“I had a reality check my first day (in New York City) when I was lost in the middle of a midtown K-mart. I called my mom on my dying phone while I was trying to find a fan for my non-air conditioned room, and I had a very sad grocery list of: Ramen, peanut butter and bread. I started second guessing my tentative and stubborn plan and wanted comfort. But after a brief breakdown and realizing I couldn’t afford a plane ticket home, I proudly bought that $1.19 pack of Ramen, squeezed onto the 6 train to my apartment and smiled, I made it. I made it to New York.”
I distinctly remember my first week in New York. On Monday August 17th, I was still living in Arizona and I had a phone interview with Glamour magazine at 7am. I went to work right after to a daycare I was working at part-time to save up some extra cash before my “planned” move to New York in September. Later that day I received an email from the fashion assistant I had interviewed with asking if I would be able to do an in-person interview with her supervisor on Thursday. (Some background context: I had signed a one-year lease in August with two girls who I briefly met during my internship and told the assistant I was already living in NYC, but I had taken a quick weekend trip to visit my family and could fly back to the interview.) I immediately said yes, called my mom and asked her to help me book the cheapest flight she could find while I finished up my shift and quit.
Barely 48 hours later I was at the airport with one checked suitcase, a carry-on, $113 to my name and I was wearing my brother’s Yankees hat. This was it. I was officially moving to New York.
I arrived to apartment around 10pm, struggled to drag my heavy suitcases up six flights of stairs and met my roommates. We all crowded onto one their beds to catch up and I slept on the couch because I had a subleaser in my bedroom for the month. The next day I headed to my interview at Glamour. I took the wrong train, sprinted to the World Trade Center in 90 degree heat and humidity and put on my heels at the reception desk. I was sweating and out of breath waiting for the fashion editor and felt less than satisfied with my interview performance as I walked out of the building. I headed to K-Mart to purchase a fan for our non-air conditioned living room (my current bedroom) and food. This was when it finally hit me that I could barely afford groceries, let alone a plane ticket home. I had no idea what New York would hold for me but thankfully I received the freelance position at Glamour the following week, and the rest was well…history!
Last week marked my five year anniversary in New York! With the exception of the chaotic 2020 we’re having, it’s been a hell of five years and I can confidently say that moving to New York has been the best damn decision I’ve ever made. I fall more and more in love with this city each year and today I’m sharing five things that New York has taught me in the past five years.
Carrie Bradshaw Really Did Lie
My first apartment was a six-floor walk-up and I could touch both walls of my narrow closet-like bedroom. I was able to fit a twin bed, a tiny vanity at the foot and only open my door about half-way to squeeze through. I am very grateful that I am now able to live in my own apartment, have more space and don’t have to feel like I’m climbing Mount Everest to get to my apartment, but, moving to New York really made me appreciate the value of a dollar and how to budget. I lived off of Top Ramen, pasta and cheap beer my first couple years in New York and learned how to have fun on a very limited budget. I think there is a misconception that you have to be making $50k + out of the gate when you graduate college in order to move to New York, but if you’re in the fashion/media industry, that might not be the case but I still was able to pay my rent, go out with friends and I even managed to save. The first couple years in New York are the hardest but taught me so much about money.
Your Dream Job Can Change
I never imagined leaving my dream company less than a year into New York. Deep down I always wanted to work for myself, but I expected to do that later in life and stay in the editorial industry for most of my twenties. My first few months in New York I saw five publications fold, teams were downsized and job opportunities in the fashion department started to diminish. I noticed that magazines were hiring outside freelance stylists to style photoshoots, freelance writers to write articles and the focus of digital and social media content were at the forefront of conversations. When my contract at Redbook was ending, I was hired for the only fashion assistant position at Hearst at the time. During my trial period at Oprah magazine I realized I wanted to take a leap of faith and not accept a full-time offer at the magazine. A couple months after I left, most of the publications at Hearst “hubbed” teams together and more publications folded.
I never set out with the intention of being freelance so early into my career and work for myself, but I believe it happened for a reason. I had a gut feeling to leave editorial and incredible opportunities came my way from working at retail brands, becoming the freelance fashion editor for StyleCaster and styling for Alice+Olivia for over three years. My career journey has been anything but conventional and it’s okay to take detours, turns and pauses in your life. Each experience helped me grow as a person, creative and business owner.
Embrace Your Personal Style
When I moved to New York I quickly integrated black into my wardrobe and tried to embody the ‘New York Fashion Girl’ of exclusively black minimalist wardrobes, barely-there makeup and straight hair. I felt out of place with my loud vintage skirts, red lipstick and colorful wardrobe. A couple years ago I said screw it and started to embrace my personal style again and dress in colorful outfits, maximalist accessories and prints. I continued to curl my hair, wear lipstick and stack rings on each finger.
I remember feeling too ‘fashionable’ for Arizona and too ‘West Coast’ and colorful for New York. No matter where you’re located or how you’re feeling, dress for yourself. Put on an outfit that makes you feel confident, happy, powerful and forget trying to fit in with the status-quo or current trends.
Embrace the Hustle, but Also Sleep
I’ll be the first to admit that I am a “Yes Man” and I have neglected sleep for about the past 10 years of my life. In college I slept an average of 2-3 hours a night because of school work, internships, side hustles and student organizations, and it did not stop when I moved to New York. I would wake up at 6am, photograph blog outfits at 8am, work at the magazine from 8:30am-7pm, go to 2-3 press/media events after and then stay up until 2-3am working on the blog or freelance projects. I never slept and oddly prided myself in the hustle.
When I started working on my own, the same thing. I would say ‘yes’ to every job opportunity, event and meeting to network, put myself out there and gain experience. I strongly believe that hustle helped me grow quickly, but I experienced intense burnout. I’ve had a couple burnouts throughout my career and it’s taught me to start saying ‘no’ more than ‘yes’, hiring help and being okay with delegating out tasks and prioritizing my mental and physical health. I’m still working on the last one, but in 2019 I started sleeping more than 4 hours a night, I hired on my assistant Lauren and took off at least one day per week to not work and relax.
We are ingrained with the hustle mindset and to work harder, find success young, work for yourself and do more than everyone else, and although those are inspiring mindsets to have, it can be toxic. The earlier you prioritize yourself, the happier you’ll be, the harder you’ll work and the better work you will produce.
Overnight Successes Take Years to Make
There’s a quote by the famous soccer player Lionel Messi that I found years ago and think about it weekly,
“I started early and I stay late, day after day, year after year…it look me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success”
It’s easy to compare yourself to others when you work in a competitive industry and see “overnight success” stories on social media. But I learned quickly in New York that it takes hard work and years to get to the top. There is no real overnight success or people who just strike it lucky. It takes hard work to get to that moment.
I was somewhat used to being someone who was an on-paper overachiever and hard worker in Arizona. I was really involved in school, had my side hustle, got good grades but when I moved to New York, I realized I was just like everyone else, and a good percentage of people had more industry connections, a fashion education, more money and were even better at their job than me. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I accepted that there is always going to be someone who is going to outdo you and stay later, show up earlier, work harder, know more, or get along with the boss/team better. And it’s not a bad thing. Think of this as healthy competition and learn from those people. What do they know that you can learn? What processes do they do to make their outcome successful?
Your career is a long journey and focus on the long term. Learn from those people at your internship or company who are successful, do your research, put in your time and commit. Don’t worry about who’s doing more than you or who’s more popular on social media—focus on yourself, your experience and your long-term goals.