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This month I want to try something a little bit different.

Up until this point, my blog has focused very much on the positives. A quick scroll through your average millenial’s Instagram feed will reveal a similar story. We have a tendency to showcase the highlight reels of our lives and I think this is a double-edged sword. It can be uplifting to see people at their best, but it can also create a false impression that everyone is killing it all the time. That can pressure us to strive for the unattainable, so this month I want to tell the whole truth.

August has been rough.

When I moved to New York at the end of June, I thought I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I was hugely passionate about New Zealand and keen to learn more about business, so I decided to look for work with a New Zealand company (or companies) expanding into the US. It seemed like the perfect way to balance my newfound interest with my international relations background. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to meet many entrepreneurs willing to create space for me.

Yet nothing has felt right. As a recent graduate, I want to be part of a team where I can learn from amazing people. I’ve discovered that most Kiwi start-ups only have one or two people on the ground in New York and would require me to work from home. I know from past experience that I thrive much better in an office environment and something feels off about moving to the other side of the world to see the inside of my apartment.

A snap from one of many walks contemplating what to do with my life

Plus, I’ve learned that lots of start-ups are bootstrapped. There have been multiple times where I’ve gotten really excited about an opportunity and then found that the company can’t afford to pay above minimum wage. I know this is something lots of graduates have to contend with, but it still feels demoralising. I don’t know how to talk about it without feeling ashamed or coming across as entitled. Somehow it feels easier admitting it on the internet because I can hide behind a screen.

I’m unsure whether it’s worth persisting or going back to the legal/policy world that I came from. To be honest, neither option feels ideal. Continuing means picking up extra work to make ends meet, while quitting seems like selling out. Something feels inauthentic about reconsidering pathways I already know don’t set my soul alight. What would you guys do if you were me?

The other challenge I experienced this month was finding a place to live. My initial sublease was only for two months, so I had to find something longer term. The main hurdles were:

  1. The New York rental market is extremely hot. Rooms are listed online and are gone a few hours later. As a result, apartment hunting can feel like a highly pressured full-time job.

  2. Signing a lease typically requires your income to be forty times the rent along with a good US credit score or a local guarantor. Expats typically don’t meet any of these conditions. This limits the available options to a) paying multiple months’ rent upfront as security or b) short-term subleases.

  3. Everything is expensive. A closet-sized studio in Manhattan is the same price as a four-bedroom house in my neighbourhood back home. I wish I was joking.

  4. Housing can be a site of cultural difference. Think your apartment will include a window simply because that’s the law? Not in New York!

I might've blown my budget to live in NYC, but at least the street art is cool!

Needless to say, I legitimately felt like I was in the Hunger Games. Pretty much everywhere I looked had some weird catch. The apartment I eventually found required the equivalent of three months’ rent to be paid upfront. Thinking I might just be able to swing it, I drained my savings and reassured myself that at least I’d be covered for 2019. I subsequently discovered the payment was actually a massive security deposit rather than a contribution towards rent. Not my finest moment.

I also experienced what I think was my first taste of homesickness. While I never really crave being home, there have been instances where I’ve wished my support systems weren’t so far away. I had a slight accident earlier this week escaping a snake on Breakneck Ridge and hurt my ankle. It’s not broken, but I’m stuck in a moon boot for the foreseeable future. I am notoriously bad at asking for help, so I’ve still been walking 3km to work each day and carrying my grocery bags across the city. There have been times I’ve stopped and thought, “man, this really sucks.” Maybe it’s on me to get over my fear of being vulnerable, but sometimes I wish I could just hug a friend I’ve known forever.

That being said, there have been some shining lights in the darkness. My job at Outfit has been awesome. One of the crazy things about moving overseas on your own is that you bond quickly with the people around you. The guys already feel like my older brothers and I can honestly say I’ve never laughed so much at work before. Additionally, it’s been really cool being able to take charge of my role and learn by doing. I’ve reached out to hundreds of investors, designed an internship programme and vetted about 60 job applications. I love being able to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in.

Sprained ankle aside, my trip to Breakneck Ridge was incredible. It’s a famous hiking trail located about 60 miles north of NYC in the heart of the Hudson Valley. I took a rare day off to traverse it. The first 1.5 hours consisted of a near vertical rock climb. It almost felt too dangerous to be open to the public, which is exactly why I liked it. The rest of the trek was beautifully green, lush and peaceful. I found it rejuvenating to be out in the wilderness.

The view of the Hudson River from partway up Breakneck Ridge. The picture doesn't do it justice!

The other fun thing I did this month was see a Queen + Adam Lambert concert at Madison Square Garden. As most of you probably know, I am a diehard fan. I put Madison Square Garden on my bucket list back when I was sick and belatedly celebrated five years of being healthy by finally going. Every time I caught sight of the MSG signs, it was a magical reminder of how far I’ve come.

I’m optimistic about September being a better month. We have a bunch of cool events coming up at Outfit and I’m going to be visiting Washington DC for Kea, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve contacted some recruitment agents about finding a second part-time job and also get to move into my new apartment. Fingers crossed that my next blog post will be full of good news.

Smiling my way into September

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