In the early hours of August 19th, 2017, I packed the last of my belongings into a rented Kia Soul, said a quick prayer for safe travels, and set off on I-95 from Washington, D.C. to New York City. After six years of conquering the Nation’s Capitol both professionally and personally, I made the decision to start a new chapter of my life in the concrete jungle. New York City had low-key always been a bucket list item for me, but never did I think crossing it off would come as quickly as it did.
The plot twist? I didn’t have a job lined up upon my arrival — which isn’t completely unusual when moving to New York City. In fact, I knew 12 whole days before I left D.C. that the job offer that was originally extended to me was null and void, but decided to trust my gut and move anyway. Why? Well, why the hell not! I was 28 years old, had outgrown a place that I had once loved and was eager to try something new. Now, don’t get me wrong — saying goodbye is hard and starting over is scary as hell. Living in the district, I had a great group of friends, a good job, and a pretty cool apartment right in the heart of the city —one could say that I had it made. But there was something within me that knew it was time to shake the table a bit, and if I chose to ignore that tug at my spirit, I would later regret playing it safe. Choosing to take such a big leap was an opportunity to put my idea of “faith your fear” to the ultimate test.
The silver lining? I had been down this road once before. I had been laid off twice early in my career, and had picked up a few hacks on how to navigate what could be bumpy terrain. But with moving to the Big Apple, I knew that I had to hustle intentionally and keep that mustard seed-sized faith if I was going to make it.
Thankfully, funemployment this time around didn’t last too long — but that’s not to say I didn’t (and still don’t) experience moments of doubt, anxiety, loneliness and stress while adjusting to my new life as a New Yorker. In the past year, I’ve had my share of disappointments, revisited old heartbreak unnecessarily (whew, chile), and recently experienced a tragic loss that I’m still learning to cope with. But with each passing day, I’m learning to slow down, take time to be fully present, and extend myself grace when I feel I may be falling short.
As I approach my first year of conquering the City That Never Sleeps, here are five lessons that I’ve learned thus far:
- Don’t look back — you’re not going that way. Leaving one city for another without a job seemed to freak everyone out, but I refused to let that deter me from seeing what New York City had to offer. Even when others projected their insecurities upon me in an effort to comfort, console or just down right confuse me, I stood firm in my decision of leaving behind what was familiar. People will never understand and even underestimate why you doing what you do – so it’s your responsibility to show them how you do it. Proactively choosing what was best for you will always come with opposition — but it is ultimately your responsibility to keep your focus forward and take what others say with a grain of salt.
- Always make time to gut check — and keep it 100. Fact: New York City can be an extremely lonely place at times. Within the 30 days of living in NYC, I had not one, but two tearful breakdowns the subway. And just as the saying goes, no one really cared. But even through the tears and snot bubbles, it was in that moment of vulnerability that I reclaimed my confidence and my skin got a little tougher. The more I’m coming into my own here, the more I’m learning that it is imperative for me to identify those moments of loneliness, fear, or anxiety, call them by name, and be gentle with myself as I embrace the discomfort momentarily and work towards healing.
- Change is hard – but not impossible. This seems pretty obvious when living in what Travel + Leisure has called the third rudest city in America, but in my period of adjustment, I’ve noticed that sometimes even the little things would get under my skin. In those moments I’d have to take a second to ask myself: “Could this actually be a teachable moment that’s forcing me to put my pride to the side and take correction in order to become better?” Nine times out of ten, the answer would be yes. So when push comes to shove, be unoffendable. That tough love or constructive criticism might be the very thing you need to hear to straighten up and fly right.
- Gratitude over everything. Major shout-out to my Five Minute Journal! Each and every morning since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve made sure to write down three things that I’m grateful for as part of my morning routine. Some of them include, but are not limited to: being thankful for bills being paid on time. Being thankful for an understanding, sane and loving roommate. Being thankful for vulnerability, hustle and extending grace to myself. Being thankful for a cozy bed to sleep in. Being thankful for the forgiveness of myself and others. Being thankful for the freelance opportunities prior to and even after gaining full-time employment that were not only timely, but challenged me to move differently and with confidence. Being thankful for incredibly supportive and encouraging friends and family. Which leads me to my next and final point…
- Let your faith be your fuel. Man listen, between my FMJ, the Bible App and my friends here in the city and elsewhere who have held me down, checked up on me, prayed for and with me and kept me encouraged — I’ve been enveloped in all sorts of good vibes, positive energy and blessings that keep falling in my lap. If it weren’t for my faith, I probably would’ve allowed fear and worry to take over the very same day I found out that there wasn’t a job awaiting me in New York City. Instead, I put my faith into overdrive, immediately got to work asking for help from my peers and mentors and still made time to celebrate one chapter closing and a new one that was about to begin. When you focus on becoming a better version of yourself and keep God at the helm of that improvement, you will always eliminate the opportunity to be distracted by what everyone else is doing.
Experiencing any type change so abruptly can be nerve wracking, but it’s those hurdles in life that we overcome that bring us that much closer to our destiny. Moving to New York City was never in my plan, but once I made the decision to stop playing it safe and surrendered to what could be possible, I found that doors began to open that I never would’ve imagined. So I say to you sis, take that risk. Leap from that place of comfort and try something new. Trust the timing of your new beginning.
And as my dear friend Sherrell Dorsey so eloquently once said, “Do the hard things, but also make room for joy too. Your life will depend on it.”