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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.

Balancing Act

It’s Friday night. Mike is in his art studio [read: the corner of our living room between his bookcase of school books and my bookcase of plays, where he keeps his easel and paints set up over a tarp on the floor so he doesn’t have to worry about spilling paint. It is my favorite corner in our apartment] and I have, so far, spent my entire evening wandering aimlessly, nervously, unable to sit and write even though it is the only thing I have wanted to do all day. See, I had a schedule today. I started out my week with a precise schedule that I had written to help me manage my time. There are only a few things in life I really care to spend my time on, but there are lots of things I am obligated to spend time on. I need a schedule to help me trudge through the have-to things so I can spend more time on the want-to things.

I’m going to have to go way back to the beginning here, because you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Shortly after Christmas whirled past, (really? Has it really been weeks since Christmas? Because I still have a stack of un-mailed, un-written Christmas cards) I decided I was absolutely done feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day. I finally learned how to be punctual, and oh my goodness, it feels good. Now I wanted to learn how to manage my time. So I created a schedule that includes an hour a day for yoga, an hour a day for writing, time to prepare meals and walk the dogs, time to primp, time to read, time to work, to every season, turn, turn, turn. (Name that song and I’ll give you a high-five.)  By writing out, hour by hour, all the things I want and am obligated to do in a day, I proved to myself that there really are enough hours in the day to do it all. My goals were not too steep. I decided to start living this schedule the first Monday after the New Year.

That was this past Monday. Not a single day have I managed to follow my new schedule. Monday came pretty close, except that I over-worked and by the time I came home I was so exhausted I couldn’t do anything that required moving my butt off the couch. Every day after that I over-slept in the mornings, over-worked all day, and came home too tired to move. I fell asleep in front of the television every night this week, slept terribly, and couldn’t get up in the mornings. Then when I finally found a few hours to write tonight, I spent most of them wandering aimlessly around my apartment unable to focus.

How do you do it? How do you balance work, chores, exercise, romance, and play? Because I can’t figure it out.