As I look back on this insane year, so many thoughts, feelings, and memories rush back to my head. Last year at this time we were just about to move to New jersey, and if I could have seen how incredible this all ends, I think the journey would have been a little easier. But I know this journey went exactly the way it was supposed too. When we first moved it was so easy to become wrapped up in the excitement and adventure of NYC, and so easy to forget everything, to feel like everything was going to be perfect. But little did I know, moving here was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Once the newness of this place wore off, the loneliness kicked in.
How ironic it was, even though I lived in a city of 8 million, I had never felt more isolated in my entire life. Something I hope I never have to feel again. Time seemed to move slower and slower each and every day. The world seemed to keep moving around me as I just stood still and watched everything happening around me. I wondered why we even moved here, every single day, because for the first few months nothing seemed to go right.
The flights back to New York after visiting friends in Cincinnati were the most painful experiences. Two hours in the sky, wishing maybe just maybe, we don’t come back down to the ground. Because landing meant facing my sad and lonely reality. But don’t get me wrong, there are parts I loved about living here and still love to this day. Because at the end of the day, even though this city seemed to test my limits and push me to the edge, I knew it could show me love when it wanted to, I knew because of this city, I was growing and blooming into an entirely new person. Walking the streets of New York made, and still makes me feel like the most free person in the world. I feel in control, and I feel my best and usually happiest everyday as I take in all the beauty this city has to offer. The fashion, the people, the buildings, the food, the culture, the excitement. This city has true magic when you are willing to search for it.
When we finally settled into our little Harlem apartment in October, things started to get a little better. I did something I swore I would never do, which was starting school at an all girls catholic school. It was tough, riding the subway in my skirt and knee high socks, getting looks from old men, which made me feel insecure most of the time. But this was another thing I learned to love about NYC, the subway.
What’s there to love about being squished with strangers early in the morning in a metal tube?! For me there was something about being surrounded by people from every background, economically, racially, culturally. In these big train cars, in the underground of NYC, I saw and experienced some of the loveliest moments during my time here. Smiling at cute babies, making friendly conversation with strangers, witnessing random acts of kindness, helping strangers and doing some of my best thinking. After a long day of school or a long night out, the subway was always the place I could catch a breath, close my eyes and find some peace. The NYC subway will forever and always be my favorite form of transportation!
In November, after four months of having practically no friends, I met my best friend and literal life saver Zoe! Without Zoe I have no clue how I would have made it through the toughest times here. I knew I could always look forward to our Friday night dinners, dreaming about the future and relating over our love for fashion and good food. She is a gift I am forever thankful for, and she truly helped me see the beauty and excitement in this place.
As fall turned into winter and the weather got colder I had to find something to do so I wasn’t cooped up in my apartment all day. Walking to the Upper Westside or the High line was what kept me going and what kept me sane. Listening to my music, meditating and really just sitting in my sadness and my dreams was really important to me. My writing developed into so much more than I ever thought it could be. In these moments I was really able to dig deep into myself, figure out what I really wanted, what I needed to work on and achieve. It inspired me to start writing and praying for the things I felt were missing from my life. In January after a long and hard semester in New Jersey and in Catholic school, the best thing happened to me.
I stumbled upon the most special, little public school in New York City, and possibly the world. A place where all of us who feel like we don’t belong could come together and find community, support and acceptance with each other. This changed my life and my world. Finally I felt like I could understand why I was called to NYC. When nothing feels right for months and you find yourself in a desert, stranded, finding something that felt right was my biggest win. The people that I met at my new school filled my heart up with the joy it had been longing for. I had motivation to get up every morning and go to the classes I loved with the people I loved, which was very special.
In March, when my family made the decision that we would move back to Ohio in the summer, I think that was the moment when I let myself fully indulge and absorb this city and I fell more in love with it, which is something I’m so thankful for. Spring in the city was truly some of the best months I had ever experienced. Just as the trees and flowers became new again, new beginnings started to present itself to me. The good thing that came out of having a rough time here was that my spiritual life grew more than I imagined it could. Moving here forced me to trust God because I had nothing else to fall back on, and that was incredibly hard and scary but so rewarding in the end. On easter I was baptized, something I didn’t see myself doing for along time, but the timing felt so perfect when the opportunity arose.
In the spring I also fell in love with a university in Manhattan. A place I had passed by many times but didn’t think much of. My school made everyone pick a college from a list of choices to go visit one day. Not knowing much about any college here and having my heart set on Indiana University I picked the “The New School University” because I recognized the name. I could go on and on about why I love this college so much but I’ll save you the time. Long story short, After the first 10 minutes of the tour I knew this was my place. I plan on applying here in the fall and It’s given me another reason to appreciate living here because I would have never found out about this college in Ohio!
Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any better, I met a very special person. It was like all at once God and the universe or whatever you choose to believe, was giving me gifts and reasons to understand why we moved here and to be thankful for the rainbows that continued to grow after a scary and fierce storm. I had decided that this year was a good chance to take a break from relationships and just focus on my independence and working on myself. It was hard at times but I learned so much about myself with all the time I got to spend by myself and I started to write and pray for what I wanted my next relationship to look like. I had come to a place where I wasn’t interested in having another pointless high school relationship with someone who wasn’t worth my time and I made that extremely clear in my prayers and writing.
At what seemed like the most inconvenient time and a time when I was certainly not looking to start a relationship, I met my best friend Sam! From the first time I hung out with Sam I knew right away he was someone really special and oddly had every characteristic in a person I had been praying for. I got home that day and wanted to scream at and thank the universe and God all at the same time for making our paths cross at this time.
Our friendship quickly blossomed into more than a friendship which led to a scary and confusing time for the both of us. But after a lot a lot of praying and writing and time together, I knew I couldn’t let Sam go or continue to just be friends. We then decided to head into a long distance relationship for this upcoming year, and It’s been the most beautiful and bittersweet ending to this chapter. But I’m endlessly grateful that I get to bring someone as amazing as Sam into the next one with me!
These last few weeks and days have been really sad but also really magical as I’ve gotten to look back at who I’ve become and what I’ve learned this past year. I think the list could go on, but most importantly I’ve gained a new sense of independence within myself, learned to dream a little bigger, and learned that when life is miserable and hard, there’s always going to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve learned to find peace in the chaos and joy in the unwanted circumstances. These are lessons I know I will take with me forever.
I’ll never forget my first train ride into Manhattan, feeling an intense spark of wonder because I knew the city was what I made of it. I’ll never forget my first subway rat sightings , the time I got separated from my mom on the subway, my first food truck gyro, dollar pizza, singing welcome to New York the first day we moved, rooftop sunsets, the constant smell of weed and pee, the Plaza, walking the streets in my fur coat, feeling lost, being found, the tears, the laughs, the smiles, the bad times and the good times. They all make this city the spectacular place it was and the place it will always be in my heart.
To my friends In Cincinnati, Thank you for not forgetting about your girl and supporting me through this crazy year even if it was from 700 miles away. I can’t wait to spend senior year with you all!!:)
To my friends and loved ones here in NYC, thank you for filling my heart up with so much love and carrying me through this adventure, I promise you I will be back before you know it!
And lastly, to the city that never sleeps, Thank you for teaching me everything, freeing my soul and opening my eyes up a little bigger. I love you NYC!
Below are some photos to highlight the people and places I mentioned in the Blog!
One of Ellie and I’s first times into the City when we moved last summer
Photo taken in September during the “Great NYC apartment hunting adventure”.
The famous fur coat that made me feel like a New Yorker that all my Ohio friends like to make fun of haha:)
My life saver, fabulous, life long bff Zoe!
Our first NYC snow!!!
An accurate photo of how the Shanklin Girls feel about the NYC subway…
Just a few of my amazing public school friends!
My girl Lainie who got me through chemistry, so thankful for our friendship!
one of many beautiful NYC sunsets.
My best friend, boyfriend, the one and only Sam:)
A few of my favorite NYC photos I took over the past year.