Staking A Claim In Old
Have you ever felt as if you were that big fish in the small pond that everyone talks about? It is easy to dream about leaving those “little town blues,” to “wake up in a city that never sleeps,” as Frank Sinatra sang. He is talking about New York, of course, but many of us have entertained the idea of moving to a larger city to start over, or just to further our careers in a location with more room for job promotion. Yet, who would really just pick up and leave as the song suggests? Well, I did, two years ago, and I am not sorry.
I do not mean to imply that the living is easy in big cities. With good reason, New York City was never called the Big Easy! Sinatra really nailed it with his song. He said, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” That old lament—and I do believe it should be thought of as a lament—is perhaps even truer today. Old New York is one tough town.
If you do decide to move here, or to some other major city to further your dreams, you will immediately encounter the problem of finding an apartment. While the problem is more extreme here than almost anywhere else in the world, the type of problem is the same even if the degree differs.
With eight million people stacked tens of stories high in the five boroughs of New York City, and with 90 percent of those inhabitants wanting to live on that small island called Manhattan, someone is always moving in or out. However, most available apartments are snapped up before searchers even know that they exist. No matter how far from Manhattan, or how far from the subway, or how poor the condition of the apartment, even the shoddiest of apartments is a step up for someone.
Shall we talk about prices? When I first moved to the City, I thought prices were outrageous. Two years later, the average purchase price in Manhattan has increased by one third! A one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan now goes for just over $1,000,000. This is no penthouse mansion with fantastic views, either. This is 700 square feet of basic space—something likely smaller than the bedroom plus common space that you still remember from back in your college days. Many first-time buyers opt for the more economical “studio” apartment—a single room for living, dining, and sleeping. Especially among older buildings in the rental category, many still feature a bathtub in the kitchen—if there is a kitchen.
With 15,000 restaurants in New York City, most New Yorkers hit the streets at mealtime or simply order for delivery. Maybe that’s why a typical kitchen in an older rental apartment building might consist of a small single sink, one storage cabinet with precious little countertop work space, a gas range top (no oven), and a miniaturized refrigerator—all lining one whole wall of that studio apartment, or carved out on one side like a pocket on tight jeans that you can barely twist your hand into.
Most new citizens moving into any new town initially settle into a rental apartment. In New York, you can expect to pay $2,000 and up for that studio. Move further away from the subway stations and out of Manhattan to find cheaper rent, then slowly work your way back in as you find bargains over time, or as your income rises. Now you are in the game!
In Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami or any other regional city, the name of the game is to find an apartment close to your work, yet near essentials such as a good grocery store, and near stores with services such as dry cleaning, laundry, and even entertainment venues, such as clubs or bars.
My reasons for coming to New York were many, but my dream was one: to learn to better express myself through the magic of well-chosen words. I recently heard that there are only two kinds of people who should move to New York City: those with big money or those with big dreams. If you are beginning to think that people must be crazy to live here, then just come visit, enjoy the sights, and go home. Use the experience to find another city that meets your needs for your career and your personal development.
However, if no logic can sway you from your heart’s desire to live as I do in Sinatra’s city that never sleeps, then welcome to the land of dreams and chaos, neighbor. The sidewalks here are indeed paved with gold, or at least filled with beautiful and famous people wearing the gold. Yet, running alongside those golden sidewalks are some mean city streets.
If you can think of life as a video game on steroids, then come, play the game and make your dreams reality. Show the world that you know how to pull order and great riches from the clutches of chaos. Come and try your own magic on the only city that can say without boasting that it is the world’s city. Make New York your city, if only for a time. I promise you that when you go back to that small town—or even fine-tune your life and career to a regional city—having New York City in your résumé will make an impression.
Come to play, or come to stay. The choice is yours, but proper planning is the key. Start planning how you can make that key the key to the city of your choice.
©2005 Phi Kappa Phi
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