I started the scariest year of my life safely tucked away in the Green Mountains. I was working as a camp counselor teaching pottery, which is perhaps the least scary activity one can do. But in a twist of the typical narrative, I had a whole year to do with what I wanted. For an 18 year old who had been at work or school for four years straight, that much time was terrifying.
The best piece of advice I got this year, when I was first deciding whether or not to take a gap year, was to do what I would do if I was not afraid. It was even better advice than to take the R to the Barclays center and then transfer to the N in order to shave 20 minutes off of one’s journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and when asked like that, what I would do if I were not afraid, there was only one way forwards.
Summer ended. I got home from camp and my life slowed down. I loved settling back into my old routine, a routine I though I had lost forever. But as I was rediscovering old habits, going back to my old job, and slowing my pace, my friends were speeding off to college. While I was happy, it felt like I was the one watching from behind while they all went on to have the time of their lives and grew up.
I spent the first month at home furiously rewriting my resume, applying to jobs, thinking and planning for the year ahead. I was jealous of my peers, all of whom I thought had seamlessly transitioned to college and were having bigger and better lives than mine could ever be. I had no foresight, no end game, and by the end of the month, greatly depleted hope of ever getting a job. It felt like I was wearing glasses with the lenses taped over, rendering me in the dark and fumbling.
With October finally came change. I started working a lot more, which gave me something to do. I threw myself into blogging. And then, finally, something clicked. I got an email from two companies, asking me for an interview.
Twice in one week I made the trek to New York. I was offered two jobs; the first good, the second my fantasy. The best feeling I know is walking through Washington Square park after getting your dream job with autumn air hitting your cheeks.
I packed my bags and moved to New York. I lived alone. I was scared out of my mind. My first night when I turned out the lights, I found out that it’s never truly dark in New York. The lights of Brooklyn were my new nigh light, the streetlamp my new moon.
I won’t pretend living in New York is easy. It isn’t. It’s expensive, noisy, crowded, full of unidentifiable sludge. I worked long hours, all on my feet, in a largely customer service oriented role. I was the youngest of all of my co workers by four years. When I moved to the city, I knew less than 10 people. Even on my second to last day in New York I took the wrong train and ended up 50 blocks south of where I wanted to be.
It’s hard to explain why I loved it so much. All I can say is if you love New York, you’ll understand. It’s the only place I’ve been where people can complain all day about the city but could never imagine wanting to live anywhere else.
But then, in a twist of fate mirroring my unexpected Everlane interview, I was offered a position working in DC as a press intern for a senator. I thought politics could be interesting- what’s better than getting to change the world? Even as an intern, I would get to see it happen.
So I took another leap. At the end of January I left New York, and moved to DC. I was starting over again.
In a lot of ways, DC is much better than New York. The museums are free. There’s lots of room on the sidewalk, lots of paths and parks made for pedestrians. It’s a city built to be beautiful and inspiring. My job in DC didn’t involve standing for long periods of time, or working with tricky customers. I was reading the news, drafting press releases, working in the senate building.
But it wasn’t right for me. I knew that from my first week. I loved parts, but the city itself never quite felt like home. And so I got to learn from that, to see what I don’t like, just as much as I got to see what I did like. I’ll forever be grateful for the experiences and knowledge gained in my time there.
And then it was over. My internship ended, I moved back home. Except this time it didn’t feel like a regression, but like a privilege. It was the same place I knew and loved, but I could see why I loved it so much after being away from it.
The next months were the easiest. I traveled, I saw friends. There were moments of stress, times when I wished I was back in New York, and very occasionally DC. But I tried to hold onto the sense of gratitude I had, for all that I got to see and learn and experience throughout the year.
And now it’s time for the next chapter. I’m headed off to college. When this post is published, I’ll have just gotten onto campus for the first time as a freshman, to drop my bags and then head on an outdoor adventure. It’s scary.
It’s not that I’m not afraid anymore. And it’s not that I’m magically someone who jumps at every chance, who loves the feeling of taking a huge risk. It’s that I know I can be scared but end up alright, or even better than I was before.
I’m so excited to see what the next chapter will bring.