A common recommendation from New York natives or those who have officially claimed the coveted “New Yorker” title after residing (and surviving) here long enough, is to never look for three things at the same time:
An apartment, a job, and a man.
I broke this Northern rule the moment I turned my back on the South. In fact, in the one diary I’ve kept my whole life that I lovingly call my “Dream Book” that documents everything from my first dollar made to my bucket list, I wrote the following on the plane ride to this restless city:
J (Job)– At a magazine geared toward women; fulfilling, full-time, benefits; at least $35K; gives me room to grow; in NYC or a borough; find it within a month.
A (Apartment)– Under $1,000/mo with utilities; one bedroom; in Manhattan; if I have a roommate, must have my own room; find it within three months.
M (Man)– Sincere, funny, successful, charming, romantic; tall; has great relationship with his family and lots of friends; doesn’t live at home; we have a quick engagement and a long marriage; meet within one year.
Not even six months past my 21st birthday – you could say I was a little unrealistic. But I was damned and determined to find exactly what I had come to this city to find and do what I wanted to and love who I knew I was meant to love. For me, catching that flight wasn’t an option, it was the next undeniable step I wanted to take to create the future I knew I was destined to have. I may have had some lofty expectations but I sincerely had the best of intentions. I was taught to instruct the universe on what I wanted and if I believed and was willing to put the elbow grease in, I would surely be worthy of my desires. I may have not been the first, but I was surely a lady who had faith in the American dream, no matter how far away from the States I often wish I could getaway to.
And maybe because I’m lucky or blessed or understand to thrive in Manhattan, you must never lose your spirit – I did find that job. And that apartment. And many, many men. I did manage to meet my minimum income requirement at a job that allows me to write and is located in the heart of Chelsea, steps away from the Empire State. I did find my preferred location with a low-rent, no-fee, and cozy, yet homey apartment. And the guys I dated, from the Millionaire to the dozen-or-so who ultimately were incredibly unavailable, were (and are, presumably) successful. They were charming and funny. And Mr. Possibility, the man of the hour, doesn’t live at home and fits all of the specifications I laid out long before I stumbled easily into his life on a bus back to the city from JFK.
My high ambition to make New York jam for me was not unreachable, come to find out. I wanted to find a job in a month – I found one in three weeks. I wanted to find an apartment in three months – I found one in two weeks. I wanted to find the man I would marry – well, I grew up and realized I was (and still am) far too young to make such a huge commitment. Nor would I want to put a time limit or a deadline on something that will be one of the greatest and most important decisions I’ll ever make.
At the time, I handled the stress of moving, the fears of never succeeding, and the unrealistic notion that love would complete me fairly well. Maybe because I knew it was a make-it or break-it situation or because I had yet to be jaded by anything or anyone, but nevertheless, I set my mind to it and went after those three things diligently.
A handful of awful dates along with a few who blew it out of the romantic park, one cockroach by my sink, one giant hole placed in my 20th-century floor by literally earth-shattering sex, hundreds of blog posts, countless bylines in various publications, a partner with possibility, and the best group of friends (and gay hubbies) a gal could ever ask for – I find myself here. Settled just enough to feel stable, but still with the desire to explore. Happy with where I am, but knowing there are better things before me. Dreaming of what could be, remembering what was, and enjoying what is. And not only satisfied but thankful I was able to break the Golden JAM rule.
But now, that JAM is not so jammin‘. Or at least one part of it, anyways.
The search for an apartment couldn’t be more stressful. Not only is everything completely last-minute but it is like most of the good men in the city – the best apartments are taken before they can sincerely be considered available. Apart from finding a location that is not only free of a tiny disaster called bed begs but doesn’t cost an arm, a leg, and my first-born child, there is also often income requirements or the option to have someone sign who makes 40-80 times your rent. This is standard practice and understandable, but who wants to sign away such money on a dotted line – just in case my roommate and I are not able to fork over the dough one month? It is something I’d prefer to never request of someone, but I may have no choice. No-fee brokers are reachable night and day and willingly show apartments at the drop of a dime, after work hours and on the weekends.
And yet, I’m completely stressed out. As I write this post, I consider the time I’m losing scouring Craigslist while formulating my thoughts for this blog’s 200th post. The Golden JAM rule may always be applicable and it is something I’d now suggest to New York newcomers because maybe I’m older and more tired. Or just overly busy with a full-time job, a blog, and well, a life – but apartment searching on its own – no mind resumes and dinner dates – extinguishes my energy. .
Perhaps it took some familiarity with the city I love, instead of just seeing it on a shiny pedestal for a dozen years, for me to fully internalize the Golden JAM rule. It’s an important one to follow because all three of the components deserve all of your attention. If one is given more dedication than the other, if you’re looking for all of them at the same time, and if you’re under the impression they will all look as you thought they would – you will end up sorely disappointed. While there is no need for a man to make a happy home, there is a need for an income. While there is no need for an apartment if you’re living with a boyfriend, you need a job to escape from him. While there is no need for a job if you depend on a man to provide for you, you will still need a place to call haven. They may not all go hand-in-hand, but what would life be like without all three?
Well, at least without two, anyways – we know by now a relationship is optional until it is an option we can’t deny. And in this city, the men, the apartments, and the jobs are limitless. It’s just a matter of finding the right one at the right time in the right place.