My entire life I had a dream:
I would be a big, badass famous journalist who lived in a gorgeous high-rise (with a balcony of course) in the middle of Manhattan with a super cool doorman. And I would finally have a pet that wasn’t a fish. I would work for the best magazines and travel the world—everyone would know my name. I would write stories that mattered, that were important and life altering. I would make a difference and change the world.
Clearly, I had big dreams and high expectations of New York.
Me at Rockefeller Center
Ever since I can remember, I was working towards this dream. Talking about NYC, dreaming about NYC, watching movies and shows that took place in NYC. I joined the writing club, yearbook, and newspaper in every school, I studied journalism in college, I read magazines I wanted to work for, and I worked really hard to get internships and gain experience. By my junior year of college I had decided I wanted to go to NYU to get my masters for magazine journalism.
My super senior fifth year (I didn’t graduate in four years because I ended up getting two majors and a minor) I studied abroad in Bonn, Germany. I know many people say that their study abroad experience changed their lives, and not to sound cliché, but I was no exception.
Before Germany, I had my heart set on New York and journalism, my hard-earned future and a career in magazines (I had even applied for a short summer certificate class called the Summer Publishing Institute).
But Germany changed all that. My time in Bonn was spent meeting new people from all over the world, eating glorious food, traveling as much as my savings account would allow, exploring, learning, experiencing. I no longer wanted to focus on myself and my career, I wanted to focus on others for once, take a break from always thinking about me, myself, and I and seeing what else I could accomplish. (Also, why would I go out into the workforce when it was terrifying, unpredictable, and I could delay it just a little bit longer?)
Traditional German Bakery
Haribo museum and factory — home of the Gummibärchen (or Gummybears!)
I began applying for jobs to teach English in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. I applied to jobs at European summer camps where teachers would do everything from English lessons to swimming lessons. I applied to several scholarship programs in Germany to learn more about the country and media, and I even applied to a few volunteer programs (who doesn’t want to save the turtles in Greece or feed koala bears in Australia?!). And last, but certainly not least, I applied for a position in my home state at the Minnesota Reading Corps.
After coming back from Germany, I went to the Summer Publishing Institute at NYU and became completely conflicted. The class was kind of an introduction to the Masters in Publishing and a person who already completed SPI could be accepted into NYU as a graduate student by simply writing an essay (instead of taking the GRE and paying tons of money for application fees and filling out applications AND writing an essay—which is what other normal applicants had to do). Was this what I really wanted? What should I do with my life? Was this the right choice? I wanted this my whole life, but was I ready to leave my family, my boyfriend, my friends, everything and everyone that I knew and loved a 25-hour car ride away?
My boyfriend, Adam
Strawberry picking at the farm
After the certificate class was over, I came back to MN, completely prepared to accept the position at the Minnesota Reading Corps. My parents had other ideas.
I don’t want to say they “forced” me into it, because obviously I am my own person and not a toddler, but in a way, I felt forced. They reminded me daily that going to New York was all I ever wanted and all I had ever talked about and now, I was going to throw it all away, throw away everything I had worked for, throw away this really great opportunity just because I wanted to get paid $200 a week to teach underprivileged children in Minneapolis how to read.
They didn’t understand. I felt like this was my last chance. My last chance to do something spontaneous and soul fulfilling before settling down in New York and getting a job, because I thought, once you have a job you are stuck—you can’t just take a leave of absence to travel or help save animals in another country or make a difference in childrens’ lives. I felt like I was being torn in two. It also didn’t help that everyone at NYU said I couldn’t use the SPI credits towards my masters degree if I waited, that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that if I didn’t take, I would waste the thousands of dollars I spent on those credits and would have to take them all over again if I waited to come to New York after volunteering (which is a big fat lie if anyone was wondering, current SPI students heed my warning, this isn’t true!). And my parents brought this fact up constantly, adding that they thought I was going through a midlife crises because I was being handed what I always wanted and I was ready to turn away from it.
After talking to friends, internship supervisors, my boss, old professors and my favorite advisors, I finally made the decision to leave.
I cried when I told the Minnesota Reading Corps that I would not be participating in their program, but I vowed to do so some day. I cried when I told my best friend. I cried while packing, while saying goodbye to my home, my friends, my car; you would have thought I was going to prison instead of living my dream in New York.
My sister and my best friends
At our cabin in northern Minnesota
I have been living here for a year and two months now, and I still don’t know how I feel about New York. I have made some wonderful friends, done some amazing things that I would never have had the opportunity to do anywhere else, especially in Minnesota, but I don’t feel happy. I have happy moments for sure, but I don’t feel as if NYC is my dream anymore. Which in a way, is absolutely terrifying.
I have no regrets, and I am proud to say that I came here knowing no one, without having a place to live and just left my life behind me in the Midwest, but do I want to stay? New York might be the most amazing city on earth, but how long before you hate everyone on the subway, become the stereotypical rude asshole who never takes their crabby pants off? How long will you detest your cockroach-filled apartment, stay full of anxiety and stress that just hangs above the New York skyline like an ever-present cloud, and deal with all the tourists and lack of green space? I am hoping that perhaps I am in the middle of a transitional phase, one that will hopefully lead to me leaving New York and settling down elsewhere to bigger and better things. Because, who am I if I have lost my dream?