How Struggling In A Big City Finally Taught Me To Be An Adult

by Sarah Cole

If you had told me that at 29 years old, I'd be single, living in New York City and working as a manager for one of the busiest and most popular restaurants, I may have laughed in your face.

But now, for the most part, I'm in love with the way my life has unfolded in the city that never sleeps.

This city changes you. This city transforms you, and for me – I think – it has been for the better.

Happy anniversary, New York. We've been in this semi-abusive relationship for over three years now. I hate you and I love you.

I let you throw me against a wall in a fit of passion, knowing I secretly kind of enjoy the torture. You've been the longest relationship I've had in my adult life, and man, has it been brutal.

But it's been so in all the best and worst ways.

I've always been one to remember dates and anniversaries. I'm big on self-reflection, as painful as it can be. I like to remember what happened on this exact date at this exact moment because I've always felt that in order to figure out where you're going in life, you have to understand where you've been.

Three years ago, I was a 26-year-old young thing who was dangerously accustomed to running away from problems and situations. She was too insecure to stand still and figure out what she wanted.

I left the beautiful weather and some pretty amazing friends in LA to chase after a boy. At the time, I was madly in love with him. However, he was not madly in love with me.

I planted my feet in NYC and was immediately lost: figuratively and literally. It took me two hours, several tears and the kindness of a stranger to find my way back home on my first night in the city.

I was incredibly broke and relying on someone else to support me. It made me feel weak and broken, and I think I held on to that feeling for too long after I parted ways with that relationship.

I don't think New York has felt like home to me until the past year. Sure, I became accustomed to its constant way of making every tiny thing more difficult than it should be... like walking up five flights of stairs to get to my apartment every damn day.

I found friends who supported me, listened to my woes and danced all night at bars with me. I found relationships with men who nurtured me and loved me, and they somehow managed to deal with my several breakdowns and fits.

I began to support myself, and I became successful at going through the motions to perform everyday tasks.

But New York was not my home. In fact, I couldn't really tell you where I felt my home was at that time.

Until last winter.

I quit a job I hated. I accepted an actual salary, where I worked 60-hour work weeks, sometimes six days a week.

I took a chance on a job that helped me grow up. I ended a relationship with someone I'm still very much in love with. But I made the decision to embark on a journey only I could take by myself.

I don't know if I was ever really ready or knew what I was doing, but I jumped off that bridge feet first.

No looking back. This past year has had some of the loneliest months, while also being some of the most rewarding.

I've learned to listen to my heart, be alone with my thoughts and accept I have to go through every emotion in order to feel whole.


This past year, I've loved men and I've loved women. But mostly, I've loved with my whole heart.

I've met some pretty remarkable people who I not only get to call my co-workers, but also my friends. I've learned to be content in my own skin. I've learned to not care about what others think, and I'm realizing just how satisfying that realization can be.

I've gone wild. I'm still wild. I will always be wild. I got a tattoo that reminds me to STAY wild.

New York taught me that. I taught myself that.

It's been a tumultuous three years in this beautifully chaotic city. But finally, I can feel myself acting like an adult... whatever that means. I can also now call NYC home.

And there's really no place like home.

A version of this post was previously published on the writer's personal blog.