The first time I traveled to New York City I was a tourist. It was around this time in August two years ago, though it wasn’t nearly as hot as it is now.
After only two days exploring the streets, I fell in love with the exciting feelings and the constant hustle the city offered, and officially made the decision that I was going to live there.
At the time I was still pursuing my undergraduate degree in South Carolina, right in the very same city that I had grown up in. I had always dreamed of getting out, but wasn’t sure if I had the strength to.
I tried leaving once when I was freshly 18. But even in Charleston, 3 hours away, my anxiety, my irrational fears of failure, of unfamiliar interactions, of being alone, of my new environment in general, it all got the best of me. After only 6 months I returned home to finish school.
After that first visit the decision to move to New York City, though initially impulsive, was driven by two ambitions. On one hand, I wanted to prove to myself that I could get out of this town, where it seemed everyone was bound for their entire lives, going through the motions of the slow, steady, southern day to day. That’s not a bad life to live by any means, but it wasn’t the life I wanted for myself.
That leads to the second reason. In almost every aspect of my life I’ve kept a perfectionist mentality. I wanted to be the best at whatever I was pursing at the time, even if I couldn’t come close. It was (still is) borderline irrational.
In high school I obsessed over strength training and tumbling courses for most of my cheerleading career. I spent hours teaching myself piano by ear and practicing my Christina and Beyonce to take a shot at every talent show and pageant in school. I even tried for American Idol once, but obviously I didn’t make it to Hollywood. In undergrad I would work 3 jobs at a time while attending classes full time, just to show, only myself really, that I could handle anything.
My middle school cheerleading coach once said something that summed up my determination. I wasn’t even remotely the best on the team. But my knees would bruise from the constant initiative to I throw my self backwards and land my tumbling pass. Even after hitting the ground most times, I jumped over and over and over again until I would finally land it.
“If I had 24 Katies, that put that effort in, this would be a better team,” she said once. That has stuck with me since.
I may never be the strongest, or the smartest, or the most talented, but I was going to damn well try to be.
When I decided on journalism for my career path, the same rules applied. Where else would you try your hand at becoming the best than working among the best in New York City?
I decided graduate school was my only opportunity. The focus shifted to scholarships and excellent grades. That was the ticket to the Big Apple.
My parents were hesitant about the idea at first. For one, they knew my history with anxiety. As driven as I am, it often holds me back from moving forward.
“Now we’re not going to send you up there so you can just come home like in Charleston,” my mom would say.
I assured them that this was the only way I could move forward in this career. I wouldn’t just come back. I couldn’t.
I worked hard to make NYC a reality, but in the end, I’m unbelievably lucky to have parents as supportive as I do. They are undoubtably my biggest fans.
Now, it’s been a year since I officially made that move.
One year, but really it’s felt like much more.
I’ve gone through a serious, long distance break-up, redirected my career twice, wrote stories on places I’d never heard of, interviewed people I was afraid to approach, learned to shoot videos, discovered a new love for data viz, worked an internship in the city, discovered how the economy works, changed my mind on about 100 different life decisions, and dealt with the painful process of finding a new apartment, all over the past 365 days.
All of that, but the most impactful thing has been the friendships and connections I’ve made.
Any time I stand on the border of a transitional point in life (even as a naive 23-year-old) I wonder what else people could possibly teach me.
And honestly thanks to them, I’ve learned more about myself, my strengths and my faults, over the past year than I have in my whole life.
I’m inspired each day that I spend in my graduate program by the talents and the passion of the people I work with. Sometimes I get comments about my work ethic (the irrational, perfectionist nature still exists), but really, I look up to all 90+ of them.
There have been times I’ve questioned myself and my place here. But some of these special people have taught me to believe in myself. They’ve taught me it’s okay to feel emotions, and at the same time they’ve taught me more about how to laugh and relax. They’ve taught me not to give up on myself. (Some of these are specific <3)
It hasn’t been the easiest climb, but I owe it to these sensational folks for pulling me up.I can’t say that I’ve conquered my anxiety, and I know it’s something that will always be a part of who I am. I still get scared. I still fear failing. I still constantly worry about things normal people would never think about it, and sometimes am embarrassed to even discuss. It can consume me. And occasionally, I do feel alone in that.
But as I complete this first year, I am confident enough to know that I won’t turn back.
I did it. I made it out.
Will I be the best journalist? Maybe not, but I’m still striving to get there. What I’ve really learned to focus on is becoming the best version of myself as I can be.
And you know, they say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Well, that’s what Frank Sinatra said at least.