By Shelby Thompson
When I first announced my decision to move from Washington, DC to New York, my mother couldn’t wrap her brain around it as truth. It was just too big to think about. So every time we talked she would sputter out, “I can’t believe you’re thinking about moving to New York”.
I would calmly reply, “Mom, I’m not thinking about it, I am moving to New York”.
This went on for about three months, until the day came when I actually quit talking and left.
I don’t blame her for having a hard time imagining her only child moving to a city of 21 million people. She worried I’d be lost to it forever and never move home again.
She was right. I am lost to New York.
Not like Kevin McCallister lost in New York, but more like, why would I ever want to live anywhere else?
People always tell new New Yorkers that the best way to get oriented when you step out of the subway is to pick a landmark to figure out which way is north. I’ve been a New Yorker for just under a year, and I still don’t have the hang of this.
Maybe it is because I’m from Tennessee where we say sensible things like, “turn left at the next light,” instead of this “go west, young man” thing, or maybe I’m just no good at directions. Either way, until I can get myself more used to it, I am resigned to continue to get lost in the city all the time.
But getting lost is part of the adventure of NYC and it can actually be more fun than annoying. Like when I’m in SoHo and realize that I have been walking the wrong direction for about five blocks, I might just dip into a store and go shopping instead of panic. It’s not a cheaper alternative, but it sure makes me feel better.
I may sound smug, but don’t let that attitude fool you too much; it hasn’t always been footloose and fancy-free to find a home here. In fact, the most displaced I have ever felt in my life was trying to find a place to live in New York City.
In order to “simplify the apartment hunt”, I was told I needed to find a broker.
Wait, what? I’m not trying to own something, just rent. Isn’t there a whole musical about that?
Apparently, it is not that simple, but it can be that dramatic.
After my roommate and I settled on a borough and a price range, we attempted to try apartment hunting on our own via craigslist. This lasted about a month with no success, and with our move date creeping ever closer, we finally agreed to get a broker.
One chilly Saturday in January, we met up with a seemingly cool guy to take us around Manhattan’s finest. This smooth talker took advantage of our out-of-towner state of mind and dragged us all over the city pretending to show us the absolute worst “in our price range” only to slowly make his way up the price tag and show us his absolute best.
How could we know that was his game? He manipulated our emotions so that we felt defeated, and nearly agreed to co-habitat a place we couldn’t afford in Union Square because we thought we had to make a decision right then and there or be doomed to never find a place to live!
In a moment of clarity, we took a step back from the fear he had built in us and managed to scram before losing a dime to that jerk. I guess the advice should have been more specific – find a good broker. The next person we met turned out to be sweet and smart and she made it her goal to show us the rest of (mostly unaffordable) Manhattan with nothing in mind but to get us exactly the home we wanted. We found it, with just two weeks to spare before the move in date.
Finally having a place to call my own changed everything about moving to New York. With the need for a place to rest my head fulfilled, my bewildered state began to dissipate. I no longer felt like the city was going to eat me whole.
Well, at least that day. I still get lost in this great city, but if I feel especially displaced, I know I can always head home. I look for the lighthouse that is my little corner of Manhattan, I smile when I turn down my block, and I know I’ll find my way again.
Even my mother can be happy about that.