I asked my friend Abie, who is an ex-model and a New York City model scout to write a post today about her life as a young 20-something year old trying to make it in the Big Apple. I think we all deserve to know that there are people out there in the same position, and that we’re all striving for the same thing: success.
There’s a certain romance that comes with chasing your dreams that tortures you into achieving more than you ever could have imagined, in the most tragically beautiful ways possible.
I’m 23-years-old and I have been absolutely terrified every single day of my life, but I’ve gotten to live many of my hopes and dreams.
For the past 5 years, a lot of people have written to me saying they wish they could live how I am living or they wish they could do what I am doing, but they can’t because they are too cautious or their timing isn’t right or their circumstances are restrictive.
I, too, had nothing to run away from. I was so terrified of being average, I wanted to fear something real. Growing up in Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have ever imagined I’d be able to escape my small town. I would have rather been working towards something I believed in, terrified of where my next paycheck would come from, than living a normal life working towards something that would help to keep me comfortable. For some, being “normal” is so normal, but for me, I always wanted to stretch myself beyond what I felt comfortable with.
I was lucky enough to stumble upon an opportunity that allowed me to leave behind the typical small-town blunders at age 12, and put me in a position to pursue something bigger than myself. It lit a fire in me and gave me so much confidence later on, but by first breaking me down completely. I got scouted by a modeling agency in Chicago, which is when my journey began.
I wasn’t subjected to harsh criticism by my industry until I was about 15. Before that, things were a breeze. Everyone loved to tell me how great I was, everyone loved telling me that I was going to do great things, everyone loved telling me that I was going to be the one to do something different. Maybe even leave a mark on the world. I grew up being told I could do anything. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” But as I grew older, I was slowly educated into thinking that was outrageous. Or that it was only for special people. Or that it can happen, it just wouldn’t happen to me. Each person I met added their fear, the thing that held them back, into my head.
Just existing is scary and it’s risky and you could fail. Doing something so different with your life and being alone while doing it? Well, take those two feelings and imagine them at the worst you ever could. I failed about 100 times so far in life and I still have a lot more failures to come.
In my industry, my success is/was measured by how I look and not on how I behaved. It was the first time in my life I was forced to learn what second-guessing myself was, and with that second-guessing came a lot of doubt in myself. And with that doubt, came a lot of thinking about things instead of acting on things.
I wasted a year of my life getting so angry and so frustrated and so down on myself when people would tell me “no,” or that I couldn’t do something. I spent that time not taking chances, not caring enough about myself to take control of my own life. I was convinced by other people not to graduate high school a year early, and not to start college sooner, not to leave college when I hated it, and not to move to New York City at such a young age.
When I made the decision to do all of these things, I was backed into such a corner that I had no choice but to make it happen and to do whatever it took just to stay happy. And oddly enough, staying happy was the easiest part.
I left home with $100, I had nothing in line, nowhere to stay, no incoming money, hardly any friends. It was winter and I was always cold and wet and stressed. I was happy. I started working 18 hours a day and I began talking to anyone who would listen to me. I stayed happy. I stressed every single day over the simplest tasks; how was I going to wash my clothes, where could I shower, where was I going to sleep, how was I going to eat, I needed more money, I hated when people, especially my parents who didn’t approve of my dreams, would ask me what was my long-term plan, and how could I someday sustain myself.
New York City never doubted my courage or my toughness and it taught me never to doubt that myself. Maybe some of us are born with an inner sense of self-confidence, and maybe some us develop it when we acknowledge the things we dislike about other people and do our best to eliminate whatever it is from our own personality. Maybe some of us just believe in ourselves subconsciously more than we can comprehend. All I know for sure, is that when you’re doing what you love, when you’re fighting for it, the happiness never waivers, not for a second. And even when everything in life feels like it’s falling on your head, and one of those trusty failures comes along and you’re flooded with terrible things in life, it’s a sign from the Universe that better things are coming. Every time I swear it’s the end of the road, it ALWAYS gets better. The Universe has amazing ways of telling us when it’s time to get rid of all the bad things in life, and move on. As long as you listen, and as long as you’re making time to follow your dreams, everything will work out in 1,000 different magical ways.
Note from Alexa: Abie now lives in a $1,600 a month apartment in Midtown Manhattan with a super small dog.