Catching the Bug
I was visiting New York with family, scoping out my future possible home and on my way to a pivotal meeting with an editor at Vogue Magazine--a meeting that would later grant me this internship at Chic.
I remember running through the streets of New York like a crazed person, hair standing up straight on end and tote bag banging against my bony hip. I must have run about twenty city blocks trying to find the correct subway, and then when I finally did, I wandered through it like a solicitor, except instead of begging for money, I was begging for direction.
"Does this train go to the World Trade Center?" I asked with wide eyes almost everyone on that train. Each person simply stared at me and then directed their eyes to the giant neon sign flashing: Last stop, World Trade Center. This didn't phase me. I didn't stop asking.
Eventually, I made my way to a young, scruffy looking Latino man with one earphone in and a backpack slung over his shoulder.
"Excuse me," I began, sitting down next to him, "Does this train go to the World Trade Center?"
"Yes," he politely responded, smiling at me. "It's the last stop."
"Thank you," I breathed, relieved to learn something I honestly already knew.
After explaining to him what I was doing at the World Trade Center and my intentions of eventually moving to New York, he beamed at me. "I just moved here two years ago, and it's the best decision I've ever made."
The man, who I later discovered was Andres, had moved to New York from Riverside, CA (small world) to pursue a career in architecture, which is exactly what he does. He lives in a one-bedroom in Brooklyn and commutes to Manhattan during the week. He's never felt more alive; the energy is palpable for him.
"I've lived here in a past life," Bella says to me, nodding like nothing has ever made more sense. "Like in the 50s or 60s...yeah. I was here before. I felt it when I moved here."
My roommate Bella moved here three years ago from Louisiana, determined to pursue a career in fashion and launch her own eco-friendly line of women's wear. She came straight to New York from a small town where she felt she had nothing to do--a town she was aching to escape. A town that made her feel like a prisoner, a town that made her feel like she could only ever get so far.
"I was with him for three years," Ana tells me, scooping a mouthful of soup into her mouth. She glances up at the ceiling, smiling as if at a private joke. "I was going to marry him, have kids with him, be with him forever, just because that's what you do. Then one day I woke up and said, what am I doing?" She looks at me dead on, boring into me with her dark, kohl-rimmed eyes. "So I left."
Ana, my other roommate, came to the City a year ago from a small town in Texas with one suitcase. She went from sharing a giant apartment with her boyfriend to splitting a one-bedroom with Bella and an endless stream of AirBnb-ers. She's never been happier.
"This city is totally for me," Jenna nods, twirling a strand of auburn hair around her finger thoughtfully. "It's not for everyone, but it's for me. I couldn't imagine living anywhere else."
Jenna is a market editor at Chic Magazine and moved to New York seven years ago to pursue a career at the New York City Ballet. While hustling at various assistant positions to support her dance career, she realized that while dance will always have a special place in her heart, fashion was her true calling.
"So, you think this is what you want to do?" Jenna asks me excitedly, leaning towards me over our cups of coffee. She watches me eager, like we're in some kind of conspiracy together. "You want to move here once you graduate, work in fashion?"
"It was hard at first, sure," Crystal says, nodding her head and staring out the window of our office at Chic. "I missed my family so much; I cried almost every night. But eventually I realized this is my town." Here, her serious face melts into an unconscious smile. She looks romantic, fingering her necklace and looking down like a bashful schoolgirl talking about a crush. "I love it here," she murmurs.
Crystal moved here from a small down in North Dakota when she was only 18, starting a new chapter at New York University to pursue creative writing and art. She's been here ever since and only returns home on a few select holidays. "I love my family," she says, "but they understand this is my home now. When I graduate, I'm still not sure what I'm going to do. I just know I'm going to do it here."
"So you've caught the bug, huh?" Dan smiles once I've explained to him that I've wanted to move here since I was nine. "It'll do that to some of us. Not all of us--a lucky, select few."
Dan moved here from Glendora, CA (again, small world) to pursue a career in photography. He works as a photographer for Chic Magazine, taking care of all the accessories and clothing items that are featured in the magazine for shopping and mixing and matching purposes. "I'll see you back here in a year," he tells me encouragingly, no doubt present to waver his voice. "I can tell you want this."
"I come from across the pond and there are things I miss about home; the dry humor, the terrible food, the shit weather. But New York is home. Britain is more of a memory, a past life."
"There are times in the winter where you want to die. You've been snowed in for eight days and you're going stir crazy and even going outside for a carton of milk is a fucking expedition, but somehow it's all worth it. Somehow, this city makes it all worth it."
"I could live anywhere else and do what I do, but I wouldn't be happy. I wouldn't be fulfilled. I would only be going so far, you know? I would only be lying to myself, you know?"
"I don't want to remember a time before New York. Sure, most of us New Yorkers aren't from here originally, but when we get here, the past erases. This is it."
Some people catch the bug and some people don't. But the one thing I've noticed from all of the amazing, colorful, vibrant, different people I've met here is that if you catch it, you know it. You feel it, the second you get off that plane. The second you step into your apartment that's the size of your bathroom back home. You know, immediately.
You know when you're walking through Central Park at dawn and the sun is setting over the buildings and the trees on the East Side and you can't remember seeing anything more beautiful. You know when you see a mother with her small child on the subway, enveloped in a cocoon of love as she straightens his shirt and hands him his backpack, giving him a kiss on the cheek. You know when you stare up at the Empire State Building from the ground and your heart swells, imagining possibility for yourself and feeling overcome with the possibilities fulfilled by those of the past. You know when you're walking through the cobblestone streets of the Village and you come across a lovestruck couple, arms wrapped around each other in the New York brand of love you've previously only ever seen in movies.
But you want to know when you really know? When you're walking to the grocery store and the clouds open up and pounding rain begins to devour your body and you still know. When you're down in the humid subway sweating off half of your body weight and a pack of rats race past you and you still know. When your grocery bags rip and you're ten blocks from your apartment, when your train is delayed or decides to skip your stop, when the heat is beating down on you and you can't for the life of you hail a cab and you're blocks from the subway and you haven't had a drink of water or bite to eat in hours and somehow, you still know? Well, that's when you really know.
As for me? Well, I've known since I came here on a school field trip when I was 12 years old. As insane as it sounds, it's just as Bella told me. It's that feeling that you've been here before. You've done this before. Someway, somehow, you've made this city your own before you've even really lived in it. And all this time, up until now, it's just been waiting for you to arrive.