Creative Strategist – Jess Willemse


A collection of my wandering thoughts on design, brands, books, music and the like.​

NYC Journal: If you’re going to be a little fish, you might as well do it in New York City.


Two weeks ago I moved to New York City. What even is that sentence? Someone pinch me, because this can’t be my real life. 


I think I might have just taken that quote ‘do one thing every day that scares you’ a little bit too far… But then again, if you know me, you know I’m not a half–hearted, just dip-my-toe-in-the-water kind of person. 

Two weeks ago today I stood with my bags packed in Auckland Airport, saying au revoir to the ones that got me here (shout out to Mama and Dada Willemse). I had no clue as to how I was going to make it to the other side of the world, particularly with my sense of direction. Even upon entering international departures, I walked the wrong way. Luckily though, I soon realised that if you just follow the signs, you will be more or less okay.  

After twenty hours in transit, a severe weather warning, and a cinnabon, I landed at midnight in the city that never sleeps (well, technically next to it, I landed in Jersey). Somehow, I managed to hail a cab in the pouring rain and get to the tiny shoebox that I would now call home. Finally, being able to actually breathe for three seconds, I sat on my bed thinking ‘what the hell have I just done.’ I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. Yes, I had just hauled myself halfway across the world, but could I actually make it in New York? Could I actually do this adult-ing thing? (the answer is yet to be determined, full analysis to come at the end of my experience).

But here I am, two weeks later, and still in one piece. Yes, my diet may mainly consist of pizza and pudding, but i’m holding it together. In fact, I might be doing a little better than that. I know how to catch the subway, cross the road, ignore the guys trying to sell me bus rides, go to the grocery store, and dress for 0° weather. Woooohooo adult-ing! And you know what, once you get the basics down, life ain’t so bad. Actually, it’s pretty freaking amazing. This city always has something going on, something to make you smile, something to get you excited about life. I think it also helps that it always has you looking up, literally. Up at the gigantic buildings, beautiful architecture and gross subway ceilings… ;) There is a certain energy about this place that just can’t compare.

So, to the point of this post, the point about being a little fish. When you graduate, you once again become a little fish in a big pond. When you move to New York City three months later, you basically become this little itty-bitty fish in this gigantic, diverse, challenging, thrilling and totally surreal pond. But I think I’m going to take a leaf out of Dory’s book, and plan to just keep swimming (probably not in the Hudson though).

Has anyone else ever moved to a new city on their own? If you have any advice for me, please leave a comment, because I’m sure there are still a million things I haven’t thought of yet.