My only post-college plan was couch-crashing—and I don't regret it
Some girls my age move to New York because of Carrie Bradshaw. I moved to New York because my brother had a couch and wouldn’t charge me rent for sleeping on it. Which was great, because at the time I had just $200 to my name.
To be fair, I had just graduated from college, and I didn’t have a job lined up. Partially because I was an English major, partially because I graduated in the thick of the recession. And partially because my resume was in Times New Roman and I started sputtering when asked to describe a time I failed.
But that couch was enough to land me a job and an apartment in New York. And darned if I didn’t learn a ton while on that decidedly uncomfortable sectional (that and a mind-numbingly generous brother).
Living out of a suitcase is the worst
If you’ve ever moved before, you know that moving is just no fun. Now, imagine being in the state of moving indefinitely. This is what living on a couch is like. First of all, having nowhere to put your stuff gets frustrating fast. I cracked a few weeks in and bought a bunch of cheap K-Mart baskets just so I’d have some semblance of organization. At night, I dreamed of dressers and shoe racks. But in the end, this gave me a huge leg up for life in NYC, since I never expected my apartment to accommodate a foosball table, Joey and Chandler style, or a walk-in closet bursting with Manolos. All I wanted was a bed and a drawer to call my own.
It pays to put yourself out there
Say what you will about couch surfing, but it’s a doozy of an origin story. It gave me plenty of killer material for cold emails, cover letters, and interviews. A Starbucks manager was so inspired by my gumption that he hired me on the spot. I landed an internship immediately after. (After all, if I was willing to do my brother’s laundry in lieu of paying rent, I clearly had no qualms brewing/delivering coffee on the cheap.)
I’m not saying that the whole couch thing got me a job. But I will say that not having an address makes you totally shameless, which is a boon for the application process. I had nothing to lose but a few hundo in the bank and a flimsy basket collection.
Yoga makes almost everything better
To be clear, the couch I speak of was a wooden sectional with some cushions on top. Both the cushions and the sections slid around as I slept like overhead luggage on a turbulent airplane. Most nights, I’d wake up to find my torso precariously suspended between two distant sections. Needless to say, my back pain could rival Quasimodo’s. And I really couldn’t afford to do much about it — that is, until I discovered a donation-based yoga class.
I had never really done yoga before, but as soon as I did my first downward dog I knew it was love (not to mention my back cracked a zillion times). It relieved so much of my stress about not having a room of my own, a job with PTO, or any sense of footing in New York. Before I found yoga, my social life consisted of tagging along with my brother (which I really didn’t want to do, as I was already very much overstaying my welcome). I didn’t really know anyone in the city besides him. But yoga was my thing, and it was basically free, and it made me feel good. Even now that I have a full-time job and an apartment that I love and more friends nearby, it still makes me feel calm, strong, and just better overall.
Things will work out if you let them
During the first few months, I clung to every informational interview and available room on Craigslist like it was Jack Dawson’s freezing hand. If things didn’t work out, I took it as proof that I’d just never be able to hack it.
Luckily, I had my brother and his couch to keep me going, and, like Rose, I learned to let go. A dozen Craigslist horror stories later (including that time a man opened his door with nothing but a trench coat on), I found an amazing, shockingly affordable place to live with my very own bed and drawer. I was promoted from lowly intern to full-time. I made friends who shared my love of karaoke, drinking outside, and Vanderpump Rules marathons. Sometimes, I’d gaze at the Statue of Liberty from my office and sing “Empire State of Mind” to myself. It was true; there was nothing I couldn’t do.
I am the luckiest sister. Ever.
My biggest takeaway from those five months? I have the best brother. I couldn’t have done any of it if my brother wasn’t willing to give up his privacy, pick up my bar tabs, and regularly feed me.
So, would I recommend that you live on a couch if you want all your dreams to come true? Nope. But I will say that taking a risk, even if it’s way out of your comfort zone, will work out if you try hard and hang in there. And so long as you’ve got someone in your life who’s got your back. No matter how messed up that back gets when you’re sleeping on a couch.
Kara Solarz is a textbook Taurus who is rarely without lipstick or an opinion. She writes about easy-peasy crafts and pizza on her blog, BornRowdy.com, and makes plenty of outdated pop culture references on Twitter @ksolz.