September 12, 2014 I traveled 10 hours from a small town outside Charlotte, NC to New York, NY for an internship at Sports Illustrated. My mom and step-dad left me alone in a two bedroom apartment in an unfamiliar city. In a burrough that has a more diverse cultural environment than any city in the U.S. In an apartment above a Hispanic church, that sits right beside a dive bar. The kitchen looked worse than anything I’ve ever seen, it had those mini, dorm sized refrigerators, missing cabinets, no utensils or pots or pans, a gas stove that I’ve never used before. I later found out that the previous tenants were forced to move out and so they damaged the whole place. The tiny bathroom took 15 minutes for the water to change from ice cold to lukewarm and with very little water pressure. I didn’t have a closet but was luckily given a wardrobe that my step-dad and neighbor drove to lower Manhattan and bought from an Argentinian model who was moving back to Mexico. Side note, they carried the wardrobe from at least the 15th floor of the apartment building all they way down to the street (where they were illegally parked) and into the back of the car. I didn’t have any other furniture except my twin size bunk bed, a card table and two chairs. There was no heat or AC unit and I had to learn how to work a radiator. New Yorkers don’t have AC and don’t turn on the radiator until December or January – trust me when I say I had many layers of blankets on my bed.
I had heard the saying “living in a busy world full of people and yet you feel so alone” but never really grasped or felt that what that meant until that day. Alone, in all sense of the word. No one outside my close friends and family really understood the hardships I went through when I moved to NYC. A church member from home was coming up to visit family and go to a Yankees game so I spent my Saturday riding the subway across the river and to the completely other side of Manhattan to find him and his son in a park. I desperately needed to see a familiar face. My mom flew out my cousin to spend a weekend with me, that weekend was just as much needed for her as it was for me. After a couple of weeks of feeling alone (I truly think I suffered from depression), I made myself a bucket list. I knew I only had a short time to live in New York City with my internship but I wanted to see and do all the things in this huge and iconic city that I could. My neighbors had brought me to church with them and I made a connection through those people and used that time of loneliness to grow in my relationship with Christ.
One of my first days on the job at Sports Illustrated my boss, Brad Smith, had called me into his office for something and when he casually asked me if I was doing okay (I think he knew something was wrong) I couldn’t respond, I put the piece of paper I had in my hand in front of my face and just started crying. Thinking back on that moment I hit myself like “Really, Heather? You’re going to cry in your boss’s office in the first week on the job”? But what’s awesome about Brad, and why he will always be my favorite and mean so much to me, was the moment I started crying he told me to shut the door and he talked and listened to me. He cared.
Every year as fall approaches I think about my time living in New York City and my heart longs for the city living. Even though I struggled in the beginning, it was one of the greatest experiences and times of my life. It was the best thing I could do for myself, to step out of my comfort zone – it was actually more like I was pushed out of my comfort zone – but it was good. I grew so much creatively, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
New York will always have a special place in my heart and a piece of my heart will always be in New York City.