Now I Know, New York.

Everything is scary until you do it.
New York is kind of a scary concept. Millions of people in a small amount of space. Crowded streets, crowded buildings, crowded subways. There isn’t crime around every corner waiting for you. But you do need to pay attention to your surroundings. The sheer number of people means there will be more poverty and homelessness, dirtier streets, more germs. It also means there will be loud, opinionated people. Or sometimes there will be loud, mentally unstable people sitting next to you on the Subway talking to themselves or yelling “You’re all going to wish you were dead!” at you and a friend in the street (yes, that actually happened).
There are a lot of unsettling things about New York. But, having just left, I can say I felt an overwhelming sense of security and like I was truly at home in New York.

Central Park

This summer, I did something I’d always wanted to do. A friend of mine asked me if I had known about my internship before I decided I wanted to live in the city. Basically, what came first: my job or the city? And my answer was the city. The city always came first. If anyone ever asked where I wanted to live most or where I wanted to visit, that was the first place to come to mind. I was just too afraid to really ever do it or say I was going to do it. Personally, I thank God for the courage and good timing to do it.

When I came to New York in middle school with my mom and a friend, I really saw it through rose-colored glasses. This idealistic view of the city continued as I grew up and obsessively watched Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. I viewed NYC as this glamorous oasis with constant excitement, lights, fame, love, beauty and opportunity. And that is absolutely part of the multi-layered cake that is New York. But only part.
Now I know so much more about this place than I ever did.

Now I know Times Square is not the coolest part of the city and it’s actually a death trap full of tourists and guys with comedy show tickets waiting to rip you off.

Now I know that the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and 5th Avenue are beautiful, clean, and well-deservedly famous but some of the coolest, most chic people and places in the city can be found in SoHo, the West Village and Chelsea. That goes for the most expensive apartments too.

My favorite street in SoHo
My favorite street in SoHo

Now I know that having a rooftop with a view is an unbeatable perk to look for, whether in an apartment, club or a restaurant. But I also know it’s impressive to find an apartment with a dishwasher and laundry in the building.

Now I know the other boroughs have tons to offer, you just have to be willing to look.

Now I know that, yes, there are 1.5 million Starbucks in Manhattan but to find the best coffee, you have to go looking. And coffee is always necessary. Always.

Now I know that you fold your pizza when you eat it. That’s really the only way to do it.

Now I know that black and white never go out of style. If you ever want to push your fashion boundaries there is no better place than New York to try.

Now I know that New York has some of the best bakeries and desserts you’ll ever find. Items like the Cronut and the Cookie Shot at Dominique Ansel’s are truly an experience just to get your hands on. But sometimes all you need is a classic black and white cookie, a dessert that I now know New York loves.

The Cronut
The Cronut

Now I know that anywhere unlimited sushi and sake is offered is guaranteed to be two things: 1) loud and 2) incredibly fun.

Now I know that you don’t really have to wait for a walk sign to cross the street. In fact, doing that is kind of weird.

Now I know that it might be worth looking like a weird newbie checking the street before you walk in order to not be pummeled by the bikers that fly by without stopping for pedestrians.

Now I know that you should never really feel lost in New York because no matter where you are, there’s something incredible to see and someone else equally lost to see it with.

Wings

Now I know that people don’t talk on the Subway. Ever.

Now I know that making a plan is overrated. I spent more days than not just wandering around my favorite neighborhoods with no specific destination in mind and that is when I enjoyed myself the most and when I found the coolest spots.

Now I know that the best things come when you’re least expecting it or looking for it. Seeing celebrities, for example, always happened at the most random times in the most random places. New York will always surprise you.

Now I know that if I made it in New York starting from scratch, I really can make it anywhere (Jay Z knew what he was talking about). New York challenges you and pushes you to be tougher and ready for anything.

Street Art 2

Now I know that if you don’t know what to do after college and you find yourself getting an internship offer in New York City and you see no possible way it could work out and you don’t really know what you’ll do after, there is only one thing you should do: make it work. Don’t even think twice.

Now I know that everything is scary until you do it. Then it’s just part of life you’ll look back on and always love that you did it.

A friend I met in New York shared a quote with me that I think perfectly describes the effect the city has on its explorers: “Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.” – John Steinbeck 

Now I know.

Brooklyn Bridge

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Don’t worry…Beyoncé

I would have considered myself extremely lucky this summer just to have the chance to live in New York City.

But it didn’t end there.

Two weeks ago, after being in NYC for exactly one month, I had the opportunity to go to Montego Bay, Jamaica with Charles and his family. Jamaica was absolutely beautiful – soft beaches with crystal-clear turquoise water surrounded by rich, green mountains. But there was more to it than the beautiful scenery. Jamaica was defined by this infectious joy and contentment with life. And this atmosphere made it possible to forget about life in NY and relax by the ocean for a bit, where there is no rush and there are “no worries, mon.” We snorkeled and kayaked in the Caribbean Sea. We ate authentic jerk chicken. Charles and I found a new favorite drink (the dirty banana, a perfect morning-on-the-beach drink).

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charles and me

We even learned some of the local lingo. The word “Irie” has a joyful and spiritual meaning for Jamaicans, meaning (from what we were told by the locals) “everything is alright/great, no worries”. But it seemed like more than a casual phrase. It seemed to capture a powerful, positive feeling and quality to life. Something we don’t really have a word for here in the U.S., at least not that I can think of.

The coolest thing we did in Jamaica (and probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done) was swim in bioluminescent water. We went to the Luminous Lagoon, home to microorganisms that emit a phosphorescent light when stirred up. When the boat moved, the water began to glow bright blue. When when fish swim around, you can see them below the water, appearing as bright blue streaks. We were told this was one of 3 places in the world with such waters and this one, in particular, was the largest because Jamaican water is so warm. We even got to swim in it with the water lighting up around us. It was too dark to take good pictures on our phones, but here’s a picture from the website of the Luminous Lagoon.

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Next, after a blissful week in Jamaica, I went back to New York for an exciting week!

I met my friends Jodi, Brennan and Laura Ann in NYC and we took a bus to Baltimore to see….wait for it…BEYONCÉTo add to this already unbelievable summer, I got to see Beyoncé and Jay Z perform 40 songs together…definitely a special show to see. Bey looked and sounded #flawless. After seeing her live, I can tell you based on her vocals, dancing and just overall performance (same goes for Jay Z – best live rap I’ve ever seen), she is definitely not overrated. And I’m not just saying that so the Beygency doesn’t get me.

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So…it’s kind of ridiculous the summer I’m having. For now it’s back to working life in NYC. The summer’s halfway over so I have to take advantage of the rest of my time.

But, no worries. Irie.

Week One in the Big Apple

My first week in NYC is officially over and, trust me, it did not disappoint. I packed about as much as you possibly could into one week. It has all been a blur but I really couldn’t be any happier with my situation here. My apartment is in a great, quiet neighborhood with a fantastic view of the city from the roof. I got so lucky to have really cool roommates, fellow interns and bosses. Sumpto’s office is awesome and the work I do is really interesting and fun. Plus there are free snacks, coffee and a super comfy couch available at all times – who could ask for more?!

To top it off, I’ve only been lost twice. That’s groundbreaking.

The view of the city from the roof of my apartment building
The view of the city from the roof of my apartment building

I’m really starting to feel at home and like I know what I’m doing for the most part. I spent the first few days just getting used to the apartment and the area. I live in the Financial District in downtown Manhattan, a fast-paced financial center during the day and a relaxed residential area at night. We can see the Hudson and the One World Trade Center from our apartment. There is also this cool area by the water a short walk from our place called South Street Seaport with great food, drinks and a sense of community. If you can’t tell, I love where I live!

One day, I walked around close to my apartment after getting off work and realized the 9/11 Memorial is incredibly close to where I live. The twin towers of the WTC stood feet from where I get on the subway every morning to go to work. It was a solemn visit to see where the towers used to stand. The memorial was beautiful. I haven’t had a chance to visit the new museum that just opened but hopefully I can do that soon.

9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial

Saturdays and Sundays this summer there is a huge food market in Brooklyn called Smorgasburg. There are 100 vendors every weekend set up from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. My roommates and I wanted to try some of the delicious food so we went Sunday to check it out. This was my first time in Brooklyn ever and, needless to say, it was great! We ended up being really far from the food market and we were starting to get hangry. So we postponed Smorgasburg for another weekend and decided to eat at a cool Brooklyn restaurant called Shelter Pizza. I got a brunch pizza with fried eggs, truffle oil, mozzarella and parmesan. Best food decision so far in NYC! It was so great and something I’d never had before. I definitely want to go back and try more of their pizza before this summer is over.

Brunch pizza at Shelter Pizza in Brooklyn
Brunch pizza at Shelter Pizza in Brooklyn

I’ve also had a chance to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Washington Square Park, both of which were beautiful. I’m already loving New York and there is still so much time here and so much to do. I hope time slows down a bit because I can already tell I’m in love with this city. I can’t wait for my friends, family and Charles to come visit because right now, those are the only things missing from this wonderful city. Keep checking back to find out more about my time in NYC! Let me know if there is anything I HAVE to do while I’m here.

Allora…

Time has absolutely flown by since leaving Europe. As of tomorrow, it will have been 4 weeks since I flew back home to Arkansas from Madrid and the greatest trip of my life (so far) came to an end. It barely feels like the trip happened at all. I feel like my time there was all a dream and now I’m waking up.

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Friends in Rome on our last night

I could ramble on and on about how much I miss the streets of Rome, the people, the language, the food, the art, the constant promise of something new waiting right around the corner. But instead, I’ll move on to thinking about my next trip overseas and trying to survive my senior year of college. The only word I can think of to describe my mood for the rest of this summer is “allora”, a word Italians use (a lot) with several meanings including “then”, “well then”, “therefore”. It may not entirely make sense but somehow it describes perfectly how I feel. Well then…

I’m moving into a new house with new roommates and couldn’t be more excited to start my senior year. It is strange to think this is the last year I have at the University of Arkansas. When you’re a freshman, you never see this year coming. But it is here and, strangely, I feel ready yet not ready. Not ready to leave Fayetteville. But ready to get some experience and figure out what exactly I’m going to do after college. Not ready to say goodbye to my friends and my sorority. But ready to see whose wedding I’ll be going to first. I’m never going to be totally ready to not be in college but at least I have the next year to deal with that – or just push it aside and pretend it’s not happening.

To get ready for my new house, I had a crafting day with some friends and made this cute arrangement of cork boards for my wall. I’m a little crazy about the color blue, if you couldn’t tell.

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I realized it made more sense to craft and be somewhat productive with the rest of my summer than to sit and watch TV all day. I also found a big painting on canvas for somewhere in my new place – and for a great price! I’m getting really excited to decorate a new room and start a new year.

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Me with my sister, Lyndsey and my brother, Patrick on Grayton Beach.
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My boyfriend, Charles, and me on the beach

     I went to Grayton Beach in Florida for a week with my family right after getting back from Europe and that helped with the Rome-sickness a lot. It was great to see my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews for the first time in months and get to spend some quality time on a beautiful beach. I also just got back from visiting Fayetteville for a week and it got me so excited about moving back up to my home away from home. I got to have my favorite Mexican meal (FINALLY!) after waiting all summer and I swear it never tasted better. Mexican food is one major thing Europe needs to look into. Now I’m back in Little Rock for another week then back to Fayetteville for my senior year!

Until then, ciao!