I have had no shortage of people asking me why I want to move to New York City. When people ask me where I'm going and my response is New York City, I often get a wide-eyed look and a "Why would you want to go there?" I wonder if they're picturing this naive, half-Filipina, half-White, military brat turned Southern Bell (without the accent) wearing an "I (heart) NY" T-shirt and a foam Statue of Liberty crown waving an American flag and looking up in awe at the Empire State Building ... which actually might have been me about 10 years ago.
It all started about a year and a half ago when I was on I-40W somewhere between Raleigh and Greensboro in a white NC State vehicle headed back to Cullowhee from a college fair I had attended for work (Job #1 at the university). At that time, I was a member of the single-employment-and-always-broke population. Long drives and plane rides to and from college recruitment trips always prompted random thoughts and (I'd like to think profound) ponderings about life, love and blah - well, more random thoughts for me than on a usual day.
So there I was on I-40W, wind in my face (well, the breeze from the AC), random thoughts abound, and for whatever random-Katie-moment reason, I pictured myself in my mid- to late- thirties vacuuming a living room floor in flip flops with a baby on my hip. And I realized at that exact moment that if I continued working in Cullowhee, that is all that would be next for me. And it's not that I don't want that. I do want the vacuum and the flip flops and the baby, but I knew that I needed something to happen to me between now and then. And in one of the deepest moments of self-reflection in my entire life, I realized that I owed it to my college sweetheart, who had passed away two years prior, to get out of this small town where we had shared so many years and move forward with all the things I had wanted for myself.
So driving along I-40W, the breeze of the AC in my face, somewhere between Greensboro and Asheville, I began thinking about how I was 25 years old and still talking about living in New York City one day, and I had been talking about it for almost a decade. I decided to stop talking and I started walking. One day was going to be now ... or sooner to now than later ... In fact, I set a goal: I was not going to start 2007 in North Carolina. That would give me a year and a half to plan, save money, tie up lose ends in the South and go. No excuses.
I got home, turned in my state vehicle at the Motor Pool lot on campus, hopped in my Honda, drove home and started assessing my financial situation. Mediocre salary. Diminutive savings account. No college debt, but some credit card bills. And I said to myself, "Self, I'm going to need a second job."
While I wouldn't consider Western North Carolina to be Pobunk, No Where - it's not exactly overflowing with job opportunities. I considered my options: Super Wal-mart (where I could see everyone in town at least once - maybe twice - a day), a Sonic Drive Thru (I don't roller skate very well), a gas station or tanning salon attendant (I could catch up on some reading), waitressing (I did that all the way through college and preferred to leave it as a last resort). Then a colleague at the university reminded me of the casino about 30 miles down the road.
"You could make a lot of money as a beverage server on the weekends," she said, "How hard could that be?" Pretty hard, it turns out. In a constricting bustier that disrupts your normal breathing pattern, a tray loaded with 20 pounds of drinks, the patent leather pumps (no seams allowed) that cause blisters and cramped feet, and the wrist guards that help, but do not prevent, the beginning stages of carpal tunnel syndrome - it's even harder than waitressing.
After working my second weekend, I got home around 3am, got in the bed without washing off my make-up and cried myself to sleep. It was more of a frustrated, exhausted cry than a sadness cry ... and the only thing that came of it was the need to wash the mascara stains out of my pillow cases the next day. With a mentally exhausting job like the one I have at the university and an emotionally and physically exhausting job like beverage serving, I commenced to feeling sorry for myself for a few days.
But my university colleague was right about the money at the casino. So I stopped acting like a baby, sucked it up just like any well-disciplined daughter of a Naval officer would, and two weekends turned into two months and two months turned into six. The sun rose and set, the moon went through its phases, the seasons changed and then it had almost been a year with Job #2. A year later and I am out of credit card debt, and I have a decent savings account and a plan.
I added Job #3 at the crab shack, which - in addition to the supplemental income - served to further fuel everyone's belief that I am crazy. I like to believe that the crazy people are the ones who get shit done. Or they get themselves killed. Meh. Though I am not hindered by the opinions of university coworkers, the casino or the crab shack, it's nice to know that not everyone thinks I'm nuts. A university colleague recently said to me, "You know what I admire about you, Katie? When you decide you want something, you really go above and beyond to get it. Almost over the top."
That's what I am looking for. I'm looking for my own personal over the top. I don't know what that is yet, but I know I won't find it here. I just know that one day, when I am vacuuming my living room in flip flops with a baby on my hip, I don't want to look back on my twenties and wonder, "Why DIDN'T I ever go to NYC? What stopped me? What was I waiting for?"
I've definitely stopped waiting.