Faces Have Stories

I live in New York. I really enjoy it now, but that wasn't always the case.

I was going through a harder part a year or so ago when I college friend wrote me a postcard and said something to the effect of "thanks for making New York seem less scary." This sentiment has stuck with me every since. 

And yet, I haven't always kept that at the center of my creative pursuits. Nevertheless, my hope is to make New York (and really any city) more tangible, a place that others want to visit (or move to). 

For me, what made things in New York less scary were the people I met and the stories they told. It's no secret that I like uncovering stories and connecting people who have similar stories, passions, and dreams—putting faces (and stories) with names. 

So with that, I'm introducing a new initiative on the site to more tangibly and consistently do this. 

The whole point is to give others a viewfinder into what it's like to navigate life and hope spark a conversation that might not otherwise be had because of fear. Below is a selection of questions I intend to ask people regularly throughout the coming months and hope to share some of their stories on the blog.

These are my answers: 

The initial rundown

Move date: June 2014 (fresh out of college)

First neighborhood: West Harlem

Initial intended length of stay: 9 months (That was the length of my sublet. At that point, I was going to reevaluate whether to say or move home. I'm currently on month 28, but I don't really keep count anymore.) 

Number of apartments: 4

The nitty gritty

What brought you to New York?

I moved to New York for a job. While I originally was searching for work in Nashville and DC, this was an opportunity that I didn't want to pass up. I also thought there were others from my college friend circle who wanted to try New York too. I ended up being the only one to do it. 

My parents were weary about this at first, but they slowly came around to the idea. I really felt called to live in a bigger city after college and be a part of ministry in a bustling place. There ended up being a lot of good family connections here through various church networks, which helped with the initial blow of my moving so far away.

People kept saying, "If he can make it in New York, he'll be set for life." I appreciated that sentiment even when I didn't fully understand it. And even now, I don't fully know what "making it" looks like for me, but I've really just resolved not to think about it. I don't want to measure my life on that; I want to rest in the Lord's timing and plan. 

What's kept you here? 

When my first sublet was nearing a close, I wasn't ready to leave the city. I wasn't ready to leave my job or go to graduate school. I had gotten involved more with a church community and wanted to continue finding ways to serve the city and make it my home. 

I firmly believe that the Lord is doing a mighty work through people in this city and feel that my career opportunities are here in ways that they won't be elsewhere (at least for now). 

What is most different about New York versus your hometown? 

Basically everything is different. I live in an apartment instead of a house. I don't have a car, and I don't have a washer/dryer unit. I walk almost everything I can. 

Did it take awhile to get adjusted? If so, how long? 

Yes, 100% yes. I fully believed that I would have adjusted to city living after two months. Instead, it really wasn't until the fifth or sixth month that things felt settled. And in some capacities, things don't feel settled even now. I've just learned to recognize that and call it what it is. 

What question do you get asked the most about your life in New York?

It's probably a tie between "How long will you stay?" and "Do you go to Broadway every week?" My answers usually are "Longer than I originally planned" and "No, but I wish I could." 

What's changed the most about you since moving here? 

Well, my sister would probably say my clothes or hair (ha!). I would say, though, that it's my perspective on the world and my ability to be direct (still working on it). 

In New York, one can't assume that everyone comes from the same background; simply just not true or realistic. People in New York are direct about how they feel and what they think. I just had to learn how to stand my ground in who I am and what I believe. 

Growing up, I hated confrontation. Now, it's almost a given, but it's healthy. I seek to address things that need to be addressed in the most timely and respective way possible, while also holding my ground. 

What's your ideal Saturday in the city? 

Run in the Park (either Central Park or Riverside Park)
Slow and easy brunch with a small group of friends
Walking around a neighborhood and/or visiting an art exhibit (or seeing a movie if it's winter)
Dinner on a rooftop and/or game night with friends (when there isn't a concert or show on the docket)

What's the one thing you always tell tourists/guests to do? 

Go to Central Park and/or walk the High Line

What have you struggled with the most during your time here? 

Living out my faith in all areas of life. I'm not surrounding by what's typically called "cultural Christianity" like experienced while living in the South. I want to love people regardless of their circumstances or stories while never loosing sight of who I am in Christ. I haven't done this perfectly, but it's what I have on the mind almost daily—how to serve the city and not lose myself in the process. 

This is usually done best within a larger community of likeminded people. The struggle with this at least in New York is understanding that small doesn't always mean exclusive. There is a great and growing group of Christians in the city and a lot of awesome programming to connect with other young professionals.

For me, though, these large group settings don't foster deep friendships. But, it's then a vicious cycle, managing expectations and knowing what settings are most appropriate for large vs small groups without offending or isolating people.  

What dreams do you have for the next year? 

I want to host more dinner parties. 
I want to improve my photography skills and welcome friends into my "blogger/creative" world. 
I want to travel abroad. (I'm thinking England, Scotland, or Japan.)
I want to foster service oriented conversation and encourage people to seek out ways to use their gifts for the city and ultimately the Kingdom. 
I hope to complete a triathlon. 
I want to figure out what it would look like to eventually (likely years down the road) have my own company (something along the lines of a mixed-use shop or a men's supply/general store). 

What's one thing you'd want anyone considering a move up here to know?

New York is a beautiful place for more reasons than what the skyline, Central Park, and Broadway can offer. Yes, it's a very different city than many others in the country, but it's still a city. There are things you'll have to figure out here that are the same as if you moved elsewhere. We work, we pay bills, we grocery shop (even if it's online); the list goes on and on. 

It's certainly easy to get caught up in expectations or the possibility of glamour or fame here (like the TV shows, movies, and magazines show). But this kind of comparison will only shortchange your experience and rob you of joy.