Calum McSwiggan

New Year, New York

In Eat, Love on January 10, 2013 at 11:59 am

New York City Fireworks

‘And because no matter who you are, if you believe in yourself and your dream, New York will always be the place for you.’

– Michael Bloomberg 

I shut down my laptop and carefully placed it into my bag as the lights went down, the stacks emptied, and the University library began to close. I slung my bag over my shoulder and picked up the letter from New York University that was sat waiting for me at the end of my desk. I’d completely put off opening it since I found it by the front door that morning, the crux of everything I had worked for up until that moment was sitting in that envelope, and now was the time to open it.

I’ve always been a firm believer that you will always conquer your dreams as long as you fully commit yourself to them, and so it was devastating to say the very least when I peeled open that seal and let that big fat fancily worded no fall out into my hands. It was the beginning of a series of rejections that would come to me over the next couple of years, a series of rejections that would eventually end in me bidding farewell to my New York dreams.

Living in New York seemed to be an impossibility, with the high competition for graduate schools and the complications of immigration control, I seemed to be met with failure from whatever angle I attacked it from. Even visiting seemed implausible when my carefully planned trip to The Big Apple was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.

After failing to make it so many times it was difficult to be anything but defeatist. Every time I tried to make this dream a reality something jumped in the way and stopped me. It was as if I was being tested, as if somebody was telling me that you can’t just stroll into New York City, if you want to live in the city of dreams, you have to prove that you’re willing to sweat.

I weighed up my options for the longest of time, that constant of New York always burning in the back of my mind as I hopped from country to country, and every time I tried to talk myself out of it, my body kicked and screamed in resistance. I’ve had this craving for home for so long, and after everything that happened in Derby, nowhere really seems like home anymore, nowhere but that place on the other side of the Atlantic, that place I’ve never even set foot.

And so in the lead up to the New Year, I made myself a promise to save $10,000 and move to Manhattan with nothing but a suitcase and a smile. I wouldn’t try to secure a job, or a place at a University, I would just turn up, treat it as an extended holiday and just see what happened. I told myself that within five years I would be living in New York City, and while I let the cogs whir in the back of my mind, scheming up all the details of my plan, a stack of life changing letters were on their way in the post.  

I didn’t know it at the time but these letters were everything I needed to concrete my plan, they weren’t graduate school acceptance letters, or job offers, or exciting opportunities, they were something far more important- letters from my friends. When you sever all ties and up and move to Spain, you’d think that it would be impossible to maintain those old friendships, and yet when these letters came from all over the globe, they proved to me that these friendships were just as strong as ever.

Each envelope or parcel came filled with inspirational photographs, quotes, poems, and gifts that directly corresponded to all the things I wanted to achieve in the fast approaching New Year. Each one lovingly reminisced over fond memories, each one made motivational reference to my vision of moving to New York, and each one came with the same underlying message: I believe in you.

For the first time I really realised that I’m surrounded by people who don’t only listen to my aspirations but they have full faith in my ability to achieve them, too. I so often talk about travelling solo but really I’m never on my own, I’ve got a whole wack-shack of like-minded friends constantly cheering me on. Each and every one of those letters encouraged me to go out and achieve everything I’ve ever wanted, each one was an acceptance letter, and each one was a ticket to New York. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the means to attend a University, I had a whole load of friends who believed in me, and that was infinitely more important.

I scrambled for my wallet and pulled out the ninety-three dollars I had left over from my cancelled trip to America, and then I scrawled New York on an empty envelope and stuffed them inside. I was going to save up that ten thousand, and I was going to move half way around the world, except I wasn’t going to do it in five years, I was going to do it in ten months.

Having five digits in my bank account will be a huge accomplishment in itself, but being able to use that money to go and live amongst the dreamers will be by far the greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished. There’s something poetic about arriving in New York for the first time with nothing but a suitcase and some money, almost reminiscent of the first people who landed there and called it their home. It’s as if this is what everything has been leading up to until now, and in ten months time, for the first time since my old life fell apart, just like those settlers crossing the ocean, I’ll finally be heading home.

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