A Tourist in My Own City
How Working For A British Agency Made Me Fall Back In Love With New York
I grew up in Connecticut, which isn’t too far from New York City. Whenever I had the chance, I’d ride the train for over an hour just to hit the pavement. I took on the city neighborhood by neighborhood. First, it started with Midtown, where my parents would take me to see shows at Carnegie Hall or visit exhibits at the MoMa. Next, I got acclimated to the Upper East Side, where a few friends from summer camp lived. This was exciting because although we were contained to a 20-block radius, I got my first taste of freedom without adult supervision. It was enough for me to get the itch. I petitioned to take classes at Columbia University over the next summer and although it was all the way uptown, at age 16 I got a grasp of the subways and started venturing downtown to explore flea markets and jazz clubs. As I got older and went to college, I’d return to the city every summer for prized internships, from ad agencies to fashion magazines, and even inside the newsroom of a cable channel.
It was never enough. Whether I was home in Connecticut or in D.C. for college – I missed New York all of the time. I loved how you could walk on the streets and how the view would transform before your eyes. Having never earned my driver’s license, whenever I was in New York I got high off of the freedom of going where I wanted, seeing who I wanted, and not relying on anyone but myself. The city was dirty and I found trouble once or twice, but I always left the place wanting more.
Following college graduation — there was no where else I would have gone. It was an all hands on deck, mass exodus to New York City. I quickly moved in with a friend and began my life.
One year turned into two, which eventually turned into three, and to be honest with you, I got bored. It was the routine that did me in. No, maybe it was my commute on the subway that dropped me off in Times Square, where I swear, you can lose eight months of your life every time you breathe in the air. Maybe it was my on-call schedule and the fact that my phone never stopped buzzing. I don’t know, it could have been the noise paired with my lack of sleep. I always loved walking but I got to the point where I ran out of new streets. Can you believe that? I felt like I had seen every street in Manhattan. I got tired of the bars and the restaurants. We went to the same places all the time, and even when we went somewhere new, I ran into the same people. Don’t even mention dating – you can go out with one guy, he disappears, you meet a new guy, and it turns out they’re cousins. I gave up.
Summer 2017, I needed a change. I didn’t know what, but I definitely needed something. Ask my friends now and they laugh. They tell it like I momentarily lost my mind, when I told them I thought about moving to San Francisco, Austin or even Miami. “Molly Levine, leaving New York? Baby, you are New York.” Ok, no problem. I guess I’ll just die here then.
Cue Manifest. (This is when the story starts getting good.) I met these crazy British people just in the nick of time. They talked fast and used words I didn’t understand, but they were funny and cool as f*ck. Having just moved offices to DUMBO, they were enchanted by the neighborhood, the city and even what America had to offer outside the island. I listened carefully, maybe had to ask them to repeat themselves once or twice, ran the risk of coming off a bit too polite, but luckily landed the job.
Everything changed from there. Within a week, I had a new role and a new apartment only a 15-minute bike ride from the office. I became part of a kick-ass team of bad-ass bitches who worked hard, thought outside of the box, laughed uproariously, but were also really f*cking nice.
The best part has to be that they’re British. I know, I know, I’m drinking the Kool-aid. But here, it’s PG Tips! They laugh at me when I use their words, when I wince at them mimicking my American accent or even when I (albeit patiently) have to explain things in the U.S. that don’t make sense, like, sororities, and you know, our President. But, it’s been a breath of fresh air to see New York through these London-transplants’ eyes. I was taking for granted how dynamic this city is. I’m lucky to be here. I’m lucky to be with people who remind me of this every day. I’m lucky to be in Brooklyn, which is far from Times Square. But most importantly, I am lucky to have found Manifest, which has already played an integral part in helping me transform into the person that I’ve wanted to become. I’ve found my voice, leaned into the things that make me “me”, acted a little more rock n’ roll, and have been given the opportunity to succeed and even feel fulfilled while doing it.
A friend came to visit me at work the other day. She hung out in the office and met the team. We laughed, we cried, we got shit done. As we walked out and the elevators closed, she turned to me and said, “Must be hard to have a bad day in there, huh?”
There’s only two rules here, it’s ‘work hard’ and ‘be nice to people’. The goal is to kick the shit of out the opportunity to be remarkable and always give a f*ck. I have a note on my desk to remind me.
Post-script, since this piece was written, I received a promotion to Campaign Manager after 6 months in the saddle. Wanted to share this as a proof point that surrounding yourself with the right people can make all the difference.