May 14, 2017 Opinion

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Polina Marinova is an associate editor at Fortune Magazine. When she's not getting lost in New York City, she spends her time posting Instagrams of Central Park. Follow her @Polina_Marinova. Follow Polina on Twitter

You graduated! #graduate #shots #nowwhat

To all the recent college grads reading this post, I was sitting in your seat wearing that cap and gown exactly four years ago. When I graduated in May 2013, I thought I was hot shit. I thought employers would be lining up with job offers.

I wasn’t, and they weren’t.

Instead, I was living at home, getting rejected by what seemed like every company on Earth, and scrolling through Instagram envying my employed friends’ lives.

A year after living at home, freelancing, and trying to figure out why I hadn’t been a business major in college, I decided to do something else with my life. I decided I had bigger ambitions than my hometown of Sandy Springs, Ga.

I decided on New York City.

Polina Marinova NYC
Cheers, y’all! Rosé on the rooftop is always a great way to celebrate!

New York always seemed like a distant dream — great to talk about with your friends over wine (oh my god! We’ll move there one day, live in a penthouse apartment, and take weekend trips to the Hamptons!), but not a place you would actually move to. And then I did. Three years later, it’s still the hardest and best thing I’ve done.

I am in no position to give anyone advice because I’m still figuring this out myself, but this is for all of you new graduates who are like “WTF happens now?” and “I want to move to NYC, but I’m not sure I can because [insert 1,001 excuses here].”

Here are 3 reasons why you won’t move to New York after college

#1 = ‘I can’t afford to live in New York.’

If you know how to add and subtract, you can figure out how to live in New York. I moved here on a painfully low salary — more than half of my paycheck went to rent.

Yet I still lived. I still bought food. I even went out with friends on the weekends. How? I budgeted every penny.

Peronal Finance Worksheet for Expenses

Here’s a glimpse of my personal finance budget worksheet

After taking out my expenses (rent, bills, a subway pass that costs more than a Kate Spade bag), I had about $120 per week left to spend on whatever I wanted. That’s about $17 per day — or the equivalent of like 2.5 cups of coffee.

There are about a million personal finance apps you can download, but there’s nothing that comes close to having to physically write down “– $18.99 for cab” in your planner and see your $120 disappear 4ever. It makes your priorities change — maybe you should really think twice before you jump in a cab instead of sweating on the train.

It sucks, but that sense of accomplishment you get when you have $3.64 saved at the end of the week is indescribable. Regardless of whether you’re making $35,000 or $350,000, being in control of your finances is the key.

#2 = ‘I’ll be antisocial and alone for the rest of my New York days.’

It’s actually surprisingly easy to move up here and remain safely in your Southern bubble. You’ll hang out with other alums, you’ll go to your designated school bar to watch college football on the weekends, and you’ll go out with the same people you saw at frat parties freshman year.

This little cycle is a double-edged sword. Yes, college friends are comfortable and familiar and you can commiserate about that time a homeless person tried to spit on you (a real thing that happened), but that’s not why you’re here.

Polina Marinova Mariana Heredia
Seriously, have to give a shout out to my pal Mariana Heredia. I don’t know where I’d be without her.

Hang out with that kid who just moved here from Spain, go to the Met with the girl who fundamentally disagrees with your political views, mentor a student in the Bronx. Do something to get out of the insular bubble (i.e. college) that you’ve lived in for the last two decades of your life.

PS: The one serious advantage Southerners have over New Yorkers is their aggressively shameless friendliness. Smile, ask a random question, and you’ve got a stranger from Long Island asking, “Y’all want a drink?” in like 20 minutes.

#3 = ‘I’ll fail miserably & somehow end up lost in Times Square.’

Polina Marinova Times Square

Me in Times Square! I made it without getting lost, and I’m not broke or homeless.

You’ll compare yourself to your friends working in finance who are already making disgusting amounts of money at age 23. And you’ll have moments of “Maybe I’m reallyyyy not supposed to live here.”

Muster up every ounce of confidence you have, and stay laser-focused on your goals.

The one thing that always held me back from doing exactly what I wanted was thinking that I would disappoint someone — that journalism professor, my friends, the people I look up to. And the brutal truth is: no one cares.

You’re an adult now, and you’re the only person responsible for the trajectory of your life. Right now is the time to make mistakes, fail miserably, get fired, go to Times Square, and even beg your friends to go to Times Square with you…there’s plenty out there to screw up.

Those things are all distractions. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is the future version of yourself. I got this piece of advice from a wise, old philosopher named Matthew McConaughey (judge me, I’m not sorry).

And if all else fails…there’s a Chick-Fil-A here now. You’ll be alright.

Editor’s Note: Want to read more from Polina? Subscribe to her weekly newsletter, The Profile

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