“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there” -Anonymous
There are some moments in a girls’ life she will never forget. When she gets her first paycheck, gets her heartbroken for the first time, gets her first passport stamp, buys her first bra, gets her first kiss, reads her first Nancy Drew book, etc..
One of those special moments for me was my first taxi ride into New York City when I first moved across the country for my first full-time job out of college.
It was very much a scene as dramatic as those you’ve seen in the movies: The young girl with an empty wallet, but full of hope and excitement. Her yellow taxi window rolled down feeling the warm summer night breeze, inhaling the musty aroma that NYC is notorious for, completely mesmerized by the way the city lights, the silver moon, and the giant skyscrapers paint a portrait of possibility unlike anything you can find in any of the city’s iconic museums.
I remember feeling so small yet so significant. This city was my new playground. I was no longer sitting on my bed watching these movies from afar (How to be Single, I Feel Pretty, Devil Wears Prada, Moonstruck, etc..) – I was suddenly cast as the main actress in my own film, and I was determined to make it a good one.
And indeed it was. From landing in JFK airport with nothing but two pieces of luggages and a job offer in hand to saying my last goodbyes to my small Upper East Side studio that I lived in for two years… it was the time in between that transformed into the rose that grew from concrete.
The city was my greatest muse: After an exhausting day at work Hope is found in the sky when you gaze up at the Empire State, Love is the old couple sitting in comfortable silence on a bench in Central Park, Beauty is etched in the ceiling details at the Frick museum, Ambition is seen exiting the 6 downtown metro into a sea of tailored suits on a Monday morning, Joy is a Sunday stroll through the UWS breathing in the crisp October air while admiring how well the brownstone buildings and orange tree foliage complement each other. Determination is walking to Duane Reade in the midst of a blinding snowstorm.
And did I mention the city’s unbeatable energy? Somehow going from a full day at work, to a networking event, to the gym is just DOABLE- Do not ask me how.
I don’t regret any of my experiences- The good decisions. The bad decisions. The risks I took. The weekend Megabus trips to Philly. The amount of Levain cookies and Prince St Pizza consumed. The dollars I unwisely spent (well maybe a little regret on that last one..)
My experience in NYC was much like one of being in love. A crazy rollercoaster ride: One day you think you’ll stay in NYC forever, and the next day you’re fighting the urge to book the next flight back to Cali!
I won’t lie to you, I didn’t always go into work with Cheryl Sandberg confidence nor was every day a fairytale carriage horse ride through Central Park. I spent many days feeling very alone and just way in over my head.
For the girl who’s just moved to any city (esp. one as crazy as NYC), I am writing this post to tell you these fluctuating emotions are normal!
As with anything new- there is going to be stress, anxiety, a lot of discomforts. Take these as signs that you are on the right track.
Cheers to you for being brave and bold enough to say yes to adventure.
The word for me during that season was from Hosea:
“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her”- Hosea 2:14
Oftentimes, God takes us away from our comfort zones and brings us into seemingly foreign places for us to draw closer to Him without distraction.
If This finds you in a similar season of life- I want to share a few lessons that I wish someone would’ve told the 22-year-old-Grace on that unforgettable summer night taxi ride into the city for the first time:
1. DON’T LIVE BEYOND YOUR MEANS
When I got my first “big girl” check I wasn’t used to having that many numbers in my bank account so naturally I became excited and blew through it. I wish I could say I learned after my first check, but this series repeated itself a few times until I took a look at my credit card statement and realized I needed to calm down. If I could go back I would’ve taken a financial literacy course before I did anything with my first check.
Mark 4:19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Proverbs 21:20 The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
2. Live your “perfect”- not others’
You may be questioning whether you made the right decision and wondering why your reality doesn’t look as picturesque compared to your friends’ IG reel. You may be experiencing a lot of emotions at once- High highs and low lows- this is normal. You are uncomfortable because you’re stretching yourself and nothing new feels good at first, but over time things will start falling into more of a groove- Don’t rush these moments, go at your own pace, and be gentle with yourself.
If I could go back I would reward myself more for the small victories along the way.
Some days my “perfect” was Grace who woke up with energy, meditated, and accomplished everything on my to-do list.
Other days my “perfect” was Grace who rocked a messy bun and did nothing but drag myself to finish laundry before they closed so I had clothes to wear for the week ahead.
Point is extending some of God’s precious grace unto yourself- this is new and you’re doing it. Be proud of that- the simple fact that YOU ARE DOING IT! Your best right now might look different than it looked in other seasons. Don’t let your reflections of who you were or your fantasies of who you thought you would be cloud your “now”. God’s favor, peace, grace, joy, and strength dwells within you and because of that you are capable of whatever lies ahead- so don’t waste this precious time worrying about the future, reflecting on the past, or comparing- instead buckle up for the adventure He has awaiting you here!
3. BE YOURSELF
The city is so big, and people are so caught up in their own lives that no one cares all that much about yours. It sounds mean, but it’s true. So might as well be your authentic self! Everyone else is taken.
4. Have a balanced Yes: No Ratio
There are going to be lots of events and invites that come your way. Make sure you are saying “yes” and not succumbing to weekend Netflix and GrubHub binges, but also take some weekend time to chill and indulge in those much needed “me” days too.. everything in moderation.
5. Get to know your Neighborhood
One of the loveliest parts about moving to a new city is finding the local gems. That is, the delis, the best spot for a slice, the wine bars, the new hotspots, the best place for dumplings, etc.. You will feel more connected to the borough you call home, and if you’re lucky maybe the restaurant workers/owners will begin to know you by name.
6. Carry your business cards
Because you just never know!
7. Get to know the City by getting Lost in it
My favorite past time in NYC is going on morning strolls. Especially on sunny days or warm evenings-I note the charming &/or lively restaurants, galleries, etc. and vow to go there with the next friend who visited.
8. Learn to be your own best company
Most big cities are full of wanderers. It’s not at all odd to have a drink, meal, or watch a movie on your own. Embrace it. Don’t avoid going to places because no one is down to go with you. Go on your own if it feels right.
9. Be consistent with at least one thing
Life in the city is so fluid that it helped me to be committed to a handful of things. For me it was my Monday night prayer meetings, Sunday service at Hillsong, volunteering once a month, but everyone has their own thing. There are a ton of options: intramural sports, fitness classes, book clubs, etc. In a city as unpredictable as NYC it’s always comforting to have something that is constant. These activities are also a great way to find community and friendship with like-minded individuals. I met a few of my closest friends through these commitments.
10. Go without your headphones
I know it’s hard when all you want to do is block out the horns and ambulance sirens. But strolling the streets without headphones gives the city a bit more flavor.
11. Carry an umbrella everywhere
NYC is known for having all the seasons in one day. It will be sunny when you leave your studio and you will come back drenched from humid rain. Take an umbrella because the same with the business cards- you just never know.