Each time I come to New York I’m reminded of my 21 year old self; Starting my first job, which happened to be a dream job at the time, in the heart of Manhattan with only a few days of legal drinking under my belt. I was so green and so wowed by the opportunity.
“Christina we’re offering you the job, pay starts at $30,000 and we’ll need you out here in about 2 weeks.”
I remember jumping up and down with my mom because I was going to make a s-a-l-a-r-y. And it was in the THOUSANDS. We danced and giggled and chanted: Thirty-Thousand-Dollars! Thirty-Thousand-Dollars! Thirty-Thousand-Dollars!
That weekend I drove with my good friend Mindy into the city, determined to find an apartment that I could move into within 2 weeks. At that point I’d had my license for about 4 months, my car for 2 months (which I would need to sell.). I hadn’t even driven it into Boston yet, and here I was driving to New York City, before the days of GPS. I have NO IDEA how we got there. Did we use a MAP? I know right, a MAP?
That night Mindy and I drank Manhattans, it only seemed fitting, and we stayed in a colorful hotel with shared bathrooms. The following day, after marching all over the city looking for places to live, I settled on a room for rent in a family’s basement apartment where a priest was also renting a room, in an area called Washington Heights. The windows had bars on them, the apartment was hot and humid and smelled of brazillian spices. I paid the $400 deposit and left.
We drove through the night in a freak snowstorm back to MA. It was April 1st. I made it home just in time for my waitressing shift at 10am. When I told the restaurant owner where the apartment was located she gasped, “Christina, you can’t live there, you’ll get SHOT!” She went on to tell me that her parents owned a condo on the upper east side in Manhattan. “I’m sure you could stay there for a month or so. My brother stays there once a week but otherwise the place is empty. It’ll give you time to find something…safer.”
So, in a stroke of luck, I spent the first month in the Big Apple living in a posh high-rise on the 30-somethingth floor with a wrap around deck, over looking the East River, with 24/7 doorman service. I seriously pinched myself every day. I tip toed through that condo, I set the dishes down gently. I made no quick movements. In the mornings I’d look out the windows, past the river and watch the haze burn off and wonder how I’d gotten so lucky.
I’d get up in the morning and walk several blocks to work, still not comprehending what I’d gotten myself into. I, Christina Rochelle Kalinowsky, was working in radio, in Manhattan. I still look back and go, what? Me?
It took serious courage for me to leave that ‘dream’ job. It was a shot to the ego to let go of something I felt so proud of. But I never worried, I knew I’d be ok. To this day I don’t regret that decision. I had learned pretty quickly that the radio industry and I weren’t a great match, but oh how I had wanted it to work out.
How special to be back here 15 years later, writing from New York City on the exact date of my official move to NYC, which was April 14th 2003. The night before, I’d met the blue eyed baby faced guy at a bar in Gloucester who’d become my husband. We hung out all night until it was time for me to hop a train to NYC in the morning. I cried waiting for that train, and I wrote in my journal “Whoever marry’s this one will be one lucky girl.”
Life can be incredible, can’t it? Some people say to never look back, but there are all kinds of strength, spontaneity and valuable lessons from those younger days. My story is coming full circle. 15 years later to the date and I’m back in New York for the weekend, living out another dream, and my heart is overflowing with gratitude. May our pasts serve as reminders of what we are capable of, how strong we are, and how beautiful life can be.