Admiring the Flat Iron building from Madison Square Park. People watching at Union Square, hearing a jazz band turn the subway station into their own personal Carnegie Hall, discovering a quirky title at the independent bookstore and the anticipation of the unknown make New York exciting.
As the self-proclaimed perkiest boy in the city, I always find something to smile about. However, my move back to New York was quite a saga. Years ago, I traded the city for purgatory, Southern California. Although, I adored Palm Springs, Mexican food, driving through winding canyons (only when I had my motion sickness pills) and having my father close by, something was missing.
“Oh that’s right, I really left my heart in New York.” When I moved to California, I was in an expedition to find a career. Eventually, I ended up in advertising, then advertising school. I wanted to become a copywriter. My weekends were spent coming up with cleaver ad campaigns for my portfolio. I would go to Palm Springs on the weekend, grab a coffee and do fun homework.
As ad school winded down, I grew increasingly homesick (for you guessed it) for New York. I missed my friends, the food, snow, tall buildings, crowded subways, lots of high culture and all the diverse neighborhoods.
Suddenly my life turned into Star Wars. I would be Luke Skywalker and life could easily fit into the role of Darth Vader. Things were falling apart, but I had to battle through them. In the shadow of things falling apart, I was determined to finish my portfolio. I hired a talented art director/web designer to make magic. The first draft of the website was disastrous.
Not many things make me cry, but that did (tear, tear). After whipping away the rain from my cheeks, I took a piece of paper and drew out a dream website. Suddenly, my website went from an Ed Wood movie to a glorious Martin Scorsese film. With my website and portfolio finished, I was ready to hit the New York pavement.
Problem, I was still living in Southern California. I channeled my childhood companion, E.T. He wanted to phone home. I just wanted to be home with a bagel + coffee. Unlike ET, I couldn’t take a flying bicycle back to Manhattan. I applied to many jobs in the city from California and didn’t get anywhere.
Then one day, something daring happened. My dad cornered me. ” I think California is over. You need to move back to New York.” It was scary to think about going back without a job.
The next day, I went online. There was an inexpensive one-way plane ticket from Ontario (CA) to JFK. I booked the ticket and was ready to make the move back to New York.
I called my friend, Tony. “Hey Tony, I need to find a job in New York. Could I stay with you for a while?” He said, “You could stay as long as you want.” I told everyone, ” guess what? I am moving back to New York.” I printed out my portfolio and bought business cards. In order to save money, I placed all my clothes in a carry on (everything else was shipped). The night before moving back, I grew nervous.
“Oh my God, I am really moving back to New York without a job,” I panicked. The next morning I woke up to my last day ever as Californian. My dad and I cried a bit as we drove to the airport. I took one last look at him as I descended up to the escalators. I passed through security and entered the terminal, this feeling ran through me. “This is really over,” I thought to myself.”
I boarded the plane to Salt Lake City (my layover). As the plane took off into the hazy sky, I thought to myself “E.T. is really going home.” The maze of freeways, brown mountains and track homes looked oddly magical from above.
The purple mountain majesty of Utah were blanketed in powdery snow. It was desolate. Then civilization appeared in the form of Delta airplanes. I landed in Salt Lake City. I hurried to my gate for the flight to New York/JFK. Typically at airports, I like to walk around and people watch. This time, I was electrified by the whole moving back to New York experience. People -watching at the gate was great too.
There were the arty dudes in beards and pea coats and fashionable women wearing chic leather coats. Diverse faces representing every section of the globe, nuclear families and hip old people. This overwhelming peace overcame me while I took off once again into the afternoon skies.
Hours later and a couple glasses of wine, the plane flew into an endless sea of fog. The twinkling lights of Queens were barely visible. After a couple shakes and rock n’ roll, the plane landed into falling snow. It was more cinematic than E.T. flying over the moon in a bicycle. At that moment, I had officially moved back to New York.
I wasted no time, in job hunting. The buildings seemed taller, the grey more intense and the sidewalks more jammed pack than I remembered. Everything was a little intimidating. However, I persisted on. I was determined to make into an advertising firm in the city. I worked from the New York Public library’s study and created my own work/creative space.
Then one day, I finally landed an interview. Coincidentally, it was at my dream-advertising firm in the creative department. I went in feeling very relaxed and had the most enjoyable interview ever. As I watched CNN with Krista, I received a phone call. My eyes grew wide. Somebody, please Cue the theme from New York. It was official, “I got the job.” In just a few days, I had made it in New York.
From then, I became like any other New Yorker. I took the subway to work, walked everywhere, moved to a walk-up, had a huge social network (still do) and more importantly, appreciated every moment here. Even in the most jammed packed subway car, I always find a reason to smile. I am living in New York for life.