It's a slow-moving Friday afternoon. The kind where you are buzzing with anticipation for the weekend, but the minute hand on the clock seems to only inch backward from 5:00. I've been holed up in my apartment, working through readings, deciphering class notes, tooling around with thesis ideas, cringing over rough audio cuts, and biting nails over unanswered emails for interview requests. In other words, living the life of a graduate student of journalism. The life I will lead for two years as a member of NYU's Literary Reportage program.
This weekend marks my first full month in New York. On August 20, I left my father's house in South Carolina at 5:30 am. Four hours later, I was standing outside the door to my new apartment in south Williamsburg, Brooklyn, two suitcases in hand. I placed my bags on the curb and looked up. Home.
Minutes later, and with a jolly, crinkle-eared dog— a half-basset hound, half-cocker spaniel mix named Franklin —in tow, my new roommate Dan ushered me up our fifth floor walk-up.
It was a Saturday, and all of Williamsburg was ours for the taking. I dropped my bags and Dan and I took Franklin to the dog park, chatting and getting to know each other over coffees, and then lunch. Later that night, we shared a rooftop beer and waited for Kerry and Claire, my other two roommates, to return from Colorado. They landed at 9, and by 10, we were all at a bar catching up.
The magic of New York is such that, in twelve hours, I had flown to the city, partially unpacked, explored the neighborhood, and settled into a chummy rapport with my roommates. We sat outside, grateful for the cool night, drinking and munching and talking over one another.
That night, in a completely cliché moment that surely thousands of others have experienced, I looked at the city skyline from our roof and thought, "I've arrived."
While it was a joy to get to know my new roommates, I also got to see some familiar faces during my first few weeks here, including my cousin Hillary who lives in Queens, as well as my college roommate and good friend, Annie, who now attends law school in Brooklyn. It has been a relief to have friends and acquaintances in the city, and to see them early on in my adjustment to New York.
In a testament to the intensity of grad school, it wasn't all fun and games at first. There were forms to fill out, equipment and software to download, orientations to attend, readings and preparations to be made. The first week of the program constituted a crash course in Audio Reporting. From 10:00-5:00, Monday through Friday, we learned the basics of recording, interviewing, and mixing an audio segment. Our regular classes began in earnest after Labor Day.
Labor Day weekend brought a chance to escape the city with a dayhike. We took the Metro North to Manitou and, along with a small crowd of city-slickers, walked into the forest. The hike was confusing, to put it mildly, but we teamed up with a mother and her eight-year old son, also from Brooklyn, and enjoyed the day. We hiked over train tracks, along serpentine, knee-high grass trails, and skirted the Hudson Rive. We unpacked our lunches and took in the views. The outdoorsy side of me had been craving trees, dirt, space. Leaving the city for even a few hours was cathartic, physically relieving.
Having spent most of the last three months hiking, camping, and being semi-off the grid out west, making my home in tents and on mountain trails and in alpine lakes, it has been a total 180 degree change to move to the busiest city on the planet.
It's past 5:00 now. As I type out this post, Franklin, my new favorite animal, is snoozing away on the futon. I've settled into a comfortable rhythm within the apartment, the neighborhood, and, increasingly, with school. I'll be in my third week of class this Monday.
Time accelerates when you least want it to, when you want to ease into a moment, to take a long sip of something sweet. The harvest moon will rise later this evening, the autumnal arrival I have long been waiting for during these humid days of summer's last stand. Fall is my essential season. I thrive in it.
I'm not sure if it's a contradiction to feel simultaneously at home and away in this city, but I do. I miss the gritty earth and the sheer space of the west, of all that I saw this summer. How luxurious to spread your arms and not touch anything, to feel your feet moving toward a summit or a horizon, instead of toward a subway platform.
At the same time, I am gratified by the promise of New York, of the work I will do here, the people I will meet, the stories I will share. One month in, no doubts and no regrets.