Of the many things New York City is known for, its beaches don't typically come to mind. But in a small corner of south Queens, a narrow peninsula draws a distinct demarcation between the city's tireless pulse and the seemingly endless cerulean skin of the Atlantic.
It's on that stretch of land surrounded by the ocean on one side and Jamaica Bay on the other, that I've chosen to relocate after about two and a half years in Manhattan. Though it's still part of New York City, the neighborhood feels like it's a million miles away from what I've known since moving here from Colorado in the winter of 2009. Still, I'm just a six minute walk away from the nearest subway station, and about 300 steps off the boardwalk. This is where New York and its need to build and grow and absorb the land succumbs to nature and fades away. But it's still full of life and energy and all those things that make the city unique. My new neighborhood is a contradiction. It's a great place to be.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this blog entry. Maybe something to do with the never-ending series surprises and opportunity life in this city affords.
Two years ago today, I moved to New York City in pursuit of a dream.
Two years ago today, I arrived in Manhattan without a job, without a home, and without a clue where my future would lead me.
That is to say, two years ago today, I had no idea what I was doing.
Two years ago, I let go of everything and made a 1,700 mile leap of faith.
Two years later, I’m glad I did it.
At the confluence of conflict and opportunity, I left behind everything I knew. I moved to New York at the trough of one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen. I left my hometown, my family, my friends, and my cat. I resigned the best job I’d had up to that point. I packed two suitcases and left everything else behind.
Dec. 13, 2009 fell on a Sunday. I said goodbye to Denver at roughly 1:30 p.m., and arrived in my new hometown in the early evening, just as a mild December rainstorm came to an end. It was only the third time I had been to New York.
To say that I didn’t have a home is inaccurate. I moved into a friend’s apartment in the Upper East Side, taking over her room while she was working abroad on a several-month assignment in Europe. In return for shelter, I served as an over-glorified cat sitter. I had no income and a tight budget, and the threat of returning home in defeat hung over my head for the duration of my first few months in the city.
From that point my job became the search for a better (or really any kind of) job. Tied to the cross-country move was the idea that New York is not only the greatest city in the world, but also the capital city of my chosen profession as a journalist.
Denver was slowly becoming a journalistic ghost town. Its oldest daily newspaper had shut its doors, community papers and regional magazines based in the Denver area were dying. Opportunity was limited to the highly experienced or those willing to work for a pittance. And the outlook was getting worse.
To me, New York was the home of the world’s best journalists, and most of its greatest periodicals, publishers and news outlets. It was everything I aspired to, and it was the only city that had a chance to overcome the cancer that has been eating away at the media industry. It was where I wanted to be.
I learned a lot about the city early on. It’s built on dreams and grounded in the cool cynicism of people who know better. New York is big and arrogant and no place to be poor. It’s self-absorbed and self-referential. It is no place for self-pity. New York is the home of terrible weather and loud complaints. New York doesn’t care what you think. New York is the greatest city in the world.
There is nothing easy about life in New York. The city rewards hard work and resilience, but never celebrates it.
For my own part, I know living within the five boroughs has given way to opportunities I would never have had anywhere else. I love my hometown of Denver, but to have stayed there would have meant surrendering my goal of a career in journalism. And besides, what is a career in journalism without at least a short stop in its capital city?
The last two years haven’t been without their challenges. But in those two years, I’ve grown as a writer and developed my career as a reporter. I’ve hit the point where I can call New York my home without the threat that, at any moment, I might fail and be forced to move into my parents’ basement a couple thousand miles away. I’m happy here. I’m living the dream, so to speak. And it is only getting better with time.
I’ve known people who have given what I do for a living a shot. And I’ve known people who have given life in New York a shot. I’ve also known a lot of people who never really tried. Within each of those categories, I’ve known a lot of people who have given up. I never wanted to be one of those people.
I’m happy with my first two years in New York. And I am forever grateful to those who have supported me, who have guided me and who never gave up on me. Whatever happens in the future, wherever life takes me from here, I’ll always have this.