I have officially lived in New York for one year. I moved from Los Angeles fresh out of college with a journalism degree; an open mind; and a dream, like the many thousands before me.
I began interning three days a week, 9-5, for a magazine publisher in the beautiful Hearst building. I woke up very early each day, grabbed a coffee, dressed up as best I could with my Goodwill finds, and headed to work filled with excitement.
Then, quickly, came reality. Ridiculous rent, high-priced food, the cost of utilities, and bills all had a sobering effect on my mindset…and my strained post-college-loans budget. So, I picked up job number two at a yoga store in the Flatiron district, filling the remainder of my week. Sleep became a distant relative.
Uncharacteristically, I was often late to work, because I underestimated train delays and the time it takes to walk those long New York blocks. Rushing became a newfound habit. I filled my workdays to the brim, hoping to land a full-time position at the end of my stint with the magazine. I watched my bank account dwindling at rapid speed, and began to notice dark circles under my eyes when I caught glimpses of my reflection in the subway windows.
I decided to move to Brooklyn, to share a basement studio apartment with two friends, whose company was a relief. We all slept in one room, each on our own air mattress. Needless to say, I was beginning to feel a little in over my head — and then, at the end of my three months at the magazine, I was sent off with a hug and goodbye and no job offer. New York had a different plan for me.
I booked a flight back to Los Angeles, needing to reevaluate and regain clarity. The first thing I did was pack a group of friends into my Subaru Outback and head up north, to Mammoth. I blasted Tom Petty on repeat, a self-fulfilling prophecy looping for the full duration of the five-hour drive: “And I’m freeeee….free falling!”
Mammoth is simply beautiful—an ideal locale for hiking, snowboarding and camping. I had been here before, but there was something so different and special about this trip. I was realizing how precious I found spending time in nature with my friends and family.
We hiked up the front side of the mountain, a mixture of snow and loose rocks. On our feet were Converse and Vans, and our clothes were covered in mud from slipping on the way up. It was a beautiful view at the top, where we set up cameras and shot a snowboard trick.
After our full day of climbing and filming, we headed to the hot springs for sunset. The walk was brisk and the cold air was sharp; it was March and the mountains were still glazed with fresh snow. The crisp air burned my lungs in the best way.
And in that moment, my friends strewn around me, I realized: I had made it through my first winter in New York. I had navigated the trains, gotten lost and then found my way, moved — twice! — and worked my ass off at a job that mattered to me. My initial plan had changed, shaped itself into something I could have never imagined, but that was the beauty of New York, of adulthood, of life.
In that moment, at Mammoth, I was thankful. I would return to New York with a new sense of resolve, stronger and more determined than ever to make it work.
Hayley Hill is a writer/photographer from Los Angeles, currently living in Brooklyn, NY. She has a passion for the outdoors, adventuring and creating art through different mediums. In her free time, she loves doing yoga, dancing and hearing people’s stories.