Bigger is not always better. Life lessons learned in the Big Apple

May 28, 2018

It seems like almost another lifetime ago. My ambitions of becoming a fashion designer landed me right smack in the middle of Times Square.

Quite frankly, I don’t remember how I got there. Well, obviously I took a plane, but what was my thought process of leaving my comfy home nest of beautiful BC and living on an island of 8 Million people? Regardless, I was in my early 20’s and my ambitions of climbing the fashion ladder was high. I decided to just go for it! If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Right? Maybe?

I hit the fashion district with resumes in hand. Walked into every high rise building, scanned the directory for any familiar brand names. Then proceeded to head to the office to drop off my resume. I can’t remember  how many doors I knocked on. But it wasn’t long before I got a call back for an interview. It was for a junior contemporary clothing brand. The office was big, modern and loaded with racks of colorful, punchy teeny bopper clothing. It was in the early 2000’s so they were right on trend. I went in for an interview and was hired on the spot.

The next challenge was to get a working visa.

My employer was really supportive in helping with providing the documents I needed however they were not going to apply for my visa. I had to obtain a way to legally be able to work in the US. Someway, somehow I found a way. And that was in the form of a very special document called a TN Visa. Not sure if they still exist today.

When I started work, my job was very exciting, fast paced and demanding. I was in charge of creating spec templates, line drawings freehand, fabric sourcing and running the sample room. Timelines were tight. Everyday was crunch time. Everything was due yesterday. Man, talk about flying by the seat of your pants. It was rather eye opening as I realized this is the pace New Yorkers worked. At lunch time, if I even had a break, I would have to wolf down my plate and run into fittings while I was still chewing on my food.

I was working long hours too. I mean 10 hours+ each day and it would involve working into the wee hours of the night. Sometimes we’d have meetings that went to 10pm. I remember one of the designers I worked with claiming she only sleeps 1 hour every night.

As time went on, I felt the pace, the lack of sleep and constant rumbling in my belly starting to wear on me. I would slip out onto the streets near Times Square to take a breather from the high-stress environment I was working in. Not that stepping out onto the busy, crowded streets of Manhattan made it any better. As I was walking down Broadway one afternoon, I started feeling like my world was spinning out of control around me. I could hear sounds of drilling, cars honking, pedestrians everywhere, people begging for money, and then suddenly, everything became quiet. I couldn’t hear or see anything around me. It was like I was in a vortex and could only see one foot in front of me. That scared the Sh*t out of me.

I stumbled and somehow I found my way into a Macys washroom. There, I locked myself into a stall. While propping myself up with one hand with my head rested against the door. I took slow, deep breaths. (This was before I knew anything about meditation). And things slowly started to return to normal. What the heck just happened?? Whatever it was, it was damn scary.

This just illustrates my stubbornness, when I ignored my body’s tell tale signs that I’m over extended and just kept “powering” through with my mind. Meanwhile, my body is screaming at me, “hey I’m hurting… pay attention to me”. But I ignored the signs.

That’s what I get.

So listen to your body. It’s always in the present moment, regardless where your mind is. This sh*t happens when you lose the mind-body connection. Trust me, you don’t want this to happen.

From that day onward I realized that New York wasn’t quite my cup of tea. I vowed that if I ever would return, it would be when I have loads of money and could afford all the luxuries to indulge in what the city has to offer. I found it very challenging to survive with my measly salary I was making. (By the time I factored in the one hour commute each way and working 10-12 hours that worked out to probably the equivalent of working at Mcdonalds.)

By early 2001, I decided it was time to return home. I felt that I had gained enough “experience” and was ready to move on. I packed up what little belongings I owned into my one suitcase and headed back to Canada.

A few days later, Anna Sui called…

I don’t know what possessed me to hop on a Greyhound bus and travel 12 hours back to NYC. Someone from my old workplace had put in a good word for me at Anna Sui. I had an interview with the president and got a call back for an interview with Anna herself. I got to meet Anna Sui!!! I saw her office, where all the beautiful, creative magic happens. It was amazing.

I didn’t stick around to see if I got the job. I just hopped on the next Greyhound bus back home and I didn’t look back. I left New York feeling complete and I was ready to move on to the next chapter. Whatever that was…

Thanks New York!

A few months later, 9/11 happened…

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