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Three Years

The city of New York and I celebrated our third anniversary last month. I realize that it’s like beating a dead horse, the way I go on and on about how moving to New York changed my life, but I really believe it was one of my most defining experiences. I’m not sure what that says about me, that the most important and life-changing experience I’ve had is the time I moved across the country, but that’s not the point.

I’d never really visited the city before I moved. I’d spent approximately sixty hours in New York when I did my showcase right after graduation, but I don’t count that because most of that time was spent in rehearsal, performance or awkward “networking” which was really just me standing in a corner stuffing my face with cheesecake. The day after the showcase I walked by Tiffany’s on my way to have coffee with an agent and then I met up with my best friend from high school and wandered around in Central Park where I bought an ‘I <3 NY’ t-shirt. Then I hailed a cab and went back to JFK. The next time I went to New York was on February 23, 2007. I had two suitcases, a sublet, and a really big dream.

<i>Standard new-to-New-York snap shot.</i>

Standard new-to-New-York snapshot.

Three months later Mike and I were living in a Hells Kitchen tenement with a dog and two cats.  A couple of weeks before that we’d sold and/or given away everything but our mattress, some favorite books, our computers, the x-box, the microwave, a toaster oven and our TV.  That’s actually a lot of stuff, I see that now.  Our downsize was truly a first-world downsize.  My point is that it was a big deal to get rid of half our life and haul the other half 3,000 miles to a city neither of us knew anything about.

Like most people who run off to New York, we were chasing a dream.  I pictured New York as a mecca of bohemian artists, linking arms and blasting people away with incredible works of art.  I thought we would move to New York and find a family of artists and we would all rent a huge warehouse on the Lower East Side and everyone would live there.  It would be our home but it would also be an art gallery and a performance space.  We’d write plays together and perform and build sets and write music and make all our own clothes.  It was going to be a commune for artists, an art-share, and we were going to change the face of theatre in America.

<i>Smiling through exuberant terror.</i>

Smiling through exuberant terror.

The day I landed in the city I was saucer-eyed and hopeful.  I stayed that way for about six months and then I fell apart.  New York was nothing like I’d imagined.  I couldn’t find anyone who had even slightly similar ideas about art that I had.  Broadway had been bought out by Disney and I didn’t even have a bathroom sink. I became miserably homesick.  I felt like all of my friends and family were in Los Angeles living my life without me.  I became cripplingly depressed.  I spent weeks sprawled on the sofa wearing filthy sweat pants and eating ice cream from the tub.  I watched every single season of Nip/Tuck, How I Met Your Mother, House, Lost, The Shield, South Park and Desperate Housewives available on DVD.  I believed my life had no purpose and I wanted to die.

You could say I got discouraged very quickly.  That would be true.  I realize now that it takes more than six months to settle into a new city, it takes more than six months to make good friends and find your footing.  Knowing that now doesn’t change the fact that my first year in the city was easily the worst year of my life.

The second year started out with a bang.  I signed with an agent and I started working.  I did a couple of little projects I was crazy about and a couple of little projects that were so awful I’ve blocked them from my memory.  I put more energy and effort into my acting career than I ever had, and considering how new I was to the New York scene, I had a great deal of success.  But I was miserable.  I was almost as miserable as I was the year before, only this time my TV-and-ice-cream jags were punctuated by little acting jobs that inspired short bursts of hysterical happiness.

The third year something changed.  We moved, I changed jobs, Mike made the deans list, we started nesting, we met our neighbors, we made friends.  I started writing.  I began exploring neighborhoods I’d never been to and I found restaurants, vintage shops, galleries and cafes that belong in story books.  We saw free concerts in the park, visited museums we’d always talked about going to, scored free tickets to multiple Broadway shows, and did a little traveling around the east coast.  We started living in the city.  And I fell in love.

Happy Anniversary, New York.  What they said about you was true.

Harlem

The snow's only been gone a week and already I miss it.


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  • ‘Cita

    Wow. Every city should be so lucky as to have such an eloquent fan.

  • Jim

    Your story just goes to show that patience can pay off in the end.

    I’ve been trying for almost a year, during these bleak economic times, to reestablish my career (after being a stay-at-home dad for a decade). I feel like I’m moving through molasses, because my time is divided among so many things. But I know that time and effort will reap the reward that I’m looking for: a satisfying, full-time job. These days, something as basic as that is like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

    Thank you, Trish, for the inspirational blog.

  • Marta

    I love you; I read your blog – I saw the dogs in the snow! I liked it. I loved the pictures – the big cow was silly! Love, Marta