In case you missed it, I was in New York City last weekend for KidLitCon, a really awesome event of children’s lit bloggers, authors, and wannabes. Last post, I sort of talked about the children’s lit community and how beautiful and awesome it feels to be a part of it. Today, I’d like to talk about New York.
The last time I was in New York City, I was seventeen. Five days off my graduation. Two weeks off my first break up. Three months away from college, and constantly at odds with my parents1. And I was hell-bent on being an actress. I thought acting was my calling. You know how people talk about that stupid romantic ideal of having a calling? Yeah, I definitely thought the theater was mine. And maybe it was – I still love the theater. I always will.
But I was certain that there was nothing in the world that could fulfill me the way acting did, and in my mind, an integral part of being an actress was living in New York. I wanted to be there so badly. I wanted to leave high school behind me and leap into the real world, certain I would be just as big there as I had been in Midvale Utah. I had my Plan, and I had no intention to deviate from that Plan. No way I was going to do anything but follow my Plan.
My Plan went like this:
- Go to New York
- Get an agent
- Land a big part
- Go to premier2
- Live dreams in happiness forever with no financial struggles
New York was the first big city I ever visited. I thought it was exciting – the lights, the crowds, the clinically insane that roamed the streets smelling like vomit and urine. That was city life, right? So what if you have to clutch your bag and carry mace? I refused to be overwhelmed by New York because I was determined to prove to myself that this was what I wanted3.
Four years later, I returned to New York, brain full of the memories of the awesome times I had in New York the year I turned seventeen. My brain totally forgot to remind me about all the terrible stuff about the city that it had repressed in a desperate desire to prove to myself that I could make it in the Big Apple. This time, I saw everything ugly about it that I had overlooked when I was seventeen. New York felt predatory. It felt mean in a way no other city I have visited has.
The illusion of New York shattered. The city of dreams that I had been certain called me from its gold-paved streets was just a movie in my mind, just like my now dilapidated dreams of stardom and the theater.
New York lost its magic for me this past weekend, which made me a little sad. Granted, it was probably a much starker contrast just because of the nature of my memories versus reality, along with the dying dreams I had once associated with the city. I think how I felt about the city the two different times I went is very reflective of who I am now and who I was then.Then I was itching for somewhere to belong, so I tried to force myself into a place I didn’t fit, like trying to stick a piece of a jigsaw puzzle in the wrong hole. Now, I’m slowly starting to find it.
It’s not that I don’t like New York anymore, I still think it’s an insanely exciting place, but some of the magic had rubbed off. This is probably some psychological commentary on my current mental state – if you wish to analyze me in comments, I’m more than willing to stretch out on the couch. But I just thought it was an interesting observation. After all the other places I’ve visited, places that I felt were beautiful and welcoming from the moment I arrived, the streets of New York felt dark and cold. And I knew that my frail seventeen-year-old dreams wouldn’t have survived there.
Good thing I found new dreams. Better dreams. Seriously. So much better4.
- I’d just like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my parents for being such a terror in high school. Seriously, I was a little sh*t for the better part of three years. Yes, I was seventeen. But I still wish I could take it all back.
- Raise your hand if you get this movie reference.
- Talking myself into thinking this was what I wanted was the story of most of my short career as an actress.
- Not to say that those of you who aspire to a career in the theater are somehow stupid – I still think theater is one of the greatest things about being alive. But it wasn’t my dream. I know that now. If it’s yours, I commend you. You’re a lot braver than I am.