Photo credit: Laura from Boston Mountain Photo
My fiancé and I moved into New York City less than a month before everything changed.
I grew up in a relatively small town in Pennsylvania, just outside of Scranton. Like many small towns, my area was deeply rooted in traditions, Friday nights at the football stadium, bonfires before big games, and homecoming queens. My graduating high school class was roughly 200 students. So many people had such deeply rooted ties to the area.
I loved that about where I lived. Even now, looking back, I reflect fondly on where I grew up and will forever be tied to.
But my biggest dream since I was about eight years old was to move to New York City.
I'm not sure if it was a class trip, a movie, or just something magnetic in my bones that pulled me to NYC, but I felt an inescapable longing for the city.
When the time came to choose a college, I applied to 7 schools located in Manhattan with one exception of applying to Penn State Main -- just in case I changed my mind.
I spent four years in college in Riverdale, just north of Manhattan. Close enough to explore but safe enough to retreat from the big city. Riverdale was where I started my business, where I lost and found myself, where I fell in love.
After graduating, I moved in with my fiancé (boyfriend of 2 years at the time) and his best friend. We spent a year in West Harrison, even more north of Manhattan in West Chester. We shared an old house and because I barely made any money, they were kind enough to let me only pay utilities. It was that kindness that gave me the time and space to chase my dream relentlessly.
About a year later, my fiancé and I got a place of our own in White Plains. We had a great two bedroom apartment that we had our first family Christmas tree. We got our dog. We started building a life together. Things were good. Manhattan was only a 45 minute train ride away.
But there was still a nagging at my heart -- and his, too.
West Chester is a wonderful area, but the more time I spent there, the more I felt detached from it. Everywhere we went, we had to drive. We were paying close to Manhattan prices while being so far away. It was incredibly family friendly and at 25, I didn't feel close to that point in my life. I was traveling into the city for business meetings upwards of three times a week. I started feeling resentful that the dream I've had the longest wasn't happening.
So, Matt and I sat down one day and started thinking about our next steps with an upcoming lease renewal just a few weeks away. Manhattan was something we both wanted. Something that we both felt like there was opportunity for at this moment. Manhattan was a sparkling promise of a next chapter and new opportunities. So, we started looking.
Finding an apartment in Manhattan was not easy. It was an extremely competitive (and expensive!) market. Because we were at the closing end of Matt's basketball coaching season, I spent most weekends venturing into the city and looking at apartments alone. I learned a lot about the city over those months, what areas I liked, what floor plans were my favorite, how our original budget was about $500 less a month than we'd end up paying.
We were flexible with what we wanted -- a one bedroom space, open to most neighborhoods, pet friendly, with a dishwasher in unit and laundry in building, (both a major luxury in NYC), and access to the train. We thought that would be simple enough.
We applied to an incredible apartment in the upper east side, but were denied because we didn't make 100x the monthly rent in yearly salary. 100x! That was crazy to me. Things seemed hopeless.
I continued doing some research, looking at apartments, scouring the internet, going to open houses. I found an incredible building that was within our price range with unbelievable amenities that would be a 15 minute walk from both of our offices. Matt and I went through the virtual tour, read reviews online, stalked the internet for any information we could find and without even looking at in in person, applied.
Within 24 hours we were approved.
Later that week, we went to view the apartment in person and fell in love. It was everything we wanted. We signed for the apartment that day and just renewed our lease for another year.
There are so many things I've learned about New York City (more on that soon), but something I come back to every day is why we moved. We moved because we wanted to. We moved because we could.
We were privileged enough to be in a position where it made sense for us financially. It made sense for us in our careers. It made sense for us personally.
We wanted to have the experience in living in a crowded building, bustling into work on busy streets, and feeling the palpable energy the city provides. We wanted to be able to see a basketball game at Madison Square Garden and walk home afterward. We wanted to be able to go out to Third Ave with our friends for a late night and grab food at the bodega at 3 am. We wanted to meet new people, try new things, and live our dream.
We wanted to live our dream.
I recently traveled back up to West Chester and felt a ping of nostalgia in my heart looking around. This was where I started becoming an adult. The coffee shop I went to after the gym. The bookstore that would break up my workday. The farmer's market where we'd spend our Sundays. This was a pivotal part of our story.
But as I looked around, I had never been more grateful for taking the leap and chasing that dream of moving to the city.
Since we moved in February 2020, NYC has been through a difficult time. Between COVID, the Black Lives Matter movement of Summer 2020, and people asking us "do you like where you live" almost every time we mention living in the City, one might say the odds were stacked against us. But that's a fallacy. In New York, anything feels possible. In fact, there hasn't been one single day that we haven't looked at each other and said "I love where we live."
I am New York Romantic -- someone that has romanticized the experience of being a Manhattanite my whole life. But I think that's because I'm incredibly grateful to be here. I can be grateful without being naive. I can love New York City for all it's quirks and flaws -- because that's what true love requires.
We moved to New York City because it felt important to us. We had lists of reasons why it made sense to each of us. And, we each had reasons of our own.
For me, I feel like I am finally home.
Your internet BFF,