Mefites, especially New Yorkers, can I support myself in New York?
August 1, 2013 5:28 AM   Subscribe

I finally moved out of my abusive household, and I am proud of myself to finally be independent now. But I moved to Seattle on a whim, and after being here for 2 months, I feel as if it's not the right fit for me. I want to move to my dream city, New York. My sublet term is up at the end of August, and I have to move, either to somewhere else in Seattle or elsewhere, either way. But I have some complicating factors, and I am not sure if I can make it work. But I really want to make it work. Can you help me figure out what my options are? Many thanks for any help!

First, I want to thank all of the Mefites who have helped me. Your support helped me change my life! I am so glad to be financially and emotionally independent of my birth family. :) They still harass me through email and phone, asking me where I live, but it's nice to know that they don't have any control over me, as I continue to ignore them (and will one day change my number, once I know where I will live).

I moved to Seattle, and I want to start by saying that I don't mean to offend any Seattleites. But, I had a visceral, gut feeling upon landing here, that it's not the right city for me, because of the slower pace and how isolated it felt. I thought about leaving soon after I got here, but I decided to stay to see if any of the job interviews would pan out, as I had a strong desire to make back the money that I spent after moving, to have money coming in. It just doesn't feel like home, because home for me (and not the place I grew up) is a fast-paced city. I have encountered racism here, which I never thought I would experience here. I have been harassed, either on the bus or while I'm waiting for the bus, by people who think it's okay to invade my personal space and boundaries, because of my Indian ethnicity and because I'm a woman. I'm sure the typical Seattleite isn't like that, but I feel unwelcome here. And with regards to public transit, it is not really extensive and seems to be lacking, as it has no subway but buses that, save for weekday rush hours, are rather infrequent and inefficient, as they mainly run north to south, but not laterally. And once, the bus driver closed the door on me as I was exiting, and it dug into my back and shoulders, which hurt. I felt assaulted and was reminded of the times my dad would hit me there. In 4 years of living in Chicago during college, no bus driver there ever hit me. I'm having a hard time adjusting here, although my coworkers are great, and I am so thankful to have a job. And there is so much natural beauty here. I have to move from my sublet at the end of August, and am wondering if I should stay in Seattle.

On an emotional level, I feel like I'm hurting here. The racism I've encountered here hurts me deeply. I wonder if I am not welcome here. I know that perhaps the encounters I've had are not indicative of the typical Seattleite, I hope, but I've encountered a disproportionate amount of such hostility, which has been trying. There are barely any African Americans here and not really many other minorities here, aside from East/Southeast Asian, and that makes me sad. If I had visited Seattle before I moved, I would have realized that it wasn't a good fit for me, and I think I would have moved elsewhere, despite the gorgeous natural beauty here, which was what drew me.

In contrast, I lived for 4 years in Chicago during college, until my family forced me to leave after graduation. It was the best 4 years of my life. It is fast paced, with friendly people and so much diversity and liberal people. No one ever harassed me, whether it be racially or sexually. I would have moved back to Chicago, but it started to feel too small, and I had a bully in school there. I am afraid it would bring back bad memories of those times (which still, at the end of the day, paled in comparison to the many positives of being in Chicago).

I went to New York (Manhattan, specifically) for a week before moving to Seattle, and I had the time of my life. I feel that New York is the best place on Earth, and there's no where else I'd rather live, if I could live anywhere. I felt welcome there. People would smile at me and talk to me, respectfully, and a random New Yorker even helped me look for my Metro pass in Midtown when I lost it. There is so much art there, which is my passion, and I love being around ambition and creative people, and the hustle and bustle of the city with so much history is just one of a kind. Manhattan felt like home. I fell in love, and was heartbroken to leave. I questioned whether moving to Seattle would be the right choice. I think about New York now and start tearing up, because I miss it and am so unhappy where I am now.

But, there are complications. First and foremost is whether I would be able to afford it. I have a BFA in art and my dream is to be an illustrator, like many millions more in New York. But the only jobs I've been able to get so far are entry-level and hourly, in non-art related fields. I was recommended by the department head at my last job (non-art related) for a mid-level position, salaried with my own office etc after two years of temping there, but HR declined me because of the degree I had, an experience which has scarred me into fearing being unable to get a decent job.

I currently am temping in Seattle, making 15/hr (the most I've ever been paid) and netting around 500 a month after being extremely frugal, which is second-nature to me. I'm unsure of what my job prospects would be in NYC, especially with all of the competition that must be there. In addition, I applied but didn't get a single part time or full time job that I applied to in Seattle (excluding the temping) even after interviewing. I don't understand why I wasn't hired for any of them, but if it was because of competition, I wonder if I would have an even harder time in NYC.

I also face strong peer pressure to stay in Seattle, as the firm I am temping at has had high turnover in the position I currently have, and on my first day, my coworker even told me that it would be inappropriate for me to leave, as do other coworkers here and there, but in more subtle ways. I do like working there as they are nice people and I'm developing bonds with them, especially my boss, who is one of the best I've had, and I am really scared of leaving and being unable to find a job in NY.

I have some savings I earned over the years from my jobs, but I am hesitant to use it to help me stand on my feet in New York, in case I should ever need it for an emergency. Should I use it for New York? I'm scared of using it all. There is a grad school that I want to go to, and with no financial support (or really, any other contact/support) from my birth family, that money would come in handy then. But maybe I should use it for New York?

So I was wondering if I could ask the Green for your collective wisdom, during this confusing time for me:

1. Do you think I should move from Seattle, despite any flack from my coworkers/boss/temp agency? I am low on recommendations, because some of them had connections to my family, and the temp agency asked me, before placing me, if I would be able to commit to this job. I am scared of being unable to find a job in New York.

If you think I should move:

2. Do you think I could support myself fully in New York? Manhattan would be a dream, but I'm sure that's out of my price range. But I am up for Brooklyn or Queens or any other cheaper option. I would like to live with roommates, and as long as it's safe & there aren't any pests/rodents, I'm fine! Is that reasonable? Any roommate-finding tips? Is Craigslist the best way to go?

3. Any tips on finding work in New York? Do you think my job prospects will work? Are there any temp agencies you would recommend?

4. Any other advice?

So that's what I'm going through, and I'm really confused and can't think straight about making a decision. Any advice goes a long way. So those are some of my complications, and again, I don't mean to offend any Seattleites. I may be missing some other helpful info, in which case, feel free to let me know and I'll post a follow-up comment. Do you think this is just a pipe dream, or something I can actually do?

Thanks in advance for all of your help. Your wisdom is much appreciated. :)
posted by independence under the radar to Work & Money (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. I think you should move, but if you're earning some money now, possibly put it off until you have a couple of months of rent saved up?

2. Lucky thing for you New York is an enormous hub for the ad industry -- one of the few industries that uses illustrators. Do you have a good portfolio put together? Would you be comfortable working at an ad agency? At any rate -- there are temp agencies in NYC, too, and I highly doubt you'd be blacklisted for leaving a temp job in Seattle.

I highly doubt you'll be able to find a completely pest-free apartment in New York. The roaches, they're *everywhere.*

3. I'll let someone else handle that.

4. You visited New York on vacation -- so it's possible you're mythologizing the city and what it's like to actually live here. That said, if you're miserable where you are and there's nothing tying you down, then of course you should change something.
posted by Andrhia at 5:45 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Honestly, it sounds like you are putting New York up on a pedestal and turning it into this dream, ideal place to avoid dealing with other issues, settling into Seattle, etc. I can tell you as a lifelong New Yorker I have been sexually harassed on the street, had racial slurs hurled at me, etc etc. No place is perfect. Your best bet for supporting yourself in New York would be to stay put where you are, keep saving, and most importantly build up a job history (at least one year tenure) and network to increase your chances of landing a good job whenever and wherever you move.

Even if you don't expect to get a job working in art, it would help a lot to find a "day job" field you enjoy and feel passionate about -- employers would much rather hire someone who is interested in the job, rather than just doing whatever. Likewise, you can build up connections in that field, once you know what it is, by going to meetups, getting introed through friends and friends, attending conferences and lectures, etc.
posted by telegraph at 5:45 AM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: First of all, as a temp you don't OWE anyone, anything. You work, you get paid. That is the extent of your obligation. So there's that. Don't let some idiot tell you that "it would be inappropriate for me to leave." Nonsense!

If you are seriously convicted about moving to NY, I don't see why you shouldn't do it. Pack up and go. You gave Seattle a chance.

Finding a place to live in NY is unlike any other proposition. But many people do. Craigslist is a way that people connect to find roommates. Check it out.

One thing I would recommend is figuring out where you're going to land when you get to NY. Nearly no one will rent to you site unseen. It's a very competative market. Check out this Hostel, it can be your first stop in NY, and you can then start your search from there. You can sleep in a dorm for $60 per night.

Or look into AirBnB. Although the rates are similar.

Simultaneously, get your job search going. Luckily there are tons of jobs in NY, and I'm sure you're qualified for one of them. Get on LinkedIn and Simply Hired and paper the world with your resume.

Get a new cell phone with a 212 area code, and just use an email and phone number on your resume (no need for a snail mail address, now is there?)

You are young and you have resources. Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:46 AM on August 1, 2013

It is not possible to get a cell phone with a 212 area code. I'm not even sure if 917 (the first cell phone/pager area code for NYC) is available anymore. Employers are used to the fact that most people have a cell phone from their hometown, college town, or just wherever they lived the last time they changed service plans; the area code on a phone number at this point is really irrelevant.
posted by telegraph at 5:49 AM on August 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I also face strong peer pressure to stay in Seattle, as the firm I am temping at has had high turnover in the position I currently have, and on my first day, my coworker even told me that it would be inappropriate for me to leave, as do other coworkers here and there, but in more subtle ways.

First of all, screw these people: you owe them absolutely nothing!

I think you might as well try this. You have no ties to anything else, you're not happy in Seattle, and you're young. If not now, then when?

I live in Brooklyn. When I moved here, I found work in a coffee shop and then, after about 4 or 5 months, I got a full-time entry level position. I had less than $1000 in my pocket, but I was also staying with a friend for free.

Most people I know in Brooklyn and Queens are paying between $700 and $1000 per month (per bedroom), with roommates.

When you come, you might look into You can stay with people for free while you look for work.

(Also, no need for a new area code! No one I know has gotten rid of their old phone numbers.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:49 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I should add: seems like these days, young broke artists live in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:51 AM on August 1, 2013

It is possible to find a pest-free apartment in New York, despite what Andrhia claims. I live in one.

And the competition for jobs is going to be difficult everywhere. That's just the way it is right now. Two months without getting a job offer is very normal, and that's going to be the case whereever you are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Okay, now I feel old.

So keep your phone number.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:51 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: First off, congratulations on freeing yourself from your abusive family and staking your rightful claim to independence! If you're saving $500/mo while making $15/hour you're doing really well managing your resources. All of that must be exhilarating! No wonder you want to move to your dream city ASAP.

Nonetheless, I think your move to New York will be more successful if you work on your emotional resilience. Your post shows clear signs that your abuse is manifesting itself by making you either a) struggle to shake off bad encounters or b) engage in anticipatory fear that you won't be able to do so. For example: HR declined me... which has scarred me. Or the bus driver closed the door on me... I felt assaulted and was reminded of the times my dad would hit me. Or I had a bully in [Chicago]... I am afraid [moving there] would bring back bad memories.

As other have noted, you're mythologizing New York. But even if the apartment and job hunts go swimmingly, Something is bound to happen in New York that will test your emotional resilience and your high opinion of the City and its people will only make it worse. I don't know if your savings is sufficient--especially since you have no family to fall back on if things go badly--and I can't speak to the corrosive impact of feeling unwelcome or enduring racial/sexist slights. Nonetheless, I think you might benefit from sticking around Seattle a little longer to build up your financial resources, possibly find a job in your field, make more connections, plan your move better, and strengthen your emotional resources too.

As a thought exercise, consider this: If your sublet wasn't ending in 30 days, would you feel ready to make this move?
posted by carmicha at 6:14 AM on August 1, 2013 [22 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, ethnic minority in New York City here. If you are Indian, use that in every possible way you can. Minority-owned businesses tend to prefer to hire people of their minority. Banking on my ethnicity has gotten me almost every job I've ever had. I mean I didn't just show up and say "hey I'm [ethnicity]" but it's the closest thing I've ever had to, say, being from the same prestigious university as someone who is trying to hire me. In a city like this one, people trust their own a lot sooner than they'll trust anyone else.

Now, I am not Indian, I have no idea about your specific heritage within India, or how close you are to it, but if you can use it to your advantage do so, and do so with vigor. White folks have, for a very long time, used their heritage to get ahead in the world. In New York City, you don't have to be white for that.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 6:55 AM on August 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Do you think I should move from Seattle, despite any flack from my coworkers/boss/temp agency? I am low on recommendations, because some of them had connections to my family, and the temp agency asked me, before placing me, if I would be able to commit to this job. I am scared of being unable to find a job in New York.

I can't answer the second part of your question but I thought I would step in to give you my $0.02 on this part.

Do what you feel you need to do. Don't wait to get permission from your co-workers/temp agency/the Internet.

I just want to say, it is quite normal when you move to a different place (or change to a different situation) to start thinking "This was the wrong choice for me". Being in a new place is always going to feel weird, you are always going to feel vulnerable when you are out of your comfort zone. It is normal in these situations to imagine "the road not taken" - "I should have gone to LA/NYC/DC, I would have been happier there". It is also normal to imagine escapes from current negative situations so you don't feel trapped.

Recently I moved house and was having trouble settling into the new place and found myself imagining putting it up for rent and moving (also to New York, coincidentally) - there is no doubt NYC exerts a powerful pull because it has been so mythologised in our culture as the city that 'makes you feel brand new' etc. But I soon settled into my new place and my dreams of New York dissolved - as dreams do when you wake up.

Sorry if I am projecting. I do believe though that if you give yourself a little more time to adjust to things about Seattle that you're struggling with - the pace, the public transit - you might find yourself quite content there. Human beings are adaptable.

Feel free to disregard this answer. Do what you have to do, take care of yourself, and be proud of yourself for what you have accomplished!
posted by Ziggy500 at 7:04 AM on August 1, 2013

Best answer: The racism I've encountered here hurts me deeply. I wonder if I am not welcome here. I know that perhaps the encounters I've had are not indicative of the typical Seattleite, I hope, but I've encountered a disproportionate amount of such hostility, which has been trying. There are barely any African Americans here and not really many other minorities here, aside from East/Southeast Asian, and that makes me sad.

Seconding carmicha on working on your emotional resilience - bus drivers will close the door on you in NYC; people will be rude and be assholes also; that's just the way NYC works. (NYC can also be incredibly generous and nice and gorgeous and full of crackling energy.) You need a good thick-ish skin to get around, and the first year is kind of a test -- if you can get past the first year, then you're set.

BUT this is what I really wanted to say:

Feeling hostility because of your race can be very real. Feeling like a "minority" in a place, and having a place treat you like you're a "minority" in turn, can be very real. I'm sure you know this. I absolutely understand the way that certain places that are not diverse can do that, and can overlay a sheen of detachment or difference onto all interactions, that eventually manifest as polite indifference at best, overt hostility at worst. This isn't you being over-sensitive; to me it's clear as day.

NYC is one of the few places in the world in which I feel none of that. There are so many races and identities that everyone doesn't care, or notice. Maaaybe you might have a racial epithet slung at you (like, once every few years?), but it has a drastically different meaning here, than it will in an area that is homogeneous, and you can shrug it off pretty easily. And to be quite honest, that is one of the strongest reasons that I love this city -- I don't think that any other city in the US has that kind of total identity tolerance. I probably wouldn't live in the US if I didn't live in NYC or SF.

So be thick-skinned a little, but also try to discern how much of your discontent and hostility comes from the racial tenor of a place, and how much of it comes from taking encounters overly personally and directly. Don't discount the former. You're mythologizing NYC -- but so does everyone.

If I were you, I would try to move, but only after saving up some money in a few months, for the spring. Don't move here just before the winter - winters in NYC can make it especially hard to get to know people, since you just have fewer people out and about outside. That will a) give you financial stability, and b) give you enough time to suss out Seattle and make sure that you really do want to move.
posted by suedehead at 7:04 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Good advice is to give any new city a year. Save some money, start building friends, dig into better jobs, find a more suitable an integrated neighbourhood, etc.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:16 AM on August 1, 2013

Before you throw yourself at NYC, go try Portland for a year or so. Live downtown or close-in, use the trains and take advantage of the fareless square. Portland should also be cheaper than Seattle (even if not as cheap as it was five or six years ago) which will make it easier to set aside a little money to help move to NYC if that's what you ultimately decide to do. Portland is still not that diverse, but my sense is that it's somewhat more diverse than Seattle.

As mentioned above, SF is the West Coast's NYC. But it has the a lot of the same issues in terms of expense and logistics, so I'd still suggest Portland or similar first.

And I'm not sure that I agree that life in NYC is somehow without the racial tension that exists in other cities. Certainly today's NYC doesn't have the problems it once did with racial tension and conflict, and you may not experience much of it, depending on where you live and your social milieu, but it's still there.

Institutional racism takes hold in New York City (regarding stop & frisk)

NYC Principal Accused Of Making Racist Remarks, Calling Black Teachers 'Gorillas'
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:44 AM on August 1, 2013

You are totally putting NYC up on an unrealistic pedestal, but since you're unhappy in Seattle, working towards a move to your dream city is great.

I have been harassed, either on the bus or while I'm waiting for the bus, by people who think it's okay to invade my personal space and boundaries, because of my Indian ethnicity and because I'm a woman.

So I've never lived in Seattle, but I can tell you that this is going to happen constantly in New York. This metafilter thread is full of new yorkers discussing their experiences of street harassment and their personal space not being respected. There's also going to be the random person who stops and helps you find your metrocard or gives you directions or something.

I agree with suedehead about moving here in the spring--winter can be depressing and kind of isolating and slushy. And if you're used to having lots of green space, moving here in the spring will give you the chance to enjoy the parks.
posted by inertia at 7:48 AM on August 1, 2013

Best answer: I feel really conflicted.

On the one hand, when I first left home I really wanted to be in New York. But I didn't think I could handle it for a variety of reasons, so instead I chose Boston. I hated Boston almost immediately, and ultimately chose to move to New York. (Against the protest of people who thought I should have given Boston a fairer shake, too.) It turned out NYC was the right decision for me. And I firmly believe that if there's something you know you want to do, as opposed to something you think you "ought" to do, you should do the first thing.

On the other hand, I recently moved across the country, and it really is hard to settle into a new city. Two months barely scratches the surface, and you could definitely find a place for yourself in Seattle if you gave it more time.

However, feeling unwelcome because of your race? Ugh, no. Why put up with that? And others are right, New York is one of the few places in the US where there will be very little of this sort of thing. That said, you will be pigeonholed based on what others perceive your ethnicity to be, which is sometimes frustrating, sometimes fascinating, and I think it can be a little claustrophobic for certain people.

It is also a very real possibility that you will get to New York and not find either a job or a place to live. New York can also be extremely socially isolating, if you don't already have connections here. I would be somewhat leery of moving to New York with no local resources, especially because in your situation you can't just give up and go home if you're not happy.
posted by Sara C. at 8:23 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As a counterpoint to those who council waiting it out a year - I've lived in several cities, and usually settle in within a few months. However, when I moved to Syracuse, I knew in the first week it was a mistake. It just didn't work for me, I knew on a visceral level that it was wrong for me. I ended up living there for four years, getting together the resources to do my next move. I eventually came to appreciate the beauty of the area, and learned a lot about myself in the meantime, but I never fit in, never felt welcome, and spent 4 years planning to leave. That's a long time to not fit someplace.

So - if you know in your heart you do not fit, it is ok to leave. NYC will test you - it's a big place, and when I visited Manhattan made me claustrophobic. But if it is calling you, go. Better to go and find out that it didn't work, than to regret not going.
posted by RogueTech at 9:22 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: speaking from personal experience of moving to NYC with no job or connections here - it took me over a year to feel like i belonged here and wasn't constantly lonely. three years down the road i had a decent set of friends. five years later it finally started to feel like home. i've moved around a lot but NYC was one of the harder places to adjust socially. given the large flux of people that come and go over time you may have to work at making friends all over again - nothing really stays settled here. i think it's one of those YMMV situations though, how well you can adjust personally.

it's a very expensive place to move to on a whim. if you have no one to fall back on, at least make sure you have enough savings to get you through the hard times. not just the initial move/job hunt/etc. but also if the economy takes a dive again. i had several friends doing just fine but then suddenly they had to move away btwn 2008 and 2010 because they just couldn't find work and thus couldn't afford to stay. make sure you can keep your life raft inflated, so to speak.

start looking at craigslist posts for places in NYC so you can get a real idea of how much it will take to come here - if you can't handle roommates, be prepared to spend a lot more and deal with brokers fees, background checks, etc. if you want to get your own place. some places require proof of income before they will rent to you, which can be hard if you just moved here without a job lined up. it can be upwards of $3000 initially just to move in to some spots (first month, last month, brokers fee). manhattan is more expensive than brooklyn, and brooklyn is getting popular and expensive as well - you may need to compromise and think about living in queens, far south brooklyn, or the bronx.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 10:53 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Congratulations on making the break from your family and setting out on your own.

I'm sorry Seattle feels so wrong to you. I've lived here for 20 years and some of your impressions of the city certainly ring true to my own experience and I don't doubt the rest. I'm torn between suggesting that you stick it out in Seattle a little longer, and encouraging you to explore other options like NYC.

NYC is my ideal city as well. From the age of 1 to 4 my family lived in Binghampton NY and made visits to my aunt in Manhattan, so it was the first big city I knew, and I absolutely loved it. For a 9 month period a decade or so ago, I had the opportunity to work there a week out of every month, and I spent my personal time wandering the city, just exploring, taking it all in. At the end of that stretch, I had the opportunity to relocate there, with the guarantee of a job with a decent salary for at least a year, and coverage of my relocation expenses. I checked out apartments and found a bright two bedroom in Brooklyn near Prospect Park and a subway station that we could just barely afford. I wanted to move there, if only for a year, but my wife wasn't interested, she had a visceral reaction to the idea of a city that big, and I couldn't even get her to visit. My aunt, who'd spent her whole life in NYC, including a long stretch in Manhattan during NYC's darkest decade, also discouraged me.

A few years back, I finally got my wife to visit NYC with me and she ended up loving it but that trip also made me realize that while I'd still like to visit NYC for an extended trip, I didn't want to live there any more. Perhaps if I were younger in my 20s, or even early 30s, but from the perspective of someone on the other side of 40, I could see how hard every day life in NYC could be, how much it would wear on me to have to fit the mundane tasks of living along side the mundane tasks of working. I saw how some of the things that so charm me could become minor daily annoyances. Of course, the truth is, given some time, it would probably feel like a comfortable home, but I already have one of those, and enough experience to know that he grass isn't always greener.

So, for you, I'd suggest that, on the whole, you might find NYC just as disappointing as Seattle once you've spent a couple of months there, or it might dazzle you for longer (because, lets face it, it is more dazzling), but after a year or two in either place, you might find them equally comfortable.

That doesn't mean you should stay put though. I think the people who are suggesting that you'll need to build some emotional resilience, no matter where you live, are on to something. But I also think that sometimes a situation isn't right for you not because of anything inherent in the situation, but because you aren't ready for it. It may well be that you'd be a lot happier with Seattle if you'd first spent a few months in NYC.

So, leaving Seattle and trying something else might be great for you. That doesn't mean you should go to NYC though because as wonderful as NYC is in some ways, it can be very hard in others. Perhaps you could find a third option. Perhaps Chicago is worth another look, or the Bay Area, or Moab, UT. I'm not suggesting any place specific, just that there are other options. One thing you could do is spend a little longer in Seattle and use that time to identify other places to try, perhaps even visit. You could also put some energy into lining up work in NYC, so you have a softer landing when you get there, but save a little energy to put into making Seattle work for you.

A few things to consider doing to get more comfortable in Seattle, however long you end up staying:

1. Move. Yes, public transportation has some major deficiencies, including frequency of operation, difficulty in getting across town, and unpleasant passengers, but those issues aren't uniformly distributed. Some areas are well served by buses that run frequently, and some routes have a lower proportion of annoying passengers. Further, there are places you can live that have most of what you need within walking distance, or via good public transportation, mitigating your need to deal with the crummy parts of the transit system. Finally, there are taxis, ZipCar, Car2Go and Uber to fill occasional gaps.

2. Move. Some parts of Seattle are more diverse than others. In particular, there seem to be larger concentrations of people from India on the east-side (though that brings its own issues, and you will almost certainly need a car)

3. Take some Women's Self-Defense classes. The ones I've heard about aren't just about defending from attacks. They help develop the confidence, attitude, and body language that help keep people the hell out of your space. I think this could be useful to you wherever you live, unless you plan to live and work in suburbia and drive everywhere, and even then, there are still creeps.

4. Seattle can feel "cold," to newcomers but there are a lot of newcomers, and there are a lot of groups of newcomers that are more welcoming. Check for meetups and the like.

Finally, the pressure from your co-workers and boss to stay? Ignore it, but at the same time, try to be open to signals that they like working with you (and that you could ask for a raise).
posted by Good Brain at 12:12 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So, I haven't been to Seattle or NYC, but I have friends (from Chicago, or who went to school in Chicago) who moved to both.

My friend in Seattle said it's very different out there; people tend to make friends in high school, and hang out with just them. He also said the bar scene is very different, mostly sad alcoholics rather than Chicago's 'neighborhood bar' atmosphere. He's been out there five years, and have almost no Seattle-natives as friends, hanging out mostly with ex-pats from his church.

Meanwhile, another friend of mine moved to NYC, and said it takes at least a year to feel you've "made it" and know your way around and have friends and all that. She moved away after a year and a half due to medical problems and she regrets it, because she feels she'll have to start from scratch, practically, when she moves back.

Maybe you want to move back to Chicago? There are over two million people in Chicago, and an additional nine million in Chicagoland, so you could easily build a life away from your bully. And you may already have friends in the area from school. Just a thought.
posted by jenlovesponies at 1:03 PM on August 1, 2013

Best answer: While I agree that you have New York on an unrealistic pedestal right now, there's nothing wrong with trying to move there if you really want to. It'll take a lot of planning, though. It's a very expensive city and MANY people are trying to move there and make it. The very best thing you can do is save lots of money before you move. Be prepared to have a large safety net of cash in case you don't get hired right away. Moving is expensive as is getting a new apartment/room and basic furniture. If you can't depend on family as a safety net if you run into financial trouble, you need to make your own safety net. You're already doing a good job of saving, keep on going. New York will still be there when you're properly prepared.

I'm also biased toward Chicago. It's a fantastic city with so much to offer and I loved living there. If you want to break into illustration, it would be smart to start while you're working a possibly non-art 9 to 5 job. Many professional illustrators are freelance and it takes a lot of work to break in and get a stable client base. Living in Chicago could reduce some of the economic pressures as rents are not as high and the cost of living is far more reasonable. Don't let one bully ruin a city. The world is filled with bullies and you'll encounter them again.

Finally, *congratulations* on making the break from your abusers. The legacy of the abuse will fade, and you can accelerate that by working on your emotional resilience as others have suggested.
posted by quince at 1:22 PM on August 1, 2013

Best answer: As a dude who passes as white, but who grew up having a native american mom... Seattle is oddly racist as fuck, and like almost hilarious 99.999% white regardless of what statistics you see.

I know that perhaps the encounters I've had are not indicative of the typical Seattleite

Which is because the typical seattlite is white, and just doesn't see this shit.

I grew up watching people be weird and racist to my mom, follow her around stores, all that classic stuff. People would regularly stare at her weird, or look at me and her being together weird. Or ask really weird intrusive questions to her, or about my relationship with her.

It actually totally still happens even though i'm your age now, whenever i'm with her.

Pretty much every nonwhite person i've ever talked to about this type of thing, or heard bring it up has had a lot of weird shitty experiences(and ESPECIALLY women, a friend of mine just posted about being at a dshs office and a random guy yelling a bunch of weird shit at her and grabbing her and kissing her. Obviously harassment happens to white women too, but i very rarely see them posting on facebook about it the way i see the women of color...)

It's like, the dirty little secret of this city that when it comes to random weird racist shit on the street it is basically still a small town. Catch all the flack i will, but washington outside of seattle is pretty much entirely a backwoods shithole(and i've lived around washington all my life, i feel like i'm really allowed to say that). Some elements of that definitely seep in to seattle fairly regularly.

It just isn't a big enough town to exert a strong enough magnetic field to completely push that away. People call austin, tx a small town sometimes... austin has 800k people in city limits, seattle is at like 600k.

As for the rest of it, a number of my friends have moved to the greater NYC area(the boroughs, almost entirely). MANY of these people grew up in seattle if not just lived here their entire lives. Went to highschool here, etc.

Not a single one of them regrets it, and it seems like they're all having a fucking blast. They pretty damn easily carved out an existence for themselves there and at least got a semi-crappy job to get some cash flow while they figure their plan out.

Nearly all of them had some internet friend, college friend(and if you went to school in chicago you GOTTA know some people right?), distant relative, etc whose couch they could surf for a month or even just a couple weeks while they got their ducks in a row... but i really don't think that's required. I'd want that more to get a foot in the door on social connections in town, not just as a crashpad.

All of them did it without a ton of money and "figured it out" until they had a decent job, or are still in the process of that.

I can't speak to any super-specifics on the job prospect points, or on whether you should spend your savings(i've spent my "super special savings" on moves, but not cross country moves.) What i will say is that probably 9/10 of my friends i can think of who moved there and are doing just fine didn't even have a college degree, because that's the kind of group of people i know. I think that gives you a pretty big leg up. I'd concentrate on getting any job and then start shopping around for some entry level art gig. Work on your portfolio now, really go all out on it.

Also, what jenlovesponys said is true in that

My friend in Seattle said it's very different out there; people tend to make friends in high school, and hang out with just them.

This is completely true and makes the place feel really tiny and insular if you aren't from here. People regularly wave and say hi to me whose names i don't even remember because they know suchandsuch i hung out with in highschool. Highschool was like 6 years ago for me.

The people i know who've moved here had a really hard time making any real connections because of that. Basically the only way to get a foot in the door is to date your way into a friend group. I can see it feeling really unwelcoming in that sense too...
posted by emptythought at 1:56 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have encountered racism here, which I never thought I would experience here. I have been harassed, either on the bus or while I'm waiting for the bus, by people who think it's okay to invade my personal space and boundaries, because of my Indian ethnicity and because I'm a woman.

I hate to break this to you but New York has a healthy component of nasty, racist, space-violating assclowns. You were in a bit of a tourist bubble when you visited. Many locals take great pride in doing right by visitors. You were clearly a visitor at the time. People responded to that open vibe and helped you out when you needed it.

Daily life as a resident is often harsher. I don't say this to dissuade you; if NYC is your dream, by all means do whatever you have to do to make it here. But please dream with your eyes open. New York is a beautiful place. My life here, even at the lowest points, has been immeasurably richer than it would have been in my hometown. But New York is not perfect. Not by a long shot.

Good luck!
posted by jason's_planet at 6:09 PM on August 1, 2013

Best answer: The thing about New York is that people are going to be an ass to you, but it's going to be more about the fact that they're being asses, and less about you. They'd have some bullshit to say to anybody standing next to them on the bus. It's equal opportunity awful, which means it doesn't have the same sting that small town awful has.

New York is a much easier place to be different, than most other places on the planet.

That said, as I said above, there are some major caveats to that, and there's an ugly flip side to the diversity. Someone upthread mentioned that you should leverage your background? Here's the thing with that. If there's not a specific community waiting to welcome you with open arms, you might feel like an outsider. Because just being brown, or just being from a particular post-colonial landmass, or just being a particular religion isn't enough in New York.

I remember in college the Ashkenazi Jewish kids turning up their noses at the Bukharan Jewish kids who wanted to join Hillel. I was once hanging out in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with my biracial/non-Polish boyfriend, and an older Polish woman came up to me and started berating me because she thought I was Polish and associating with the wrong sort. (I'm not in any way remotely Polish, she just decided I was and took it upon herself to be scandalized about my dating life.) I remember hearing a story of a Korean-American store owner giving an Indian-American coworker of mine shit because "you people" and blah blah blah.

You know that song from Avenue Q, "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist"? That song is New York, in a nutshell. If all this sounds better to you than the Seattle "BUT WHERE ARE YOU REALLY FROM?" then New York might be a good fit for you. If it sounds even more complicated and scary, sticking it out where you already are might not be such a bad idea.
posted by Sara C. at 6:55 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Because just being brown, or just being from a particular post-colonial landmass, or just being a particular religion isn't enough in New York.

Yea I'm ethnically Asian Indian too, and definitely didn't work that connection in any meaningful way when I got here, although there are like South Asian professional groups that are totally worth checking out. I did have connections, but they were people I'd worked with in Boston and it didn't have anything to do with my ethnicity.

In terms of racism, in ten years in NYC I've never gotten like, slurs, but for me most people of all colors ( including other indian people) don't believe I look like a "typical" Indian person so I have that conversation every day, which is really annoying and tiring and homestly yes kinda racist, but its not people yelling slurs.

In terms of boundary crossing because you're a woman, I get that constantly and I do think I get more than my white friends for a lot of icky reasons not worth going into. I get a lot of hollering and sometimes men literally trying to grab me, pick me up, etc. this is all still better than similar behavior I experienced living in Boston for six years though.
I have a pretty thick skin about the harassment but it does bother, scare and enrage me many times.

Ultimately if New York is where you want to be you should come here. There are no substitutes. Save money like people are saying, and if you don't have connections just go to lots of meet ups, activity groups, and just keep meeting people. I've made like, a ton of friends living in New York but I'm pretty much open to expanding my personal and professional network every day. I don't expect it to come to me. I go out and get it and that's what New York is about.
posted by sweetkid at 7:37 PM on August 1, 2013

Best answer: I'm an Indian-American who moved to Seattle in his mid-twenties, after college and escaping an abusive and alcoholic family. So hi!

Seattle is racist as fuck. I've discussed this on the site at some length, but yes, your experience absolutely rings true to me. Because it has this reputation as some kind of white liberal Shangri-La, people find it easy to gloss over. People ignore my personal space, they frequently literally have no idea I exist until they back into me or try to sit on me, and they like to make hilarious jokes about bombs.

Here's something to consider, though. I think everywhere is pretty racist as fuck. If your abusive family was anything like mine, a major tactic was isolating behavior which prevented you from going too far afield or having too many "American" experiences. You had a great time in college and found it to be diverse and liberal. So did I. So now I think Seattle is more racist than where I went to college, and I went to school in New Orleans. I think we can agree that that is not a super-likely proposition.

No matter how immersed you were in Chicago life during college, it was still during college, which as an institution tends to have a kind of insulating effect. It can be very jarring to leave college and get away from the family and then realize that there are many, many more assholes out there than you thought there were or could ever be.

I can't speak to moving to New York, and if that's absolutely what you want, of course it's worth investigating. But I think (and I'm projecting a lot here, so please forgive any overreach) it takes a while to get out of the habit of escape in response to a difficult or damaging situation. I do very much wonder if you aren't placing New York on a pedestal, because I do not think you will find any lack of racist experiences there. I think you have to do the very unpleasant adjustment to the fact that out in the adult world, there is much more hate and ignorance than you presumed.

I promised myself that with my first move on my own, I would give it two years no matter what, because I wanted to see if I could and I wanted to make sure that I didn't become a full-fledged runner (which I am in no way saying you are). I've been here ten years now, and I still love it. Except for a brief stint in Ballard, I've basically only lived in the CD and I mostly hang out in the ID, which helps with the diversity train; there aren't a lot of random slurring comments when you live around mostly Africans and Asians. But those first two months? I didn't have a job or any kind of network. I was lucky enough to move with 3 friends, so that helped, but it wasn't until I started hanging out with a regular group of people that I started to feel at home. It probably took at least a year before I felt like I wasn't on vacation or like this was going to go away any second.

You should absolutely and ultimately do what feels best for you, and guess what? You've completely earned the right to make those choices without clearing them through anyone. In your place, I think I would give it a little more time, if for no other reason than you're making a decent living wage and the economy kind of sucks. But whatever you decide to do, go with all good wishes and secure in the knowledge that you don't have to go through that abusive experience ever again. Please feel free to MeMail if you like. Good luck.
posted by Errant at 11:03 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of the support. :) I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this, but I thought to go ahead and post, as it's taken me some time to gather my thoughts. I've really been overwhelmed by things, so it really helped to hear everyone's responses.

I'm not entirely sure what to do yet, but I think that trying New York is something that I really want to do. The art world is there, and I really want to be there despite how hard it will be. But that aside, I just love the city, and all of the diversity there is just a wonderful thing.

As a matter of fact, I actually did encounter two rude white men (separately), but I forgot about it 5 seconds later because there's just so much to take in in the city. And, like Suedehead and Sara C and others mentioned, it was easier to shrug off, than in a homogenous, less-populated place. I didn't even remember those two dudes until I read the cautionary posts here about racism in NY. But I think I definitely do put New York on a pedestal, and I'm sure I will be tested, and racism is everywhere, so yes, working on my resilience would be helpful, especially while I'm in Seattle.

I'm thinking to stay in Seattle, at least until the Spring, to save money and try to shore up my emotional reserves. I've been having a hard time and I feel like quitting my job and then having to move and look for a job and place to live would be too much right now, although it would be New York, where I would be happier. So perhaps if things get too bad in Seattle, I might just move, but I think it would be helpful to work on my resilience and not just run away, as Errant and others mentioned. New York is a big proposition, so I think having some time to research and prepare would be good for me, especially since I don't have anyone but myself to rely on if things don't work out.

I want to thank all of you, especially the Seattleites who wrote such thoughtful and honest answers about racism in Seattle. Your support really helped me. And I also want to thank you all for suggesting I don't write off Chicago. I will keep the Windy City in mind as I work on my resilience.

Take care and thanks again, everyone. :)
posted by independence under the radar at 11:49 AM on August 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

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