Though it had been over two years since I last set foot in New York, it felt like I had never left. The moment I arrived in the city I had obsessed over since I was a child, was a near-spiritual one.
The exhilaration of seeing thousands of iconic images from television, art works, and postcards come to life before me was still fresh, but this time the experience was tinged with an even greater excitement. I knew that I would now have the opportunity not only to see the city in the flesh, concrete,and neon, but to make a new life for myself within this sprawling metropolis.
This initial delight would soon fade, however, as the next month brought with it some hard lessons about growing up and dealing with the harsh realities of life in the Big Apple.
The first week raced by, as my mind remained focused on the scramble to secure an apartment before all of my money had been spent on a painfully overpriced hostel – a task made significantly more challenging by my lack of U.S. credit history. Having finally passed that hurdle, I began my main mission: to find a job in journalism.
I have spent the last five years living within the sheltered world of academia, where one’s path is clearly set and one’s goals are clearly defined. As rejection after rejection from prospective employers continued to flow into my e-mail inbox, the slow realization that these assurances no longer existed for me began to set in.
In New York, competition for jobs has become fierce. A degree from an Irish university may mean something at home, but in a huge city, containing some of the most prestigious journalism schools in the world, it has become a weak currency. The feeling of being a small fish in a very big pond is inescapable.
When times become tough, the sense of longing for a return to my more secure life back in Ireland is inevitable. Small things help to stave off this homesickness; the familiar accent from a bartender in an Irish pub, or Skype conversations with family and friends back home. Sitting in a crowded Irish bar to watch the All-Ireland Football Finals, surrounded by screaming Dublin fans, it felt as though I could easily have been in pub off Grafton Street.
Of course, though I remain unemployed, I have still found plenty of time to enjoy myself. While New York is infamous for its high cost of living it’s also quite easy to keep expenses to a minimum, with free events and open bars featuring prominently on my weekly itinerary. Though it may have been a tough month, with each day that passes I fall more in love with this city.
Last week, as I sat in a karaoke bar on Bleeker Street listening to an NYU freshman croon the immortal words from Frank Sinatra’s love song to New York: “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere,” this lyric found a new resonance in my mind. It might be an uphill struggle, but these first few months may well prove influential in determining the course my life is to take. And so I press on; uncertain of the future, but undeterred.