I'm sitting on my roommate's couch, sipping a strong cup of coffee, and can hear a helicopter flying above the building. The two dogs are sleeping on the floor beside me, and the sun radiates a strong glow throughout the living room. To an outsider, this would appear to be like any morning for us, but we know full well how different this truly is. Today is my last day living in New York.
I arrived in this city in the winter of 2011, with three suitcases hung around my shoulders, and less than a grand in my checking account. I moved here by way of Connecticut, after my position as Literary Associate at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center came to a close; and I began serving as the Education Intern at New York Theatre Workshop that January. It had been my dream for years to live in this city, to be a part of something larger than myself, to immerse myself in theater and the art world. A great deal of my vision was romanticized from watching movies like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or "When Harry Met Sally," believing those to be true representations of New York. Wanting to live a beautiful life similar to those ficticious characters I read in books growing up. It also came from listening to Frank Sinatra in my Grandma's house, bellowing the lyrics "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere." Now that song echoes within me as I hug my friends goodbye.
These past couple of weeks have been full of farewells and checking things off my New York bucket list. I went back to 30 Rock and sat in the plaza, drinking a coffee and eating banana pudding from Magnolia's Bakery. I tried new restaurants, and enjoyed the simplicity of meals in my friend's apartments while watching TV. I walked around the park and basked in the sunlight while watching strangers roam by. I drank tea from Alice's Tea Cup and enjoyed a pumpkin scone while walking by Strawberry Fields. I took a bus downtown because the subway seemed to dreary on such a beautiful autumn day. I sat at the Bethesda Fountain and listened to a violin play. I drank at my favorite bar with some of my closest friends. I walked around The Cloisters with the dogs. I have taken every moment in for what it's worth, and will hold onto these memories for years to come.
Throughout my time here, I have succumb to the city's own definition of rebirth through trial and failure, time and time again. The best way to summarize that is through this blog entry I wrote in September of 2011:
Dear New York
It's hard to look back at this and not see how much I have grown. Since that post, I worked at a non-profit for two years, moved a few more times, but was able to travel the country more than I ever thought possible. I was able to see one of my plays performed in the same space "RENT" rehearsed at New York Theatre Workshop. I was a Core Member of an independent theater company called FullStop Collective; in which I directed a play produced at Gallapagos Art Space, and was able to see a reading of a play I wrote that I had been developing for nearly four years. I directed another play as part of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and filmed two movies with my friends. I'm leaving this city with a novel and TV show tucked between my fingers, and will continue to develop them as I begin my new job in California.
New York has been my home for the past three years. I have met some of the best people I'll ever know while living here. I have had my life explode before my eyes, and was able to rebuild it again several times over. Now I'm moving onto a new chapter and am closing this one. It's hard to flip the page and not feel a sense of loss, but I remind myself that New York will always be here. The friends I made will always be in my life, regardless of time and distance. We will always have each other and the stories that we share are embedded deep within this city. This city that holds so many stories for so many individuals. It's a place many people dream of, and aim to achieve success. It's a representation of something wonderful, frightening, and completely worthwhile. I'm proud I was able to call it my home for so long, but am looking forward to the new adventure coming my way. Unsure of what will happen, but full of confidence and strength I did not have several years ago. I really do believe Frank had it right. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.
Until next time, New York.
As a literary nerd and somewhat structured person, it will come to no surprise when I tell you that I am a huge fan of bookends. Yes, the literal bookends used to keep your library from falling off the shelf; and also the metaphorical bookends used to symbolize the beginning and end of a story in one's life.
On September 10th, 2012, I attended a theater event with several of my closest friends. It was an "Implosion Party" for 13P (which according to their website states: 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.) was formed in 2003 by 13 mid-career playwrights concerned about what the trend of endless readings and new play development programs was doing to the texture and ambition of new American plays. Together we took matters into our hands, producing one play by each member playwright. We presented our final production in the summer of 2012 and then immediately imploded. This website archives our story.) Several of us had seen some of these plays throughout the years, and we were all greatly excited to see this implosion take place. Before the doors opened at Joe's Pub, we sat outside on the stairs of The Public while snacking on some treats and passing around two coffee thermoses filled with red wine. I remember feeling so happy with everything. It had been two days since I had moved into my new apartment, and I was so proud for finally signing a year lease. There was security in that, and I was beyond excited for what the year would entail.
Our party moved inside Joe's, and we instantly started enjoying the free beer and food. We were sitting around a tall bar table when my phone rang. It was my mom. I didn't answer because of the noise level around us, and let it go to voicemail. She then sent me a text, asking me to give her a call when I could. Something about it didn't feel right, so I took my phone to the stairwell behind the pub and called her back. It was there, as I sat down on a cold cement step that my mom told me about my dad's diagnosis. They had just gotten back the results, and it was definite he was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's/dementia. I remember feeling so incredibly numb, and flashing back to the time I had to share my worst fear to a class I was assisting in Brooklyn. I told them the number one thing I was scared of was that my parents would lose their memory.
I sat there, on that step for several minutes in silence, trying to process everything my mom told me. Trying to gather the strength to go back inside and join my friends. I thought about just leaving, just going home, but my room didn't have a wall installed at that time. Along with that, my roommate's four friends were sleeping in our living room, so there was literally no privacy waiting for me there. And all I wanted to do was bawl my eyes out. Instead, I took a deep breath and sat back down with my friends. I tried to pretend my world didn't just come crashing down, but I'm not very good at hiding my feelings. Several beers later, we were listening to the song "I'm Going to Die" by Young Jean Lee, and I could hardly breathe. I had seen her perform that song several times before, but the eminent feeling of death felt too real for me at that moment. The rest of the performances were a blur, but somehow I ended up on a friend's couch, where I was able to let everything out that I was feeling.
Within this past year, I have held onto those emotions, with my claws dug deep inside them, unable to let go of the fear I felt that night. I have shared several of those feelings in previous blog posts, and am very open with this journey I've taken. By taking a break from theater, to questioning my attitude with life, I have reached the end of this chapter with a little more smarts and great deal more strength than I had at the beginning. What I haven't gone into detail yet is how much I've been wanting to move back to California. This was even before my dad's diagnosis, feeling somewhat defeated by the city I had originally loved so much.
Last September I even made a pact with myself and my parents. I told them, "let's see where things are in a year, and if it's necessary for me to move home, I will." Even after saying that, I began looking for jobs on the west coast. I had several good leads, but nothing seemed to work out. I grew more and more frustrated with everything, and began to blame New York for keeping me away from my family. I became resentful and angry, and felt very lost in the direction my life was heading.
Eventually, I stopped trying so hard. I stopped beating myself up for everything that wasn't going my way. And I found faith that things would turn out however they were going to turn out. Then something amazing happened.
While on a business trip to Los Angeles a couple months ago, I received word from my college counselor that he had recommended me for a new position at a film and theater institute based in Southern California. I found it very coincidental that I was in LA at the time of receiving that, but wasn't able to touch base until I was back in New York. I connected with several people at the institute and had a series of interviews over the course of three to four weeks. My gut was telling me to hold strong to this, and that something was going to work out. So I didn't sign a new lease come September. I moved in with my two roommates into their two bedroom apartment, and put the majority of my belongings into storage. My faith remained strong.
Last Tuesday I had a feeling I would definitely know what my future was going to entail. The day pressed on into the evening and I started to feel a little doubtful. I called my parents for some reassurance, and proceeded to distract myself by playing with my roommate's two dogs. No more than twenty minutes after I hung up with my parents I received another call. I knew what was coming and braced myself for all the possibilities. I answered the phone and within a three minute conversation I had accepted the position. The date was September 10th. Exactly one year from when my dad was diagnosed. Exactly the same time my mom had called me with the news.
This time, it was my turn to call my parents with a life changing announcement. I was bawling (happy tears this time) and could hardly get the words out. "I'm coming home," I told them. "I'm moving back to California."