Jan 31, 2019
by Mo McElroy
I’m standing on a subway platform in the sweltering heat of August. I managed to make it here by following my 16-year-old daughter Kim. It was my relaxed little teen who effortlessly bought the metro card, found the right train line, and got me unstuck five times from the turnstile.
It is her first morning in New York, a mere 3,000 miles from our tiny town on the Russian River in California — Guerneville, population 4,534.
Behind us is s Kim’s 13-year-old baby sister, Bonnie, who joined us on the trip to visit colleges. Bonnie came just in case she might want to go to college there, too, when the time came. We called it a “two-for-one” trip.
“I would never live here!” Bonnie informs us as we wait, sweating off our lip gloss. Finally, a train rumbles to a stop and we board along with 1,548 complete strangers. We smush together and hold onto a pole while the train lurches out of the station.
“Kimmy, do you know where we are going?” I ask.
“Relax, Mom,” she says. “I got this. I planned the day to see three colleges. I have a couple of appointments set up and a couple more I just want to feel out.”
And off we go. I follow Kim and Bonnie follows me. I am proud, astonished, and grateful. My fearless pup. We go to Pace College and that feels too closed. Marymount feels too expensive. NYU feels too big. But Hunter feels just right.
So back home we went, and her senior year flew by and she applied to the college. On the morning of her high school graduation she still had not heard of her college acceptance. We were trying to act nonchalant, but we were very anxious. I called the college and found out they had misplaced her application and they would let her start in the winter semester.
She was the salutatorian of her senior class and was giving the class an inspirational speech that night ending with Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go! “.
We sat down. I broke the news. She took it in.
“Can I still move to New York and have a gap semester?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said. “That sounds like even more fun!”
She researched apartments online and found a studio with a young girl for $400 a month. She Googled a furniture store across the street to buy a mattress and a dresser she could carry back to her new apartment. She booked a one-way ticket. She made her resume with my help, and it featured her vast experience at the local video store. She packed her boxes and took them to UPS. She saved up fifteen hundred dollars and I matched her dollar for dollar.
I told her I couldn’t support her living in New York, and she would have to find a way. I gave her thirty days to find a job and I meant it. 30 days, no job, return home. That was the deal.
The last day before she left, she sat in my lap. Even at 18, she called herself my pup, curling up and cuddling close. She told me not to worry.
“I can do this mom,” Kim said. “You’ve given me a good foundation. I’m not scared, and I just know it’s where I’m supposed to be.”
She settled into New York City and started daily walks with eighty copies of her resume. She went door to door to anywhere that looked inviting — restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops. She ran out of resumes and made another fifty copies.
On Day 28, she called me crying. I was sitting in my car. I had just pulled up outside my office. She had tried so hard and I didn’t want to make her come home. Was I crazy? Did I follow her into some crazy unattainable dream? My little girl was alone in New York City and on the verge of thinking that dreaming big was a Bad Idea.
“Kimmy let’s take a breath here. It’s a treasure hunt okay?” I said. “Your job is waiting for you. You are very close.”
“Mom, I only have 2 more days till the 30-day deadline.”
“Well, then make it happen. What’s your strategy?”
“I think I’ll walk Times Square one more time.”
“Okay, call me when you find your job.”
The next day she called. “I found it!!! I have a job at a cafe called Cosi as a barista in Times Square.”
My pup, my cub. As a mom I look back and feel like it was a close call. Was it right for me to set her up to dream like that? What if she didn’t find a job? What if the cash dried up with her dreams?
What if she had never tried?
I’ll tell you what.
If she had never tried, she would have graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Cultural Anthropology and Classical Studies.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art would not feel like her backyard.
And she would not have learned how to open a business, hire, and manage all the employees, build a website, manage social media, manage corporate deliveries, be on television, frost a cupcake with panache, quantum leap to land on the inaugural writing team of INSIDER, a new division of Business Insider on 5th Avenue in New York City, become a senior entertainment reporter with 7 million followers, cover the Emmy’s and Golden Globe awards, and land a major book deal to write the History of Game of Thrones with Simon and Shuster at the ripe old age of 28.
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