Remember when fellow Connecticutian John Mayer crooned, "'Welcome to the real world,' she said to me"? John's words were so deep back in seventh grade. Between unfortunate orthodontia and an equally unfortunate obsession with sparkly blue eyeshadow, middle school was rough. But as John wisely predicted, "Something's better on the other side."
The other side is New York.
But first, flash back to exactly one year ago. You graduated from college and moved in with your grandparents for the summer. By day, you neurotically checked mediabistro.com on the hour. By night, you ate dinner at exactly 6 p.m., then watched Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune with Grandma and Grandpa on the couch. You realized two things: 1.) Your grandparents are really smart and 2.) Alex Trebek is kind of a silver fox.
After a summer of nannying and writing freelance articles, you'll get rejected from that "dream job" you applied to. I know you spent an entire week slaving over that edit test and spent the Fourth of July in an air conditioned Starbucks Googling "sex tips." I know you rushed off to New York on less than 24 hours notice for that final interview. I know that when you found out you didn't get the job, you cried outside in your car because you were too proud to have anyone hear you. But you'll get to New York a few short weeks later, so don't worry (we hear things might kind of work out).
When you do get to New York, instead of Jay and Alicia waiting for you at Grand Central to welcome you to the concrete jungle, you'll find that finding a three-bedroom apartment is almost as challenging as finding a job. After a brief stint in Spanish Harlem, you'll find yourself on the Upper East Side. While visions of Blair Waldorf's headbands and mimosa-filled brunches float in your head, you'll quickly touch down on reality when you come to the sad realization that a substantial part of your salary will be spent on rent and that there are no Joseph Gordon-Levitts in sight at IKEA when apartment shopping on a Sunday (but there are, in fact, an abundance of pregnant women).
You'll spend too much money on "going out" dresses from Forever 21, watered down drinks in the East Village and cab fares. You'll read Bethenny Frankel's A Place of Yes before bed, hoping the pages hold the secret to finding your own Jason Hoppy and self-branded line of margaritas.
You'll scream and jump up and down for one of your friends that you've known since middle school, as she runs the New York City marathon. You'll eat too much Chipotle. You'll get stranded in Brooklyn with friends at 5 a.m. with no cash and not a cab in sight (mental note: always bring cash with you). You'll do karaoke in Korea town. You'll watch Ryan Adams perform at Carnegie Hall. You'll tweet at him the next day, and when he tweets back at you with a wink emoticon, you'll die a little inside.
Sometimes, the only reason you'll go to the gym is because you don't have cable and want to watch Khloé & Lamar while on the elliptical. You'll spend $50 on a black swan costume for Halloween, but because of a freak snowstorm in October, will end up canceling your plans and spend your night putting together a futon instead. You'll bail on Friday night plans because sometimes, you just want to sit at home in yoga pants with absolutely no intention of going to yoga.
Sometimes you'll feel overwhelmed -- not just when you think about your student loan payments or when you're trying to pick out a DVD from the Redbox at Duane Reade. Usually, it's when you're walking home at night, dodging puddles and listening to Paul Simon on repeat through your headphones. You'll think deep thoughts to yourself, wondering how in a city of 8 million, you can feel so alone at times. You'll ask yourself, when does New York start to feel like home? After six months? A year? Is it when a tourist stops you in Union Square to ask for directions and you can actually point them in the right way? Is it after you sign your very first lease? After you file your New York state taxes? When did you become an adult? Instead of your childhood bedroom, it's like John Mayer showed up unannounced at your apartment doorstep 10 years later with longer, greasier hair, to tell you that this so-called 'real world' has arrived. But then you realize that it already happened.
And while it was happening, being an adult made you a bit jaded. Or was it New York's fault? You'll get sick of how the subway smells like pee, your overpriced strawberries (yes, Gram, I know that they cost only $2 at Costco back home), how little kids with cooler clothes than you are always cutting you off on their scooters, the lines at Whole Foods after work, the way your monthly metrocard always expires on the mornings you're running late to work.
But mostly, you'll love it. Like when you're slouched into the backseat of a cab crossing the Williamsburg Bridge, half-asleep with your best friend's head on your shoulder, and the Manhattan skyline comes into view -- a postcard against a sheet of blues and purples. You'll still get that fluttery feeling in your stomach. Or like when the spring air is the perfect combination scent of laundry detergent and falafel -- kind of strange, but comforting all at the same time. A little like how a new home should be. Your home.
Here I am.