Choosing A Different Life Plan: Reflections on Year One in NYC

This post originally appeared on the 40:20 Vision

I was recently told “True New Yorkers are the ones who chose to come to New York. The ones who left their families and support networks to be in the city. They’re not just the ones who were born and raised here.”

When I started dreaming about moving to New York City that’s all I thought it would be – a dream. I had never lived away from my family and friends. I was even nervous to share this dream with people – because the more people I told, the more people there were to hold me accountable. 

As I landed a dream gig, found an apartment in my top area of Manhattan and packed up my belongings, I kept waiting for the catch. It shouldn’t be this easy. 

They say everyone has a “Welcome to New York” story. Mine came in the form of a stolen wallet and iPhone my first month here. Next the struggle to have enough money for bills and for fun became apparent quite quickly. I call that the “Are you sure to want to be in New York?” story. 

But even in the midst of stolen items or when money is tight I try not to complain. Because this is what I chose. And as a result, I’ve become a smarter person. A more determined person. A person who will be able to say I looked my biggest fear in the face and took it head on. A person with stories of tough times and sad days, but more importantly a person with unparalleled life lessons and rockstar nights. 

My brother got engaged this year. My sister got engaged this year. And I moved to a city where I knew one person. I don’t compare myself to them – I look at their current situations and think, “Here’s to different life plans.” 

Throughout my first year the hard times kept me grounded. They reminded of my choice. They also set me up to appreciate the good parts more than most would. Here’s to gaining more smarts, more determination and even more lessons in the year to come.

The 20:40 – What choices have defined you? If they’re not creating the life you imagined it may be time to start choosing differently. 

Stephanie Florence is a 20-something who can talk to a brick wall and dance to a kazoo. On every day that ends in “y” you can find Stephanie meeting people, telling exceedingly long stories and taking the approach of a student…always. Find her “Going with the Flo” at stephanieflo.com

Advertisements

Why People Move to NYC

Thought Catalog and New York City go together like champagne and OJ. I still get chills (and nervous and excited and happy) every time I read “You Should Stay in New York City.” And on the eve of my one year anniversary here, this gem popped up in my Facebook News Feed: “15 Reasons Why People Move to New York City.” 

I picked out a few to connect with why people move here – why I moved here. 

2. We weren’t content living our life somewhere else. We saw what it would’ve been like if we stayed put and we got scared, real scared. (If you grew up in NYC, you probably still live here because the city has made you unfit for anywhere else. It’s as if New York peed all over you when you were born and marked its territory. The little bitch!)

I came for the adventure. 

3. We heard that New York is the one place you don’t ever have to grow up. 80-year-olds walk the street at 2 a.m. looking for a coffee shop, parents still go out and maintain some semblance of a life. The people who live here operate on the pleasure principle. They do what feels good and are wary of having to deal with any sort of compromise.

I came to be carefree. 

8. We have aspirations of being the best in our field. We are hungry, hungry tigers with a serious work ethic. You don’t move to New York to do Nothing. It’s just too fucking expensive. Laying in bed for an entire day costs you like 60 dollars.

I came because it’s the best place for my industry. And why go anywhere, unless striving to be the best? 

10. We want to see faces that tell stories. We want to see passion on the streets, people screaming and crying, and pretend we’re annoyed by the noise but secretly love it, secretly feel like we’ve just been given a shot of adrenaline.

I came for the noise, for the diversity, for the excitement. 

11. We want to make the most of our youth. Treat it like it’s an orange and we’re sucking the pulp dry. Sticky fingers, messy hands, but damn it tasted good.

I came to get my hands dirty. 

14. We are the type of people whose anxieties propel us forward. Anxiety is what forced us to move here, anxiety is what landed us our great job. We’re always moving closer and closer to where we want to be, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

I came for the challenge. 

Jumping In

Reverb is a 31 day writing exercise where daily prompts allow people to reflect on closing the year. (So, it was harder to stay on top of this than I anticipated. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version!)

[1000 Words: There’s the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words.  Give us a photo with that impact that sums up some significant event of your 2012.]

2012 was filled with lots of jumping into the unknown

Jump

[Surprise:  The most surprising thing that happened this year was…]

how unafraid I was. As someone who would get homesick living two hours away from my parents’ house I thought moving to New York City would be one long cry after another. Fortunately for me (and my roommate), I’ve found my place in this city and without any doubts to hold me back, I know what it feels like to truly live in the moment. 

[Choice:  Being an adult means making your own choices. What choices were the hardest to make this year?]

What I’m realizing about becoming an adult (because I don’t believe I’m one quite yet), is how choices are made. Growing up I relied on friends’ input – almost to a fault. I made decisions based on collective input rather than my own thoughts. I feel like I’m currently a part of an in-between phase where others’ input matters less to me. Sure, I take advice and appreciate what family and friends have to say, but I’m more focused on making the choices for me. While this will mean the fault for bad decisions will be on me at least I’ll be able to learn from the experiences and choose more wisely in the future. 

[Look: Sometimes you are left standing on the outside looking in.  As you stood there, on the other side of the glass, were you thankful for the boundary?  Or do you wish you could’ve been on the action-side?]

One perfect example of this happened on Father’s Day. I was in New York and unable to attend Father’s Day brunch. I was bummed, but knew Skype would offer me a window into the family meal. They set up the laptop so that I was on the opposite end of the table from my dad. (It felt strange to not be in my usual seat, but I’d take anything just to tune in.) At first my family was asking me all the questions and I reminded them I was just there to be a part of Dad’s celebration. 

Being on the outside felt a bit like Tiny Tim… as my family enjoyed a beautiful brunch spread while I snacked on Special K. I could have done without the boundary and actually sat myself down at the table; however, Skyping into the meal was the next best thing.

[Song:  What has been your theme song this year?  Have there been several?  Make us a mix tape and tell us the meaning behind it.]

Good Feeling by Flo Rida has been the theme song of 2012 for me. It became popular around the time of my move to New York and it continued to pop up at the best times, like when I arrived at my new apartment for the first time and it was blaring over the lobby speakers. I had a good feeling about 2012 from the start and this song was a constant reminder for me.

[All grown up: What did you want to be when you grew up?  Are you that thing?  If not, are you working to become it, or have you chosen a completely different path?]

In kindergarten I wanted to be a waitress. In 5th grade I wanted to be the first female president. 

While I have not held either of those positions (yet) I can see the connections to my current job. Public relations is a service industry and just as a waitress caters to her customers we must recognize what our clients need and how to best fulfill their requests. The world of politics relies on the people who make up their teams and how their messages are expressed. PR helps politicians connect with their constituents and maintain an overall positive image when it comes to making decisions while in office and running for it. 

I’m not sure that I still see myself as the president, but I do see myself working for her one day. 

[Clean Slate: Tomorrow begins a new year.  What will you do with your new beginning?]

In 2013 I’m going to be more careful with how I give my time and my trust. I trusted a lot this year – in friendships, in relationships, in exploring a new city – and I saw how the effort I put forth wasn’t always the best use of my time. 

I’m an eternal optimist believing people will match me when it comes to time and trust. Unfortunately that’s not the case. To look on the positive side of this I’m grateful it took me until 26 to realize this. I’ve been lucky up until this point to have surrounded myself with terrific people who were my matches. In the coming year I will strive to focus on the matches in my life and understand it’s the quality of matches, not the quantity, that matter. 

[Undone: Bucket lists, To Do Lists, Always crossing things off.  2012 is almost over — what is still left standing?]

On January 13, 2012 I wrote down three goals for the year. 1. Say Yes. 2. Grow as a professional. 3. Improve my personal brand. I succeeded in saying yes to new opportunities and growing within my career, but still have a long way to go when it comes to the personal brand. I’ll be adding that one to the 2013 list.  

Friendship

Reverb is a 31 day writing exercise where daily prompts allow people to reflect on closing the year. 

[Friendship:  What was it like for you to be a friend to others this year?  Did you rekindle an old friendship?  Strengthen a current friendship?  Make friends with someone you didn’t think was “your type?”]

As I considered these questions all I could think about were the thank yous. I’ve experienced a lot of change over the last year and the friendships in my life have been my rock.  

To the friends I’ve made in New York City: Thank you for helping me to create a second home – where I’m still trying to find myself, but I know you’re along for the ride. I will take away from my first year here the dance parties, struts, brunches and all the laughter.  

To the friends back home: Thank you for filling me in while I’m away and for picking up things like I never left while I’m home. I can remember my first trip home and getting ready to meet you – I had to remind myself I no longer lived in Chicago, because it felt so natural. Each visit has followed suit.  

To the friends I’ve met through social media: Thank you for the daily reminder we are never alone. Regardless of location, job or any sort of status we connect through our passion for meeting people. We don’t check in every day, but the network is there – open for conversation, advice and collective motivation. 

To the family I consider my best friends: Thank you for letting me take this leap and supporting me the entire way down. Maybe because we spend less time together, but I find myself paying attention to the little things – each joke, each hug and each smile that seems to last just a bit longer.

Which friends are you thanking today? 

Bday_2

Bday_11

Dscn2400

220592_10100570654435750_230111_o

Img_0316

Img_0291

Img_0305

Our friend Sandy

Subway entrances shut down 

Lines at an unopened Starbucks 

Bars as the go-to for charging electronics 

iPhones hanging from the ceiling 

 

Yeah, we’re looking at you Sandra Dee. 

Img_0077Img_0074Img_0082Img_0080

Say yes.

Since moving to New York City I have tried saying yes to everything. In fact, one of my “NYC Goals” I wrote back in January was: 

Say yes. 

To invitations. 

Even when I think I will get lost. 

To challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. 

I focused on doing. After long days I made an effort to see friends and attend events. I proved this question right – “In 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, will I remember the nights I stayed in or will I remember the outings and people I experienced them with?” 

I raised my hand at work. I got in line with this idea, “People who love their jobs won’t work a day in their lives.” 

Two examples include: 

One weeknight my pal Addison invited me to meet his friend visiting NYC. I was looking forward to a night to recoup at my apartment, but instead chose to say yes. Turns out we would see the city in style (aka in Addison’s rented BMW). For the first time the makeup of Manhattan was starting to make sense. (Be thankful you have a map app on your SuperPhone people!) And, for the record, cruising NYC in a BMW is never a bad choice.

I joined an internal company organization committed to equaling the ratio of men and women in leadership positions and helping women of all levels on their way to the top. By saying yes to the opportunity to join the planning committee, I’ve been fortunate to work with stellar colleagues across the company – people I would not interact with through my typical workload. I’m also seeing change and continued dialogues take place as a result of my actions. 

What were the outcomes of your best “yes’s”? This week let “yes” win out over “no.” You just might surprise yourself. 

Bmw_2Bmw_1Bmw_3

 

Defining Conversations

One year ago I was en route to New York City preparing for 16 interviews over the course of the following two days. Hello overwhelming feat!

I did A LOT of talking throughout my interview process, but two conversations defined this particular week in my life. One came a few days before I left for NYC when the interviews weren’t falling into place as easily as I had hoped. I was primarily traveling to participate in informational interviews – as a way to get my foot in the door with these out-of-state agencies. I was concerned that I didn’t have what it took to land my dream job. My homeboy Britten put me (aka Humpty Dumpty) back together again. He reminded me not only how far I’d come, but that I was ready to kick butt and take names.

The second conversation came at the end of “Interview Day One” as I caught up with my good friend and colleague Cory. Cory was a constant in my ongoing quest to live the NYC dream. I believe she was still in the office late that night as I explained to her how exciting and mentally challenging the day had been, but she never once tried to cut the conversation. She listened to me as I talked about each agency and envisioned myself there while describing the smart people I interviewed with and the unique accounts they led. In reflecting with Cory, the part that stood out to me the most was how grateful I felt for being able to do the interview process all over again for a second day.

Think about one of those conversations you remember as if it were yesterday. Receiving a job offer? Someone saying “I love you”?

Now, think about how far you’ve come since that conversation. 

Friendship at first tweet

Do you believe in love at first sight? 

What about friendship at first tweet? 

Rich_tweet
This Twitter interaction happened hours before I even met Richard Boehmcke. Somehow fate (or in our case, social media) was telling us we would be friends.

So what happens when first meetings, like in the case with Rich, take place even before you get the first handshake? There are countless people I’ve met online before in person (and so many more that online is all we’ve got). 

I’ve written about first impressions before and I still believe a lot goes into making a good one. These are the four key components I believe make a great first impression: 

-Strong handshake
-Solid eye contact 
-Something to share
-Something to ask

When it comes to social media introductions the first two skip the physical component and instead relate to how attentive and engaged you are with the meeting. Consider your best conversations. All a good conversation takes is having a topic you want to share and being genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. 

During introductions what catches your attention? 

Friendship at first tweet

 

Do you believe in love at first sight? 

What about friendship at first tweet? 

https://twitter.com/i/#!/StephanieFlo/media/slideshow?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftwitpic.com%2F68dj7d

This Twitter interaction happened hours before I even met Richard Boehmcke. Somehow fate (or in our case, social media) was telling us we would be friends.

So what happens when first meetings, like in the case with Richard, take place even before you get the first handshake? There are countless people I’ve met online before in person (and so many more that online is all we’ve got). 

I’ve written about first impressions before and I still believe a lot goes into making a good one. These are the four key components I believe make a great first impression: 

-Strong handshake
-Solid eye contact 
-Something to share
-Something to ask

When it comes to social media introductions the first two relate to how attentive and engaged you are with the meeting. Consider your best conversations. All a good conversation takes is having a topic you want to share and being genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. 

During introductions what catches your attention?