“With some luck I just might keep on climbing…”

I always have a hard time settling on what kind of music I want to listen to while writing.  I can literally spend several minutes deliberating on what type of songs fit the tone of what I’m hoping to write about. It may also be a form of procrastination, but I prefer thinking of it as a strange little quirk.

Today’s quirky procrastination soundtrack is old school No Doubt. Something about these songs takes me right back to a very different time.

I had coffee with an old friend today, someone I haven’t seen in over five years, someone who was around during that very different time. She’s in the city for a couple of weeks auditioning for some stuff (everybody wish her many broken legs!) and she took an hour out of the craziness to have some coffee and catch up.

This seems like a little thing to reflect on but, for a few reasons, it’s really not.

First, if you’ve ever dealt with any kind of anxiety, you may understand how nerve-wracking making plans can be and how easy it is to find a million reasons to blow them off. To make social plans and follow through with them is an accomplishment for me. And it’s one I’m very happy about because seeing an old friend and being able to catch up like no time had really passed, well… that’s pretty awesome.

Second, something my friend said resonated with me. Something simple. She remarked on how we had a lot of fun back then. And I thought, “Yeah, you’re right.” And that was a strange thought because I’ve spent a great deal of time judging myself for my indiscriminate youth. But it wasn’t all bad. Seeing this friend reminded me that the good memories deserve as much weight as the not-so-good ones. Maybe they even deserve more.

Third, talking with someone my age who hadn’t given up on the big dreams definitely made me wonder how crazy I’ve been to put such strict limitations on my own. I spent a year auditioning for everything I could get seen for and it was overwhelming and stressful and just really, really hard. But there were times it was also exciting. Hanging out with this friend reminded me of how much courage and optimism it takes to try. She’s still determined to somehow make a life out of performing and that deserves a standing ovation.

And finally. Between apartment hunting and career uncertainty and life changes, my love affair with this city has felt very tenuous lately, but somehow just being able to say to a friend, “This is my favorite place in the city,” reminds me that roots take time to grow, but that some of mine are sinking into these busy sidewalks. And that’s something to hold onto.

One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years…

Well, it’s about that time again. Time to start packing up all the crap that has accumulated throughout the year and putting it in boxes. Time to pull up whatever tiny roots have managed to sprout and transplant in some other neighborhood. As someone who has moved at least once a year for the last decade, I gotta tell ya, I am OVER IT. Packing an apartment up to move has to one of the most heinously grown up tasks that exists and I hate it violently. Possibly the only grown up chore I hate more than packing is actually finding a new apartment.

rent

If you’ve never tried to find an apartment in NYC, there is nothing I can possibly tell you to illustrate how awful it is. If you’re in the same boat as me, whether for the first time or as a seasoned New Yorker, well, Godspeed. Apartment hunting in NYC is a special level of hell reserved for serious masochists. The only thing that makes it at all worthwhile is that once it is over, you get to wake up every day in the greatest city in the world. Whether you end up in an affordable place in the Far Rockaways or an outrageously overpriced loft in Williamsburg, you still get to lay your head down every night in New York City. And that? That does not suck.

But still, if we could maybe cut down just a little on the bait and switch nonsense and crazy broker fees, well, that would be helpful.

Wish me luck, friends. The next six weeks could be rough.

“Owning a dog is slightly less expensive than being addicted to crack.” -Jen Lancaster

This has been a very long three months. As some of you may know, but most of you probably don’t, we have been having some gigantic issues with the management company of our apartment building. Today we had to put on our respectable clothes and spend hours playing grown up in a court room to defend our right to live in our apartment for the next couple of months. Not fun. But, in theory, it’s an ill wind that blows no good and this particularly bitter wind certainly brought with it a handful of lessons about being a grown up.

1. Get everything in writing, especially if a verbal agreement contradicts something that is written. Example- when the nice realtor who lives in the same building with her dog says the management looks the other way about small pets, despite the lease saying no pets, do not just believe her because she is nice. Nice doesn’t hold up as well as words on paper.

2. Have a nest egg or an emergency credit card. Preferably both. Just in case life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes you get stuck with surprise expenses, like pricey doggy daycare in NYC, and it’s nice if you can deal with those expenses without having to eat ramen for a month.

3. When in doubt, lawyer up. Seriously. If you have to go toe to toe with a company whose sole interest is their bottom line, it’s a good idea to have someone on your side who can finish their signature with Esq. Lawyers are much harder to bully with forms and technicalities and not-so-subtle intimidation tactics than the average tenant. It’s a pricey investment, but the peace of mind is worth it, and, sometimes, if you get someone really good, the results more than pay for the cost.

4. Some things are worth fighting for. Our tiny canine princess (pictured below) has brought incalculable amounts of happiness to my home and I would fight for her a million times over.

Fay

And as for the last lesson…

5. Winning. Is. AWESOME. That tiny pup and all her various people are staying right in this apartment until the lease is up.

Boom. Lawyered.

And when I grow up, I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed…

Welcome back to me! I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from this writing regularly thing that I was doing. I’ve been a bit bogged down in introspection and decided it might be best to take a few weeks to collect my thoughts before I put them on the internet for the world to judge. But, to be honest, I’ve had a bit of difficulty finding clarity lately. I’ve been feeling like the universe is trying to send me a message. And until this evening, I was pretty sure that message was to not even bother with trying to change things, because the second you do, it all falls apart. Several separate instances led to my forming this opinion.

#1- Back in late October, I was pretty certain I didn’t want to stay in law school, but I made up my mind to stick it out for the semester and see how I felt in December. It seemed like the right thing to do to at least give it that much of a try. Then a family crisis happened and I was called out of town and by the time I returned it was near to impossible to catch up on all I’d missed. Said the universe, “Fuck it. Go watch Netflix instead.” And despite my resolution to finish the term, I found myself in the dean’s office completing an exit interview and hanging my head because I couldn’t keep it together.

#2- In January I wrote myself a list of goals that escalated in difficulty for twelve months to try and help myself develop healthier habits. I got a good start on this and things were going well and then, well, my dad almost died in a car accident. Suffice it to say that my new goal was just to get him through the worst of it without having a breakdown of my own. Said the universe, “Fuck it. All you have time for right now is Publix subs and caffeine. Deal with your health later.”

#3- On Saturday, June 14th, I felt a rare sense of daring developing. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a right coward when it comes down to anything even remotely intimidating, so I semi-dismissed the feeling and went to bed. I woke up on Sunday morning and the feeling had not only persisted, it had redoubled its efforts at getting my attention. And I knew it was time. I was ready to try and learn to be brave. I thought, if I can take one little step today, then I’ll be able to take another little one tomorrow and some more after that. I dragged my ever-accommodating wife off to Coney Island and found a roller coaster that looked like it would scare me without killing me. We got in line and we paid and I panicked. I’m not a brave person and doing a brave thing was WAY outside my comfort zone. But I also realized that it was possible there was more to my panic than just the roller coaster fear (although that was a pretty giant fear by itself). If I managed to face up to one of my fears, I would know I was strong enough to face up to more of them, but I’d also have one less excuse to avoid them. I got on that coaster (reluctantly and with my wife urging me every step of the way) and I screamed my face off and cried and laughed and ended the ride not even knowing what to do with myself. And it was awesome. And so I thought, “Good job self. Let’s keep this up.” And for a few days I did. I even decided that I was going to go crazy and take a tap class. It’s been my lifelong dream to take dance classes at Broadway Dance Center, but I’ve avoided it because I felt like I wasn’t ready, like I’d stick out to much for being the large person in the room, like maybe I just wasn’t good enough to dare to dance on those hallowed floors. But I was going to do it. I was going to tell the world and my own insecurity to suck it and that I had as much right to dance as anyone. Yup. And then my ankle gave way as I was walking through a parking lot and that little dance class idea flew right on out the window. See, with my history of ankle injuries, there’s a strong possibility that a doctor could tell me I’ve done too much damage and won’t be able to dance. Until June 21st at about 10pm, I was pretty sure that was the universe’s final nail in the coffin of my ambitions and goals. I was relatively certain that the message was, “Fuck it. Hide in your room and drink a lot of wine because every time you try to make things better, I’m gonna knock you on your butt.”

But around 10pm my wife found out Shrek the Musical existed on Netflix and we decided to turn it on. And then this ragtag crew of fairytale creatures took the stage and somewhere in my brain a little light went on. The Pied Piper’s rats started dancing with Sutton Foster and I literally cried because the idea that I could lose dance was too painful. It was one thing to always think in the back of my head that I could get brave and go back when I was ready. It was a whole other tragedy to think that there might not be a choice. And I think that’s when it clicked. What if the universe isn’t trying to tell you to give up? What if the universe is trying to prove that there’s nothing you haven’t made it through, even if things didn’t always go as planned? What if you have a choice in how you interpret any message? Or what if the universe doesn’t give a fig about you at all? Maybe things just happen and you get through them how you can. I wouldn’t trade being there with my family through various crises for the best law school grades ever and a list of perfectly checked off goals. It was worth more to me to be there to say goodbye to someone I love, than it was to be in law school. It was more important to me to be with my dad whenever he woke up for that week when things were still really scary than it was to have perfect gold stars for drinking enough water and working out. And while this ankle injury is really scary for me right now, maybe the point wasn’t to take dance away, but to remind me to fight for something that it would hurt so much to lose. Maybe the universe is just trying to remind me of what my priorities really ought to be.

So to that end I’ve decided that this injury isn’t going to be an end for me. I don’t know how things will ultimately turn out with my foot, but I know that it’s time for me to figure out some priorities. I’m very good at making abstract lists of things I want and ideas I’d theoretically like to pursue, but I’m terrible at making concrete goals for myself. Much like bravery, it’s something I need to work on. So here are the first few.

Awesome Life Goal #1- Live in New York City for five years before considering relocation again. I’m infamous for my gypsy ways, but I’ve grown tired of traipsing around. One of my two goals in life was to be a New Yorker. It’s time to stick it out and make it work.

Awesome Life Goal #2- Go talk to a therapist. I was hesitant to be so forthcoming about this particular goal, but I realized that that is because our society has put such a stigma on asking for help with mental/emotional issues. But the reality is, if I am willing to go to the foot doctor to fix my foot when it is injured, I should be willing to do the same for my brain. Plus I really think that everyone could use an unbiased sounding block from time to time to help sort things out in their heads. It’s time for me to stop being a hypocrite and take my own advice. It’s a tough world, and if someone out there can make my anxiety about living in it a little less then it seems like a worthwhile goal to have.

Awesome Life Goal #3- Rejoin the world. Start trying to meet people in the city I love. Make plans for coffee with friends and actually follow through. Go to meetup groups and hang out with people that are into the same things as me. Connect with people again. It’s scary and difficult and probably worth it.

Awesome Life Goal #4- When I get sad, stop being sad and be awesome instead.

Not a night goes by I don’t dream of wandering through the home that might have been…

Things are changing. Life is changing. I suppose the truth of it is, life changes everyday that you’re alive, but the current we’re in now feels like it’s running a little faster than usual these days. I am anxious. I am excited. I am “a mess of contradictions in a dress”.

We’ve been back in Albany for a few months now and it feels like we’re making a much greater success of it than last time. Jen and I have a fantastic apartment with our very own speakeasy in the basement. We live in a great neighborhood with the best coffee in Albany close enough to walk to, even in a blizzard. We both have okay jobs that are significantly better than some we’ve had in the past. Jen is headed back to school for special ed certification. I have a fantastic part in a show. We are reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. We are planning our wedding in a very concrete way and it is all really exciting. Everything seems to be flowing smoothly and we are in a lovely place.

The only difficulty with this lovely place we are in is that it is still full of uncertainty. That question of what to be when I grow up is ever present in my mind and insistent upon an answer like yesterday. Law school? Back to acting? Open up a coffee shop? Who knows.

But I do have one truth. I left my heart on a busy street somewhere in the East Village. NYC feels like home to me. I think between being discouraged with my career and hating the neighborhood we lived in, I may have let go too easily. I can’t listen to Empire State of Mind without feeling sick. I miss the craziness. I miss the busy-ness. I miss that I never for a second felt bored. I miss randomly walking into fashion shows and parades. I miss feeling like I was living in the pulse of the world.

When I was little I had two goals. 1. Be an actress. 2. Live in NYC. I’ve been toying with the notion that maybe both things aren’t possible. But perhaps if I can find something to do with my life that doesn’t kill my soul, perhaps I would have the means to come back. I theorize that if I trained as a lawyer, 1. I might be able to do good things in the world, 2. I could afford to live in the city I love so much, and 3. I could afford to train and could still audition on evenings and weekends if I so chose. It seems like a logical course of action and, given that I thrive in academia, one that I might actually enjoy. So, that’s what I’ll be aiming for. Law school it is. Provided I can get in that is. I’m signing up for the LSAT, despite its horrendous $160 price tag, and I guess I’ll go from there. Wish me luck, friends.