When I moved to New York, there was only so much I could fit in those suitcases. I packed the essentials — dresses with leggings for the end of spring, a nice coat and scarf, interview clothes and big boots, heels and flats. I took two towels and some discounted shampoo and conditioner, along with a few inspiring framed messages given to me over the years. I knew I didnt need much more than my Southern kindness, my six-internship rich resume and that brazen, unstoppable optimism and ambition that’s taken me far.
Once I settled into that first little apartment, where this little blog all got started, my mom started mailing me boxes — all filled with more clothes and bath and kitchen accessories, artwork and
knickknacks that I’ve held onto for years. She sent a box every two weeks and they always smelled like home when I pried them open (probably because she sweetly placed dryer sheets all around for a welcoming, reminiscent effect).
Over the past almost three years (um, wow!) I’ve slowly brought things from North Carolina to New York, often taking a near empty suitcase out of LaGuardia and bringing an almost-over-the-weight-limit bag home from Asheville.
Now, not much is left in my childhood bedroom but scattered books I’ll never need and piles of t-shirts from high school and college I’ll never wear. But over Labor Day weekend, my mom brought something with her that I had cherished, yet somehow forgotten about in all the moving, packing and unpacking– my journal from my very first summer in NYC when I interned at Cosmopolitan.
It’s rough around the edges and the pages have torn here and there but when I sat down on my bed in my Upper West Side apartment to read about my first journey here, I was instantly taken back to those hot summer days.
My words are saturated in blissful innocence — detailing the first time I experienced anything in this city. From the guy who went to Yale and asked me out in the subway platform to the one in the green shirt who slipped me his number while I was hostessing at a fancy restaurant in Times Square. I kept every business card from every editor, every guy, every bar, every shop, every everything.
I taped the yellow sundress photo to a page and wrote how that moment gave NYC the sense of romanticism I always loved about it. I wrote the exact dates of the Metro cards I bought and kept a running list of the people I wanted to write Thank You’s to once I had to leave. I had a master to-do lust creates by friends who lived, loved and knew NYC, and checked off nearly everything that was on it. I tucked away a feather a drag queen gave me from his boa, a plastic daisy I found and a leaf that fell directly on my notebook as I was writing in the park, a few hours before my flight took off for the South.
And in between all those days and nights that made me fall in love with this city even more ridiculously than I already was, I wrote about my fears.
About the reality of living in New York and what that would mean for me as an adult. I wondered about expenses, savings and if I could really manage it all, all on my own, in just a few short years. I wrote about how I thought the city was a terribly difficult place to meet someone and that with all of the beautiful, tall, intelligent and successful people to pick from, why — oh why — would a man pick me? I worried about breaking into an industry that I knew was incredibly difficult to make a name for yourself in, and the competition, even more fierce than the dating scene. I considered if I’d miss those rolling hills in my rearview mirror and if I’d grow to become a bitter woman in the city, adorned in black that matched her stressed -out, overworked spirit. I wrote about my struggle with feeling good enough or talented enough, pretty enough or just enough — to make it here, in this place I knew I really loved and really wanted to live, but didn’t know if it’d feel the same way back.
Reading that New York journal, remembering those feelings all too well, I smiled. Those pages brought happy tears to my eyes. Because if I could tell myself then what I know now, I’d only say four words:
You have no idea.
You have no idea what beauty is before you.
You have no idea how all of that hard work and those happy, positive thoughts will lead you right to the career that’s perfect for you.
You have no idea how many people you’ve yet to meet that will end up being so important in your life.
You have no idea what memories you’re going to mold and what days that will turn into nights that will turn into another day, in the city you are, indeed, meant to be in.
You have no idea how proud you’ll be of that first little place that’s yours, seeing that first paid byline or going home for Christmas to tell everyone about your wonderful new life.
You have no idea how much your heart will expand to love someone the very best you can. You have no idea how much more beautiful you’ll feel in the years to come, how much you’ll settle into your own skin.
You have no idea the men you’ll love, the love you’ll make, the hearts you’ll break.
You have no idea that one day, it all really does just come together. It just works itself out — no matter what stages you go through.
I don’t keep a physical journal anymore — I let these pages do it digitally for me. But my fears aren’t all that different now than they were then — they’re just older, a little wiser, more mature. They’re thinking further ahead than 21 and out of college, they’re thinking 25 or 30 and what that means. What that’ll bring. And so, even though it doesn’t feel like it now, just as it didn’t feel like it then, I’ll repeat those words to myself when I feel those fears rolling in:
You have no idea. You have no idea what beautiful, life-changing, amazing, things are next.