Upstate New York To Upstate Manhattan

Is it worth it?

That’s the question everyone seems to be asking about The New York Move, which, if you’re a twenty-something college graduate from somewhere in the Northeast, is all but a given at some point. And if any of the Op-Eds that have poured through my Gmail and Facebook over the past couple of years are to be believed, the answer is a resounding “No.”

If there’s anything to be learned by reading the news, both from large print outlets and hip internet publications, it’s that finding a non-food service job as a recent college graduate is about as likely as meeting a talking badger. The odds get even worse if your degree happens to be from a liberal arts college, and worst of all if your major had “studies” in its name. That moving to Brooklyn is for insufferable hipsters and wannabe artists who will choke on their dreams and eventually run home, tails between their legs. That moving to Manhattan is for the effete overprivileged. Move to a nice neighborhood and you’re an overly socially advantaged yuppie; move to a not-so-nice neighborhood and you’re a gentrifying hipster. Et cetera.

Most of the writing I’ve seen about young people moving to New York is officious, generalizing, and disparaging. And yet somehow it’s still happening. People are still moving.

As a 21-year-old who just graduated from a liberal arts college with a major that had “studies” in the name, it’s impossible not to feel the weight of those trends, stereotypes, and expectations. But I went anyway, not because I was chasing artist dreams or wanted to work in a skyscraper or run into Tina Fey on the street, but just because it seemed like a good thing to do.

The first moments, without an apartment or a job, seemed particularly hopeless. But after a couple weeks of scurrying and hustling, pounding pavement and filling out paperwork and getting all the mileage I could out of my one skirt suit, I found myself in a lovely third-floor walkup with a couple of friends at the tip-top of Washington Heights, an area so distant from the rest of the city that it’s sometimes referred to as Upstate Manhattan. And with a job that requires me to wear business attire and sit at a desk.

In the past month, I have learned about anti-money laundering laws and gone to a CD release party for a musician who was unable to attend his release party because he was in prison for murdering a music promoter. I have eaten ceviche on a hot summer night and gotten delicious, cheap Dominican delivery from El Malecon. I have gotten into conversations in German and Italian on the street. I have gotten asked for directions by tourists and occasionally been able to give them. I have discovered that there are hills in Manhattan, and in one case an actual cliff. I have laughed into the night with old friends and new. Walking down the East River esplanade at night, watching the particular eddies in the water and the lantern-like trail of lights demarcating the 59th Street bridge, like when you really notice someone for the first time, I thought: “I think I may be in love.”

So, is it worth it? Yes, so far, I think so.

I’ll be reporting from New York, avoiding generalizations and officiousness as much as I can help it. One person’s account of this behemoth, eccentric city.

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