When I first moved to New York, I had about $500 to spend (cash and credit combined) and a generous $400-600 rent donation from my mother. To this day I am amazed and baffled by this and I keep thinking, How on earth did I even think I would survive on that amount?
But I did.
That’s not to say though that I didn’t struggle during those early days. My first few weeks were marked by the following realizations:
1. OH. MY. GOSH—I’m alone in NYC. Even if I was living “independently” in my hometown, I still had a steadfast support system around me. My dad’s house was 20 minutes away from my apartment; Alvs lived nearby as well; doctors were a text message away; my landlady treated me like family. Life was pretty much cushy, despite living on what I thought then to be a meager editor salary.
2. I can’t sleep on an airbed! Yet, I couldn’t cough up the $300 for a new mattress. I also couldn’t get approved for the six-month installment plan at Sleepy’s around the block, because I was new in town and therefore had no credit history. I did find a decent, brand new orthopedic twin mattress in a small furniture store in Queens (the manager probably took pity on me) for a good $150. I blogged about this experience/ordeal in great detail in ChocolateSoundboard.com, which is now private.
3. I have to find a job—ASAP. With a huge chunk of my money spent on the bed, I had about a week or two to survive without going totally broke…or hungry. I met up with a friend from my early days at Seventeen. We were interns back then and she’s an actress now based in New York. She mentioned I should look into restaurant hostessing—a job seemingly many actors take on for the flexibility (and visibility, I presume). At the time, I was still waiting for a call from Hearst, so I had to temp somewhere, somehow.
On my seventh day in New York, I found a hostessing job at a Japanese resto on Park Avenue (ah, the beauty of Craig’s List), wherein I’d worked for three months before finally landing my first “official” big city job at the Hearst Tower. Here’s my article on the experience.
4. Which way is east/west/north/south? During those first few weeks, I had to leave the house extra early to allot enough time for travel. Now, my apartment in Sunnyside was only 15 minutes from midtown Manhattan, BUT I kept taking the train going the opposite direction, thus, doubling my commute. It took me a good three months to get my geographical bearings. To this day, I can say that the public transportation system is one of my favorite things about New York. I drove around a lot in Manila, and I said when I moved to NYC, I would only take public transportation.
The great thing about sharing this whole experience is that, I’m not the only one I know who’s left everything lovely back home for a bite of the Big Apple. I was just chatting with a friend—a prolific accessories designer in my hometown—a couple of weeks back and she was contemplating a Big Move as well. The other day I got an email saying she was already in town, and currently looking for sublets near F.I.T., where she’ll be attending the fall term.
My former roommates also shared anecdotes on their early days in New York. One of them slept on an airbed for months. He didn’t have the motorized pump so he had to manually inflate the bed every night for it had holes in it (“My lips became as big and red as Angelina’s!”). His wife, on the other hand, had subsisted on canned food and survived old roommates who rummaged through her belongings. But now both of them are happily settled in, have a new baby, and are enjoying life in the city.
Manhattan is scattered with people with their own unique stories about leaving their comfortable lives and just taking the plunge. Some find success and stay, some find out it’s not their thing and Manhattan is not all that, while some stay for a bit and share the experience back home. I, for one, have finally reconciled my living situation in New York. I’m no longer a full-time resident, for the time being. However, much of the work I do now and most of my income still comes from there (ah, the beauty of telecommuting).
Money will always be an issue—at least if you make it to be. I truly believe that if you pursue what your heart craves and what your gut calls out to do, the resources will follow. In the same vein as when my dad told me to never take a high-paying job for the sole reason being money, going for something you want or a livelihood you enjoy, opens up the cashflow down the line.
The Inspiration Series
DAY 1 – “It smells like God.”
DAY 2 – “You’re a kind soul.”
DAY 3 – “Just wait for it.”
DAY 4 – “I have all I need.”
DAY 5 – “Take the plunge.”
DAY 6 – “Go in peace.”
DAY 7 – “Don’t stop believing.”