real life

The completely unfiltered, totally unglamorous reality of living in New York City.

It’s officially been 12 months since my husband and I packed (almost) everything we owned into four suitcases, boarded a plane and moved our entire lives to the other side of the world.

As terrifying as the prospect of living in an entirely different country (that, I was shocked to learn, still uses cheques as a primary form of payment) was, we were spurred on by the fact that we were headed to THE BIG APPLE, where NO ONE EVER SLEEPS and things are exciting and happening ALL OF THE TIME.

jess josh nyc moving plane ride travel
These poor, poor children have no idea what they're in for....

Plus, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z had promised us (in song, no less, so you know it's true) that if we could make it in New York, we could make it anywhere; that this was a concrete jungle where dreams were made and that the city's light would inspire us.

Challenge accepted, Alicia.

We knew our lives here wouldn't be glamorous or luxurious. As one of the most expensive cities in the world, we knew that the word "apartment" directly translated to "shoe-box" in New York City-speak. We knew that the majority of our income would be spent on paying rent for said shoe-box which probably had rusty pipes and a mouldy shower screen.

But, as prepared as I thought I was, it wasn't until the morning I woke up to a rat hanging out in my bathroom that I thought to myself: "Sh*t. What the HELL am I doing here?"


I hadn't really thought much of the comment our building's maintenance man had said as he was leaving our apartment the previous day.

He'd cut a few holes in the wall behind our dryer (which is in the bathroom, and also worth noting, located in an underground, basement section of our apartment) while replacing the machine and had quickly mentioned, "watch the rats don't come in" as he was closing the front door.

I thought it may have been a cute, Brooklyn version of "don't let the bed bugs bite" (more on that later) and hardly gave it another thought, until I was minding my own business, sitting on the toilet (ahem...) the next morning and, looking to my left, saw a rat scurrying around on the floor.

By New York City standards, the rat was fairly small (I once read that rats in the city can grow as big as cats and have even made the mistake of googling 'rat king' which I suggest you never do unless you never want to sleep again).


But it was still a RAT. In my HOUSE. Perilously close to my foot.

Not knowing how the HELL to kill a rat, my husband and I decided that throwing a series of towels over the... creature... was our best bet to making it mysteriously disappear.

Once the rat was sufficiently covered, we came up with a new plan: he would quickly and swiftly kill it with his shoe. It was at this moment that he decided to exercise a trait that on any other day, I would find incredibly sweet and endearing, but on the day of the Great Rat Invasion of 2017, was the last thing I wanted to hear.

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"I don't think I can do it," he said.

"It's so... small. It has no idea what's coming. Plus, I'm running really late for work so I kinda have to go."

After spending a few minutes seriously debating whether we should just burn our entire apartment down and move to Mexico, we formed a new plan, which, without going into graphic detail, involved the majority of shoes in our closet and some careful aim.

Soon it was RIP rat. And RIP to the two BRAND NEW bath towels that accompanied him to the trash.

jess clark new york city snow
I look happy about the snow, but I'm actually celebrating the death of a rodent.

For weeks I was scared to use my own bathroom. Every trip inside the newly dubbed 'rat room' was accompanied by a thorough search of every nook and cranny to ensure I wasn't going to be surprised mid-shower by a four-legged friend of the rodent variety.

But it wasn't the only unwelcome visitor I've had in my bathroom since moving in.

After arriving home one day, I noticed the toilet seat had been left up and the garbage bin in the bathroom had been emptied.

"Hey, have you come home and gone back out again?" I texted my husband, in a message that may or may not have also included the line "please put the toilet seat down after you use it, you know I hate that".

toilet seat up

He responded that no, in fact, he had not. I asked my roommate if her boyfriend had used our room. When she replied "definitely not" I realised, with horror, what had happened.

You see, the bathroom serves as an ensuite to our bedroom. But there's another door in the bathroom that leads to the building's maintenance shed, which can only by accessed by either our bathroom or a cellar door from the street.


Yes, dear friends, someone with keys to the shed had COME IN OFF THE STREET, used my bathroom, left the toilet seat up and, for some reason that is still totally unclear to me, emptied my garbage bin.

jess clark random in house
When you realise a complete stranger has been in your house...

If those two experiences aren't enough, there was also the time I was convinced I had a staph infection (or a flesh-eating bacteria, as Google kept telling me) for two months before I finally realised that I may, in fact, be living in and amongst bed bugs.

Another time the pipes in our building completely froze in the middle of the coldest week of the year and our shower was out of action for more than 24 hours.

If you're ready to ask me why the hell I gave up my apartment 30 seconds from the beach in Sydney for a life filled with rats, bed bugs and random bathroom visitors, my answer is I have NO BLOODY IDEA.

But I'll also tell you that I feel incredibly lucky to be living in what (I believe) is one of the greatest cities on earth.  I can meet friends - many of whom I now can't imagine my life without - for drinks at any hour of the night. I can order a delicious burrito via an app and have it delivered to my door in minutes.

I can sit on a rooftop and watch the sun set over the Manhattan skyline. I can shop up a storm in SoHo or I can visit some of the world's best galleries and museums. And despite what you may have heard, I can get a pretty great cappuccino and serving of avo smash in almost any part of town.

It is true what Alicia and Jay-Z say: the streets of New York really do make you feel brand new.

Even if they also happen to be littered with rats.