calvin-walker-thursdays-journal

I’m Leaving New York City

in Life by

“This must be the wrong address,” my mother said as we slowed to a halt in front of the apartment building I would be living in for the summer. We all stared at a homeless man peeing without abandon on the sidewalk near the building’s entrance. The sun was high in a cloudless sky and people were actually walking right by him. I broke the silence to let my parents know that we had not confused the address and this was our final destination.

Without looking away, my dad quietly said that he would watch the car while my mother and I took my belongings inside.

That summer, New York City experienced a massive blackout. I walked around Washington Heights with my roommate drinking beer in the dark. At my internship, a supervisor allowed me to pull looks for a Gossip Girl request. To my surprise, one of the bandage dresses I pulled was chosen to be worn by Blake Lively’s character. Before season’s end, I would be mistaken for a prostitute in a bar, attend my first Broadway show (Legally Blonde, if you must know), have an incredibly sexy hookup at a sample sale, and truly fall in love with the city.

calvin walker thursday's journal

I returned that September to work my very first New York Fashion Week. As I made my way from the office to the Bryant Park tents, I was struck with a sensation that I can’t quite put into words. All I can say is that I knew that I belonged in New York. I belonged. So, I graduated from college, worked a year to save money, and made the move.

When I first arrived, I rented the middle room in a railroad-style apartment in Queens, had very little money, and only knew a handful of people. What kept me alive was my blog, my books, and the desire to make it work. I was 24 years old with nothing but energy and excitement coursing through my veins. It was heaven.

To my surprise, I did make it work. I quickly landed a job at one of the city’s biggest fashion photography studios where I eventually launched their social media department. I booked talent and secured brand sponsorships while working on a Google-funded YouTube channel. My blog helped land me a full-time gig at a Condé Nast publication (rest in peace, Details). I interviewed celebrities on the set of Project Runway and got so familiar with Tim Gunn that he would personally send me emails. During a stint in music, I paid a visit to Nile Rodgers’ legendary home in New Jersey where he showed me “the Madonna room,” a space where she lived while they worked on her now iconic Like A Virgin album.

My career has taken many turns thus far. I’ve been hired and fired. I’ve been loved and disliked. I’ve been respected and discredited. Oddly enough, my professional life has very closely mirrored my love life. I have kissed a lot of frogs yet never once found a prince. I was engaged to a sinister man, caught a lover on Grindr, and had to break up with someone due to a severe lack of bedroom skills.

After rebounding from being fired from a job, I spent hours watching various programming on the OWN network. I don’t want to say Oprah “healed” me but watching programs like SuperSoul Sunday and Oprah’s Master Class were their own form of therapy. The greatest lesson I learned came from an interview with Alanis Morissette. She mentioned that the concept of happiness is a temporary state. I took it a step further to look at the opposite side of the coin and saw that sadness, frustration, and discomfort were also temporary.

It took some time for me to realize that as long as I respected myself, I would be just fine. I was my own prince. I have been this entire time. Realizing it mentally freed me up and I became such a better person for it. People think it’s odd when I say I became a nicer person since moving to New York City but it’s true.

However, even an optimistic person has their limits.

New York, I love you but you’re one relentless bitch. You have so much to share but you hide it all at the same time. You’re a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but the rainbow always disappears just as I approach the treasure. I understand that the grass is always greener somewhere else and I know I am going to miss you more than Britney Spears circa 2003, but I’m leaving you.

No, it’s not me. It’s you. Okay, maybe it’s me a little bit, too.

After eight years, you just don’t do it for me the way you used to. It’s time for this gypsy to explore the unfamiliar. I’m ready to have more affairs and enjoy affordable rent. New bookstores to get lost in and restaurants to sample. I’m ready for a change.

That is why I’ve set my sights on Chicago. It has been a topic of discussion that has annoyed my friends for years. About a month ago, I was walking one warm afternoon with my friend, Tim. I brought up the idea of leaving New York again and he literally snapped at me. “Stop talking about it and just fucking do it.”

While I don’t particularly care to be snapped at, he was right. I needed to stop thinking and start doing. I’m not sure when I stopped being a ‘doer’ but his remark legitimately smacked me awake from the unwanted slumber I had drifted into.

So, at the beginning of May, I will be relocating from New York City to Chicago. Obviously, my arrival in the Chi will be the reason why Amazon chooses it to be its second city. I’m basically the next coming of Oprah, after all.

Truth be told, I have no idea what awaits me in the 606. I’m not moving for a job or a relationship. I’m taking a leap of faith and moving for me. There are a ton of uncertainties surfacing as I prepare for this major change of address. Even still, what I know for sure is that I am ready to begin writing the chapters of this next book that is called My Life.

I haven’t felt this level of freedom or excitement since I first arrived in New York City so many years ago. The day I actually decided that I would be moving to Chicago, I recognized that I’ve lost some of my shine. Guess what? I’m ready to find it again and who knows if it will be in Chicago. Maybe I accidentally misplaced it at The Strand and can no longer find it because they keep rearranging the floor. Maybe I unconsciously left it in Paris a couple of years ago.

All I can say is that I am a go-getter. That’s who I will be until the day I die. This move to Chicago is a reminder for myself that I make shit happen no matter what city or industry I’m in. I asked last year if it was time to leave New York City. I guess I was ready then but only now found the courage to accept it.

When I sit to think about my last day in New York City, I realize I’m 75% excited, 20% scared and 5% sad. To be honest, I’m pretty happy with those percentage ratios.

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