By Ashley Rigby
In fall of 2005, shortly after my 23rd birthday, I moved to New York City. I always hated New York City. I wasn’t a “city” girl. I loved trail running, mountain biking, Dunkin Donuts, shopping at big box stores like Target and Marshalls, driving around in my 2000 VW Passat blasting the Garden State soundtrack and feeling safe with people around me that also felt, thought, looked and smelled exactly like me.
But the people I loved, including my girlfriends, my boyfriend Jeff, and my sister Shawna, loved New York City. They were either living there or were headed that way. And I loved them more than I feared the City and so I went. I sold my car and left my bestie roommate Kelly, our cute West Hartford Center apartment and a job (also in the Center) that I loved. I told myself I would go for a year or two, expand career options, and then move right back.
The first year in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn came with ups and downs. Our apartment was great, but the neighborhood had too many rats and too few amenities. There was concrete for days, and barely a tree growing in that section of Brooklyn. I was interviewing like crazy and temping for a weirdo lawyer for $20/hour. I was nervous riding the subway and often had panic attacks commuting to and from work. At this point, I still loved the people I moved there with, but had mixed emotions about the city. The nightlife, the food, the city exploring, the opportunity and the energy pulled me in, while the lack of greenery and ease of daily living were bringing me down. But I didn’t want to leave the city, feeling like it beat me. I’m competitive like that.
Within the first few years there, I read books about anxiety, learned to control my breathing and my mindset. I had sessions with a few nutty therapists until I eventually found a great one. I was conquering my fear of city-living and honestly, the fear of living in general. We moved to a new Brooklyn neighborhood full of trees, with very few rats. I landed a great job, which eventually led to another great job.
They say if you can make it New York City, you can make it anywhere and I like to believe that’s true. The city will change you and you have to be open to learning, growing, and changing with the City. I don’t mountain bike anymore and rarely hike but I feel like I’m ascending a mountain daily. It’s exhausting, dehydrating, enthralling, intimidating, and 13 years later I’m mentally, physically, financially and emotionally stronger than ever before. I fucking love the city and all it’s given me. I made it here and will make it anywhere I choose.