Why New York, you're looking gorgeous today--well, everyday. All it took was one trip and I was hooked on this smelly, vibrant city. In fact, that trip made me finally settle on a major before beginning college. I figured I wanted to be a nurse until I realized how much possibility is held in New York, specifically in fashion. A few summers ago, my sister had the amazing opportunity to intern for a fashion magazine that I am currently applying for (wish me luck!). There was only one way we were going to get all of my sister's belongings East...in a 14-hour car ride! Yeah, being packed into a car with my whole family and luggage was a little rough after hour five. One of the most memorable parts of that ride included traveling through the nature-filled areas of New York. Yes, it is not just skyscrapers and honking taxi's, I didn't know that either. When we got to explore Manhattan, I had never felt so at home even at 18 years old. I knew I had to go back and soon.
Two years later, Spring Break 2019 rolled around and I had the opportunity to travel to New York through a program in my major. This trip was going to be different compared to the one previously; no 14 hour car ride and there were activities based on fashion with small tourist-y things to do in between. The one thing that was the same? I was stoked that New York was my destination. There were only twelve students who could attend, so I made sure to be the first to sign up and hand in my deposit. From there, it was time to shop and make sure I did not look like a twenty year old college kid who was just excited to be there. (Even though no amount of clothing could cover that still today.) After months of excitement and waiting, the day of departure was finally there. I was at a Chicago airport at 7:00 am, no makeup on, with bags packed. However, my excitement was put on hold as our flight was canceled and rescheduled to have a layover in Charlotte, NC for a few hours which would then bring us to New York. In total, I spent just under 24 hours in airports around the East. Once we finally got to our New York hotel, we found that during the mix of flights, our luggage was misplaced--for two days. So much for not trying to look like a twenty year old college kid. After many frustrated phone calls, numerous sample toiletries used, and the relief of seeing our luggage in the hallway, I was finally able to wear my best New York-style clothes.
Even though we had to jump (and stumble) through many hoops before getting to New York, I realized that none of it mattered. I was exactly where I wanted to be, participating in activities and events that I enjoyed, surrounded by like-minded people--and that, is what mattered. It became stressful, yet fun after a while. When the end of the first day without luggage came around, we realized that all we had to wear for the meeting with ESP Trend Lab that next morning was what we were wearing currently and what we carried in our carry-on's. Late night stop at Forever 21 in Times Square it was! I still have the clothing items because memories, right?
We attended many informational meetings with fashion headquarters including JC Penney, Gap, ESP Trend Lab, and my absolute favorite, Seventeen Magazine. We have an alumni from Illinois State that currently works at Seventeen and I basically am her biggest fan. So, like any biggest fan would do, I sat next to her and asked as many questions as I could before we had to leave. (Side note: Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions about what you are passionate about to those who are succeeding in it.) After getting a tour of the Seventeen office and the Hearst building, I was in awe of everything that the fashion editorial field had to offer which only solidified my future goals.
Some of the activities I participated in definitely made me feel like tourist--I have never been more okay with the title. I had the opportunity to see Wicked on Broadway which was truly magical. My little brother has a passion for theater, so because he could not be there to experience it with me, I bought him a pair of Wicked socks to make up for it. Another activity I got to do was go to the One World Observatory and the September 11th Memorial site, which was the most impressionable parts of my trip. The One World Observatory had a 180 degree view of New York that you could never get anywhere else, so if you are afraid of heights, maybe skip this one. After getting a tour of the September 11th Memorial site, I had never realized how a location with such horrible memories brought so much peace spiritually. I remember thinking how loud the city was surrounding it, yet, how this one area drowned out all noise. If you are ever given the chance to visit, run with the opportunity.
You know those memories that you know are going to stick with you until you are eventually sitting in your rocking chair, waiting for Jeopardy to come on to watch with your grandkids? Well, I made one of those memories in one night thanks to a truly gracious family friend. He is the Editorial Director of PAPER Magazine and will forever hold a special place in my heart as an inspiration. After having the opportunity to meet with him for lunch and pick his brain on the fashion industry, he invited my roommates and I to a VIP event for the grand opening of Neiman Marcus Hudson Yards in Manhattan. Yes, re-read it, you read that correctly. I was emailed a VIP car pass and was put on a list--I have never been on a LIST. Needless to say, my roommates and I ran out that night to the H&M in Times Square and tried to put together our best VIP outfits. Once we arrived, we were welcomed by my family friend and even introduced to many fashion icons such as the original owner of Prada and Armani, the CEO of the New York Times, and met a past contestant and current model from America's Next Top Model. Did I mention that I was three feet away from Paris Hilton's brother at one point? We got our picture taken by professional photographers and got to see Charlie XCX as well as Liza Minnelli sing live. I truly felt like a celebrity and fashion mogul that night and I will never forget that feeling.
I got pictures sitting on The MET steps as they do in Gossip Girl (fun fact if you didn't know, that is where they filmed the series!), went actual shopping in Times Square, and will admit that New York pizza will forever be better than Chicago style. I got to go inside of the Statue of Liberty and tour Ellis Island, the actual place some of my ancestors immigrated to America through.
When it came time to come home, I realized I didn't think I would ever be ready to leave. There is something in the air--Pollution? Yes, but that is not what I mean--in the Big Apple that makes leaving so difficult for city lovers like me. The fast-paced environment combined with the creative and determined personalities that inhabit it make it a place you never forget. Who knows, maybe if you walk slowly enough you might be able to take it all in. On second thought though, don't walk too slow--don't be that person. I know that I will be returning in the future and hope to make it a permanent trip. New York is where my heart and passion is, and once you find that, it becomes home.
"London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it." -Dorothy Parker