New York Apartment Moments

I moved to New York City almost immediately after I graduated college in 2017. The stars aligned and aligned, and continued to align and I’m still here, with the same company, jivin’ on.

One thing I’m frequently asked, by friends, family, and strangers alike is, “How much longer are you staying in New York?

When I first moved to New York, this question always made sense for people to ask me. My internship had an end date, I have no family here, costs are outrageous for housing, I moved here knowing only one person and that person I honestly only knew from a few shared classes in college. There was nothing grounding me here, I knew that and that’s why it was such a valid question for people to ask me.

Then, the internship abruptly ended 2 months in – because I got promoted 😉

So things only then started to become a bit grounding for me – my job became a real adulty job, friendships began rapidly growing, and almost excessively I began meeting more people… the city was morphing into my home. Yet as the years go by, I still get asked, “How much longer, Emily?”

Recently it clicked that the reason I’m asked so much, besides the point of people simply wanting me closer to them, is that maybe I’m not speaking enough about how much this place is my home.

When my mamaw passed away my freshman year of high school, she had cancer and it was incredibly touch and go a lot of the time. It hit a point where my dad ultimately told me, “No news is good news.” Which, in some weird way, I think this phrase held so much reassurance to me that I carried it on through to my adulthood. I treat everything with a “no news is good news” attitude – even in the very way I conduct my conversations with others. If I’m not talking about an aspect of my life, I assume everyone must realize that’s because those parts are good, or maybe even great! But what I’ve failed to understand is that this means when I’m talking in detail about anything… maybe I dwell a bit more on the bad or negative things happening – which then in turn paints a more negative picture of my life to others.

So of course it makes sense that people are asking me, “How much longer are you staying in New York, Emily?” because they’ve really only been hearing a quick quip of “Oh yeah, it’s great but…” and then I dive more in depth about mouse horror stories, or the terrible roommates, not to mention they regularly hear me say, “Send the package to my office because things get stolen from my apartment!

Today, I’ve decided to switch my narrative and share with you all some little magical things about each place I’ve lived in NYC, to spread some positivity around 🙂

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HARLEM: MAY 27, 2017 – AUG 1, 2017

This was the apartment that welcomed me with open arms into the city. Albeit, itty-bitty tiny arms, but welcoming arms nonetheless. I paid $750 per month to live here incl. utlities (3 bedroom but I never saw one one of the roommates)

WHAT I’VE SHARED WITH OTHERS: I lived with a bartender who would come home with her friends at 5AM and proceed to throw crazy parties each morning. There was no AC, and the dead of summer in NYC was so unbearable, every night I would take a cold shower and then take a washcloth to put behind my neck to keep me cool throughout the night. Living here was also the brokest I’d ever been in my life. It was rough, and not only all of that, my bedroom was so terribly small that I could lay on the floor and have my fingers touch one side and my toes touch the other (and I’m somewhere between 5’4″ – 5’5″!)

THINGS I’VE NEVER SHARED: Almost every night, just before falling asleep, I would get to relax to the sound of a neighbor playing jazz music from their window, sometimes opera music, but mainly classic jazz. It was one of those grounding “I’m in NYC, I’m here…” moments, it felt like a scene from a movie – to fall asleep to that music on a twin-size mattress on the floor of a Manhattan apartment. There was also this Halal place at the end of my block and they had the best lamb over rice I’ve ever had… period. And the commute to work from this apartment was one of the most stable commutes I’ve experienced.

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CHINATOWN: AUG 1, 2017 – OCT 27, 2018

This place felt like a step up from my first apartment because the room had a queen size bed OFF THE GROUND, was generally larger, and also it was downtown right around where I loved going out the most. I also only paid $750 a month to live here incl. utilities (5 bedroom).

WHAT I’VE SHARED WITH OTHERS: I lived in a five bedroom apt but a couple of the rooms generally had more than one occupant. Most of the occupants did not speak English. And we also had several furry roommates that did not pay rent – AKA MICE. WE HAD ALL THE MICE. It was a terror, one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. Link here to my personal blog to read more of those deets. I also lived above a grocery store which was under the Buddhist temple, which was under the Chinese Mafia gambling ring location (if you’ve seen Marvelous Mrs. Maisel it was identical to what Joel stumbled upon when opening his club..) – then after climbing all those stairs you’d find yourself at my apartment. We also had a stove top but not an oven – and I didn’t catch this until after I moved in…

THINGS I’VE NEVER SHARED: Some of the craziest party nights of my life took place while I lived here and my roommates put up with my drunken loudness silently and without complaint. Even though communication was hard at times, it was somehow a friendly almost family like atmosphere you could tangibly feel. One roomie had an adorable Yorkie named Cofi and it was so fun to get greeted by her each day. Living in Chinatown itself made it feel even more real that I was in New York – or more like out of the country even. Just walking around the area, I get that same buzz in my soul that I get when traveling to a new city. Then the smell hits me and I’m ready to bounce, but you get the idea 😉 UGH AND LASTLY THE FOOD WAS PHENOM!!!!!!! So phenom…

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SPANISH HARLEM: OCT 27, 2018 – JULY 31, 2020

If I said Chinatown felt like a step up, man oh man, just hold your horses for this place. It was newly renovated with exposed brick in every room, only one flight of stairs to climb, WASHER AND DRYER IN UNIT!! It was a dream. I paid $1,207 a month plus utilities to live here (2 bedroom)

WHAT I’VE SHARED WITH OTHERS: Roaches, roaches, roaches. The renovations throughout the building rattled the roaches and our apartment was coated in the beasts. My roommate and I had severely different cleanliness standards. There was a loud motorcycle gang that would rumble through the neighborhood at all hours, right by our windows. Lastly, our super and management company were the worst…

THINGS I’VE NEVER SHARED: You could buy the prettiest freshest flowers and herbs from nearly any corner of any block whether its a bodega or a genuine flower shop – Spanish Harlem was stocked. And everything was fairly priced too. Speaking of Bodegas, there was a bodega on the corner of our block with the absolute best burgers and fries ever. Best enjoyed at the end of a night out. And the guys who worked there, along with those who also shopped there from the neighborhood, were the absolute friendliest people who could always bring a smile to my worn out face. I’ve also embarrassingly had a card declined there and they let me just have my order on the house without even a second thought. On another note, people would often park right outside our windows and blare music. To which I had a love/hate relationship with, but reflecting back it was mostly love. On Sundays it was typically soulful gospel music, and every other day the genre was fair game. I also often found myself Shazaming their music and adding it to my own playlists to jam to later. And lastly, every morning on my walk to the train, I always exchanged a nice “good morning” with a traffic cop – it was small thing, but it was still a burst of kindness I could count on each morning.

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Most currently, I’ve found myself out of Manhattan and living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This place… I’ve only said good things about this place. I feel blessed to have evolved up to this point – great roommates I actually enjoy hanging out with, a BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL APARTMENT WITH ALL THE AMENITIES… the cover photo for this article is the view from my building’s rooftop…

It’s a dream.

To reflect back on the whole, “no news is good news” thing – I shouldn’t have carried this past the situation with my mamaw. No news is good news is best for situational uses only. It’s so important to share the good things with those who care about you, because if you only share the bad, they’re going to worry and assume that’s all there is. Bad.

So share your good news, share your great moments, share the small nice moments – don’t assume everyone knows you’re experiencing good things. As my nana always says, “Do you know what happens when you assume? You make an ASS out of U and ME!

Emily’s Roommate Guide

In all my 25 years of life, I’ve never had my own apartment (excluding my brief semester abroad, but let’s be real I was hardly in that little dorm.) I’ve always had one or multiple roommates; and there’s not one place I’ve lived where I don’t have a crazy story to share – both good crazy and bad crazy. Just to name a few, I’ve had roommates hide under the bed for days at a time, I’ve had roommates accuse the entire apartment of tackling their 5-gallon jar of pickles (gag), I’ve had roommates with no sense of pride in the space we both call home, and I’ve had roommates where we don’t even remotely speak the same language.

Each and every one of my living situations could not only have their own blog post, but I could write a whole series of books, accurately titled: “Emily’s Series of Unfortunate Roommates:The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

But this post isn’t a tell-all on past roommates – sorry to disappoint you, you gossip ready scoundrels. Instead, I’m roaming the higher ground here. I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned through these good and bad situations, and most importantly: questions you should ask yourself when in the market for roommate.

Blanket Question: What is important to you?

This may seem like an obvious question, but clearly not since at 25 – 7 years into the roommate game – I’ve only just learned how to properly answer this when on a roommate search. Let’s breakdown what could be important to you, you just don’t realize it yet:

  • Which spaces always have to be tidy or you’ll have an aneurysm?
    • Even if you think you’re pretty chill, not too much of a neat freak, I’m sure there’s actually one or two things that get under your skin. For me, I’ve realized I need the toilet to always be pearly white, uncluttered kitchen counters, and absolutely nothing permanently (or even semi-permanently) planted on the stove – excluding a kettle – I also cannot cope with dishes overflowing the sink for more than like 3-4 days. So if you get roped in with someone who ends up being more on the messy side, voice the spaces that matter most to you.
  • How do you feel about entertaining guests?
    • Granted, in Covid-Culture, this question is answered way differently now then it would be if all was right in the world – or for some of you, maybe not! Either way, it’s important to sort if you’re content with guests frequently coming and going, staying for short or long periods of time. Especially if you live in a major city, it’s common for friends and family to want to come visit often and for longer than just a weekend. So figure out how you feel about this, if you’re content with strangers coming and going – potentially running up utility bills during their stay 😉
  • Speaking of utility bills, how do you feel if it seems your roommate may be causing spikes in bills?
    • If I’m being honest, I never even realized that this was a thing until very recently. In my books, you’re in a contract with your roommates to go half on everything. If there’s a spike in the bill, it sucks but that’s just it – it sucks. Even if the other person may have caused it, you couldn’t possibly confirm that, so you have to buck up and pay your half and everyone aim together to be more conscientious for the next bill cycle. Trying to pin a spike in a bill on someone is a slippery slope, because what about the months you had several guests staying for a week or two at a time? Or how about there’s a month where you’re using the washer and dryer more? Do you see what I’m getting at? It opens a door that you probably don’t want to open. But either way… if this is your little psycho tick… sort it out now before trying to screw someone over. Have fun with that future conversation! Side note, if you don’t bring this up and try to con a roommate into paying more of a bill – shame on you.
  • Your sleep schedule?
    • Most of the time, you know if this is important to you – so voice it! Make it known that you’re a night owl, or make it known you go to bed at 8, grandma 😉

Blanket Question: What are you looking for in a roommate?

This is not just finding a cool person to live with, nor the same as simply finding a friend. While the above questions definitely facilitate sorting this question out, below is a breakdown of how to sort out the type of person you’re looking for:

  • Do you want someone with the same daily schedule as you?
    • Having the same schedule as someone is great, in theory. It opens doors to be able to hang out together after work and sleep schedules should be fairly similar. But also, it means they are always home the same time you are. For me, I’m not into that. I need alone time, I need the space to myself, and I hate fighting over the freaking bathroom. I’ve realized my ideal roommate’s schedule is someone who wakes up at the ass-crack of dawn and leaves the apartment before I wake up. Then I get to have a quiet morning to myself and get in the right head space for the day.
  • Are you looking to become best friends with your roommate?
    • This is fine! Moving to a new city and seeking to befriend whoever you live with is a smart way to get established and such an easy way to make friends. So think about what characteristics you like in a friend, but also think about how that translates into a roommate. Party people are fun, but do you want a party apartment? Bubbly, outgoing people are great, but are you someone who needs alone time to recharge? Just make sure you understand what you’re getting into!
  • What’s the ideal vibe?
    • It’s super important to me that my apartment is cozy, decorated, and smells heavenly with candles frequently lit. Maybe you’re wondering why this didn’t go in the first blanket question, but this is totally a personality thing. I’ve had roommates who just emit comfort from their very being and it translates into the apartment setup, I also have had roommates who see the apartment as just the place they sleep and aren’t into the whole decorating thing, or they have a minimalist vibe and aren’t into knickknacks and decorations. So while it’s important to understand your vibe, it’s equally important to sort out your roommates vibe – then you can create a conducive atmosphere that makes your space more than just an apartment, it makes it a home.

Blanket Statement: Know your boundaries.

If you understand what your boundaries are, what you are comfortable with and what you’re not, the roommate search will be more fruitful. If you’re not that clean, there’s no point in lying about it just to get the dream apartment with someone. If you need alone time, voice that and most people will respect it.

One thing I casually began doing to better understand what gets under my skin, is starting a “When People…” note on my iPhone. Whenever someone does something that rubs me the wrong way, even slightly, I write it down – just the action, not the person’s name, this isn’t a list of grudges! It has things like “When people interrupt others when they’re speaking,” which equates to the fact that basic manners are incredibly important to me, and another one is “When people flake on responsibilities,” and that one I don’t think I need to explain 😉

Creating a simple list of pet peeves is a great way to understand not only what you don’t like, but also what you do. Ultimately, it’s important to know yourself in order to know what you need from others so that you can flourish.

DISCLAIMER: While I hope this guide helps you, I think shit roommates are major character building experiences 😉

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PS: the featured photo is that of me and one of my best friends that’s survived many roommate horrors with me ❤