By now, if you've read the blog this week, most of you know that I started a new job. What you may not know is that this is the job I have been working for for almost five years. I moved to New York with just a sliver of an idea of what I wanted to do. I had the basic framework - I wanted to work in women's lifestyle content. Where, how, and when I would get that job, however, remained a mystery. But, I made the leap, left Iowa, and walked into my first apartment in Astoria, sweaty, scared, excited, and in disbelief. I was going to do this! Except, almost nothing turned out the way I thought it would.
continued after the jump....
For the first year in NYC I worked in retail. I'll be honest, that was the worst and the best year of my life. I had my lowest lows and I learned more about who I am - the good and bad - than I ever had before.
Fast-forward to almost four years here in the city, one retail job, one internship, lots of 7 day work weeks, very little sleep, and one non-dream job later and here I sit -- happy, so happy I'm not sure it's all real.
So, why am I telling you this? Two reasons. First of all, because I get emails from young women I knew in college asking me if they should move to NYC and what it's like. And, because even though people say it all the time -- and it sounds like BS -- stick with it. Whatever your thing is stick to it. But, understand that you may need to make adjustments.
To my first point, if you are ready to get the crap beaten out of you, move to NYC. I mean that in all seriousness. I've known several people during the last four years who have come to this big bad city only to leave it in a year. Also know that this city is not for everyone and that is 100% OK. I'm not even sure this city is for me. I just happened to have it kicked into submission at the moment (no doubt I will find myself on a delayed subway train directly after typing this). Before you pack up and move here also know that a lot of people here are better than you. This city attracts the best of the best in a lot of fields. The only way to distinguish yourself is to want it more, work harder, stay dedicated and stick with it. Be prepared to be poor, get randomly groped by a homeless person, and live in an apartment the size of your former bedroom. If you can handle these things you will have the time of your life. If you can't handle them, you're probably much more sane and/or sensible than those of us to stay here. So, to all those who are wondering if you should move here, that paragraph was for you.
Now, to my second point -- no matter what city you are in you'll face challenges in pursuit of your dream. I've never been an optimist by nature. But I do have a laser-like focus when it comes to the things I want out of life. It physically pains me to see people give up on what they want to do. Sadly, most of the people I know who have done so are women. I think as women we get bogged down in expectation, in the way life is supposed to look and feel. And we are certainly much too hard on ourselves.
Having been through four years of pushing endlessly to get myself to where I sit (still feels crazy) I have a few pointers I love to offer up to anyone who seems to be flagging in their pursuit of a dream.
1) Adjust - First and foremost let your dream evolve, keep the core aspects of what you love in mind and let the details shift and grow as they need to. I couldn't have told you when I first started out in magazines that I'd end up a web editor; I just knew that I loved helping women and I loved working with online content and I let go of some little details of my dream and grabbed on to new ones and the job that grew out of it is a great fit for me.
2) Surround yourself with people who encourage you. I don't mean people who yes you to death -- you're going to need reality checks here and there. But, hold on to people who genuinely love you and will stay honest with you. Get rid of toxic relationships.
3) Just keep swimming. Make your own opportunities. If one door closes to you don't dwell, break down another door. Be the one who wants it the most and network the crap out of every event you go to. Collect email addresses, memorize names, send thank you notes.
I hope this helps give you a boost if you're reaching for something, stick with it.