In 2008 and 2009, I was living in New York, working at ELLE, and hating my life. So I left and went home. But being here this week has made me think about all the things I wish I had done differently. While I don’t ever regret leaving, I can’t help but wonder what the experience would be like if I had been here knowing the things I know now. So in the spirit of Andrea Sasi and her annual birthday letter, I decided to write a letter to my New York City-dwelling self.
Dear February 2009 Rachel,
I know living in New York is a huge change for you and it’s making you question a lot of things right now. You’re wondering, Am I doing the right thing? Can I stay in this city forever? Is this job really going to pay off some day? While I can’t tell you the answers to all of those questions, I can tell you a few things that you should know now. If you take my advice, you might find life in NYC a little more bearable.
Your relationship with your body is at the root of all that is going badly for you right now. It’s hard to see this right now, but all the stress you’re feeling? Is because you’re so unhappy about your body. I know over the past 18 months, your weight has fluctuated more than Oprah’s and you feel really self-conscious about it. I know you’re desperate to be as thin as you were at the end of last summer when you interned here because you think it will solve all your problems…well, it won’t. (And — spoiler alert — it’s not going to happen.)
Stop trying to make life in New York look like life at home in Michigan. It can’t. It won’t. It shouldn’t. First of all, New Yorkers really don’t spend that much time in their apartments. Why do you want to hang out in yours so much? You sleep in the kitchen, for God’s sake! I know you’re worried about getting enough sleep and cooking/eating at home, but again, you need to work on your relationship with your body, get healthy, and stop obsessing over this. Not sure how life in New York should look? Look at how your coworkers live and give it a try. See how they make time in their days for the things that are fun and cool and sexy about New York, and then do the same. It might mean you get a little less sleep. Get over it.
Quit the gym, start doing Core Fusion and yoga, and walk the hell out of this city. That’s all you need to do to develop a better relationship with your body and uncover your body. Oh, and just FYI, “your body” doesn’t weigh 127 pounds. Your body weighs a muscular, healthy, voluptuous, meat-eating 137. But with all the yoga and Core Fusion, it will be a 137 you can totally live with. Trust me. Right now, you’re rearranging your life so you can do cardio for hours a day and cook “healthy” meals (I’m finger quoting because your foods aren’t healthy — knock it off with the diet soda and fake foods already, Rachel!) and it’s not helping at all. Trying so desperately to do these things is exactly what is making you stressed out and unhappy.
Go eat some noodles at Momofuku. Or whatever. Rachel, I know you’re not a foodie right now, but please go out and eat more of the amazing food that exists in this city. I know it’s expensive and you’re incredibly broke, but please find a way to make it happen, even if it’s only once a month. Momofuku is seriously one block from your apartment and I’m worried you’re going to leave this city never having dined there — and I think a few bites of that amazing pork belly and broth might be the start of something good for you.
There are a lot of cool women in NYC. Your women. You need to find them. I know it seems like everyone here is just a hipster whom you can’t relate to, and it’s true that they aren’t like the girls you just left behind in Sigma Kappa at Michigan State, but your new friends are somewhere in this city. Throw yourself into finding them. (Hint: you’ll find their blogs first.) They will get you. They help ease you through this transition. Say yes to their attempts to hang out with you. Again, it won’t look like life at home. Get over it.
Speaking of hipsters, you’re more of a hipster than you think you are. Don’t laugh, asshole! You can embrace it now or embrace it later, but it’s there. If you embrace it now, you might fit in at work a little bit more.
Find a way to start blogging again. I know you’re exhausted every day and I know you don’t even have a working computer at home (bummer about the soy milk spill!) but once you get your laptop fixed, you’ll fall in love with social media and you’ll probably be able to kill it at any magazine’s web department. I know you don’t even care about the opportunity anymore. I know you never wanted to work in fashion. But I think if you stick with it for a little while longer and become known as the girl in the office who knows how to use Twitter and get blog followers, you’ll get your chance to do what you want to do.
Please tell you-know-who how you feel about him. Oh…oops. Maybe you didn’t know how you feel about him yet? I think you fought that one for a while. Well…surprise! You’re in love with your best friend! Look, you’re about to make Manhattan your very own “Dawson’s Creek,” and you’re making a huge mistake. Just tell him now. I’m not going to tell you what he’ll say but I can tell you that telling him will mark a huge change in your love life and you will never regret doing it.
Whether or not you take this advice (and I kinda don’t think you will, because I know you), just know that you will figure out what to do about New York and you will live your way into being the woman writing you this letter. I can’t tell you too much about the future (there are rules against that sort of thing) but I can tell you that in 2012, you’re leading a really awesome life. You have a good job. (Many good jobs actually!) You have great hair. And you have a ton of love and happiness in your life.
Hang in there, little one. The best is yet to come.
February 2012 Rachel