New York internship week one: I finally made it, and I’m keeping the faith

Sometimes you get those moments in life where a sign is staring straight in your face and it makes you just stop. The moment stays with you, haunts you a bit, guides you.

One of these moments happened last week. I was hurrying through the Metropolitan Ave/Lorimer St subway in New York, when this mural caught my eye.



Image courtesy of katerw

It pretty much summed up my first week in New York.

Rewind to a week ago, Friday March 8th.  I woke up to the sound of my phone receiving an email. An email saying my visa, which gave me permission to do an internship in Manhattan, was finally ready. Before I knew it I’d picked up the visa, was on the phone to Qantas and booking the first flight to New York, which was leaving THAT NIGHT. The day was a flurry of packing, buying Ugg boots for relatives (apparently they’re all the rage in the States) and saying goodbye to grandparents. My nonno took the opportunity to give me one last guilt trip, saying “ if God takes me while you are away, I’m ready”. Jesus Christ. Before I knew it I was on a 36-hour journey that challenged all my nervous systems. I even felt inspired to write a 500-word manifesto on the insanity of air travel sometime into my fortieth hour of being awake.


However, I knew it was all worth it the minute I stepped out into the freezing New York air. I’d made it. It was just like that Harry Nilsson song.

“Well here I am Lord knocking on your back door

Ain't it wonderful to be, where I've always wanted to be

For the first time I'll be free

here in New York City” It’s funny how quickly I felt at home in the city. I’d barely moved into my apartment in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn before it was my first day interning at Bust Magazine, in Manhattan. I thought I’d be freaking out but instead I felt, dare  I say it, Zen.  I decided to check out a vegan diner in my neighbourhood that morning to gear myself up for the big day. I caught myself in a surreal moment. Here I was in a Brooklyn diner, on my way to my first day at Bust, with Stevie Nicks playing on the diner stereo like some guardian angel watching over me. It was at this moment that I promised to myself I would never give up until this was my permanent life, not just a three-month stint in the best city in the world.

Which brings me back to the Faith/Fate mural. Though my first day was far from smooth, the situation felt so right. This was despite the fact that on my post-diner commute into work it started pissing down with rain and I got a piece of fluff from my jacket stuck in my eye, meaning I showed up at Bust soaking wet, with half my face scrunched up. When I walked into the office I was greeted with ‘uhh can I help you?’ Even when I introduced myself there was  a full minute before recognition was achieved. Luckily I won everyone over with the Tim Tams I’d brought over from Australia.

Did it feel right because this was fate, meant to be? What was it that made me feel so at home in New York, a feeling at odds with the fact I am actually NOT ALLOWED  to live here. That is unless I find a job and get sponsored for a visa in an economic climate where Americans themselves are struggling to be employed.

This is where faith kicks in. I want to stay here but don’t know how to make it happen. All I’ve got is the faith that if it’s meant to be things will work out.

Let’s see what this week brings…

Melissa Coci is a 26-year-old from Perth, Western Australia.  Her latest accomplishments include getting her Italian passport and finally watching When Harry Met Sally. She is currently doing an editorial internship in New York so she no longer has to be a drug dealer (that’s a fancy way to say pharmacist).  She's on Twitter @MelissaCociwebsite: blog:

Authormelissa coci

Sliding Doors  

I think about Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1998 film Sliding Doors much more than your average person whom I assume thinks about it maybe once every four years.  If you haven’t seen it, first of all what the heck were you doing in 1998?!  Were you boycotting Gwyneth because she’d stolen Brad off you ? Anyway, the film follows Ms. Paltrow in two parallel universes. One when she catches her train and one when she misses it.

The film resonates with me as it asks my favourite, non-helpful question: ‘what if?’  Sliding Doors, to me also reinforces my belief that all things happen for a reason.

This week, I have been Sliding Doors all over the place and also accepting that no matter how hard I try there are things out of my control.

What has happened?

Well nothing, to be precise. I should be (or rather I would like to be) in Los Angeles right now, cruising around Beverly Hills and stuffing my face with an In-N-Out burger before making my way to New York. The same New York where I start my magazine internship in just over a week! Instead I have waited all this week for news on my visa only to be told  it is ‘on its way’. Luckily I have been permitted to book my interview with the US consulate on Thursday, February 28th where I can then expect my final documents to be ready in ‘two to three business days’. I started my visa process in September and have been slowly going insane since.

So how the hell does Sliding Doors have any relevance woman?!

Well, I feel like I am living on ‘borrowed time’ in Perth now. I certainly didn’t expect to still be here especially as I tried my hardest to escape the summer heat as quick as I could. This is my Sliding Doors. Everything that happens now until I leave may just affect my life in some monumental way and was meant to happen – hence all the crazy visa delays!

So far I have gotten my phone upgraded, had this perfect moment with my dog Bruno where he rested his head on my leg  and looked so cute and I was all “THIS MOMENT NEVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF I WAS ON A PLANE RIGHT NOW”, got to see Margaret Atwood at the Perth Writers Festival and am having coffee with an inspirational woman next week who is giving me tips on journalism New York style.  Also, I will now be here for my mum’s birthday, which eases some of my Roman Catholic guilt. Unfortunately, this family occasion will give my grandparents plenty more opportunities to remind me I’m crazy for abandoning a pharmacy career but hey, I intend to eat lots of cake to numb myself of any emotion.

All this visa craziness (which may I add, is just so I can do an internship- I am not even making any money from this!) has also given me a stern reminder there are things that are completely out of my control. This is something I have always struggled with. Whether this need to always be in control is a byproduct of my lifelong friend anxiety or vice versa, it is a part of my personality that I must work on constantly. It’s strange because I am not a control freak in the traditional sense – I think my lack of punctuality will attend to this – but I always need to feel proactive in reaching my goals. When faced with the reality that some man in America with a bored looking face and a penchant for treating each visa application as a document rather than a desperate person held my fate in his hands, I have tried to control any little bit of the process possible to hilariously ill effect. Needless to say, after I had to cancel my flight this week and am facing a fee of over $400 when I rebook I am beginning to understand that yes, some things are completely out of our control.

And even though  writing this makes me want to do a nervous poo – the reality is most things in our life are out of our control. All we can do is our best and have faith that no matter what happens we will be ok. For instance, I haven’t developed a case of small pox because I didn’t get to eat an In-N-Out burger. I am ok. And will eat one eventually when the time is right.

Authormelissa coci If you had asked me three years ago where I thought I would be today I would have answered you confidently and calmly: “Oh, you know probably completing my Masters in clinical pharmacy, coming home to a one-bedroom inner city unit and celebrating my twenty-sixth birthday with a vegetarian picnic in the park with my tattooed, graphic designer boyfriend”.

Ugh. Apparently my restless soul had other ideas.

Fast forward to today.  I’m sitting in my childhood bedroom with the curtains closed and fan blaring in an attempt to distract me from another 40-degree day. I have just completed my Masters in journalism. Yesterday I celebrated my twenty-sixth birthday with my family at Hog’s Breath Café – a tacky steakhouse that I adore – and farewelling them as I leave for New York… solo.

So how did what I wanted from life change so completely?

When I left high school in 2004 I felt grateful knowing what I wanted to ‘be’ when so many of my friends weren’t sure.  I knew it was rare to know what one wants when they’re 17 and it was something I didn’t take for granted. I had a plan and I had the drive to achieve it.

The masterplan was to go to university and become a pharmacist (a decision I made at age 15).  Drugs fascinated me (though I never touched them and had a pill-swallowing phobia) and I wanted to help people, but didn’t want to be a doctor and have to touch old men’s penises. Decision made.

When I was in university my plan was to be a hospital pharmacist for a year, travel for a year and then study to become a clinical pharmacist.

However, when I became a hospital pharmacist, moved out of home and started pursuing worthless indie boy after worthless indie boy, I could not fight the feeling that this was oh so wrong.

I was diagnosed with depression a mere six months after registering with the pharmaceutical board. I couldn’t stop the negative thoughts and questions. How was it possible that five years of study, which included a private battle with a generalised anxiety disorder (and a not-so-easy to hide acne battle), had culminated in a mind-numbing daily routine of sticking labels on boxes, dealing with colleagues’ overinflated egos and promoting medicines I only half believed in?  THIS IS WHAT I HAD TOILED FOR?!

I refused to give up (or should I say give in) as I still had my plan to hold onto. I did what all good millennials do when they have niggling feelings that won’t go away, and filled my life up with vacuous partying, late nights and meaningless crushes. I have a fond memory of dancing to the wee hours, rolling out of bed and driving to work bleary eyed. I bought a giant container of hot chips and gravy from the canteen and sat on a bench in my morning tea break, stuffing the saturated fats into my mouth and thinking to myself  ‘there has got to be more to life’.

At the start of 2011 I got a taste of the world of clinical pharmacy. I was the ‘junior’ pharmacist of the cardiac ward and boy, was I excited! I thought, finally, I would experience the interesting side of pharmacy, the side I would further explore after I had fulfilled my lust for travel.

However- as so commonly is discovered in the world of drugs- IT WAS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED.  It was just as monotonous as everything I had already done, but was also the kind of monotony that would require further studying (the worst kind). When I realised during those months that studying further in a field I had no passion for would surely be the death of me, I could only console myself with the fact that I was about to leave for six months holiday around the world.

But after those six months…what would I do? Thinking about this almost made gave me an aneurism so I tried my best to live in the moment and enjoy my trip.

But at the halfway point of my trip, somewhere in Bristol, England I flipped my lid. My brain would not let me be. I could not stop thinking ‘I DON’T WANT TO BE A PHARMACIST! DON’T MAKE ME!’ I could not sleep. I think these extracts from an email to my dear friend reflects this period well:

So it is currently 12.48am and I can’t sleep-hence why this email will sound quite unhinged as I am tired and sleep deprived as my mind will not be quiet. I am currently hiding under my ‘duvet’. The oxygen is probably running out.

I am officially half way through my trip. Scary stuff. And I have had time to think and I have realised that there is a possibility that I may have to work until I am 65 as ‘getting married and popping out kids and staying home’ might not actually ever happen and would also be a really boring life to me. Travelling has shown me that there is literally an entire world out there full of absolutely anything you could ever want. And one of the things I want is to find a vocation/career that I feel really passionate about, where I get to be creative, where I am challenged and where I would not see it as ‘work’ but as a ‘project’, something I enjoyed that made me feel like I was helping the community on whatever scale. Am I being too idealistic?

Then there is the problem of I don’t even know what it is I want to do! And that I will have no money when I return or work. That my parents expect me to be a pharmacist and have enough money to buy a house. That I don’t want to be in Perth but am not ready to be anywhere else as I have no money/direction. 

All these thoughts scare me. For the first time in my life I can’t see further than three months ahead. I’ve been giving myself pep talks today, telling myself to trust in the unknown and sending prayers to God/universe for guidance and to help me have faith that there’s a ‘plan’ for me or whatever. But clearly it’s easier said than done, hence the insomnia.”

Fast forward to my return to Perth in late November 2011. For the first time ever I had no clue what to do with my life. It was both breathtakingly exciting and breathtaking in an anxiety way. There was one thing I did know though – pharmacy was not the path for me. I needed out.

Needless to say my parents, grandparents and actually most people I talked to had thought I had arrived home insane. Why give up a stable, well – paid career that you haven’t even paid the HECS loan of?

Somewhere in the haze of the searing hot Perth sun my brain and heart had a chat and planted the idea in my head that I wanted to become a journalist. I genuinely don’t know where this idea came from. I do not know my reasoning behind it- it just felt right.  I enrolled in a Masters of Journalism course and on my first day sat in a room full of English, Political Science and Communications graduates. I hadn’t written an essay in seven years, I had no idea who any of the journalists or politicians my lecturer was talking about  were and I was also one of the oldest in my class. But I loved it. I loved the course, I loved the freelance work I was doing and I began to feel genuinely excited about life. Of course some niggling thoughts plagued my year and in fact still do.  Journalism is very competitive and for the most part poorly paid and the thought of chasing a politician down the road wielding a microphone in their face makes me feel nauseous.

So, this brings me to New York. Last year on a whim, I applied for an internship in Manhattan and got it. It is atBust, a feminist pop-culture magazine. I leave in four days. My visa is apparently arriving soon, after going through a slightly traumatic five month long application process.

I am both excited and freaking out but most definitely ready, although what exactly I’m ready for I don’t know.

What I do know? This feels right.

Authormelissa coci