How to live in New York for one year

by Teresa Finney

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Move to New York City. Make sure it’s in April so that you arrive at the same time as spring. Get a window seat on the plane and take pictures of the Midwest sky with the camera on your phone. Land safely. Get your bags and stand in line for a taxi. Tell the cab driver your new, temporary address and go, speed off into the newness that lies ahead.

Try to start a conversation with the cabbie because you are anxious and excited and want to talk to someone. Don’t take it personally when he does not seem at all interested in talking to you. Text an east coast friend: “I just scream California, don’t I?” Laugh when she replies immediately with “Yep.”

Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and see New York for the first time. You have to be sure to not have ever visited the east coast before so that when you land, you feel as though you have just arrived in a foreign country.

Feel scared. Feel big and tiny at the same time. Ignore those feelings for now.

Meet up with a friend. Sit on your new queen sized bed with your first New York friend and drink the remainder of your mini bottles of alcohol. Also drink wine. Feel totally fine about being really drunk within two hours of getting off the plane.

Leave your apartment with your friend and walk the city streets for the first time. Feel so alive, please remember to feel alive! GET ON THE SUBWAY FOR THE FIRST TIME. Thank god you are not alone, oh shit this is so goddamn confusing. We are transferring trains now? What. Be confused. Feel okay though.

Meet your friend’s boyfriend and watch them sing karaoke. Don’t sing any songs yourself. You aren’t that drunk.

Start to feel woozy. Wait, you are that drunk. You got so drunk, you dummy! Go to the bathroom. Puke in the sink next to a girl snorting cocaine.

Leave the bar. Let your friend put you in a cab because you cannot be trusted on the subway by yourself yet.

Get home to your new, temporary bed. Fall asleep for twelve hours. Wake up the next morning. Walk five blocks to Trader Joe’s to get groceries. Make sure “This Must Be The Place” by Talking Heads comes on your iTunes as you’re walking back, grocery bags cutting into your hands. Sing along to the song “Home is where I want to be/but I guess I’m already there/If someone asks/This is where I’ll be…”

Feel a lot of feelings. Miss your family. Sob so hard because you miss your family so much. Miss your friends. Remember all your friends back home who would, if you called and asked, drop everything to come and be with you if you felt sad. Learn the difference between people you know and people who are your friends. Feel sad, but thankful about that lesson.

Go to see improv. Stand two feet away from Amy Poehler. Laugh so hard. Love that this is your life now.

Start school. Do well immediately. Make your advisor proud. Make your Mom proud. Study a lot. You go to NYU. Feel both embarrassed and pleased that your first professor has given you the nickname “Lion.” Let her call you this in front of the other students frequently.

Cry everywhere. Oh my god, cry fucking EVERYWHERE. On the subway. At the library. In class. At Washington Square Park. At Madison Square Park. At Dunkin Donuts. Cry in front of strangers in public who give you privacy and never ask if you’re okay. Thank them, silently.

Fall in love with a man from Peru. Let him sleep over one night. Cook him dinner. When you wake up the next morning, you see he’s already left. Date him throughout summer and then let him break your heart. See it coming but also don’t stop it. Know it’s a train wreck and fall in love anyway. September will come and you will be alone again. Deal with it. Get over it. Move on.

Move to Harlem. Feel a real sense of community. Do not feel afraid walking in your neighborhood late at night, but also be smart about it. Make friends with the guys who work at the bodega you live above. Let them give you free empanadas from time to time just for laughing at their jokes you don’t understand.

Take the subway every day. By now you have mastered it. Feel a lot of things and also feel numb at the same time. Come to realize this is the new norm. Feel slightly depressed around October. Be confused about what is happening. Do you hate New York now? Do you want to leave? Do you need a vacation? Spend a lot of time alone. Watch Cheers every single night after class, in between writing papers and staring at the ceiling. Relate to Diane. Relate to her too much.

You must believe sincerely and with all your heart that New York hates you. Come to understand that everyone feels this way. Realize that New York does this thing where it makes you feel like you can be anyone you have ever wanted to be while simultaneously reminding you that you are no one special. Realize you are in an abusive relationship with a metropolitan city. Feel fine about that.

Go home for nearly a month in December to see your family. See your friends. Drink with them. Eat a lot of burritos and kiss your nephew a lot. Miss New York. Feel your longing for the city like a burning hole in your heart. Count the days until you fly back.

Lose two jobs in one and a half months. At this point, start to wonder if you have to leave New York. Fight to stay. Do anything to stay in New York. Make sure to be confused, but understand completely your fervent desire to stay in New York. Realize you love this city.

Meet a lot of people. There are so many fucking people to meet. Go to brunch with some of them. Out for drinks with others. Make plans. Cancel them. Have your plans cancelled on you. Never see some of the people you laughed so hard and sincerely with again. Feel fine about that. Also make sure to feel really messed up about that.

Be unsure about how you’re going to pay rent. Never sleep. Stay up way too late. Watch the sun come up from your bedroom window. Watch the dark buildings come to life at the same time every morning.

Keep going. You are so goddamn tired and you just want to go home to your Mom’s house for one weekend. Do not, under any fucking circumstances, book a flight home. Keep going. Keep looking for jobs. Every single day. Land a job interview for a hostess position at a fancy restaurant. Feel that things are looking up.

One spring morning, wake up, get dressed, walk to the library. Realize, while looking at apple blossoms
in the trees that you are having your second April in New York.

Feel hopeful about all that.

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