Surviving your early twenties in New York City with good friends.

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written by INNY TAYLOR

photos by CARLA TRAMULLAS

If I had known how much of a roller coaster (with extra turbulence) navigating New York City in my early twenties would have been, I would have stayed curled up in my childhood bed, under the covers with my laptop, watching reruns of Boy Meets World and eating Twizzlers –leaving the crazy city adventures for someone way more mentally equipped—but that’s the thing, I was young and crazy, and so I took a trip on the wild side and embarked upon New York City and all of her changing tides.

So how could I wrap up the first five years of my twenties covered up in New York City’s blanket full of woah? You beg, cry and gamble (no really, you beg, cry and gamble) bite your bottom lip, and pray that somehow you will make it out alive, to safety—however no one told me there’s no such thing as safety, and that maybe that’s the best part ever.

surviving your twenties

When you’re passionate about young life, safety is poisonous, and taking risks is the perfect medication. You have to swim with sharks and then triumphantly wave back at them once you’ve finally reached the shore, before you take a deep breath and jump right back in again. Journey after journey, you must fight, just like Mr. Miyagi teaches the kids in Karate Kids, because this city is really just a big, infectious jungle. What’s the secret weapon? The people that pop up along the way and are like, “You too huh?” and then you fight together. Everyone eventually finds their family away from their family, and when you do, the big, cold city starts to feel like a warm, little home—at times. A home where you drag your feet in after a long day of being a young ,tortured, broke-yet-breathing writer, and sit at your dining room table with your head in your hands, and without having to say anything one of your girls sits down next to you and says, “Boys suck! He sucks! Stop thinking about him—let’s get burritos and ice cream!” Mind readers! You know who your friends are when the last thing you have to do is use words. One, because you’re just too tired to open your mouth and sound like an idiot again, and two, because they’ve already got you figured out. It takes a lot of emotional and mental investment to want to figure someone out, but your friends just get you—because who doesn’t want to eat a half pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a soggy, under par ,cheese-saturated burrito from the local Mexican spot while watching Netflix to flush out a romance fail? I mean, even if it takes the last $15.00 you have in your pocket, it’s worth it.

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Sometimes it’s easy to get teary (I’ve never quite checked if I’m on my period during these emotional states because that would add a lot of sense to the situation.) while flipping and re-flipping through all the Facebook photos of when I started out in the city to the present. The pictures start out with a few faces, and as time goes on the change comes, and more and more beautiful faces start to appear—and I realize I’m not alone here. Yes, of course not being alone doesn’t mean you don’t still get lonely, still get tired, and sometimes want to shut your door and actually be alone for five minutes to hear your own thoughts, but when your breakdown ends and you feel like you need a PBR-and -a-couple-tequila-shots date with a friend who listens to you talk and talks back, they’re there.

surviving your twenties

Your twenties are rough! You’re a grown up but you’re not really grown up. I remember when I first moved to New York City, I told myself not to change. I knew it would be hard, but I made a promise to myself not to let all the ramen budget days, all night dance parties, first love (and then first two loves), lost loves, breakdowns, buildups, failures and successes change me. Five years later I can laugh at that promise! Change comes, and it sure comes without your even noticing while it happens. You won’t be who you were at twenty when you’re twenty-two, and you definitely won’t be who you were at twenty-two by twenty five. Change is cool and scary and strange and beautiful. Somewhere around twenty-four, my friends and I became capable of spotting the “young ones” (not that we’re old and wrinkled, but if I keep up this smoking habit…) the ones who still don’t have a clue and find themselves standing with two handfuls of fresh meat while watching the vultures fly around their heads, slowly circling downwards. We only notice them because we once stood there too (I know I stood there with more than a couple handfuls of come and get me. I was basically dragging a wagon of, “Eat me alive.”) and still find ourselves there at times again, but you become more aware of the choices you make, and whether you go forward with them or not is up to you. It’s still always nice to have the friends who religiously have your back through and through to point out when you’re stepping in dog shit smothered on the sidewalk along Bedford Ave—even though everyone knows that you have to decide for yourself to take action in avoiding the pooches poop. But, that heads up is more than you could have asked for. Sometimes they will talk and you might not respond, but you sure did hear them. I hear you guys. Sometimes we do step in the shit—and that’s okay–because we’re curious, but the new platforms you just purchased become ruined, and you walk around embarrassed trying to pretend that you don’t notice it, and all of your friends hold their breathes around you but smile and pretend they don’t notice it either because at the end of the day, it was something you had to experience on your own. It sure sucks when you finally find yourself cleaning it off and you realize it’s going to take a lot more than one wet wipe to make it better, but that too, is something that’s important to experience. Despite having really good friends, life is definitely a big and personal decision, each and every moment. Even if you choose to follow someone else, I think the clue is hidden in whether you choose to follow some else, which means you are in control.

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Sometimes some friends turn sour, get weird, and disappear. Sometimes you decide you can’t handle them in your life anymore because of all of the patterns you’ve watched them go through, but it has never turned into the dress that they claimed to have known how to sew. Unfortunately not everyone lasts through your journey, and with the extra added pressure from the city, it’s just what happens. You’re allowed to accept the truth about people and you’re allowed to make decisions that make it easier for you to breathe—the polluted air here already makes it hard enough. Some of the moments that will change you the most and for the better are the ones where you find that you’re worth something and good at something. I mean the grown up equivalent to the gold stars on the chore sheet, the moment you do something and it’s good and other people think it’s good as well, like getting your first piece published or whatever it is you do. It will happen, but you have to make it happen. And then it will happen again if you make it happen again, and you’ll begin to count all of the positive successes instead of how many times you weren’t good enough because you never really tried in the first place. There’s that saying “If I could tell myself what I know now,” And if somehow some inception did happen, and I could tell myself at twenty what I now know at twenty-five, well, I wouldn’t. If I told myself how to change, avoid, and cheat my way through, then I would have missed all of the experiences, and would be way less of a whole person, layered with a journey full of driving down the wrong side of the road, taking U turns before getting back on track with the directions. But really I think it’s the most wonderful thought to lose the map altogether and just go! I’m sure when I look to my right and left sides, all of my friends will still be there too, losing themselves to their own mapless journeys and yet somehow still intertwined to mine. So here’s to surviving the first five years of your twenties and beyond in New York City or wherever you may be adventuring—IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY! But don’t take my advice on it, live your own adventure!

 

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