internship into an apartment in Manhattan where my wall was made from a curtain – and I was ecstatic. This was the beginning of a much bigger story that’s still in progress. I started with an event planning company and quickly realized this was not the internship that was going to get me a full-time job. To make money, I was waitressing at Dylan’s Candy Bar, a sometimes miserable but formative experience. If you ever want to learn patience I advise serving tourists and rich New Yorkers at a sub-par restaurant.
My first big decision came five months after my move – I was offered a full-time position at a large ad agency in a role I wasn’t excited about and simultaneously offered another unpaid internship that was exactly what I came to New York to do. As these things usually go, I knew in my gut I should take the internship because it was exactly what I said I came to NYC to do, but it would mean working seven days a week for at least three months and still not making a salary.
I ended up taking the internship and learning my first few major lessons: always go with your gut and without risk there is no reward. I worked extremely hard, met some of my favorite chefs, saw the New York hospitality industry from the inside, and learned a ton. It was a great internship that turned into a great job, but a little over a year and an election cycle later, I knew I needed to do more. My new and current job just won public affairs agency of the year from Holme’s report and every day I’m challenged to be my best. Job I enjoy, where I can learn and grow? Check.
I have also moved more than the normal person in two years for a few reasons. The first included a mouse and desires for a room with a wall and to live where I originally intended – Brooklyn. After a drama filled few weeks we found a place and it was going well. Until the bed bugs, and the slightly nutso roommate, then the flies, then the cockroaches, then finally once we were officially signing a lease for my current place, the mice. That apartment’s issues were coupled with a horrible management company. I feel like just because of those 11 months I could consider myself a real New Yorker. Now I’m settled in a place with wonderful roommates, enough room to cook, enough room to host people, a walk-in closet, and a 2-year lease. Apartment close to the location I want with all of the amenities I want? Check.
All of these New York experiences have made me a stronger woman. I have had to call and fight for livable conditions, negotiate salary, accept a lot of stupid decisions. I’ve also beome more comfortable standing up for what I believe in, and actually standing in practice not just in my head. I read Jessa Crispin’s “Why I Am Not a Feminst” this month and it might be my favorite book of the year thus far. I was also recently watching Sex and the City and Carrie said something that connected a few ideas from Jessa’s book with living in New York. Carrie said “In New York, they say, you’re always looking for a job, a boyfriend or an apartment. So, let’s say you have two out of three and they’re fabulous. Why do we let the thing we don’t have affect how we feel about all the things we do have? Why does one minus a plus one feel like it adds up to zero?” After two years I have two out of three and feel like a lucky anomaly but the sentiment rings true for many as a result of what women are taught to value the most. Below I’ve gathered a few of many thoughts from a couple of my favorite chapters from the book. I could write so much more, but I’d end up just paraphrasing or rewriting the entire book here.
The Fights We Choose
“There is a difference between outrage and having standards.”
This makes me think of how I started calling people out on their vernacular in college in an effort to stop equating language like pussy and bitch to weakness and rudeness. Jessa’s point in this chapter was that we can’t react to every individual problem with an extreme response like firings and boycotts because that solves only that particular problem . We have to think about the root cause of why people are saying what they say or else we’re just wasting energy.
For me and my peers a lot is just colloquial. It’s so subtle it takes finesse to even explain why the word pussy is offensive. I had a conversation at brunch recently and was asked if it was replaced with a masculine word how I would feel. I would feel the same. I remember vividly having conversations about taking the word retard and gay out of daily conversation because of the people it offended and undermined. I now rarely hear people use them in daily conversations. How we speak is how we feel is how we act. These subtleties need to change so weakness is not associated with either gender, only true physical weakness. There are plenty of negative words in the English language, trust me we don’t need to use these. At the same brunch I also found out that a friend now calls his roommate out when he uses the above vernacular and when they’re around me they’re more aware of it, that’s a start. Another common theme I’ve run into through my readings: change the conversation, change the reality.
This article from Fortune with a list of Chrome extensions meant to address some of this bias crossed my path today. I’d be interested to see how it could change people’s perception.
Men Are Not Our Problem
“Men can and must participate in this project. For that to happen, we must reimagine our relationships to and with men, as well as our ideas of who men are.”
I’m going to start this section by thanking the men in my life. Two in particular who I know for certain have helped New York change from pitstop in life to home. I knew Alex and Mike from college. I was somewhat close to both of them throughout all four years, but never in the exact same circles. The past few months I have leaned on them both for various advice and support alongside our adventures and they have been my rocks. So, a special shout out in my blog is their reward…exciting.
The point of me thanking them here is that we as women and as an entire society have to rethink the relationships between men and women. I still hear people say that men and women can’t be “just friends” (see above it’s definitely possible) and “friendzoning” is still a thing because apparently girls are supposed to want to date every guy they hang out with. Even our Vice President isn’t comfortable having dinner alone with just a woman because of the optics and his loyalty to his wife. At first, I was upset that he had this rule, then I realized it wasn’t his fault. This image is a result of how women are portrayed in general culture with men of power.
A major theme in Jessa’s book is how we have to create completely new systems rather than molding to the system’s that have oppressed us for any real change to occur. She also mentions that this isn’t easy and will make people uncomfortable.
This brings me to the topic of marriage. This is the system I can see a real reason and possibility for change. For some reason, even from a young age I said I didn’t want to get married but I wanted to have kids. No matter how my brain got there, I still feel that way. Do I want a formal partner in life? Yes. Do I want to be bound to a partner in a system where at one point women were traded like property reinforcing a restrictive class system? No. Do I want to take the name of a man making their nomenclature the dominant and my children never bearing my name because I’m the inferior one in the relationship? No. Do I want to take part in a system that excludes people based on who they love? No. This is uncomfortable because I grew up in a church where marriage was the expectation and the expectation was between a man and a woman only. We also live in a country that gives literal financial benefits to married couples so if who and how you love doesn’t fit within the rules you lose. I could live with someone for 10 years, not be legally bound and would not receive tax benefits or healthcare from them. However, if I met someone tomorrow and got married next week I could have all of those things because I have a piece of paper that says I’ll never leave them, yet 50% of people break that vow. Women’s whole lives shouldn’t be framed by the male gaze. Yet it’s an easy trap to slip into when the language we use for single women as they age is all negative and marriage is represented as life’s highest achievement. I’m not immune to it either. I slip into this trap and think about what potential men may think of my outfit because maybe if I look good one will like me, it’s ingrained in us and it’s a larger problem than just marriage. I also think living with a soul mate or someone you love is stronger when there’s not a piece of paper saying you have to, instead waking up every day with an easy way out and instead choosing to stay.
These are some of my more extreme views, but I stand by them. It’s not enough for individual marriages to be “renegotiated” because there are thousands of years of oppression as a foundation and many modern sociological studies that say even the most equal marriages mirror traditional roles due to society structures and subconcious actions. I don’t know what the system solution is, but I know we can figure it out. Men need to be part of the process. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – men are some of our greatest allies. We have to learn to treat them as such and place less emphasis on them as potential mates. The best policies come when we debate and work across the aisle, the best romantic traditions and values will exist if men and women both gay and straight listen to what each other truly wants. I’ve paraphrased some with my own thoughts, but I highly recommend this book for to gain a different perspective on what it means to be a feminist and how we should be fighting for true equality for ALL – including those who are still oppressed by other systems.
*** Ever Since New York – Harry Styles