New York City has, and always will, hold a special place in my heart.
I visited the city for the first time when I was just 10 years old with my mom. I vividly remember the rush of feelings that implored me upon arriving in the city. I got into the yellow taxi cab from the airport (Pre- Uber days) and as I was looking out the window heading into Times Square I remember not being able to fully comprehend this type of place.
I continued to ask my mom how people live here- they ride in taxi’s and subways underground? They don’t own a car and instead walk everywhere? Growing up in the suburbs of South Florida, seeing what a city looks like was an eye-opening experience for me.
I fell deeply in love with the city during this weekend trip. I just loved the energy of people chasing their dreams. I loved Broadway and Fashion Ave. with all the different fabric shops. I loved Soho and China Town. I loved the vendors selling things on the side of the road, the lit up billboards, the brick buildings… I loved it all.
I wanted more than anything, at this moment, to be part of it.
Since that trip at 10 years old I dreamt of living in the city and creating a career and life there and I did everything in my power to visit the city as much as possible.
I would convince my family we should go to NYC for every family vacation. One year, my sister and I even got on a billboard in Times Square!
Throughout college I traveled there frequently (or now that i’m actually a frequent traveler on flights 20 days out of the month, I wouldn’t necessarily say twice a year was frequent, but back then it was for me).
Sophomore year of college I applied to attend the Teen Vogue Fashion University, a weekend program for young adults who aspire to work in the fashion industry.
When I was accepted, I was beyond ecstatic. I flew there from Gainesville, FL alone for the first time (I was 18 yrs old), of course meeting my mom once I got there, but I felt like a different woman. I remember I was sitting window seat on the flight and I pulled out my sketchbook that had an Eiffel Tower on the front. I opened it up and began sketching up jewelry designs I had in my mind. The woman next to me asked if I went to fashion school in NYC. At that moment, I wished so badly that this was my full-time reality.
I remember imagining myself traveling for work where the things I wrote and drew in my notebook were actually items that would come to fruition, that I could make true. I closed my eyes and imagined this reality to be true.
Side Note: I’m currently writing this blog post as I am on a flight, sitting window seat, traveling to NYC for a paid gig to speak at a Model UN conference. Don’t underestimate the power of visualization. While the dream may be different now, the feelings are the same.
I had already started my first business, designing jewelry for the L.A. based fashion company OmniPeace, so you bet I had my bracelet designs with me to hand out while there.
I met Rachel Roy and Alexis Bittar among others and shared with them about what I was doing and asked them for photos holding my bracelets up. (You gotta be your #1 best sel-promoter!) I came back to Gainesville, FL to the University of Florida more passionate than ever to move there after graduation.
When I was 19 years old, the summer going into my junior year, I landed an internship at a boutique PR firm and I convinced my parents to let me go for 8 weeks. I didn’t have any close friends who were interning there at the time (since most people wait to get internships until going into senior year), so I got an airbnb alone in Willamsburg, Brooklyn. My airbnb didn’t have a television and to say my mom scared me from leaving the airbnb at night is an understatement (she’s a bit protective- in a good way lol), so after I would spend the day working at my internship, I took the subway back to my airbnb and stayed in. During this summer I had a lot of time to be with my thoughts and that’s when I developed my first blog, Hello Perfect.
I actually have the journal that showcases the full development of this idea and what was going through my head to create this idea. (maybe i’ll share it one day)
When Fall semester started up, my friends came back to school with vacation stories and camp counselor experiences, I had this whole business I started. I began getting interns on board to help me grow it and my best friend Angela came on helping with PR.
I actually applied and attended Teen Vogue Fashion U again but this time, I came with Hello Perfect signs vs jewelry and the mission to redefine perfection. This is when, for the first time, I started to learn the skill of confidence taking my opportunity to ask Michael Kors, in front of 500 aspiring fashion students, his definition of perfect. I was so nervous but I did it and it set off the journey.
That summer after, now going into senior year, I landed another internship with the fashion house, Haute Hippie, but this time Angela came with me, also landing an internship in the city. We lived at the FIT dorms and it was the summer of my life! We got hooked in with the party scene, the fashion scene and we were growing my blog together and it was just so amazing. It was my first taste of really seeing that I was turning this 10 year old dream of mine of living there, into a reality.
After this summer, we convinced our parents to let us go back for New York Fashion Week in September, landing a job handling the social media behind the scenes for the Walter Baker Fashion Show. We got invited to his after party which is where I met Mark Cuban for the first time, also getting his definition of perfect.
After college I moved to NYC permanently, landing a dream job with InStyle Magazine. But, as most of you know, between NYFW which was September 2012 and graduation which was May 2013, I had my near-death experience where I almost lost my life.
As I still was my determined self to not let this experience stop me from achieving my dream of living in the city after graduation, I moved there, alone, a week after I was handed my diploma. But unknowingly, I was getting sicker and sicker while in the city, thinking my NDE was just in my past.
I went to a doctor there and it was then that I was diagnosed with a number of things, including the onset of my autoimmune disease. I remember this changed everything. I was scared and started suffering with PTSD.
The city of dreams turned into the city of fear.
I remember walking home from that doctor appointment and running into an alley way, dropping to my knees hysterically crying. This was the first of many hidden tears that I shed on the streets of New York City.
It took months of me getting sicker and sicker before I finally had to make the decision to move back home to South Florida as I couldn’t get healthy in the city alone.
But a few months before I moved, I ended up getting on the Oprah Winfrey Network with Gabrielle Bernstein. I shared what I was going through and on national tv shed tears and fear in my eyes.
Looking back, at how the cards lined up to land a spot on the OWN network, I now see how the city was still serving my dreams, even though it felt like it was taking every bit out of me.
I moved home in Jan. 2014 but had to travel back to the city in February as I already had set a date for my first event I was hosting at a co-working office who donated their space. I had my speakers lined up and the reason I was hosting this event was because I wanted to share my story as a public speaker but no one gave me the opportunity so I decided to create my own event.
Five people showed up to that event but I was so happy and felt so alive in that moment. I need to do this more I thought. But not in the city. After this last visit, it took me a while to visit the city again- as bad memories poured in anytime I thought about this city I once loved.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I traveled back to speak at the Periscope Summit. While I wish I could say this experience was better, it wasn’t. Hidden from everyone, including the thousands who watched me live on Periscope, I was so sick that weekend.
I actually couldn’t eat or drink anything but water because my digestion wasn’t working. I was weak and frail and I remember we went to this Periscope after party and I was walking up the stairs from the basement bathroom and I got up and almost fainted. The room was spinning and I couldn’t see straight, but I wouldn’t let anyone know. I hid it from everyone possible as I just wanted to badly to be able to have fun and experience this moment.
After this, it was 8 months of becoming extremely ill where no medicine or remedy was helping me. My autoimmune disease got way worse and my life took another turn for the worst.
It wasn’t until Fall of 2016 that I built up the courage to travel back and visit my friend who lived there. It still was difficult for me as I walked the city alone during the day while she was at work and when I passed certain streets a vivid memory would come rushing back to me seeing my younger self against the brick wall, crouched down crying. But I was stronger now and I was different. I was getting ready to host my first Women Empower Expo the next month in Ft. Lauderdale, unknowing at the time what this new adventure would bring my way.
Since WEX, I’ve traveled to NYC a number of times from heading there to be interviewed on Cheddar TV on the floor of the NY Stock Exchange to going there for a Women In Leadership Inaugural Cruise event, these experiences brought back the joy in me that this city once gave me.
Now, i’m on a plane headed there again and no matter how many years pass by, all these memories always come flooding back to me when I travel there because they were all pivotal parts in my journey. These experiences, no matter how difficult they were, they helped me become who I am today.
There are so many more stories and lessons I learned that NYC taught me, and maybe one day i’ll share more, but for now, I just want to say that if you don’t give up on yourself and fight for your dreams, regardless of the circumstances, they can come true.
While today my dreams are different and instead of flying to NYC for a job in fashion with my sketchbook, i’m flying as a public speaker and entrepreneur, with my notebook full of business ideas to make an impact in others lives.
The exact dream may be different but the feelings are the same. The feelings of passion, hope, excitement and energy.
Everything comes and goes, good times and bad times, the key is never giving up on yourself or your dreams. I know now why I had to go through those difficult years, and while it’s always hard to understand it in the moment, today I am beyond grateful for all the experiences this city brought my way.
New York City, I will forever love you.