Today marks my official New York Birthday. In 2004, I flew into JFK, a young, fresh-faced college graduate who finally accomplished one of my major life goals up until that point: Get a job at a major magazine in New York City.
That magazine was VIBE and the first job was as a fact-checker. As for residence, well, I didn’t have my own place yet, but I had a plan. My brother was already living here and would let me crash on his couch until I found a place of my own. Within a month of me landing in my new home, I was moving into a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights with my friend Ashley, who I met the summer before when we were interning at VIBE. For two years, we stayed there on W. 164 and Broadway, a block away from the ballroom where Malcolm X was assassinated.
Life was good, and even in hindsight it seemed too good to be true. Hugh, one of my best friends from college was living in Fort Greene, not far from three other former classmates of ours E, Neems, and Ash who shared an apartment. Every day, we would go back and forth exchanging emails, debating, talking smack, cracking jokes, then gather on the weekends at the girls’ apartment, the five of us acting out a real-life version of “Living Single.” Since I was the lone Uptown resident, I would either pack my stuff and take it with me to work or I would go home, pack, and then make the long trek from Uptown to Bed-Stuy.
I like to look at those first two years in New York City as an incubation period, my version of graduate school. Aside from the unexpected murder of my uncle, which happened in California two months after I left, there were very few real moments in my reality within those first 730 days I was here.
But then, very suddenly, everything started changing.
Hugh was leaving NYC for a new job opportunity, and my roommate was doing the same. This meant I was going to be here without one of my best friends and I had to look for a new place (and possibly a new roommate).
As luck would have it, I was able to secure an affordable one-bedroom apartment in Central Harlem, on 150th and Frederick Douglass (or, as the native New Yorkers call it, 8th Ave). I signed my lease and moved in, turned 25, and began a new chapter in my career as an editor at KING magazine all within the same week.
This morning, I woke up in that same apartment. It is one of the few things from my time here that has remained the same. Most of everything else around me has changed. Some of the changes were part of my plan, most of them were God’s plan for me, the only thing that has never been on the agenda is an exit plan. I’m sure that day will come, but one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned since moving to this city ten years ago is that this city and I are a good match.
I will always make sure people know I grew up in Seaside, California and that I am a proud alumni of Howard University, because my Pop told me to never forget where I came from. But today’s post is about where I am and have been for the past 10 years.
No one can seem to agree on how long one must live in New York before they become a New Yorker. I’ve heard some can become one in six months, but that’s a lie. In my first six months here, I still thought the train ride from Uptown to Brooklyn wasn’t too bad. Instead, I would like to think today, ten years after I picked up my luggage off a carousel and told a cab driver to take me to 792 Columbus Ave, I can now claim I’m a New Yorker. I’m not from here, but I am of here, and just like people tell me to this day they can hear the California accent when I talk, whenever I travel out of this city, people will think it makes sense when I tell them I’m visiting from New York.
To commemorate my 10th New York Birthday here are ten lessons I’ve learned about living in the concrete jungle.