I HAVE LIVED MY ENTIRE LIFE in the state of Texas, first in a tiny town of (let’s say) 200 people, second in a refinery-clogged town of 300,000, and finally in our beloved “weird” state capitol, which has yet to hit a million people.
And now I’m moving to New York City. 😳
Guys, I can’t even tell you how much this terrifies me. Yes, it’s the sort of terror that hints at something awesome to come — how could I pass up the opportunity to attend Columbia P&S, one of the best medical schools in the country, as part of a program that aligns with my passions entirely? — but the urban jungle is much different than the pine and oak thicket I’m used to, living at the intersection of the Piney Woods and the Post Oak Savannah. I know I have to dive in, but the water is cold. Writing about it, at least, helps me sort through my thoughts.
Although there are a thousand reasons this particular future doctor is nervous about the prospect of living in New York, most of them are ones I know I’ll get over. Right now, I’m dealing with three practical concerns as I am searching for housing — one of which, unfortunately, is the most terrifying of all.
It’s ridiculously expensive.
Guys. Columbia P&S isn’t even in the nicest place in NYC, and I’m seeing rents that are higher than what I spend in an entire month. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought I was going to get my medical degree at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where I was finding apartments mere biking distance from the medical center with all the amenities — washer and dryer, ample closets, modern fixtures, bathtubs, you name it — for $700 and some change.
You know what I can get in NYC for $700? A crawlspace. No joke.
I can breathe, though, because I received generous financial aid from Columbia which makes the prospect of paying NYC rents on student loans bearable. Plus, I’m not someone who needs luxury, or even a modern apartment, to be happy. Still — the idea of shelling out $1400 a month (which is suuuper low for Manhattan) for rent alone is killing me. Say what you will about Houston’s relatively lax building codes, but it sure does keep down the cost of living.
What am I going to do with all my plants?
I haven’t posted much (of anything) yet, but part of this blog will be my “cultivations,” or blogging about my green thumb and love for everything succulent. The long Texas days and bright Texas sun — and the fact that I can get an apartment with a balcony for $800 a month — has allowed me to build an entire army of adorable stone faces, baby toes, and echeverias (so many echeverias 🌱). In NYC? Not so much.
Windows in most NYC apartments — at least the ones I can afford — are a joke. And forget balconies, not for $1400 a month. Also, whose idea was it for it to get dark at 4:00PM during the winter months? While we’re at it, whose idea was it for it to get down into the teens in the winter? This Texas girl has a lot of adjusting to do. My plants, even more. 😐
The good news is that sunlight lights are supposedly a great way to deal with the winter blues (aka seasonal affective disorder, SAD, which I never understood the prevalence of until I realized there are people in the world who deal with sunsets at 4:00PM and even earlier my god). I’m going to have a cool succulent wall, or something, with lights that will hopefully keep my bright and cheery Texas circadian rhythm going. And hopefully my succulent babies growing.
The truth is, succulents are hardy and I bet they’ll be just fine. High rent and a place for my plants, while they are currently logistical concerns, are really only minor snags in entire list of reasons why I am so very nervous to live in NYC. There’s one, really terrifying prospect, though, that I am currently figuring out how to deal with:
I cannot live without my cat.
Here’s the thing. I live with a disease that causes chronic pain. Support animals are a valid way of helping combat the stress, isolation, and loneliness that flare-ups can bring. But if I say that, everyone assumes I’m just one of those people who claim their animal is an emotional support animal so that they can bring them on flights and into restaurants. For that reason, I haven’t even bothered trying to register as my cat as anything other than my beautiful girl, my pet, my extremely loyal familiar. It wouldn’t matter, anyway – the housing that I’m looking at only accepts service animals.
I am trying to get student housing at Columbia because it is cheaper and, although current students I’ve talked to tell me they’re not luxurious, windows and coming pre-furnished is pretty luxurious to me. Only some accept pets. I also need accommodations for my medical condition. All things put together, I was assigned to a dormitory-style hall that does not allow pets that may cause me to seek accommodations off-campus (there are other reasons, too — like the fact that I can’t cook in the dorms, as I have to strictly control my diet during flare ups or I’ll just get sicker, and sicker, and sicker 😷).
I’m trying to get a new placement, primarily for my health, and secondarily for my cat (which is arguably important for my health as well). Well, secondarily for my independence (I’ve been living independently for a while now, and moved out of my parent’s house at 16 – I’m in a much different place in my life than “dorms”), and thirdly for my cat. If I can’t find accommodations, I’ll be looking at paying those rents I was complaining about.
Ultimately, I realize that I am in a privileged place if I can even make that choice — to take on a small bit of extra loans to live in a place that fits me better for my health, my independence, and my cat. And sure, the privileged place might be the result of financial aid that I got because I was determined not to be in a privileged place, but I’ve got to count my blessings!
I’m pretty scrappy, and I’ll find a place to live with my cat. But the prospect of not living with her — the fact that I haven’t found a place yet, and have to search — is terrifying. Even if I didn’t live with this disease, I would find it difficult to live without her. Other cat moms, I’m sure you get me. 🐈
All in all, it’s other things — like the sheer volume of people, the short days, the loud noises, the air pollution, being uprooted and living in a place unlike anywhere I’ve ever lived — that combined make this move “terrifying.” These current logistical problems are just on the forefront of my mind because I am currently dealing with them. The truth is, everything else — the opportunities that I will have as a student at Columbia P&S, the chances to work with populations as varied and as in need of health care as the place where I grew up, the friends I’ll make, the program I’m in, the chance to grow as a individual — makes this move to NYC exciting, too. Exhilarating. I am happy to be moving to NYC, and I think it will be a great experience.
Because honestly — who else will be able to say that they lived in a town of less than 200 AND the largest city in the United States? I’m coming, NYC. The sheer volume and energy of the city might swallow me at first, but I am certain I will emerge a better, more rounded person — a hopefully, a better physician. ⚕