Hi! I missed you. This post is long overdue so I’ll warn you in advance it’s going to be a lengthy one. I have so much to catch you up on. I’ve shared bits and pieces over on Instagram stories this past year, but there’s a lot I’ve kept to myself. I’m honestly not sure I’ve fully processed everything yet, but figured it was finally time to sit down and write my thoughts here on the blog. And what better place to do it than on my pink sofa in my studio apartment in Hell’s Kitchen — the first place I ever got on my own.
Let’s quickly rewind to last year
Most of you know this, but my apartment was put on the market last February. Months went by with open houses and I had to see strangers coming in and out, knowing that at any moment one of them could make an offer. It was an extremely difficult time for me, I cannot lie. It was such a weird feeling to live here knowing that this place was going to sell and I’d have to leave — I just didn’t know when. I had absolutely no idea where I was going to go or what I was going to do. I hadn’t found any work yet. My savings account had dwindled down. I was still stuck in this stagnant phase and it terrified me.
A few people had messaged me on Instagram last year asking, “Why don’t you just move out before it sells?” And while I know the intentions were good, those messages were not helpful. In fact, they only heightened my anxiety because I was not in a position to move out yet. And honestly, it made me feel like a failure. I really allowed my anxiety to get the best of me, especially in terms of the narratives that I had created in my mind about myself.
All of this was very isolating. There wasn’t anyone in my life who could really understand what I was going through and I felt alone in it. It can be difficult when you see all of your friends happy and thriving in their own ways — the last thing you want to do is burden them with your struggles. I think I’ve always had an internal battle about that. When I’m going through difficult times, I have a habit of turning inward instead of to those in my life, who I know are here to support me.
Jumping Ahead To May
The week before Memorial Day Weekend, I had come home after having drinks with my sister and realized there was a gas leak in my apartment. I heard a hissing noise coming from the kitchen and as soon as I smelled gas I called 911. Thankfully it was caught early on, but this led to 11 months with no stove. (This is when I became especially grateful to have an air fryer)
I kept praying for more time so that I could figure out my next steps but could have never imagined something like that would happen.
Initially, we did not know it would take that long to get it fixed, so the showings continued for several months until everyone realized it was best to put things on hold until it all got resolved. I took the additional time here as an opportunity to basically get my shit together. I applied for jobs constantly and kept praying that things would get better.
Now this is where the timing of everything get’s a little wild
Without getting into it too much, I will say there was someone very interested in buying this place when the gas leak initially happened. If it weren’t for the leak, they would have started the buying process back in June and I would have probably had to leave by August or September.
I ended up getting the job I have now in July — a Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown based daily digital news site. I initially started out doing audience development part time, which only lasted a few months. The guy I work for went to the UK to renew his visa back in October and got denied, which then led to him being stuck over there for the next 5 1/2 months. This all essentially changed my role to content and social media, which is honestly where I thrive the most anyway. I started taking photos for the majority of our news stories, restaurant openings, press conferences, portraits of local business owners — the list goes on. And I loved it.
This also increased my weekly hours. This role required me to be here in Hell’s Kitchen and New York, so as messy as things got with not having a stove, I have to be thankful in the way it all played out. It gave me the time and flexibility to grow in my new role. It also introduced me to so many people in this neighborhood and I’ve been able to form some great connections because of that.
When I think back on this all, I realize how each individual thing that happened created these small opportunities for me. It also made me realize that a lot of what we pray for comes to fruition but not necessarily in the ways we’re expecting.
And then came 2023
I never thought I’d still be in the apartment this year. I knew that without a doubt I would have to move out but still had no idea when. I was on borrowed time. With a new year beginning, I kept telling myself that I had to find a way to leave before it sold. The last thing I wanted was to go through all of 2023 in the same position. And I kid you not, for whatever reason I said to myself, “Let’s try to figure this out by May.”
The gas leak and stove finally got resolved fully mid-March and that’s when I found out it was officially time. They were going to put the apartment back on the market but it was better for all involved if I moved out before it sold. This would give me a move out date of mid-May. And as difficult as all of this has been, I honestly don’t think my mental health could have gone through that again. Uncertainty can be so crippling and as sad as I am to go, I know it’s the best thing for me.
I’ve experienced such a vast mix of emotions. I think I initially felt some relief in finally knowing. “Ok Natalie, this is it. It’s time to move on.” It’s almost as if I had been holding my breath all of last year and was finally able to exhale.
But then simultaneously this deep sadness washed over me with the realization that I had to actually leave this place — my first home in New York City — my first home on my own. This apartment was nowhere near perfect, but it was perfect for me. It’s everything I could have ever wanted. I truly believe I manifested it and I’m having a hard time letting go. I remember back in 2015 when my friend first bought it and saying to her, “This is exactly what I’d want my first apartment to look like.” Then 3 years later, I moved in. I’ll always be thankful to her for giving me the opportunity to call this place my home.
A little bit of happiness and excitement came through too. The idea of closing out one chapter and starting a new one can be such a beautiful thing.
And then the anxiety and fear kicked in. I had been given all of this extra time to process everything and to figure things out but I still had absolutely no idea where I was going to go next. And I started to dread the reality that I might have to leave New York.
It was Mine Until It Wasn’t
The day after I found all of this out, my colleague sent me a text that her friend was looking to sublet her studio apartment in Hell’s Kitchen — literally on the exact day that I have to move out. Talk about timing! And it just so happens that she lives in the building directly next to mine on the same floor with the same view. Coincidental?
The location was perfect. It would keep me here for another 4 months and give me the additional time I needed. But there were definitely some adjustments I’d have to make. I went to see it and even though I had a few hesitations, I believed I could make it work temporarily. She gave me a few days to think it over but then told me she decided to sublet to a close friend instead.
That sucked. I cried. But then I had to let it go.
It had been my only option to stay here in Hell’s Kitchen. Subletting seemed like the best case scenario for me in the short term. Moving is extremely stressful and expensive between first month, security deposit, brokers fee, movers — it’s a lot for anyone, especially one person. I was trying to avoid all of that for as long as I possibly could.
But if I’m being honest with myself, subletting could have potentially caused more stress and anxiety in the long run. It was a temporary fix, a bandaid if you will. And then what? When the sublet was up, if I hadn’t found a place of my own, then what would happen next? Would I go back to my mom’s house? Would I leave everything behind and run away to Europe for a few months? Was that even a possibility?
I started spiraling.
I kept trying to figure out ways to stay in New York and to buy myself more time and then it started to click — I was holding on to something that was no longer mine. I just wasn’t ready to give it up yet.
So I started the dreaded apartment search and scoured Street Easy for hours. There were very few places in my budget. And they were tiny. My bed would literally be in the kitchen. I put feelers out. I asked so many people to let me know if they knew of anything. A few other potential sublets came around but none of them were the right fit — either too expensive, not the right location, or they only needed someone for a month.
And then the pieces came together
I almost gave up until I accepted that I needed to look at places outside of New York. A few weeks later my sister had been at a birthday party for her best friend’s son. She had a conversation with one of the parents there about me looking for an apartment and he happened to be a realtor in Hoboken. He immediately knew of two apartments opening up in May that fell into my budget — a studio and a one bedroom. And the best part was that I could view them both before they went on the market.
From the photos alone I actually had my eyes set on the studio. It was up on the fifth floor of a walk up but it had beautiful natural light. The kitchen was outdated, but big enough to create a little dining nook that I’ve always wanted. I’d even save some money monthly on rent. But when I went to see it in person the actual living space was tiny — much smaller than I expected. It was half the size of my entire living space now. Wide angle shots can be so deceiving! And I’ll just say the kitchen and bathroom were not exactly as shown in the photos. So that was out.
Next up was the one bedroom, which I had actually viewed first. I had mixed feelings about it, but liked it better in person. The current tenant didn’t have much in there as I assume she was already in the process of moving out, so I initially struggled to see the vision of all I could do.
After going back and forth about this dozens of times, I knew I needed to apply for it. It was my only realistic option, time was running out and I unfortunately was not in a position to be picky. The most important thing was for me to find a place and as with anything else in life, I knew I could make it work.
Could I have gone back to my mom’s house for a few months and waited until I found something I absolutely loved? Possibly, but then I wouldn’t be able to do my job in the ways I’m doing it now — especially since our new website goes far beyond Hell’s Kitchen into more of Manhattan. And I officially started hitting 40 hours a week last month, so unless I wanted to decrease my work significantly, it wasn’t an option.
So I applied for the one bedroom apartment and I got the approval! I can’t tell you the amount of relief that came over me to finally know where I was going to go. And to be honest I wasn’t even sure if I would get approved because it can be so tricky as a contractor/freelancer. But even though I’m not on payroll, it was enough — and for that, I’m so thankful.
I’m not exactly sure why I’m being pushed out of New York, but my journey is currently taking me to Hoboken and I’ve had to be open to that. While it’s definitely not the same as NYC, I won’t be far and I’ll still be coming here all the time.
Let’s talk new apartment
It’s downtown and literally a 5 minute walk to the path train. The area I’ll be in is really lively with so much around me just steps away. I’ll be much closer to my sister and nieces and it will be way easier for my mom to come visit and to also bring me Kiko. My mom played an important part in the location. She was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had to get a defibrillator implanted in March. And while she’s doing a lot better, I know if I was further out in New York somewhere it’d be a lot more difficult for her to get to me — or for me to get to her. It’s one of the things I’ve loved most about living in Hell’s Kitchen and being on the West side.
I’ll also be closer to many of my friends who I’ve barely gotten to see while living in the city. I think this will be good for me. As much as I love living in NYC, the loneliness lately has been palpable. I don’t have my core group of friends here anymore and that’s been a little tough.
The apartment itself is not as modern and updated as mine now. That was a little hard to accept initially because I had all these visions of what my next place would look like. It definitely needs some love and good decor, but it has potential or as a few of my friends said, “It’s got good bones.”
I think the biggest adjustment for me will be the kitchen. It’s tiny, there’s no counter space and the cabinets are very outdated — they’re like the 90s melamine cabinets. I think I’ll call them vintage. This article on Apartment Therapy made me feel better about them.
I can get a kitchen cart and potentially do some renter friendly updates. Although, I can tell the landlord is a little hesitant about any changes being made, specifically when it comes to DIY projects, but I’ll see what I can do. I also don’t want to go too crazy since I’m only planning to stay a year, but we shall see what happens.
There’s a lot of vertical space above the cabinets, which I love because I can probably decorate with some plants and storage baskets. There’s always a solution to enhance the space! And I’ve already gone down the Pinterest rabbit hole and have gotten plenty of decor and storage ideas for tiny kitchens.
I’m excited to have a bedroom. I’ve slept in a nook next to a closet for the last 5 years, so this will be a treat. The room itself is big enough to fit several pieces of furniture — probably a dresser, desk and Ikea closet. (there’s only one clothing closet in the whole apartment) There’s also a pantry closet in the living room, which I can definitely use as storage for different things.
I’ll share a mental image for you: you walk into the apartment and you’re immediately in the living room. I think it’s a little smaller than my living room area now and it’s shaped a bit differently. I’ll have to figure out the best layout. To the left is the kitchen and to the right is a little hallway that leads to the bathroom and bedroom. Something I need to get used to in the bathroom — where the mirror/medicine cabinet should be is a window and the mirror is on the side wall. I guess the silver lining here is that I’ll have a window so I can put some plants or succulents in there. There’s also outlets in the bathroom, which I do not have in my apartment now!
The unit faces the back like mine does, but sadly I won’t have a beautiful garden view anymore. It’s in a walk-up but I only have to go up one flight of stairs instead of two. Small wins! There’s no laundry in the building, however there’s plenty of places and services nearby or I can always go uptown to my sister’s place and use her washer & dryer, ha! As much as I will miss having laundry in the building, I will not miss our creepy basement here.
The biggest deal breaker for me was finding a place that allows dogs. This building is advertised as no pets allowed but I talked to them about Kiko and they made an exception and put him in my lease. I can’t wait to have him come and stay with me more often.
Is this what I thought my next apartment would look like? No. Will this all be an adjustment? Yes. But I’m honestly just so grateful to have found a place and I know after moving in and decorating it will slowly start to feel more like me. This does not have to be my forever home. It’s a stepping stone to get me to whatever else lies ahead. I’m calling it a temporary detour.
Goodbyes suck. I hate them. I get easily attached to people and places. When I think of all the memories I’ve had here over the last 5 years I get very emotional. This place was my safe haven during the height of the pandemic. I quarantined alone in this little studio but I got to create outside on my fire escape. And I’ll never forget it.
I’ve shed countless tears in here. Celebrated so many birthdays in this apartment. I hosted friends. I created wonderful memories with Kiko and my mom. My neighbors became friends. We all looked out for one another. We all helped one another. I felt safe. I felt comfortable. It’s going to be difficult to close out this chapter.
I walked through these doors as a 34 year old who was about to live on her own for the first time in the big city. It unequivocally changed me. It forced me to grow in ways I could have never imagined. This city kicked my ass an insane amount of times, but the resilience it instilled in me is something I’ll be forever grateful for. There were many moments when I was not sure if I’d be able stay in New York but by the grace of God I made it work for as long as I did. 5 years! It’s something to be proud of.
I’m walking out of here at 39 as a completely different person, ready to embrace whatever lies ahead because I know I can do hard things. I’ve done them many times over. And I have to continuously remind myself of that when anxiety tries to get the best of me. I’ve gotten some really beautiful and encouraging messages on Instagram this past year, but this one really stayed with me — “I’ve been following you for years and I’ve seen everything you have gone through. If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about you it’s that you are resilient and you always find a way. I have no doubt you will get through this.“
This chapter of life has been one I haven’t quite understood, but I think in the months and years ahead I’ll be able to look back on this time and it will all make sense. In my heart, it will always be New York or nowhere and I truly do hope that I can find my way back.
Life is wild. These last few years have been some of the most difficult for me, but I think I’m finally getting to the other side of it all. It feels good to breathe again. And while I definitely think I’m experiencing a little bit of grief with this goodbye, it’s also reassuring to know I have another place waiting for me. I think all of my angels have been working extra hard behind the scenes to get me on this new path. They sent me signs and I listened. I’m grateful.
I’ll end with this
If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I know it was a lot. If you’re currently going through a difficult time in your life or have been faced with uncertainty, I hope that in some small way my story can make you feel less alone and give you some hope that things will work themselves out. We might not always get what we want, but I do believe we get what we need. Just stay open. All these dark moments that we experience teach us so much, we just have to pay attention to the lessons.
And I hope you always remember, it is never too late to start over. ❤️