About halfway through my senior year of college, it dawned on me that I had zero plans for the future.
I knew I wanted to move just down the road to New York City, but for what reason was undetermined. I had saved money from every job I had since I was 16 to move somewhere awesome after college, so I had the cash to go pretty much anywhere. I had an especially shitty experience in LA, so New York was my target. Besides, it was close to home so if I fucked up, I’d save money on flights.
I went to art school, so I didn’t know anyone who had a plan beyond May of 2006. Most of my friends were film majors, so they were going to just keep working the PA jobs they were already working and move from the dorms to Bushwick. I was jealous because they at least had a marketable skill and I spent most of my time in college drinking, going to shows and being sad about girls. So when it came time to figure out what to do, I looked down at my Creative Writing degree and decided the only option for me was bartending. I liked to drink and talk to people and figured I was juuuust handsome enough to make some money at a hipster bar in Williamsburg. This, of course, was flawed logic but at the time it was all I had.
My relationship with New York had beginnings that sound familiar to most people. I’d been there hundreds of times for shows, and a very weird writing internship when I was in high school, and it was a place I had spent some time in. In college, it was basically a second home outside of Purchase. Whether it was staying at my girlfriend’s house in Midtown sophomore year or weekends in Park Slope senior year, I’d find myself there pretty often. I had learned the trains, could give people directions and have been to every dumb mid-2000s hipster party there was. So the idea of actually living there full time seemed like a natural progression. Now if only I could figure out that pesky job thing.
Around March of my senior year, I started to really think about the future. I had enough money to move to the city and live for a bit with no job. I figured I’d just start drinking in places around the neighborhood and make friends, which would eventually turn into a bartending shift. In reality, I only knew how to make drinks that I liked to drink, so I would have been a very shitty bartender. However, that was my one and only plan, to be a Professional Cool Person and just figure it out as I went. My brother, who is really my third parent, was not OK with this. He’s a scientist, and school and jobs and boring adult shit was very much His Thing. He’d come over to my apartment in Port Chester and drink beers from my living room bar and nag at me to get my act together. I’d brush it off and tell him to stop being such a narc, but he insisted. I was very Whatever about the whole thing.
At the time my brother was dating this dude named Terry. Terry was working at a small marketing agency that was expanding and needed some help. My brother asked Terry if he would be interested in talking to me. Pretty soon I had my very first job interview. I bought a butt ugly gray pinstripe suit from H&M and had one interview, and then another, and before long I had a real Big Boy Job and I still had a month left of school. I had zero idea what marketing was or how to do it, but I didn’t care. I had a month of completely carefree awesomeness and I honestly didn’t care about anything else.
In yet another act of kindness, my brother also set me up with an apartment. I moved in with two very nice gay boys in a three bedroom in Bushwick on Johnson Avenue. In very short order, I had a job and an apartment. I managed to avoid a fate that so many other people in my generation faced at that time, and all these years later I try to remember what an incredible stroke of luck that had been.
I started my first post-college job on June 5th, 2006. It was Terry’s birthday. We ate cake and watched the pilot for Heroes because we were pitching to do the marketing for it. I was nervous as shit, and rightfully so, because that job stomped me both professionally and emotionally (with some big successes mixed it). At the time, I didn’t know that I would spend the next four years there, and those years would shape and define my adult life.
I could write a book about these past 13 years (and maybe I should), but for now, just know that it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Spirit breaking jobs, very messy breakups, financial setbacks, family sickness. All the things that happen to you in your 20s. Of course, there have been some successes (I met my wife at one of the 8 jobs that I’ve had). But overall, this city has been the one constant. They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. When it comes to New York City, this is especially true.
As the years tick by and my adulthood evolves, the city only changes in the most subtle ways. Now that I’m older, I notice things that I didn’t before. I’ll look at a brownstone and think about the property value. I’ll look a little harder at the ingredients on a menu at a restaurant. I’ll read the local newspaper. I did none of these things in my 20s. Back then, all I cared about were bars and where to go to meet girls. The odd thing is that while I’m not as interested in those things anymore, there is a younger generation that is enjoying those things in the exact same way that I did. That’s the part that never changes. The way the air changes from neighborhood to neighborhood. That feeling walking to the subway on the first warm day of the year. The sunsets over the Hudson. The way you strut a little bit when there’s a good song on your headphones on the walk from the train to your office. People watching through a bar window. Drinks with friends at a bar that is just the right amount of quiet. These are the kinds of things that are universal, that don’t change over time or seem less interesting as you get older. These are the kinds of things that only a New Yorker can understand — this intangible neural network bonds us. They say that New Yorkers have a chip on their shoulder, and that is undeniably true. Although I think what’s perceived as a bad attitude is really just two apps not speaking the same programming language to each other. This city reprograms you in a way. To most of the world New Yorker really just means “asshole,” but I think if you live here as long as we have, you’ll get it.
The last few months have been rough for me and my family, and as a result, I almost left all this behind. But now that things have stabilized and actually gotten a lot better, I can look at my time in New York with a little less disdain. The threat of leaving it for a greener pasture has forced me to look at my experience in New York as a whole instead of individual periods, and it’s really changed my perspective. New York will never be perfect, and but its imperfection defines it. Every groan is a little plume of magic fairy dust that makes this place such a unique home.
All in all, I’m saying happy anniversary to one of the longest relationships in my life. Of course, New York is a place and not a person, but anyone that calls this place home knows exactly what I mean.