When I was a little Midwest farm-town kid I always dreamed of living on my own in New York City. I thought that would be the best outcome of my life— to be able to make music and live in the city of my dreams. My old sketchbooks were filled up with NYC skylines, made-up city streets, and drawings of midnight neon over bustling Manhattan.
In 2014, I moved out here to New York to go to Mercy College. This past summer, I got my own apartment in the city. The moment I had worked for all my life was finally here… and it was alright. I liked the place, and the people around me were very welcoming. But as I sat in my little room in the Bronx with all my belongings surrounding me, nothing really felt different. There was no ultimate sense of accomplishment.
I was eating PB&J’s every meal to save money and going for job interviews at places like Macy’s and Chipotle. My phone was broken and I couldn’t afford to fix it, so if I went out I had to know where I was going, because there was no way for me to find out once I was lost. I was beating myself up over not being happy, and because I wasn’t happy the music wasn’t coming easily.
Did I go through with this too early? Probably. But I still did it. That should be enough.
New York had always been my dream. I had always told myself that I’d be okay with living paycheck-to-paycheck and being in debt if it meant I could have my own place. I never realized how important it was for me to have somewhere I could go where nothing is aggressive or cramped, the air isn’t thick, and the streets don’t make my hairs stand stiff. I thought I could find myself here, but I was nowhere to be found. It’s funny how a different city can make you feel like a foreigner in your own country.
So when the time came around, I went back to Illinois, spent some time with my hometown, and tried to accept the fact that this dream I had for so long wasn’t actually what I wanted. For some, New York City is the only place they’d ever want to be. The fast paced, no-nonsense “hustle” of NYC motivates millions of people every day, but I guess I just wasn’t one of them.
I had my dream, I went for it, but when it came true… I was unhappy. Be careful what you wish for, right?
It took me a long time to realize it, but this whole situation was a blessing in disguise. I learned so much about life and myself. Even though I wasn’t meant to stay there, life gave me what I needed when I needed it. I have the power to use the lessons I learned to continue on in life with other dreams.
This is an important thing for people our age to realize. There’s so much pressure on us 20-somethings to figure out what we want to do, decide on what our dream is right now, and work work work towards that and nothing else. But if we get there and end up not liking it, then what? They didn’t tell us what to do after that.
The truth is, it’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to not know anymore. It’s okay if you haven’t even had that big dream in the first place. And no matter what people may say, you’re allowed to explore life and take your time in finding out who you are as a person and what’s important to you. Although making money and living in a certain place are factors you should be thinking about, they don’t have to be the things in which you derive all of your meaning.
Life is never linear, and there will always be new things to try, new passions to explore, and new ways to fulfill yourself and feel content with how you’re spending your time on this earth.
As we get older, for some of us, our needs get simpler. I learned that I don’t have to be in any kind of “dream city” as long as I’m comfortable. If I can pay my bills, be around people who inspire me, and work on my art, then that is the ultimate goal. I know that this isn’t the case for some, but for those of us who are paving our own path at our own pace, we need to remember that we are doing what we can to be happy.
Whether it be music, art, writing, or something I haven’t even discovered yet, I know that if I spend my time being curious about my life and myself, I’ll eventually end up where I need to be. So I’ll finish my degree, travel new places, and try to discover who I am. If I follow the things that make life feel meaningful, then I will be fulfilled.
That’s all that matters.
So, try new things, change your mind, reevaluate what’s most important to you. Don’t be afraid. Soon, your life will begin to build up around you without you even knowing it, and if you stick to what makes you happy, your soul will be content.