How have you been?! I hope you're all feeling refreshed from your weekend. I for one am over the moon while writing this post because this weekend marks my 5 year anniversary of living in the Empire State, New York City!!!! This is truly a joyous occasion. I feel like I'm honestly celebrating my birthday. For those of you who have followed my journey on this blog the past four years, you know that I'm a Canadian citizen, and that life as a legal alien living in NYC has been anything but a cakewalk. That said, my heart could honestly burst when I think of all the wonderful experiences I have had while fighting for my dream here in the Big Apple. I feel so incredibly fortunate everyday that I have had the opportunity to pursue my greatest passion, fashion illustration, in the city that never sleeps.
Moving to New York undoubtedly changed the course of my life forever. It marked my decision to leave behind comfort and convention for the potential of a life filled with passion, purpose, and creativity. It was proof to myself that I believed in something greater, that I had a burning fire deep down within me that believed I could live the life I so badly dreamed of. This post, however, is really for all of you lovely and loyal Travel Write Draw readers. So many of you write me beautiful emails asking questions about my career as an illustrator and what it's like to live in New York. Well here are my answers out in the open for all of you; a comprehensive Top 5 of what I've learned, and what you can expect as a creative in arguably the greatest city on the planet.
I'm not suggesting you don't dream because that is vital to getting here and surviving when the road gets tough. Rather I suggest you be reasonable with yourself. Unless you have an obscene amount of family money, chances are you will not be killing it as an artist in New York when you first start out. You have to build your empire starting from the ground up, not from the top of the castle down. No opportunity I've had here has come without me working my ass off to make it happen. I have had to work full-time to support myself and stay in the country and only now, 5 years later, does that have the possibility of changing.
2. Sometimes you get lucky but mostly you just work hard: This could also just as easily be titled "living your dream is actually not a dream just a lot of hard work" lol. As I mentioned above, every opportunity I have had in this city is a result of working harder than I ever imagined I was capable of. I have pushed through so many bloody obstacles in this city it is a running joke with my family and friends that someone must have put a curse on me along the way.
But thinking like this gets you nowhere. You just have to embrace your circumstances and rely on no one other than yourself to make shit happen. And I really mean this. Magic might very well exist in the world but it isn't anything we have control over, SO if you want things to happen in your career then focus on what you can control: working hard!! Work hard and people will respect you. Work hard and you will respect yourself. Work hard and your dream won't be a dream, it will be your reality.
3. Compromise is key: New York is a city of compromise. It is nearly impossible to have it all unless you are making a half a million a year or have a trust fund. NYC really forces you to think about what you value most and build your life around those top priorities. For me, having easy access to the best restaurants, shops, subway stations, art galleries, the Hudson River, and my full-time job all took precedence over the size of my apartment.
Those values are slowly starting to change as I'm getting older and long for my own personal space and room to create my artwork. Just keep your reason for being in the city at the forefront always. You may have to live further away from Manhattan to afford being here but who cares if it means you get to live within access of all this city has to offer.
4. Believe in Yourself: this may be the most important life lesson I have ever learned in life never mind living in New York. This city is absolutely every bit as crazy as you expect it to be. If you want to be the best version of yourself, go against the best, you have to remember to not lose site of who you really are along the way. Sometimes it can be so discouraging when you realize just how competitive New York (i.e. the world) really is. This is especially the case when you come from small towns and are often the big fish in a small pond.
But life isn't meant to be lived in a bubble and truthfully the saying "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" happens to still be VERY true in the fashion industry. Paris, London, and Milan may be stunning fashion capitals but when you make it in London you still have to make it in New York to matter in fashion. That is just the way it is and if people tell you otherwise they are only fooling themselves and attempting to fool you too.
5. Anything is possible but ultimately it's up to you: This goes hand in hand with my post from not long ago, Don't Wait for Opportunities, Create Them! No one became an overnight success by sitting in front of the TV morning and night and not working towards their dream. And now with social media being as prevalent as it is, if you do not have web presence, you don't exist. I hate to be so blunt in this post and honestly I wish that half of what I was writing wasn't true.
I wish I didn't have to be so plugged into social media all the time to keep my career going. I am actually much more of an introvert than I might come across. But if you want to be in the game, you have to put your sneakers on and get running otherwise no one is going to see how brilliantly talented you really are. Put yourself out there even if it scares you, actually, especially BECAUSE it scares you. If you aren't struggling in some capacity, you probably aren't growing either, and sunshine you were meant to grow BIG!!
I hope this post was helpful to all of you who have ever wondered what it is like to live in New York as a creative. There is no mystic, it is your choice, so if you want it make it happen!! Here's to another 5 years of this blog and our journey together as a Travel Write Draw family. Love to you all and be sure to have a glass of champagne in our honor wherever you are in the world today.