I moved to New York for myself. Not for anyone else. A certain someone does live here, and I admit that was a draw. But I knew I wanted to be in a place that was different. A place that was tough and loud and big and proud. That’s New York City.
The things I’ve learned so far aren’t ground-breaking, life- altering lessons. They are simple yet profound, expected but necessary. Lessons that are essential for someone who was raised in the suburbs and went to a college that was also a botanical garden. I came here to struggle, and struggle I have. And I’m loving every minute of it. Here’s a list of things I’ve learned to do, and things you may also want to know how to do, just in case you find yourself in a similar situation.
1. How to sleep on a mattress in the sweltering heat of July in a room with no AC.
I came to New York with a suitcase full of business casual clothes and a backpack full of books. It was June, I didn’t have a permanent place to live, so it was all I needed. I met this guy online through a friend of a friend of a friend. It’s a damn miracle I made it to his place, honestly. I got off the Mega Bus, dragged a suitcase the size of my body into and out of the subway, met him at work where he gracefully frolicked out of the bar, tossed me some keys and said, “See ya later, girlfriend!” It was then that I learned that yes, he is in fact gay, and also not crazy and I will probably really enjoy staying with him. Which I did, except for the fact that there was no AC and I was essentially sleeping naked in my own sweat for a week and a half in Washington Heights where, no matter how gross and sweaty I was, I still got cat-called on the streets at least ten times a day. Our schedules were really different so we rarely got to hang, but I will be eternally grateful that this kid trusted me enough to converse via Facebook chat and then throw the keys to his apartment at me without ever really knowing me at all. Gotta love it!
2. How to pee in a cup.
The guy who I stayed with for two weeks in Washington Heights was a bartender. So was his friend who hung out there a lot. In honor of said friend’s birthday, the boys hosted a swanky little get-together with fancy schmancy drinks because they’re both bartenders. I enjoyed meeting their theater friends and watching terrible 90s music videos projected onto the wall in the living room. However, since I now work 9-5 and go to bed at roughly 10 p.m., I was unable to partake in the festivities. I brushed my teeth and washed my face mid-party and got some pretty strange looks. So when I woke up to TLC blasting at 3 a.m. with a throbbing bladder, I knew there was no way I was leaving my room. I would have to put on clothes, walk through the drunk crowd looking like a party pooper. So I downed the rest of the water in a glass and then just peed in it. When I opened my eyes at 7 a.m. and saw a glass of my own pee sitting on the windowsill next to my mattress, I knew that I had reached a new low. Don’t worry, I washed that glass extra good.
3. How to sublet.
Know that the second you start feeling settled in, comfortable and familiar with the area, you will have to leave. So just don’t call it home. Don’t call it your room or your apartment. It’s the place where you’re staying, temporarily. If you end up really liking the roommates or the area or both, then try to find a place close by to sublet or rent next. Things can get tricky when the person whose room you’re staying in comes back, and you and the roommates have this rhythm and these jokes that the other person is not a part of. She will most likely hate you if she has to witness these things, so save the reminiscing and hugs goodbye for a time when she’s not around. It’s bad enough you hooked up in her bed, even if you did pay her $800 to live with people who never did the dishes and always forgot to take out the trash.
4. How to deal with a mouse problem, kind of.
After looking at a handful of rooms for short-term sublets, I settled on one room in a 3-bedroom apartment that wasn’t too clean, wasn’t too dirty. It looked lived-in and the girls seemed down to earth and likeable. An apartment I’d looked at earlier that day had tenants with very nit-picky, strangely specific rules, like notifying them approximately two hours in advance if I were bringing another person to the apartment, and limiting my overnight guests to two a month. They also put their names on all of their condiments and spices, and didn’t seem too into sharing. These girls laughed when I told them about the other place, so I took that as a thumbs-up. Living there was great, and I’m sure I’ll be friends with them for a while. But we also had a few other unexpected friends: mice. Because my wonderful temporary roommates were also tree-hugging, gluten-free vegans, we were unable to kill the rodents. Instead, we trapped them in eco-friendly, smart and green mouse traps. And by we, I mostly mean me. I did the setting up of the traps, and the disposing of the mice in the wild. And by wild I mean the sad excuse of shrubbery at the end of our street in the “yard” of the rinky-dinky hospital. That’s where I let Edgar, Georgette, Lucy, Leopold and the other two nameless family members off to be free. There are more little guys scurrying around the kitchen. But after I left, as far as I’m concerned, it was no longer my problem.
Additional advice: Use food you don’t like or won’t miss as bait for mouse catching. I can safely say I will never eat a fig newton ever again.
5. How to avoid Craigslist scams.
I consider myself a reasonable and productive human being. Unfortunately, I am also extremely trusting. Which led to me to, not actually doing it but considering, wiring money via Western Union to a very nice man in Africa who typed in broken English and wanted to rent his two-bedroom apartment to me and my friend. I forwarded the email to my dad, saying “um hey dad, you think this is legit?” to which he replied “NO GABBY THIS IS A SCAMMMMM!” And then I cried a little and felt stupid and got over it in a day. This is a lesson in reading the entire ad, especially the fine print. I tend to skim things and get the gist of it, but that will not cut it when it comes to Craigslist ads. Read it all my friends, and trust no one!
6. How to make friends.
Spend lots of time with your temporary sublet roommates, and invite them everywhere. Give each other back rubs while watching Harry Potter marathons. Make gluten-free blueberry pancakes instead of the cheaper, tastier not gluten-free pancakes, so she can eat them too. Run from mice together. Get drunk together. Cry together while watching Oprah’s Life Class and share all of your deepest, darkest secrets. This has actually only worked on one person, and that person happened to live in the apartment I was also living in for a month. Basically, I got really lucky. And I actually have no idea how to make friends outside of college, so if you have advice for me, PLEASE HELP!
7. How to act on the subway.
Don’t look people in the eye. Don’t smile at others. Don’t be that guy hogging the pole, or worse, leaning on the pole. Share the effing pole. If there’s an empty seat in front of you but you don’t want to take it because you will just be getting off at the next stop, just take it anyway. You’re probably the only one who has direct access to it. You’re not doing anyone a favor. Do not compliment seven-year-old girls on their Hello Kitty baseball caps, even if you do really like it. They will probably just look at you like you are insane. Even kids don’t interact with strangers on the subway. Do not smile at crying individuals. Do not flinch when a creepy dude winks at you. Just pop in your headphones or read your book, and be on your merry way.
8. How to embrace the commute.
No matter where you are going, and no matter what time of day it is, you will not be getting anywhere fast. When you don’t need to get somewhere fast, your commute will be breezy and shockingly short. When you’re already ten minutes late for work, the R train will get stuck underground for an hour and you’ll barrel into work a full hour and fifteen minutes late, and the guy who sits next to you will not stop reminding you of how late and sweaty you are. Invest in a good book or a library card and fill your iPod with lots of music. Accept the fact that it will take roughly an hour for you to get anywhere. The sooner you get used to this, the less frustrated you’ll be.
9. How to enjoy all that New York has to offer without spending your entire paycheck.
There are actually a LOT of fun, free things to do in New York. And even if they aren’t free, they’re at least relatively cheap. A little bit of research goes a long way. Really want to see that new exhibit at a museum? Wait until Friday, when you can choose how much you want to pay, and don’t feel bad when you hand over a dollar. Opt for a matinee instead of a nighttime movie, or go to a theater where tickets are cheaper on certain days of the week. Don’t want to spend a lot on drinks, but you still want to go out this weekend? Hit up Time Out New York or My Free Concert, and see where they’re serving free drinks, or where you can catch some free live tunes. But don’t think you’re the only one who’s heard about it. New York is a big and expensive place, so if the word “free” is attached to anything, expect to wait in a line and expect to get stepped on a few times. It’s the price you have to pay for not paying for something. Or so I’ve found. And learned from others who have lived here much longer than I have, and who love free things. I mean, who doesn’t?
10. How to miss your mom.
I am not a needy kid, and I admittedly talk to my dad way more than I talk to my mom. But there are some voids that only mothers can fill. And like everyone else on the planet, I happen to think that my mother is the most beautiful and wonderful creature that has ever existed. There are rare times when my heart literally aches and I know that the only thing that will make it stop is a hug from my mom. She’s good at a lot of things, but I think the best thing she has to offer is her hugs. Moving to a new city where I don’t know many people, where I don’t drive but rely on the necessary evil that is public transportation and where I do literally everything on my own, there are times when I just want my mom. But I don’t want her to cook for me or do my laundry or make my bed. I can handle all of that and have been handling all of that for some time now. I just want her to hug me and watch meaningless reality TV with me and listen to my stories. Because making my mom laugh is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world and that’s what I miss the most.