I moved to New York one year ago today. I brought with me two suitcases, a computer bag, a tote, some goals, some dreams and one undying love for the city that had called to me for years. Since that day, I have gained a lot, and lost just as much. I thought I knew who I was when I moved up, but I did not. I thought I had a true love in my life when I came, but I was mistaken about where that love resided. I was right that I had no idea what I was getting myself into by moving here, but I could not have known just how true that was. Here, a month-by-month recap of 2009, one of the hardest and most amazing years of my life, inside and out.
I lived with Z for a week and a half before I found my own place on Craigslist and moved in. C was in town for a week or so and we bummed around the city a lot. One night I heard a cat crying outside my Harlem window and went outside in the freezing cold to try to save it, but to no avail. I spent $500 at Bed, Bath & Beyond to stock up my apartment. I interviewed for a good number of jobs and internships. I went to DC to see my LDR boyfriend A and to go to Obama's inauguration. We got into a big fight - A and I, not Obama and I - in which he threatened me physically. I went back to NYC and broke up with him. I started a part-time unpaid internship at a website for a national women's magazine.
A came to NYC unannounced to profess his undying love for me. We got back together, and my friends were not happy about it or particularly supportive. I was still interning part-time and applying for jobs the rest of the time. I hunted for and finally found a chair to spruce up my apartment a bit. Z and I went to fashion week, which was mostly underwhelming. I was pretty depressed for a while because of the job market. I explored Harlem and started cooking myself real meals, and I got a gym membership.
I got snowed in with A in DC. We built a snowman and had snowball fights and made a few of the sweetest memories I have to date. I went back to NYC and started another unpaid blogging internship where I wrote about health and relationships and sex. The Harlem Singing Man first showed up. I went home to the South for the first time since I had moved up, and visited Oxford while I was down there to find that everything and nothing had changed. I got offered and started my first paid full-time internship at a regional magazine company. I quit my other two internships. My friend E came to visit from Alabama.
I went to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival and to see A. I was really in love with him at this point. Then he came to visit NYC and something felt off so I decided to take a week off from him, before breaking up with him for the second time. My internship was going really well and I finally felt like I was where I was supposed to be. We had our first picnic in Central Park to kick off summer early. Everything was blooming.
My internship chugged along and I was stressed at times but I liked all the people I worked with and I was getting to write so I was really happy. Z and I went to my first official magazine party of the summer, and as we were walking through Times Square afterward I dropped my phone and the screen cracked, and my heart along with it. I bought an amazing backless vintage swimsuit which I wore with leggings to another magazine party. I saw my first psychic on the street, who told me A was my soulmate, so then I got drunk* at happy hour one Saturday and hopped on the Chinatown bus to DC, with my friends' support in tow, to profess my undying love for him again. When I got back to the city, I was offered my first full-time-with-benefits position in New York at the same magazine company where I was interning. I was ecstatic in every sense of the word.
A came to NYC for Mississippi in the Park, where he finally met Z and J after months of not meeting them. It rained and we frolicked and laughed. I started my new job and was taking well to it. Michael Jackson died and I was really upset by it because he helped define a good chunk of my childhood. Z and I saw Beyoncé in concert. It was epic. My Lady Gaga obsession was just budding.
I went to DC for A's and my one-year anniversary the weekend of July 4th. We rode roller coasters and cried and watched fireworks, and then he dropped a bomb on me. And not the good kind. I came back to NYC and lost a couple nights' sleep before having a minor meltdown and deciding that I had finally, truly lost sight of who I was. He broke up with me. I got a new, smaller bed for my room, but held out on buying an air conditioner. I discovered a big public pool near my apartment that changed my life. I danced in a fountain with Z. Started drinking a lot and living the young New York life I had always wanted. Went home to the South for a few days.
I got an air conditioner for my room after one especially terrible night of sweating. A and I still talked sometimes, and he told me he wanted to get back together. I said no because it didn't feel right. My Lady Gaga obsession grew into full-blown worship. I continued running around New York drunk and going out all the time. Z and I saw Britney in concert. I told A that I wanted to get back together, and he told me he didn't love me the way he used to anymore. I started blogging a lot more, honing what might loosely be referred to as my craft.
I went to the first Effable Arts show to support J and her amazing photograpy. Was inspired by all the young artists and fauxsted a Lady Gaga dance party at a gay bar in Hell's Kitchen. Danced on booths and tables in windows. Found one of three straight guys in the bar and kissed him on the steps of a hostel. He was British. Decided I wanted a Lady Gaga tattoo. Struck up an online friendship with one of A's close guy friends, who provided some enlightening insight. Z and I went to a bizarre launch party for Keith Lissner's new line. I got an amazing new dress that I wore to yet another magazine party. I started online dating and went to a quiet party for the first time by myself. I wrote my first guest blog post. A group of friends and I went on a Five Borough Pub Crawl that took an entire Sunday and was epic. I went to my first NYC doctor for a physical and everything was great. I felt invincible.
I started blogging, like, a lot. I went to DC for the National Equality March and did not contact A, which I considered a victory. I also stood ten feet away from Lady Gaga as she gave her speech, which I considered an even greater victory. I did my first blog swap. Z started filming video of our lives. My parents came to visit, their first trip to the city. A contacted me wanting to catch up, and I told him no. J had her first photo show in Brooklyn. I dropped my iPhone into the subway tracks and went down to get it, then I wrote a blog post about it, on which I then based a play. I went to my first real blogger convention. I learned that fall in New York is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I found out that Gaga would be performing in NYC on my birthday. HLLWN 2009 happened, and was a total shitshow.
I started to feel tired. I got switched to a different magazine at work and it was really busy and stressful. I worked on my play some more and sent in my final draft. I talked to A and he told me he was totally over me. He e-mailed me a couple weeks later announcing that he was removing all our photos from facebook. I did not respond. I went out one Saturday night and made some bad decisions and had the worst Sunday of my life the next day. I started to feel depressed and empty. I was happy to leave the city to go see C in Chicago for Thanksgiving. We went to museums and watched theater and comedy improv and listened to bad hip-hop music. In the Chicago airport, I wrote a list of the things I still knew about myself, because I was having trouble remembering. I celebrated the first birthday of my dear blog.
I got Blogger's Blog of Note award. I cried at my desk. It felt like the first really good thing that had happened in a while. Christmas exploded in the city. I discovered that it was the second-most beautiful time of the year. I still felt depressed and exhausted, like I was walking around in a cloud. New York and I were not getting along. I cried a lot when I was by myself. I convinced myself that I still loved A because I missed his smile and his eyes and the way he talked with his hands. I read my first Chuck Klosterman book, fell in love, and started reading my second. I went home for Christmas. I saw a ceremony for a fallen soldier that shook me to my already shaken core. While in town, I chose to see A for the first time in six months. We had coffee and caught up. I told him honestly that he was still the person I loved, and he told me honestly that I was no longer the person he loved. It felt like a bus hit me. I flew back to New York, after e-mailing him to tell him not to contact me anymore. It took nearly a year of heartache, but I finally let him go and am in the process of re-discovering my love for myself.
When my plane landed a year ago, I was still too young to have any concept of looking back. My eyes were planted firmly forward, and I knew in my heart that New York was what I wanted more than anything. I had fear, but I was not afraid. After about 10 months of deep periods of depression, exultation, loss, joy and loneliness, my heart grew weary, and I found myself too afraid to look forward. I looked forward and thought I saw nothing, which is the scariest feeling I've ever had, so I just decided to look back. I blamed myself for my unhappiness; I blamed putting myself and my dreams before others in my life, and I blamed the city. I looked at the city and saw a place that had stolen my innocence, my courage and, I thought, my heart.
When my plane landed this week, I felt the city come back to me. I now see it again like I saw it in 2008. That piece of my heart that's forever devoted to New York came back to life, and with it came all the other parts of my heart I thought were ruined or gone. I made some mistakes this year, and I hurt some people, but I never once did anything that was not a true expression of how I felt in my heart. I loved with my whole heart, I feared with my whole heart, I learned with my whole heart, and I acted with my whole heart.
This past month, I had actually come to convince myself that I must be unhappy because I was innately not sensitive enough to experience meaningful happiness. But in retrospect, 2009 showed me my favorite thing about myself: I live honestly. No one can ever say I am not genuine and upfront and fearlessly honest about how I think and feel. This honesty dissolved my relationship with someone I loved, because he could not offer me the same sort of honesty in return. But then it enriched my relationship with someone I know I love unconditionally: myself.
Now winter is returning, and I still go out in the freezing cold in my pajamas and boots when I hear cats cry, which they do a lot. I know I can't help them - because most of them won't let people anywhere near them - but still I go, because I think that maybe I will be able to help, just this one time. Because that's who I am. The love in my heart propels me forward, against all odds.
Even if it ain't all it seems, I got a pocket full of dreams,
Baby, I'm from New York...
*I have never consumed one drop of alcohol in my life
REMEMBER: BESSIE SMITH
11 minutes ago