Nude York


Emma is the editor & creator (and occasionally writer) for The Messy Heads. She enjoys yellow curry, print media, and singing to herself.

Photos & words by Emma 

This is the story of how I ended up in New York City, in a railroad style apartment that I pay for, between a gelato store that serves olive green colored pistachio ice cream and a used bookstore with weathered spines perpendicular to each other.

I should probably start way, way back. I’m talking back to a time where I could barely write, but wanted to be a writer. My mom read me books every night, and I memorized the words and which pictures they go with. I can still recite “Pigs a Plenty, Pigs Galore!” by memory and did so drunken, walking down the street last week. Books, words, pictures, all fascinated me. Combined in a way that put a completely different world into your head, one that didn’t exist before. Words were magic, and I wanted to learn every trick.

I wrote books growing up, and would share them with my elementary school classes. In second grade I made a newspaper for my class, featuring interviews from one boy and one girl each issue, detailing their favorite animals and colors. Crossword puzzles or mazes on the back in theme with the next holiday approaching, upcoming school events, recipes, and “hard-hitting” articles. I remember heavily researching a piece I wrote about the moon landing, picking the perfect clip art image to go above it. One that was realistic but not too realistic. I would get done with my assignments early, ask to go to the computer lab, and work on my newspaper. I passed them out to class, my teacher was super supportive, grabbing the fall edition of my stapled together ‘newspaper’ saying, “This is just like the New York Times!”

In High School I lugged my mom’s DSLR to football games, rallies, student events, and shot the red white and blue painted faces and cheering fans. I got moments of homecoming queens being crowned, promposals at the assemblies, and picnics out on the bleachers. I put them all on an instagram and website and kept it anonymous. Soon over 800 students were regularly checking the platform to see if a photo of them had been posted. My counselor looked at my sheet of extra curricular activities and suggested that I apply to NYU.

I did. I got in. I got a scholarship. My dream was realized and crushed in the same day. I couldn’t afford the leftover tuition, plus living expenses.

I went somewhere else, somewhere I got more money at, but was ultimately unhappy. I don’t want to talk about this part of my story, I prefer to leave this chapter closed because it seems so uncharacteristic of me, or at least the me that I now know. She was unhappy, quiet, rude to friends and family, and spent most of the day in bed.


I tapped back into my younger self during this lost period. What did she do? What did she like? Creating, photographing, feeling, dancing and spinning until she was dizzy. Writing for hours and making up stories. So I started behaving like that again. I saved up money, moved to LA and got on my feet. One day, sitting in my favorite coffee shop beside my best friend, out of the complete blue I turned to her and said,

“I think I want to move to New York.”

Except it wasn’t out of the blue, it was years and years in the making.

I bought my plane ticket for the following week. My mom left a worried voicemail, “Have you found somewhere to live? Do you have enough money?” No, and I really, really hope so.

I flew over the city, touching down and nose pressed up against the window. In the cab, the driver asked me, “are you visiting or going home?”
“Going home,” I whispered, almost to myself.

My first morning I woke up, put in my headphones and went for a walk in Lower East Side. It was hot, end of July. I walked by a busted fire hydrant with two little girls dancing in it’s mist and moms on folding chairs watching and drinking beers. I passed friends on stoops listening to music and bopping along. I passed boys dribbling basketballs and a couple making out so ferociously against a fence I couldn’t help but smile. The city really showed off for me that first morning.

I spent days trying to find my official residence, though. I walked for blocks, into corners of unsafe streets and in apartments not big enough to fit a bed in. The real estate agents showing me the spaces always seemed painfully optimistic, “Hey! You can just have your bed fold up into the wall! And your table! And who needs chairs? Oh, that stain? It adds character!” I narrowed my wishlist of “exposed brick, big windows, and wood floors,” to “an affordable apartment.” Finally I found it, a long railroad style two bedroom apartment with one window going out to the fire escape. I found a mouse in the pantry last week and the floor is too uneven in places to put furniture there. Theres also a giant yellowing goopy stain coming from the skirts of the refrigerator that I scrub away at every Sunday, but it just keeps growing.

It’s filled with plants, my friends, candles, and lavender lighting. And it’s mine.


There’s a bagel place a couple blocks down where I get everything bagels double toasted with hummus. This morning I sat in my local coffee shop with the intent of working, but a man tapped me on my shoulder and gestured towards some underlined words in his newspaper, asking what they meant. For about an hour I explained what “dislodged,” “hedge fund,” “beef up,” and a whole slew of other idioms and headlines meant. In an article about the defacing of Donald Trump’s Hollywood star, I had to explain why he even had a star at all. In exchange he taught me some Cantonese, and laughed at how I pronounced the words.

In the morning I run through central park and marvel at the light streaming through the leaves. I come home to one of my roommates or whoever slept over the previous night at our small table sipping a black coffee and I cozy up to them and talk about what we might get up to that day. I ride the subway often, in the morning I sit and read a book or listen to a new episode of “This American Life,” or “Love and Radio.” At night, I dance around with my friends, laughing and spinning around the silvery poles. We have glitter around our eyes and over-the-top jackets, heading to a concert in Brooklyn or a dance party at a friends. Last night we got out the paints and drank a bottle of wine, each feigning an art curator’s fervor, explaining the colors and juxtaposition of lines and what they mean. We paint mostly in silence, besides the record and occasional strumming of whoever picks up the guitar or ukulele. Inevitably we end up singing “You and I” by Ingrid Michaelson- it’s tradition.

And even last week when I was in Paris I was thinking about skating in Lower East Side, couples kissing in Washington Square Park, bagels and bad black coffee. I was looking forward to coming back to a place where you don’t pay attention to cross walks and I can meet my friends at a diner for vegan chocolate chip pancakes.

When I landed from my flight, I felt butterflies all over again.

My driver asked if I wanted to go over the bridge or through the tunnel.

We were zooming over the bridge, the city scape sprawled out in front of me in the darkness with lights reflecting into the river and the giant, gaudy pepsi-cola sign. I saw peeks of the Chrysler building and Empire State building. I grabbed the aux and put on “17” by Youth Lagoon.

When I was 17, my mother said to me, don’t stop imagining

the day that you do is the day that you die.



If you are not where you are supposed to be right now, one day you will be.



  1. Anonymous says

    I loved this. And I love you! I’m sitting in my architecture studio right now, reading this, and I have never been more inspired. Keep doing you mama 💓

  2. Anonymous says

    Oh my goodness that was beautiful. Plus, that “I love you more after coffee” drawing is literally so perfect, like I want it painted on my wall or put on a shirt, like seriously everything about this was perfect.

  3. My absolute favourite post on the messy head by far. Cutest love letter i’ve ever read :)))))

  4. When I read your posts it makes me feel like anything is possible and everything in the world is good. Beautiful.

  5. Thank you so much. I hate where I am right now and the sentiment at the end while listening to 17 hit me hard. And the part about the Queensboro- that’s my laptop background. Most magical ride.

  6. You have this way of transporting me through swirls of passion, and utter excitement! I want to live a vagabond existence, to romanticise daily! Today I spent the day with my best friend, making collages, eating chocolates and dancing to Fleetwood Mac and The Wanderer. “I’m never in one place, I roam from town to town…” and I just want to explore and create everyday. It’s an unfathomable life, and this nonsense is what I live for! Keep writing Emma, you’re senseful and loving 💙🌃

  7. I absolutely love this post!! Probably one of my favorites yet 😊 I love the way you work with words and makes everything sound so beautiful and magic! I can’t wait to visit NYC one day and maybe fall in love with it the way you did! Also every time I read something of you you make me believe in myself and make me believe my biggest and most unrealistc dreams can come through!! Love Sofie

  8. Melek says

    I love this so so much. You make me fall in love with life. I’m not good with words but I just wanted to say that you inspire me so much. I love you

  9. “If you are not where you are supposed to be right now, one day you will be.” oh my god that means so much. i feel so stifled where i am rn,nearly 18 and doing nothing in particular. and im patiently awaiting the day when i can ride my bike to a cafe and just write and take photographs and do what i know im supposed to be doing.but it seems like that day just cant come fast enough and ive spent days crying in bed wishing i could just get thank you.i hope one day comes soon

  10. Sarah Langford says

    Sitting here in the car, on the way to Barnes and nobles with my my brother and mom, this truly struck a cord with me. I’m 18 and in my senior year of high school and feel completely and utterly stuck. I’m tired of my environment, school, work, and even my friends. I crave adventure and spontaneity, but unfortunately my life right now requires my complete focus and careful planning to make sure I don’t fuck up. Truthfully all I want is to be able to attend Emerson college in Boston. I love the city, the history, the people, and just who I am when I’m there. Unfortunately I don’t have the funds to attend for four years, but I still plan on applying and praying that one day I could attend. It’s truly nice and comforting to know that people in this country or even world can relate to this on some sort of level. I just have to remind myself that it will happen. You just have to push through the harder times and somehow let fate take control.

  11. Anonymous says

    I am reading this sipping on a cup of warm rose-hip tea, listening to Billie Holiday and envisioning my life to soon be as intriguing, dreamy (yet hardworking!), adventurous and irreplaceable as the life you have illustrated here Em. Thank you, it was a beautiful piece. x

    • Anonymous says

      Haha same but i drunk lavander tea instead, also i feel what you say abiut dreamy, intriguing and adventurous life. I want to travel and explore so much. I just have ti wait, work and do it. And i am sure you will do it too, wish you luck!!

  12. Ellie says

    This is just so beautiful-I am contemplating a big move myself and this has inspired the f out of me. Thankyou for all your words xx

  13. Caroline says

    Emma, your writing is so powerful in a quiet type of way. It makes you crave for more of that peace, that dreamy feeling. I think I speak for everyone when I say you inspire daily and you should never stop: always keep improving, learning, growing and telling us along the way! <3 adios <3

  14. Thank you so much Emma. For this post, that somehow was just what I needed, and for everything else you do. You and your friends inspire me so much.

  15. Lindsey Spivey says

    This is amazing and I have chills right now. What an inspiration this is.

  16. They way you wrote this. It’s amazing how vividly I can picture everything. Me and you share so many similarities. I’m moving to New York on November 14th, 2016. In 2 weeks and I can not contain my excitement. I’ll be sure to listen to The Velvet Underground strolling down Greenwhich Village. Thanks Emma! Keep up the good work!

  17. louise says

    ( well i am french so my english is not perfect..)
    The way you wrote this makes me wanna travel, i am always inspired when i read what you write. It’s such a good quality to inspire people , this text radiate positivity and happiness and a lot of other great feelings. Thank you for existing and for doing what you are doing !

  18. This was so beautiful and just increased my love for NYC and travelling. Emma this was really beautifully written, great vibes! Honestly posts like this from you just make me want to go NYC right now…

  19. Anonymous says

    thank you for making me want to live a passion-full life again. you really are something

  20. Anonymous says

    I forgot how luck I am to live in this city thanks for reminding me 💫

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  22. This made me cry! Moving to NYC has been one of my oldest dreams since I can remember, hopefully soon I can make that dream come true <3 loved this sm and gave me hope

  23. Nikki says

    Hi I loved this! As someone who has dreamed to move to New York I have some questions for you! How much do you pay for your apartment and how do you afford it? I hope I can move to NYC one day too 🙂

  24. Emma this words made me tear up and I couldn’t be more happy for you 🙂 I literally D R E A M about New York, I just feel like I belong there even though I have never been there or even anywhere close what so ever. I’m from Spain and whenever I explain people my love for the city and how I will move there when I’m older they just say that it’s a stupid dream and that it’s too hard to move that far away from home. I try to not listen to them because whenever I see a picture of the skyline or watch youtubers that live there i get goosebumps. Keep doing what you are doing Emma, you inspire me every day <3

    • Jordan says

      Can you make a blog post abt how you became a writer; how you accomplished the magazine? I want to travel. I don’t feel drawn to any “normal” jobs. I want to have a spontaneous life. I can’t wake up at 8 and working until 5 everyday. I’ll go insane. How did you do it?

  25. Anonymous says

    I thought this post was amazing, i lost myself in it. I was wandering the streets right with you.

  26. Anonymous says

    This was so inspiring. I can relate to this so well. I was just wondering if anyone knew how she took her film photos and how she is able to post them on the internet? Thanks!

  27. Ingrid Saga says

    Ahh, I’m travelling to New York for the first time in two weeks, and this made my heart pound like crazy. So excited to feel the energy of the city. Speaking of, do you have any tips for someone going there for a weekend? I really don’t want to only visit the typical tourist attractions, and it would be amazing to have your advise!
    Keep on shining, you magical little soul

    Love from Norway

  28. Georgette says

    WOW!! I love this story. Thanks for sharing! You inspire me to be a better version of myself.

  29. i really like that your descriptions of new york mainly focuses on the people and their activity, and not the concrete of the city. it definitely is the energy and life of the people that reflects itself on this city, and that is what makes it so magnetic. <3

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  31. I truly, deeply, whole-hearttedly hope that one day I’ll be in the city I’ve always dreamt of… It will happen. One day…

    • Isabelle Cattie says

      Emma, Thank you for the privilege of allowing me and your other admirers to dive into a glimpse of the world we all hope to experience someday soon. I am fifteen but i do not go a day without imagining myself living in the one of the most magical cities. Please never ever stop writing and always live your truth XO : ) !!

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  33. Sara says

    Tears are almost dripping down my face while I’m reading this. Just put my headphones on and searched for “17” on Spotify, now I’m keeping the song on repeat. Feeling so freaking inspired. Thanks from the bottom of my heart

  34. Jéssica says

    Wow the way that you write is sooo poetic, you make me so happy to listen this
    Sweetie you have to do more videos
    Love you, you’re such an inspiration

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