Warning: This post will be longggg and probably very ramble-y.
I’ve lived in New York for six years. Well, it’ll be six years on August 26, 2018 but I won’t be living here then. So more like five years and eleven months. It’s been amazing. I moved here in 2012 to go to college at NYU. I was 18. I had never lived without my parents, let alone in a major city. Today I’m 24 and I’ve lived in three apartments, two dorms, five neighborhoods and two boroughs. But let’s start at the beginning.
My love affair with New York began in 2005. My family and I took a summer vacation to the city. I was 11 and I had never seen anything like New York. I grew up in a small suburb outside of Pittsburgh, PA. My high school had 700 people in it. The only place you could walk to was a 7-11. The city was like a whole new world and I loved it. I was 11 but I knew one day I would live in New York. At this point all I knew of New York was Times Square, Central Park and the area of 34th to 60th street.
About a year later I became obsessed with musical theatre. I had always loved movie musicals as a kid but in 2006 I discovered RENT and like every other suburban teen girl, I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen or heard. I was 12 so I understood approximately zero of the references in the musical and had no idea what was really going on but it woke me up to what musical theatre could be. (Thank God my parents were not very conservative. In fact, my mom adored RENT more than I did and together we saw the show at least 6 times.) Up until then I had known Annie and The Lion King but RENT was a whole new world. If you’re not aware of the premise of RENT, it takes place in the mid 80’s in NYC during the AIDS epidemic. It’s about a group of friends over the course of the year just trying to survive. I know now that RENT has it’s own problems but it will always hold a special place in my heart in that it created the path for the rest of my life. I jumped full force into musical theatre. The goal was now Broadway, which meant New York. It was perfect. I loved musical theatre and I loved New York and the two went together hand in hand.
From 2006 on, my new Christmas and birthday present from my dad was a trip to New York to see a Broadway show. The first year was The Lion King and the next was, you guessed it, RENT. I visited New York in January every year for six years. If you don’t know, January is one of the absolute worst months to visit New York. The holiday decorations have come down. The snow has just become a nuisance. It’s bitterly cold. And yet, to me it was incredible. Often times I would plan my entire year around what new show I wanted to see that winter. Over the course of those years we saw: Rent, The Lion King, Spring Awakening, HAIR, In the Heights, Billy Elliot and some more I’m sure I’m forgetting. Every few years we’d go back with my mom too so there were a few years I got to visit the city twice a year. Every year when we were deciding where the summer vacation would be that year, I’d always beg for New York. I never won. From 12 on the goal was New York. I was obsessed. I was so ridiculous I used to look up “city sounds” on my laptop and play them as I fell asleep so I could pretend like my suburban house was really an apartment in the city.
For those six years I’d tell everyone that after high school I was moving to New York. I’d send my headshot and resume with my four community theatre credits on it to casting offices in New York that were casting shows with children parts in it. (A fact I look back on now with so much embarrassment.) Everything I did from that point on was with the ultimate goal of getting to New York. And it worked. I got accepted into NYU in their acting department. Then I almost didn’t go.
I had finally gotten in to the school of my dreams in the city where I always wanted to be. Once everything seems to be going your way, it suddenly gets very scary. I was super close to my mom and moving states away suddenly seemed impossible. I wasn’t just moving to a college campus, I was moving to the biggest city in the country. It was scary. I was 18. I had never lived alone before. I had never been away from home for more than a week and here I was moving to New York City.
But I did it. The allure of New York won me over. On August 26, 2012 I packed up my mom’s SUV with my 18 years worth of belongings and moved into my dorm at NYU. I remember pulling upto the building driving along 14th Street, coming from the west side, and seeing a Panera and feeling like I’d be fine because I used to go to my local Panera all the time and now there was one across the street. I could walk to it! I didn’t think there were Panera’s in the city. (I can’t even tell you the last time I went to a Panera in the city). My dorm was right on Union Square which, as I can lovingly say now, is a shit show. There’s always a ton of people out. Seven subway lines converge there. It’s a very busy area. But it was amazing to me. I could walk anywhere and get whatever I wanted at a moment’s notice. Dozens of coffee shops and cafes and stores and restaurants were within a 5 minute walk from me. It was all beginning. I was an acting student in New York at NYU. It felt amazing. It was what I had been working for since I was twelve.
Acting school is tough. Living on your own is tough. NYC is tough. Being 18-21 is tough. Now combine all of those things. New York definitely challenged me during my college years. But I was in college; I was in a bubble of New York. I had classes and built-in friendships. I was in acting class three days a week from 9-6 and made unbelievable friends there. We had to be friends, we saw each other constantly. School was great but it was also really hard. I struggled in my classes and was a small fish in a big pond, a far cry from the life I had been living up until then in Pittsburgh. There were quite a few times I thought about dropping out or changing my major, crying on the phone to my mom in pretty much every public park from 27th Street to 14th Street. (I can’t even begin to count how many public cries I’ve had in New York over the years.) But I was never really serious. I knew there was nothing else I could do and nowhere else I could go.
Fast forward three years and I graduated early. I did it. NYU was expensive and whatever I could do to lighten my load I did. So I finished earlier than the rest of my classmates. While they were still in class, I worked and temped and was jealous of them getting to do their senior year. I felt like I was still in school and didn’t take advantage of the city like I should’ve in that year. New York post grad was very different from my college years. My structured days were gone. I didn’t have class all day and rehearsal all weekend. I was working shitty jobs that I hated in office buildings all over the city. The struggle of New York was becoming much more real.
In the last three years of post grad life in the city, things have changed. I’m pretty much happy with where I am but I’ve been majorly slacking in my artistic life. New York was where I grew up. Where I went to college. I never left my college town, it’s like I’m still stuck there. It just happens to be New York City. There are plenty of people I went to school with who are thriving here and doing incredible things. It just hasn’t been that way for me. New York has been losing it’s allure to me. The winters are so cold. The summers are so hot. It’s crowded everywhere. It’s so ridiculously expensive. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York. I always will. But in the last year I’ve been feeling that pull that I need to go somewhere else, that I need to wake myself up and kick my ass into gear the way I did when I moved here six years ago. Moving to New York at 18 was a wake up call that I could do whatever I set my mind to and I’ve loved my time here but I think it’s time for me to try something else. I’m stuck in a rut here and sometimes a massive change is what it takes to get out of such a rut (at least it is for me). Go big or go home, right?
Around last year at this time, I knew winter would be approaching before long and the days would be unbearably cold and dark. I felt so sad. I didn’t love New York like I used to, I wasn’t excited for snow or the holiday lights. I used to count down the days until the holiday season and now I was dreading it. I knew my time here was almost up. I could feel it in my gut. I started thinking. I’m an actor, where else am I going to go?
I started dropping hints to my boyfriend and family that I wanted to go where it was warm and in April planned a trip there. Within the first 48 hours I was sold. I felt refreshed. Excited again. The way I felt back when I used to visit New York when I was a teenager. Not to mention after six years in the city I now have a love for sprawling shopping plazas and aisles you can actually push a cart down. I miss driving and singing along to the radio. I was ready for a change. So on August 22, 2018 I will be moving to Los Angeles. The flight is booked. The date is set. My cats have their own airline tickets.
I’m sure after a while LA will wear me down like New York did and it won’t be as enchanting as I see it right now. I know it has its downsides. Traffic. Expensive. Far from home. But I have to give it a try. See what else it out there. I’m 24 and if I’m going to move across the country, now is the time to do it. New York will be here. Maybe I’ll move back in a year, in two years, in five years, in ten years. Maybe never. Who knows?
I grew up in New York. Not literally but I spent six years of my life here. Six years where I grew the most. The highest highs and the lowest lows and everything in between. I learned more about myself here than I ever thought possible. Made some of the best friends I’ll ever have here. Became an actor here. I was a kid when I moved here and now I’m a full fledged adult ready to take on the West Coast. I wouldn’t trade my six years in New York for anything.
Today I took myself on a date to Strand in Union Square. Back to my old stomping grounds. I bought this book, Goodbye to All That. Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. I have seen this book for years on the table at Strand, always flipping through it somewhat curiously but thinking to myself, “I’ll never leave New York, why are you even looking at this?” Something always drew me to it though. Maybe I knew I would need it one day. So today, with one month left in New York, I sat myself down in one of my favorite coffee shops in the East Village and started reading essay after essay written by writers who are far more eloquent than I am, writing pretty much how I felt about loving and leaving New York. I bought a journal to document my last month here. I’m taking it day by day. And next month I’ll be on the other side of the country, ready for the next journey.
Goodbye New York, I’ll see you on the other side.
This was very long and probably fairly disjointed. But New York and I have had a very long, tumultuous relationship, the longest relationship of my life so far,and this was more for myself. Just a way to get my thoughts out and approach the question “Why would you ever leave New York?” There’s so much more I could say about all this, but it needs to wrap up somehow. If you read this all, I thank you and I hope you will join me on my journey to the West Coast to see what else is out there. Until then.
Now here are some throwback photos from my years in New York.
I live in NYC before- 12 years ago. I was 12- it was my mom and I. It was 2006 and the two of us saw Wicked on Broadway. Wicked sparked my love for musicals. I went to Central Park, American Girl, and Time Square, etc.
I want to go to NYC like. I want to make it a whole theatre NYC trip. I trip I would be interesting I would go to be cool.