SHARE YOUR STORY
by an Anonymous Writer
|Manhattan in the 1990s–credit|
I have a love/hate relationship with writing, so much so that it took years for me to even consider myself a professional. I can spit out 5,000 words on a good day, and I’ve written entire books in a weekend. When I closed my first magazine as editor in chief I stayed up all night to send it to the printer on time. I adored publishing. That was 13 years ago.
Now I’m older, slower (or just more careful) and more cynical. And when I’m off, forget it. Depression is a bitch. My personal life has dealt blows serious enough to create more than a few moments of self-doubt. I’m dealing with a chasm; I’ve taken identity crisis to performance art level.
To stay in Manhattan when your salary drops by $50K is to decide to remain here as a poor person. To make the rent is to hustle endlessly. For instance, just this week I cleaned and rented out my neighbor’s apartment for cash to pay down my rent debt. (She allowed me to do it because I rented it to another guy for three months, a deal that will bring her $3,000 in profit. Allowing me to rent it out for the errant week before its ever-revolving door welcomes the next tenant was a thank you.)
In two weeks, I’m renting out my bedroom for three days to a woman from LA. Am I happy about sleeping on my couch? Not really, but it’s an extra $150 that week and one where I won’t be counting change while in line at the supermarket.
I have taken advantage of every classic frugality. I steal extra samples, condiments, paper napkins, pens, anything useful. I eat leftovers. I water down the soaps and shampoos. Pick up abandoned Metrocards. Get freebies from Craigslist and Freecycle. Sew my own clothes. Give myself haircuts. It’s like the pioneer days all over again. And to think — I once took home more than $70K.
I also took photos for 10 minutes this week for $10. No job is too small. I’ll likely rent out my bedroom a few times during the holiday season, too, for weary student travelers dying to see the city in its best holiday dress. I also sell on eBay and street team for bands I love in order to see them for free when they come through town.
|Island of dreams in the 1990s–credit|
This isn’t my first time here in New York. When I arrived the first time as a teenager, I had moxie, but it was because I had worked so very hard to get the opportunity. In many ways my life now is a reflection of what it was when I first got here in the 1980s. Everything is about being industrious and inventive. As a person who strives to be creative (I hate the artist moniker and how easily people toss it around), I like that — so I don’t mind being poor. I prefer it, actually.
Looking back, when I compare my two states of being on the island of dreams, it’s easy to say that roughing it has its downside. The new restaurant that everyone is clamoring about is out of reach. I’ll never find myself wandering though Saks. But the dream is still mine; every day in NYC brings its own set of rules and responsibilities and potential. There is more potential per square inch here than in any other place in the world and I still believe that.
My greatest problem is keeping up with technology. I find that is the single greatest class divide. It makes me a bit angry and resentful. For instance, I love publishing (I was making ‘zines since the fifth grade!) and I can’t afford to get an iPad that has the simplest authoring software to make books on the fly. I think it’s called iAuthor. I’ve seen it but have never used it and that infuriates me.
It’s hard not to notice that NYC has turned into a place where people have completely tuned out of life on the street to instead enjoy all their fad gadgetry. I think, but what will these folks remember about their experiences here when they are endlessly looking down at a small screen instead of at the vibrating, pulsing city of possibility? My guess is not much.
Living in New York may be tough — the city can swallow you whole, change before your very eyes, and leave you nothing. But I have vowed to never leave. I can’t imagine living any place else. Certainly, I could write from anywhere, but there are a thousand small esoteric reasons that keep me here in my tiny rent-stabilized Village apartment, of which those holiday lights are only one. Is it all worth it? You bet. The city has seduced me like nothing else ever did or could. I’ll go down trying, boots still on, pen in hand.
This page is dedicated to all New Yorkers—past, present, future and those at heart. If you currently live, have lived, will live, or dream of living in NYC, tell us what your first day was like, how you got to the Big Apple, or the reasons why you love New York and imagine living here.
Or maybe you’ve lived here your entire life, we’d love to know why you’re still here. Even if you have a great NYC moment and you like telling the story, we’ll listen to that too.
Want to share your NYC story on Tracy’s New York Life? Please send an email to info at tracy kaler dot com.