Thursday, March 31, 2016

An Ode to New York City

I wish I knew who to credit this to.
As Facebook—in direct competition with our friends at Timehop, might I add—reminded me this morning, today marks two years since I decided to pack up my entire life and move from Chicago to New York City. In some ways it feels like a distant memory, and in others it feels like yesterday. When I saw the "memory," I thought to myself "hm - It was two years ago, wasn't it?" I was immediately hit with a nice warm batch of nostalgia. You know, the kind that makes you smile and tear up all at once? Yep. That was me this morning, while simultaneously trying not to get caught by the same stupid speed camera yet again. 

It would be wrong not to take a second to show Chicago the l-o-v-e it deserves. I love my life here, including but not limited to, immediate access to my boyfriend, an apartment the size of a mansion (to NY standards) at a fraction of the cost, and oh god the food... so yeah, I'm good. But that's not to say I don't miss living in what I can still agree is the most amazing city in this here country of ours. It has so much to offer, and everyone should experience it at least once. And I definitely recommend living there for a spell if you can. It pushes you to be better and stronger than you ever could have imagined. I'm sure you've heard how hard it is, but with a little effort it's more than possible to succeed. Struggles, and all that come with them, build character. I feel like I grew up, learned independence, and decided who I wanted to be in New York. I laughed really hard, cried harder, gained weight, lost weight, spent waaaaaay too much money, but I worked hard so I earned it. I made (and reconnected with) great friends, and I genuinely just lived life for myself without hesitation. 

To celebrate that special time in my life, I wanted to round up and share with you my top 10 memories from my year and a half as a New Yorker—the best time of my life thus far. I hope these inspire you to visit if you haven't and give you ideas of what to do if you've hit a New York-living plateau. 

1: Fire Island
Where does one even begin with this one. I could write an entire blog post about my experience(s) on Fire Island. But I won't, because it'll ruin the magic. I went twice my first summer in NYC. First was a weekend for work (in this case 'werk' feels more appropriate), which was very grassroots and scrappy. We slept hostel style, three to a room and worked day to night. Ooooh but the nights were fun. A little too fun, hence my second visit. 

A little over a month later I returned to Fire Island with a few co-workers-turned-friends for the official turn up (we're professionals after all). It was a simple day trip, but I felt like I was there for weeks—so many states of being accomplished on that trip. I'll spare you (but mostly myself) the details, but if anyone ever invites you to Fire Island ask no questions, just GO! Photographic proof above.

2: Rooftop Sips
Rooftop drinking is pretty much a New York City-summer pastime. Come to think of it, I've actually never seen a person on a roof in NY without a drink in hand. You have to be ready to spend a pretty penny on your drink (wine in my case) if you want the full rooftop experience, read: high rise rooftop with breathtaking views of the city. It's worth it at least once, or a dozen times in my case.

My greatest rooftop memories are, however, in the casual Brooklyn jaunts where I'd end up on a friend's rooftop laughing and drinking until we couldn't anymore. It was that special New York magic where you woke up and said "OK, self. We have Monster Cycle and grocery shopping on the agenda today." And before you know it you're picnicking in Prospect Park and end your night sharing stories and sipping wine on a roof in Bushwick. Word to the wise: Find a friend with a rooftop, or at least something that resembles one.

Photo: Whitney Thielman

3: ?uestlove
Where else is it appropriate to go out at 11pm to dance the night away to Questlove DJing when you know good and well that you have work in the morning? That's all I'm really going to say. It was awesome. I never thought about the fact that I had work in the morning. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Photo: Whitney Thielman

4: Governor's Island
This was one of those roomie dates that Montana and I went on a lot as it got close to the end of summer, as we both knew we'd be vacating the city come September. It was just a refreshingly innocent good time. We sat in lawn chairs on GRASS (a rarity, folks), soaked up some major sun rays, people watched, rode a ferry (the only way to get there), and reflected on our time in NYC. Governor's Island is really pretty and you get amazing views of my girl Lady Liberty (Exhibit A below). I definitely recommend visiting, and no Gov Ball does not count.

5: Walking... Everywhere
I can't lie to you. My workout schedule was abysmal in New York. With the exception of a 5K and mooching off of my roommates gym membership half a dozen times (oh! and that one month I thought it was a good idea to drop like $180 on a Monster Cycle package of six classes because New York—and it's SO worth it!), I just didn't do it. I was, though, in pretty decent shape. Why, you ask? I walked almost everywhere. Just walking to work guaranteed me two miles of pavement time five times a week. While I don't believe the myth that you can eat whatever you want in New York because you're just going to walk it off (your body gets used to the walking, helloooo), walking is a reliable way to maintain—and my legs looked great! 

I drive to work now, and it's kind of a bummer. But I'm working out more, so A+!

6: City Island
THERE IS LIFE OUTSIDE OF MANHATTAN. No, but really. I never thought I'd say that one of the best and most beautiful dining experiences I had in New York, where there's a new place to eat on every corner, was during an impromptu trip to City Island with my friend Chassi. City Island is an unassuming destination on the water... in the Bronx. I know, right? Not Manhattan, or Brooklyn, or Queens, but the Boogie Down Bronx. It was like I stepped into a different life for a day and was transported. But that's how it is in New York, you know. So many things can happen to you in one day. It feels like you lived a dozen lives by the time you meet your bed again. If you're in NY, make the excursion to City Island. If you do it for nothing else, do it for the affordable seafood and the quiet. If you're a New Yorker, you know quiet is like stumbling upon a gold mine.

7: Picnics in the Park
Picnics are my favorite. I love eating outdoors. Fresh air and sunshine make the food taste better. Nothing tops packing up your bag with snacks and heading to Central (or Prospect if Brooklyn is more your style) Park, pulling out your blanket and just lounging. The people watching is unmatched. You may even get lucky, as I did one time, and stumble upon a concert happening in an adjacent portion of the park that requires paid entry. But since you're so close, you get the show for free. Oh, New York. 

This isn't just a shameless selfie. This is me basking in that Central Park glow.

8: Cafe Minerva
One of my very best friends I made in New York lives in the West Village, and introduced me to Cafe Minerva one night when we had so much work to do, but had to get out of the office. To our surprise, they don't let you work at the dining tables at night. See, during the day hours they are very much a cafe, but at night it's more of romantically-lit dining destination. And now that I've been, I can say confidently that it feels very European. So yeah, we had to sit at the bar with our laptops. I just couldn't get over the vibe and the near-perfect pasta and the $20 bottles of wine. I fell in love, and my dates with Julia at Cafe Minerva are some of my best memories I have of my time there. It's just one of those quintessential New York places, where if you stay long enough Sarah Jessica Parker will definitely walk by. Go if you can.

9: Hosting Out-of-Towners
I never had more fun in New York than when I could play host. It was when I could truly test myself on my NY knowledge and see if I had earned my New Yorker title. By the time I hosted my last pair of guests in July 2015, I had it down. I knew the best brunch spots, the best drinking spots, and how to see Times Square without actually having to walk through it (because ew).  That weekend in July when my friends Carina and Michelle visited was definitely the best of all time, but each time I hosted I had a little tinge of  "why am I leaving this city again?" That's how I knew I was doing it right.

10: The Unexpected
This is the most vague, but the most important of my memories.  My life today is pretty simple and straight forward. I usually know at the beginning of each day how it's likely to end—unless I head to brunch with Michelle and Carina, then all bets are off. But jokes aside, Monday-Friday I wake up between 6-6:30am and I'm out the door by 7:10am. I get to work at 8am and I leave at 5pm on the dot. If I didn't work out on my lunch break, I'm usually heading to take advantage of my Class Pass membership. Then it's home to cook dinner (or eat leftovers) and catch up on TV, and now blogging!

In New York, I could never have written the paragraph above. Seriously. I worked at Birchbox. No day was the same. Some days I was up at 8am, others 9am, and on bad days sometimes even 10am. But that also means some days I worked 'til 6pm, some 8pm, and yes, even 9pm. But those 9pm nights often turned into the best nights. I'd wind up at a cute local bar/restaurant post-work getting to know my co-workers a little better, then I'd walk home (which isn't scary at all!). Everyone is walking home. Honestly it was those 9pm walks home when I would really appreciate New York and all it had to offer me. I knew I was sharing the streets with my fellow workaholics who stayed at the office a little too late and ended up having one glass of wine too many. We were all heading home to do it all over again. In those moments I wouldn't change a thing, because I took comfort in the fact that by tomorrow, everything could change. 

New York will always be a part of my story. I may not have lived there for five or ten years, and to some I haven't even earned the right to call myself a New Yorker. But I was. For that year and a half, I lived it and I loved it. I cried in public. I cried walking down 34th street and almost got hit by a cab. That's how you know it's real. I stepped outside my comfort zone every day. I regained confidence that I had allowed to be taken from me. I lived. 

So here's to you, New York. I'll love you forever.


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