I moved to NYC almost eight years ago when I was 25 years old. It took me awhile to get here; it took me awhile to summon up the necessary guts to turn my back on the comfort and safety of home in New England and pursue the unknown. However, I did it. I did it for my own sanity and for the goals I had set up for myself: I was determined to make it as a writer in New York City.
My first apartment in the city was on East 7th Street between C and D avenues. It was a two-bedroom walk-up that I shared with a roommate and her boyfriend. We were on the third floor, we had very little sunshine (read: all our plants died), and my window stared into the apartment of a woman who didn’t believe in shades or modesty.
Had it been 10 or even five years before, the neighborhood would have been scary, but gentrification had taken hold, and by the time I got there, it was far less intimidating than I had seen it in movies or from what I had been told by friends who had seen Rent.
As for apartment life with my friend and her boyfriend, it was bearable at the beginning. However, as their relationship began to unravel, I’d find myself too many times trying to watch TV while they fought over things like him eating the last cookie or not complimenting her haircut.
Having always been most comfortable on my own, I knew my next living situaiton had to be sans-roommates. I also didn’t want roomies when I started my new decade of my 30’s.
On my 29th birthday, I promised myself I’d live alone by my 30th birthday. Two months before I turned 30 I set out on my search.
Meanwhile, my sister, 16 months younger than me, was planning her wedding back east (that’s what Colorado kids call it: “back east”.)
While she hunted high and low for the perfect wedding location, which ultimately ended up being my parents’ back yard, I hunted for my new apartment.
While my sister found the perfect caterer, I found the perfect street.
While she found the perfect wedding cake, I stood in a vacant one-bedroom, fifth-floor walk-up and saw Katz’s deli neon sign from my future bedroom.
She fell in love with the three-tier, flower-adorned traditional wedding dessert, and I fell in love, all over again, with my beloved East Village, the old stomping grounds of so many artists and writers like The Ramones, Allen Ginsberg, Jean-Michel Basquiat and others.
However, I had a problem. Thanks to years of living in NYC on the wages of an office manager at various marketing and fashion-related companies, I had relied somewhat overmuch on credit cards…that I couldn’t pay. When it came down to it, my credit failed me. My dream apartment was in danger of being just that: a fantasy.
My parents are not New York wealthy. True, my sister and I have never gone without, and I know by some standards that’s wealth, but by New York standards that means nothing. Yet as my sister stood on the brink of her marriage and I stood on the brink of an apartment that could be mine for four extra months security on top of first and last month’s rent and a broker’s fee, my parents decided to provide each of us with a downpayment on the next chapter of our lives…making it clear that whatever they would have contributed toward any wedding I might have in the future would no longer be forthcoming.
That summer my sister had a wedding in New Hampshire for $11,000; and I moved into my adorable East Village abode for $12,870 in upfront cash.
My sister got a wedding; I got to rent an apartment.
Flash forward 4 years later: My sister is 32 years old; she’s married with two sons under the age of three and lives in Boulder. While she lives a very happy life, and has zero regrets, I continue to be confused by the life she chose.
As for me, although having had my ups and down, I’m genuinely happy in the life and neighborhood that I had read about in books; I live in a place where I can see an iconic deli from my window, and I live somewhere that when I tell people who have may have never even been here, sort of widen their eyes in understanding of just what it means.
Also, I’m still in debt, and as a freelance writer, making ends meet is a constant struggle. My parents help when they can, but it’s still not easy. Technically, I can’t afford my apartment, or at least not comfortably so, but I just can’t bring myself to leave it.
And I won’t.
I came here for a reason. I live in this city, in this apartment I can’t quite afford, to fulfill something that people don’t fulfill in New Hampshire. New York City may have broken my heart hundreds of times: I’ve been laid off twice, fallen in love with the wrong men, been robbed, and even lived through a case of bed bugs a couple years ago.
But at least I can come home, listen to the hilarity on Houston, hear the saxophone player in LES on warm nights and can smell the sometimes-pungent odor of dozens of restaurants at once. At least all these things remind me of where I live and how lucky I am. So I’ll say it again: I would never have it any other way.
Amanda Chatel is a freelance writer and the snarky voice behind The Angry Office Manager -- a sometimes inappropriate and mildly offensive blog that was once about her former-office-manager days but has evolved into a ranting and raving of this and that. Her work has been featured on The Gloss, YourTango, AOL, The Grindstone and New York Magazine. She lives in New York City with her dog, Hubbell.