Finding happiness in a concrete jungle

The collegiate experience for most involves a mix of classes, friendships and study sessions, and maybe a spring break vacation or two. While this culture of college is exciting for some, there are others that want something a little different. Molly Chaiban, a 20-year-old Louisiana native, is one of those students.

Chaiban enjoys walking in Central Park during her time off. Image courtesy of @mollychaiban on Instagram.

Chaiban traded her textbooks for subway cards and a campus for the concrete jungle. For the past nine months, she has been living in New York City working as an au pair for a prominent family.

After a sluggish semester with doubts about her major and future plans, Chaiban decided it was best to do something for herself, away from the place she has called home all of her life.

“My older brother Michael and I were talking about cool jobs that require you to leave your state, and we talked about things from working on cruise ships, to becoming a flight attendant,” Chaiban said. “Michael was actually the one who first suggested becoming an au pair. Keep in mind this whole conversation was not supposed to be taken literally, because it was just us talking like we always do and brainstorming around.”

The casual conversation turned into a real possibility, and Chaiban decided that she had nothing to lose.

“Later that night when I was laying in bed, I was reflecting back on the conversation that we had earlier in the day. I kept saying to myself that I always have babysat, and I think it’s fun and easy. The whole idea didn’t seem so far fetched after a while,” she said.

Soon after, she created a profile on a nanny website and made a profile without telling anyone, even her older brother.

“I didn’t think anything would come of it, so I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone,” she remembered.

Two days later, she had a message from the (now current) family in New York. A Skype interview was conducted the next day, and Chaiban found herself packing up her life in Louisiana just five short days later, never to look back.

“Everything just really started to connect once I moved to New York, and as much as I miss my home, it’s worth it to be here,” she said. “I miss my family and friends every single day, but I can’t imagine my life not being in New York now.”

Chaiban’s mother Sarah is beyond proud of her daughter for taking such a risk at her young age. While she misses her, she knows this was exactly the path she needed to take.

“I am beyond proud of my Molly,” she said. “I always knew she would do great things, but she still continues to surpass my expectations every day. I admire her and her bravery, maturity and her openness. It inspires me daily. I am so proud to call Molly my daughter.”

City life for Chaiban is pretty routine—she cares for two children, an 8-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. She is up at 7 a.m. Monday-Friday, helping the children prepare for school, cooking breakfast and packing their lunches. She walks them to school, and returns home shortly after to work with the children’s mother on their startup blog and exterior design company.

When school is over, Chaiban is always ready and waiting to bring them to wherever the evening takes them—which could be anything from coding to gymnastics or even fencing and ballet.

“It’s always a full, but routine week. It always amazes me to sit back and remember, this is my life,” Chaiban said.

Sometimes, Chaiban gets the opportunity to change up the hustle and bustle of her routine for something a bit different—a family vacation.

“I’ve been lucky enough to go to Playa del Carmen, which was my favorite trip so far with them. We stayed at this amazing resort, and you had to take a boat to get to your room,” she said. “I’ve also gone to Atlanta and Universal Studios with them as well.”

Not only has she traveled outside of Manhattan, but she’s also gotten to explore (and master) the ways of the concrete jungle.

“The subway is crazy, and it takes a long while to get used to,” she revealed. “Then, you begin to love it and can’t imagine how you lived life without a subway system.”

Chaiban also admitted that sweet, southern charm is a rare find, and she misses the hospitality from time to time.

“It’s super chaotic here, but the people are definitely nice, just maybe not as genuine as you would find in the south. It can be very overwhelming at times because everyone is running around doing their own thing, but being in the thick of it is so exciting all at the same time,” she said.

Her biggest life lesson so far has been to never settle for anything and to strive for happiness, which sometimes is not found by taking the easy route. She is learning more about patience and trust from caring for children, but also by listening to her heart. In each passing day, every experience has made her thrive more than she could ever imagine, she said.

With all of life’s curveballs and unexpected turns, Chaiban’s journey has been supported by her best friend Dana since the beginning. Dana DiPiazza, a junior communication major and Chaiban’s lifelong best friend, always knew this was going to be the experience of a lifetime.

“I could not think of a better place for Molly at this point,” said DiPiazza. “She is learning and growing in ways normal college students don’t get to do, and above all, she’s the bravest person I know. It also gives me an excuse to go to New York City, so I’m all in.”

Chaiban’s future is bright—and involves staying in the Big Apple for a few more years.

“This is one of the scariest and craziest things I think I might ever do in my life. But, I’m loving where I am, and I definitely want to do this for the next few years. With potential from working with my boss on her blog and interior design company, I have a solid option in the works for full time work once the kids get a bit older,” she said. “But as for now, my plan is to stay happy.”

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Jaime Gelpi

Jaime Gelpi

copywriting intern at imaginal marketing group (& undeniably, a bon vivant)

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