In contrast to the last time I celebrated a decade anniversary of an event, today's anniversary is a bit lighter: I've officially lived in New York City for 10 years. And no, this is not a joke (although, yes, it probably says a lot about me that I moved here on April Fool's Day... also, that would be a pretty lame joke).
Back in the spring of 2007, when I was mostly recovered from getting hit by an SUV, I got permission from my doctor to move back to New York and live as an independent person. I'd been living at home with my parents for about four months, and while I love my parents dearly and they worked very hard to support me during my recovery, I was ready to get back to the city. Yes, a city that had tried very hard to kick me out. But little did NYC know it was dealing with a lady who'd been determined to live there ever since she'd heard A Star to Be belt about it in Annie.
Thanks to my years of summer theater box office work, I connected with an actor who just so happened to need a subletter for two months in Washington Heights, starting April 1st (thank you, Eric!!). He'd give me a discount if I also took care of his cat. It was a fourth-floor walk-up, and I'm allergic to cats, but I was SOLD!
When my mom and dad so bravely left me alone in that (huge!) one-bedroom in a brand new neighborhood, with a anxious cat jumping on my shoulder, I was jittery with excitement. OK, maybe it was nerves too, but it was mostly joyous excitement. I was back! I was going to "make it" in New York City! Who knew what "making it" meant, but New York felt like the place to figure that out.
Ten years later, I'm still not sure what "making it" means. I'm starting to thing it means nothing. Or, more specifically, that no one ever makes it. Whenever I talk to people who appear to have "made it" — they got the Broadway show, they sold their book, they opened their own business, they booked a national commercial, etc, etc — it's only added more rungs to their ladder. If you're in the chorus of this show, you're expected to get the lead in the next show, and then win a Tony, and then open your own theater, and then... morph into Stephen Sondheim, I guess? The expectations never stop.
So maybe we've "made it" when we're content without being complacent, when we can be proud of our work without needing the outside world's approval. Is that what Buddhism is about?? I don't know. This took a turn.
Maybe I haven't made it yet, or maybe I did and I just haven't accepted it, or maybe "making it" is a construct of over-worked city-dwellers' imaginations. I can at least say that I've done a lot of cool, fun, embarrassing, hilarious, and badass shit in this city since that first night in Washington Heights. Here's a sampling:
- I've lived in three boroughs.
- I've seen a tremendous amount of excellent comedy and theatre.
- I've performed a fair amount of bad comedy and theatre.
- I've puked in subway station trash cans, on the subway station platform, and in a moving subway car (not all at once, but close).
- I once crashed a 40-year-old's birthday party and danced with a middle-schooler.
- I once chased Philip Seymour Hoffman when he was trying to leave a gathering and spoke unintelligible bullshit at him (RIP Philip, RIP my dignity).
- I've sung a lot of excellent karaoke (where excellence is measured by passion).
- I've seen amazing bands play in teeny-tiny, extra-loud, super-fun venues (RIP Death By Audio, RIP Cake Shop)
- I've cried on the subway and watched other passengers politely turn away.
- I spent three years working in theater, making me question if I really wanted to be an actor.
- I spent three years working in retail, forcing me to be an actor during every shift.
- I jumped around in a romper in Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
- I've lived with an assortment of roommates, ranging from one who wouldn't let me touch her silverware to one who helped me plan an epic Halloween party.
- I discovered hip hop dance classes and learned the real meaning of "fake it 'til you make it."
- I discovered the joy of storytelling and the community of great people that comes with it.
- I know where all the best bagels are.
Even this is just scratching the surface, but I'll stop here, because you get the idea. It's been a fun, crazy, exhausting, enlightening ten years. I hope I can handle ten more, because I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather live.