My first week in New York drew to a close with the first snow the city has seen all winter. Given that my first experience in New York was dominated by the Polar Vortex, I found it very easy to acclimatise to these harsh conditions.
When my phone lit up with a text from my second-time long-distance boyfriend announcing that we had survived a whole week – congratulations to us – I took stock on what had occurred thus far.
I had eaten pizza five times, been hungover three times and already spent $1,400. How little has changed.
A little older but a hell of a lot wiser, I know that I have changed greatly in the last year – fundamentally if not habitually (I’m looking at you, pizza) – but how much has the city changed?
Snowstorm coping methods are still top drawer, with only 100 percent of the trains not working and 80 percent of the roads remaining unploughed for 24 hours. Snowstorm hysteria has significantly calmed down as my phone only blew up with emergency alerts about 600 times over the course of Saturday afternoon. It was like the Polar Vortex had NEVER HAPPENED.
I had to actually, genuinely, literally remind a local real-life New Yorker of the four months of frozen hell that we endured only two short years ago. She looked at me with authentic bemusement.
So much happens here. It’s so excitingly, electrically busy that the worst winter of all time is a shadowy memory that isn’t even remotely triggered to life by an impending similar storm. Baffling.
In terms of my daily routine, almost nothing has changed. I’m back in the same apartment – my old bed has been semi-assembled in the living room and I’m crashing here rent-free at the moment, but we’ll see how long I can get away with that for – so I’m back in my cosy neighborhood of Bushwick.
The gentrification crawl has managed to creep its way further out towards our subway stop – Myrtle/Wyckoff – where the same guy sells churros from a questionable looking trolley. The hipster, millennial and generally white population has increased exponentially. The local food bazaar now has an entire dietary requirement section which never existed before – catering to the masses.
There are more cafes, restaurants, stupidly themed bars such as Boobie Trap on Irving Avenue which provides board games and coloring paraphernalia because hipsters are effectively giant children. Moving into Bushwick proper, much is the same. Gourmet pizza, vegan cupcakes, craft everything.
To me, Bushwick feels like a stopping point or transitional limbo where you go to comfortably fanny about and waste time because you’re young and have the freedom to do so. Now, having been out of here for a year, the element of gentrification feels uncomfortable. Maybe I just need to readjust again because that’s the way of the world in New York, but maybe I don’t?
I’m drawn to a more grownup neighbourhood, the one where I spent most of my time working last year – Boerum Hill. I went to visit a friend who is turning 30 this year, and she has acquired a beautiful brownstone studio there. When I walked in the door I instantly felt like I was in the world of a human adult.
The rooms were beautifully decorated with furniture she had collected over the years, she had already gotten to know her neighbors who ranged from new families to start-up entrepreneurs, and there was a soft, leafy sense of community. I won’t be able to afford to live there possibly ever, but it’s now at the top of the Wish List.
And Boerum Hill hasn’t changed at all because Boerum Hill is an adult neighbourhood. Adults don’t change that dramatically from one year to the next.
Bushwick, however, is adolescent in every sense of the word. Constantly going through a phase, changing its mind for no reason and generally pissing people off.
The big change this time around is that I am interning. By February 19 I will be a 26-year-old intern. TWENTY SIX.
I have savings because I am an adult, but readjusting to the city as someone who is relatively unpaid is a big shock to the system. Frugality must now become my way of life.
I buy things like yams and oats in bulk and batch cook them into varying shades of beige sustenance, then walk past Pret A Manger en route to interning in Times Square and buckle at the smell of fresh croissants from Pain Quotidien and have to remind myself to focus on the end goal – brownstone by 30, brownstone by 30.
On arrival to New York this time, I weighed in at a significant 20 pounds lighter than when I left. Affluent, bartending, working a zillion jobs, I was flush with cash and fat to match. My level of food and alcohol consumption was in direct proportion to how much money I was making.
By this mathematical equation, I should be a size zero by June which is arguably the top advantage of eating like an intern in New York. Also one of the best excuses to decline additional sides, cocktails and desserts at a basic brunch.
The biggest changes that I’m noticing with one year gone by is how my set of goals has changed. Now that I have secured the visa, I need to secure the life.
A graduate J-1 visa is a one year only, make the most of it, have a blast and go home happy situation. An O-1 visa is a three year – possibly longer – forge a career, become a leader in your field, buy a brownstone by the time you’re 30 situation.
My theory is that with every year that passes, I will see New York from a new perspective. New opportunities will present themselves, new aspects of the city that previously went unnoticed will suddenly become prime targets, and I will slowly become an adult in a grownup New York rather than a giant baby sitting in a pool of beer and pizza staring at the Manhattan skyline from the McKibbin Lofts. Time to grow up.