we were here

I have seen people with tattoos of coordinates of places and every time, I thought to myself…how could anyone ever love a specific location THAT MUCH to want to tattoo it to their body?

Then I moved to New York. And it all made sense.

Judson and I moved to New York City in the summer of 2011. At the end of the summer and the end of Judson’s internship, we were contemplating staying there. I really really wanted to, but Judson didn’t have a job offer and it would have been a huge gamble to stay without either of us having jobs.

We had been subletting an apartment from a Columbia University professor for the summer. [for those interested: It was on 119th and Morningside Drive, overlooking Morningside park and had incredible views of the city, a dishwasher and full size appliances (something we thought nothing of and definitely took for granted).]

We decided we loved the Upper West Side and thought we would want to stay there. So while Judson was finishing his internship, I spent my days online looking at apartments to rent. The real estate game in the city is NO JOKE. If you’ve been through it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It feels like the Hunger Games. It is intense, cut throat and gives me anxiety just thinking about it.  Apartments are listed and then become unavailable within hours. So if you see something you remotely like, you have to be ready to pounce…write out a big check and provide more paperwork than your entire college career required. And even then, you still might not get it.

It is almost impossible to get an apartment without a realtor.  If you can swing that, you’re really lucky.  A typical realtor fee to rent an apartment in New York is 15% of a years worth of rent. So if you rent a one bedroom apartment for $3,500 a month (which probably won’t have a dishwasher or a washer/dryer) then your realtor fee would be $6,300. and that’s on top of your first and last month’s rent that is due on signing your lease.  That sh*t adds up FAST.

ANYWAYS. There I was…looking for studio apartments on the upper west side (that has a less than 1.9% vacancy rate aka hardly anything available because everyone loves it so much, they find an apartment and never leave). We decided on a studio because we had looked at a few 1 bedrooms together (sans realtor) and not a single one could fit even a queen size bed.  We knew we needed a king…because, tall.

I ended up finding a realtor, telling him what I wanted and he sent me a bunch of listings that weren’t great.  I saw this random one that looked awesome (i thought it was a fake listing. yes, those are a thing). I sent it to him and he said we could go see it. I had no idea where it was before he sent me the address.

I got off the subway at 86th and Broadway and followed my maps towards Riverside Park.  My heart was pounding. The neighborhood was beautiful and exactly what I had been hoping for.

I rounded the corner on 84th Street and was all heart eyes. I just knew it was too good to be true…that the apartment was going to be a total let down, in a basement of the nastiest building on the block.

It wasn’t.

It was in this beautiful brownstone half a block in from Riverside Park. We went up to the apartment and I completely fell in love. I called Judson right there and told him it was amazing.  He couldn’t come see it and the realtor had someone else coming to look at it. I didn’t have time to overthink it.  We paid the application fee, submitted all our paperwork (two years of tax records, bank statements, letters of recommendation, letter of out of state guarantor etc…the list goes on and on. we had to have our parents overnight this stuff before we even started looking at apartments because we knew we would need it immediately once we found a place).

All the while, Judson had never even seen this place in person.

I felt sick. Like it was alllll on me. I was so nervous. What if he hated it? What if it was actually terrible and I got so caught up in the 3 minutes we were there that I didn’t think to look for any potential problems. Was it really even that great? I don’t even know! It was all a blur.

UGH. stress.

We submitted all of our paperwork and the realtor we had been working with said that they had had 4 other applications for that exact apartment on the same day. So the landlords were trying to decide who would get it. After about a day, the realtor called me and said it was down to us and someone else.  He really wanted to get us into it (hello. commission.) and said he could maybe convince them to give it to us if we were able to pay 6 months of rent up front.

My naive self was like “yeah, we could do that, no problem”. Not really realizing what effect that would really have on our finances. He said great and would let them know.

Judson got home and I gave him the update on what was going on. He was like “you agreed to what?!”. We were panicking. I had the biggest pit in my stomach knowing I told him we could pay 6 months rent.  Because after I had agreed to that, I started to figure out what that really meant and I was like “I just made the biggest mistake of my life. Judson thinks I’m an idiot. He’s going to divorce me. Life is over”.

We were waiting for the phone call. I wanted to get it, but I also didn’t. I’ve never been so torn in my life. (Ever since I was 16 and went to new york for the first time, I knew I wanted to live there.  It was where I belonged. There was no question.)

My phone rang. My voice was shaking. I put him on speaker.

Judson and I listened while he told us that we got the apartment. I was both thrilled, terrified and silent.

We told him we would call him back. Quickly.

Judson and I just looked at each other. He had been interviewing a TON, but still had no job offer. I still needed to do an internship before I would officially graduate, so I couldn’t get a job right away…we would be signing a year lease, spending every. last. cent. we had in our possession to pay for 6 months worth of rent. We wouldn’t even have enough money left for a single plane ticket back to Utah to pack a few more suitcases of our stuff to start our life across the country. The risk was astronomical.

We were facing all of this and JUDSON HADN’T EVEN SEEN THE APARTMENT.

He was completely trusting me and I was terrified of letting him down, making the wrong decision, not thinking about all the unknown factors.

I was paralyzed inside.

We knelt down together and said the shortest prayer ever.  After, we immediately looked at each other and both said, “we need to do it”.

And that was it. I called the realtor back and said we would take it and get cashiers checks to him immediately.

Judson ended up not getting a job for another 3 months after we moved in.

We lived in that tiny apartment for 3 years. And signed our names in sharpie in a hidden place on top of the kitchen cabinets when we moved out.

So when I think of that place, it means so much more to me than ‘oh cute! our first apartment together’….it was an enormous leap of faith. A hugely defining moment in our life that set us on a trajectory that we never could have gotten on any other way.

That decision and all the effort and angst that went in to acquiring that space was literally life changing.

So now I get it. I truly do.

There are some places in the world that define who we are and can hold so many memories and so much emotion that you forever want to be connected with it.

I have so many favorite spots in the city. But this. This one means the most.

So the coordinates I got on this necklace are this exact spot in New York City.  I have a lot of favorite places there, but our first apartment won.


*fun facts:  1- we survived Hurricane Sandy in this apartment

2- I ran into Ben Stiller TWICE on our street. His parents lived in an apartment in the building at the end of our block. He’s tiny.

The first time, I was with Judson.  We saw him waiting to cross the street to go to the park and we were walking home from the park.  I thought to myself “that looks exactly like Ben Stiller”. We crossed paths, smiled, waved.   YEP. BEN STILLER. in the flesh.

Living in New York, if you see someone who looks like a celebrity, it is most likely that celebrity.  I need to make a post of all the celebs/encouters with them that I had while living there. I’ve got some good ones.



2 thoughts on “we were here

  1. this is my favorite post i think ive read on any blog ever. the tears, the ridiculous fees. i basically rented sight unseen other than facetime. also had to “review” the lease three feet away from the broker in the kitchen/living room/dining room even though we had no idea what we were looking at. still makes me emotional thinking about it. even though it was SO WORTH IT and the best decision I (we – my bf) ever made.

    Also: “Ever since I was 16 and went to new york for the first time, I knew I wanted to live there. It was where I belonged.” I have major anxiety and came to the city for one day from dc and felt at home and even missed my bus and still didnt care. i was home already


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