You are probably reading this thinking, “we already know you moved Sophia!!”
Well yes I have, but I have not had the opportunity to document my recent experiences here in New York City. It has been a little over a year since I moved to NYC, which was July 31st, 2018 to be exact.
This post isn’t to tell you about all the crazy stories and interactions I have encountered while living here, I’ll save that for Insta-stories. I am going to tell you about how I adjusted to living here, alone, and my opinions on the city. Opinions are subjective and these are just my thoughts and experiences. Not everyone will experience NYC this way. I waited a really long time to write this because I felt like I couldn’t pass judgement on a place that I have only lived in for a few days or months. I needed to see what would happen after one year and experience all the seasons, visit all the tourist and non-tourist spots, eat all the food, and learn how to live my life here.
So, I’ll start from the beginning because that is how every story starts.
I moved here the last day of July in 2018. I came with my father and sister. My mother stayed home to watch the businesses.
It was so hot here. Not hot, like Texas 100 degrees F hot, but definitely humid. It was raining a lot and moving my boxes with no central air conditioning was brutal. I really had it good in Texas with abundant air conditioning at every turn. It took about four days of setting up my small box-sized studio apartment and then. . . they left me. Tears were shed, anxiety filled my brain, and I was left alone. A few days later, I started school at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
I started a Primer session, which is a two week “camp” that prepares new students on what to expect in their first year of graduate school. A small project is due at the end of those two weeks. This is where I met some of the friends I have today at Pratt. I am very thankful I attended this Primer because I cannot imagine trying to make friends with the rest of the school. School was weird. It was a different pace and group of people that I am used to. It is true – people in the Northeast are just less friendly, less inclusive, and privileged. Are all of the people here like this? NO! But most of the people I interact with at school are and it took some getting used to. I have accepted that you cannot expect people to be nice to you and you cannot expect people to have certain courtesies or manners towards you, as you might towards them. These are all small incidents but it has been awhile since I have had to make new friends, so I was thrown off on what the experience would entail. I am also very socially shy, which can sometimes come off as standoffish, but I am just really nervous (once I know you, I open up and relax).
I am lucky enough to have taken a position as a graduate student at Pratt Institute School of Architecture and move up here with a lot of friends who were attending school at Columbia, Princeton, and UPenn. It helped me knowing that if I ever needed anyone, they were much closer to me in distance than my family. But it was still hard on me. I have never really been on my own before. I went to undergraduate school for architecture in the hometown I was raised in, so I never moved for college, unless it was to an apartment with roommates that was a seven minute drive away from my parent’s house. I liked living away from my parents in college but in retrospect, I wasn’t THAT far away. Moving halfway across the country is FAR away for me. I know many students who moved five times further for school and that is really tough. I commend those people for doing that! It takes a lot of guts!
Besides school, the first month of NYC was a pure fantasy. It was so dreamy to me that all the brownstones in my neighborhood were so pretty; that I could hop in a car and go anywhere I wanted; that I could walk in SoHo and stare at all the clothes, maybe shop a bit, and eat my favorite ice cream; that I could eat all the delicious foods and finally see my friends! ALL of this was great, but the second month came and all my fantasies were shattered and I was hit in the face with a ton of bricks that is – reality. New York is expensive, dirty, sometimes frightening, crowded, smelly, small, elitist, over stimulating, and ill-mannered (I don’t want to say rude because I have noticed some people do not realise that certain things are not nice, so ill-mannered just sounds better).
You may be thinking, “wow, this is a lot to claim.” But if you have lived even a month in NYC, you would have encountered each of these things at some point. New York City is a beautiful, wonderful, melting pot of creativity, design, tastes, and people. Every great city has it’s ugly truth and I honestly was living in a bubble about it until now. I basically felt as if I had made the wrong choice. Not just because the city was a lot for me to handle at once, but I was experiencing growing pains every single day trying to create a life for myself in a city that was going 1000 miles an hour. I have met a lot of really kind strangers in my one year here. The network of businesses and people is incredible and I have received many opportunities just from meeting strangers.
As a person who is constantly filled with dread-ridden anxiety, even when doing the most mundane daily tasks, it was a struggle to adapt here. I was physically exhausted after the first semester. I didn’t want to do it anymore. Not school, not the city, nothing! I even thought about switching schools and majors. I was also going through a mini pre-quarter life crisis and questioned my existence and what I want to offer to the design world, even this blog! I had no idea if I still wanted to keep this hobby and keep doing Instagram. I was not sure if I was even meant to continue in architecture school, or if I was suppose to find my passion through other types of design. I never took the time to actually think about what I wanted to do. I just applied to schools ASAP in Spring of 2018, graduated from college one month later in May, and then moved halfway across the country three months after that.
I was really hard myself looking back. I still don’t really know what I want, but I know now that I am slowly working towards something I know I will be successful in. I am taking what I am learning in school and using what I can to build my design skills and portfolio. I might not want to be a licensed architect at the moment, but I am finding things that I like to do in design while going through my semesters in graduate school.
I experienced my first Fall, actually not my first since my first Fall was spent in Italy in 2016. But my first Fall in the Northeast, which is a special season up here. The leaves change color into the most vibrant, fiery tones. My favorite memory is going to Connecticut to see the Glass House by Phillip Johnson and just being engulfed by a forest of orange, yellow, red, and purple trees on the drive there. The Fall colors made me go outside more and experience the nature that NYC has to offer. Besides this, I was inside a lot. I was very frightened to use the subway or even be in the middle of Manhattan. Again, anxiety crept into my mind and told me I was going to die in there, get stuck, or something was going to happen to me! It sounds silly now since I don’t even think twice about going into the subway, but I am a bit claustrophobic, so it was definitely something to overcome.
I finally went home for Christmas break towards the middle of December to see my family. I was home for three weeks, which was enough, but it was so nice to see my loved ones and see flat land. I took all the farm landscapes and nine-laned highways with 80 mph speeds for granted. In the northeast, there is no such thing! Everyone drives 50 mph or slower and all you see is buildings in the skyline 24/7. After a while, I forgot what Earth actually looked like besides a metropolis (joking, but not really).
It was so nice to be back in Texas, especially when it started to get really cold in NYC. Texas Winter is basically pre-Fall in NYC, a very mild temperature. I loved driving my car again and having the freedom of going somewhere where I am not stepping in pee, spit, and who knows what on the ground and not smelling the pollution in the air. BUT, I was starting to get the itch to go back home, to my new home, in New York City.
I came back to NYC in January, which is technically the start of Winter and it was freezing. According to the National Weather Service, it was actually a “mild” Winter for New York. Mild for them, but not for me! I experienced my first snowfall over five inches, my first single digit temperature, and my first experience trying layer four sweaters in order to keep warm. I have increased my Winter wardrobe by two-fold since this past year. I was so unprepared! Now, I am ready to take on the cold weather for this coming year and know what to expect. Although I did not experience my first blizzard warning, I feel like I know how to prepare for one now.
Spring finally arrived and it was still cold. I was honestly wearing coats and jackets up until the first week of May. By this time, I had gone through another studio, become closer with friends at school, and had a nasty rash on my face that cost me $3000 (gotta love US health care). It was a rough Spring to be honest, but I was slowly starting to heal from previous anxieties (yet my brain creates new ones constantly). I knew that I was stronger now to conquer those anxieties and I was less scared of doing things in the city. Don’t get me wrong, I still have the undying fear in the back of my mind that something will happen to me in this city, but I think that comes with living alone and being a woman. I just have to be extra careful and always be aware of my surroundings. I always am, but it is always the things you least expect!
My first year of graduate school ended and I was SO relieved. I knew I had one more year left and all I had to do was power through to the finish and then I will never come to back academia again! I just need a break from architecture and the idea of studio. It is mentally taxing and it exacerbates my anxiety by 100% to the point where I am physically deteriorating. My love of design is tremendous, but at what extent to my health? Every architecture student has asked themself this question at least once.
But I have to say, through school, I have received some opportunities that I am very thankful for, like my new internship this past summer. I started in June because I wanted the month of May to decompress and catch up on personal things. I worked for one month (for free – that will be another blog post if you guys are interested) and did the whole “I commute to work by subway in the summer heat” thing in NYC that everyone complains about. It was nice and I learned a few things, but I was personally not very interested in the work. It was a good learning experience about how to conduct a firm. If there is any type of internship experience I would want, it would be a learning one.
This was also the longest time away I had been from my family – ever. Six months. I came home in July only to get right back on a plane and fly to Greece for vacation. I was happy I got to leave the US for a little bit and be in an environment that was very healing and nurturing. Coming back to the US is always a shock because I am not ready for the societal demands and routines that it offers. I finally came back to NYC the first week of August, marking one year since my move date. It was nostalgic to look back and see how I felt my first day here compared to now.
I am so much more comfortable. Everyone in NYC has told me that it takes about three years to get fully adjusted with the city and I totally believe that. I feel more confident now, but I am still learning and growing with the city. I will probably experience more growing pains, but that is okay. I am going through my twenties and they are all about learning who you are and trying to find your ~place~ in the world. I am 24 years old and I cannot imagine in five years what exactly I will be doing or how I will feel about myself. But I do know that moving to NYC really pushed me to find what I like and to assure myself that I can find my place on this crazy planet.
New York City is rough and it is not for everyone. It is a fast-paced city with people who want everything done at once. It smells, it is dirty, it is creepy, it is exponentially expensive, and it is physically and mentally exhausting. BUT New York City is a place for opportunities, hard workers, where dreams go from fantasy to real life, and where connections grow to blossom into new friendships and partnerships. I would not have the mindset and opportunities I have right now if I never moved here. Everything is happening at its own pace for me and that is perfectly fine. I am learning to be more conscious, more open, and more social. I am learning to be nicer to myself, to have more hope, and to discipline myself so I can achieve the goals I want. All of this could not have happened overnight. It truly does take time.
New York City makes you grow and for now that is all I can say. My experience is neither amazing nor terrible, but it is a learning experience.
I hope you all enjoyed this long attempt at composing my thoughts about my move. Right now, I am in my last year of graduate school. I am so much more comfortable with myself. I still have my doubts, but that is perfectly fine! More updates coming soon to the blog.
Thank you for all the support.