For Every Action, There is An Equal and Opposite Reaction

When you live in New York City, your life can turn in an instant.  This is especially true when you’re almost twenty-three years old and decided to be an actor.  It is a city of ups and downs, and you never quite know which one you’re going to have each day.  New York City is definitely a place full of possibilities, but if you remember that we principally live in a world of balance, for all the possibilities that exist, there are an equal number of closed doors.  In other words, Newton’s Third Law: “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Sometimes, I only see the closed doors, the impossibly tall ladders to climb professionally, and hear only “no” or “not today.”  It’s overwhelming to feel crushed by the weight of the world, and let me tell you, it can be a heavy, heavy world.  You feel as though it is your burden alone to bear, because in a city of nine million people, it can be a very lonely city.  You might be among the masses, but really, you’re alone.  Or at least, it feels that way.

I’ve been in the City around six weeks, and the honeymoon is over.  I can see through the facades and glamour now.  My City-in-Shining-Armor sometimes just feels cold against my skin, not letting me in to the warm heart behind it, and so I’ve started surrounding myself in my own armor, trying to push away anything that will hurt me.  I can feel myself too becoming cold and hard, but there are things you can’t push away and have to face head on, and the emotional toll it takes is unbearable at times.  My roommates (both longer NYC residents than I) have assured me everyone has milestones in their NYC residency where you hit an emotional wall and don’t know how to bounce back.  One month.  Three months.  Six months.  One year.  “It’s your time,” they said last night as I poured my heart out about my worries and woes, “we’ve all had it.  You’ll pull through and have another one down the road and pull through that one too.  It’s just the nature of growing up and living in this city.”

I wish college had prepared me emotionally for the anxieties of real life.  When you’re in school, so much is taken care of for you: housing, food, education, sometimes even a job.  Naturally, you have to pay for all of it, but it’s all right there for you.  We take so much for granted in college; all these little conveniences become big inconveniences the minute you’re handed your diploma.  It makes you look at your parents in a completely different light and wonder at their ability to handle it all without letting you know how worried they actually are.  Though I already appreciate my parents for all they’ve done, now that I am out of school and living on my own, I appreciate them more than ever.  Still, no college course can prepare you for the inevitable emotional wall awaiting you in your first months away from the comforts of home and school.

Monday night, I hit my first emotional wall.  After a frustrating ballet class, I checked my phone and received a message from my mom regarding my bank account balance after taking out money for November rent.  After staring in horror at the number for a good two minutes and calculating how much I had between that and my bank account here in New York, I started hyperventilating.  I completely shut down.  Walking back to the subway from the dance studio, I couldn’t catch my breath; it sounded like I was having an asthma attack.  I was trying to stifle sobs, but I wound up walking down 55th St with tears streaming down my face and my heart pounding.  I didn’t know what to do.  I had enough money for the next month’s rent but I still needed to buy groceries and a new Metrocard in a few days and my student loans start collecting in December and I owed my roommates for various utilities/communal supplies and then rent would be due again in December.  I felt like walls were pushing in on me from all sides (like Indiana Jones and Short Round in Temple of Doom), and in a matter of seconds, I’d be crushed under the weight of it all.  I literally felt like I was suffocating in the middle of 7th avenue, physically gasping for breath in between sobs.

Not knowing what else to do, I reached for my phone and began dialing.  When my friend answered and asked what was up, I choked into the phone, “Are you home?  I need you.”  I could hear the worry in his voice (because I am NOT a crier ever), “Yeah, I’m home. Are you okay?”  I croaked, “What was a decent day turned into a terrible night, and I need to be with someone right now or I’m going to wind up alone having a nervous breakdown and potentially not be able to calm myself down enough to breathe.”  And with that I hung up, hopped on the subway to Queens, and sat silently crying all the way to his stop while women around me on the train pretended not to notice my mascara-streaked face.

The minute I walked in the door of his apartment, he took my bags out of my hands and wrapped his arms around me.  I don’t know how long we stood like that in his hallway, me blubbering and sniffling and sobbing into his shoulder while he held me tightly and rubbed my back.  He didn’t ask what was wrong; he just welcomed me with open arms and soothed me as if I was a child.  When I finally was calmed down enough to explain why I was so upset, he sat silently listening, taking everything in.  When I finished, he sat processing for a moment, and finally said, “It’s going to be okay.  YOU are going to be okay.”  Then he launched into a whole justification of how I wouldn’t be left a pauper on the side of the street, calculating out impending paychecks and reassuring me of my familial support if I’m really pressed for cash.  “You have to take things one day at a time,” he said matter-of-factly without a hint of superiority, “because if you don’t, you are going to worry yourself sick.  This is the hardest part, this initial move drains your money lower than anything else will, but you ARE going to build your account back up, and you WILL be okay.”  He took my hand in his and looked me directly in the eye, “It will all be okay.”

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In my lowest, most horrible moment (thus far), I was met with unconditional love and understanding.  I was given hope and faith, things I had nearly abandoned in my utter desperation.  He saw past the closed doors and negative words and gave me opportunities and kindness.  And I realized here is my true armor: my friends.  They protect me and meet my challenges with unwavering strength (and sometimes Rice Krispy treats!), but they are not cold and hard; they are warm and giving.  In a city of nine million people, I was reminded I am not alone.  I am never alone.  I am surrounded by people who love me and will do anything for me. What a beautiful epiphany to come from such an ugly mess.

New York City thrives on this kind of duality, this give and take.  It took so much out of me yesterday, but I was given so much back in a different way: an outpouring of love, not just from him but from other friends here in the City, my roommates, friends across the country.  All of them, in their own way, wrapped themselves around me, enveloping me in warmth.  This is something for which I am grateful, something I will always hold onto every time I struggle with life and art.  So what if I’m dirt poor?  I’m rich with true friends (cheesy, I know, but that’s how I feel).

I don’t know what to expect in the days ahead nor can I fully prepare for it, but at least I have my armor with me, and they’ll help me get through it all with love, faith, hope, and occasionally, Rice Krispy treats.

The Perks of Being a NYC Temp Worker

I came to New York to be an actor.  I’d much rather be onstage or in front of a camera than behind a desk, but when you have rent to pay and no acting jobs currently coming in, temp-ing is necessary.  When you think about it, all acting jobs are temp jobs too, so I guess practice makes perfect.  Instead of lamenting my status as a “gypsy worker,” I decided to make a pros/cons list to temp-ing in NYC!

The Perks of Being an NYC Temp Worker While Trying to Be An Actress:

1. FREE office coffee.  It may not always be Starbucks (unless you’re temping for the Starbucks HQ or in my current case, a Starbucks-affiliated company, Barnes & Noble Corporate HQ), but it’s hot, freshly made, will keep you awake while you’re staring at a computer screen all day, and did I mention it’s FREE?  It’s okay to splurge once in awhile on your morning cup of joe for something like the Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte (my personal fave) or Peppermint Mocha, but like the McDonalds McRib and Monopoly season (I’ve come to the conclusion I will never get that damned Boardwalk piece to match my Park Place for the $1 million prize), all good corporate promotions/seasonal items must come to an end, so just bring a travel mug and stop shelling out for expensive coffee when the free stuff does the trick just as well.

2. Discovering new parts of New York City.  Unless you work with a shitty, backchannel temp agency (By that, I mean you work for the Mob, Mafia, or other underground organized crime ring, which I won’t judge you for because you’re probably making more money than I am, and your life has a better chance of becoming a gritty Martin Scorsese movie nominated for like, twelve Oscars), you probably won’t be venturing to some of the seedier parts of the City and its burroughs.  I’m currently working in the Union Square area.  Next week, I might be in Midtown, the Flatiron District, Chelsea, the Upper East Side, or the Financial District.  I get to explore all sorts of areas of the Big Apple without taking the Circle Line Bus and finding out where all the celebrities live (It’s called Google, people.).

3. No office drama.  Though sometimes you’ll receive longer gigs, most of your work will probably be no longer than a week or two at a lot of places, which means there’s not enough time to really get involved in any office fights or gossip unless you’re really trying or are filming a reality series for E!, MTV, VH1, or Bravo.  And let’s face it: you’re probably not going to be on one of those networks unless you happen to be something people in red states deem as “controversial.”  Anyway, being a temp means (most likely) never getting into table-flipping catfights.

4. Pretending to be on Mad Men.  If you are hip or care about high quality, niche dramatic television or possibly lived through the 1960s or just have a thing for skinny ties and sleek suits (or in my case, most of the above and I have an inappropriate crush on the dreamy Jon Hamm), you probably are a fan of Mad Men.  Every new office is a new chance to pretend I’m actually roaming the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Price where I’m bound to have a steamy, albeit Old-Fashioned induced tryst with Don Draper or greet representatives from Lucky Strike in a sexy Joan Holloway manner (though I will never have Christina Hendricks’ impressive, um, “accessories.”).  This can, of course, lead to problems if you have a long-term temp job and are constantly boozing, smoking, and seducing your way around the office, because not only will your work performance suffer, people might think you’re a drunken whore who sounds like Harvey Fierstein.

5. You get to work a variety of jobs.  Though I have a slew of secretarial/receptionist gigs lined up, most temp agencies have big projects come through they need people for such as the U.S. Open (Hellooooo Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer!), designer sample sales, trade shows, and holiday promotional gigs.  So even though this week I’m stuck behind a desk, next week I might be donning a Santa hat and selling specialty toys or wearing Ralph Lauren and helping people to their expensive seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium whilst ogling Nadal’s very fine derrière.  It’s a little bit of everything that will make for great anecdotes in magazine interviews profiling my (impending) rise to stardom.

6. Learning how different companies operate.  Actors are excellent observers, so I try to take the opportunity to learn as much as I can.  It never hurts to actually know what the company you’re working for really does just in case you actually want to work there someday if you get tired of waiting in lines for auditions at 6 am everyday.  Also, I’m just nosy.  That’s why I stare at people on the subway too.

7. Meeting lots of new people.  Goodbye EHarmony and!

…Just kidding.

(Only partially.)

8. Meeting lots of new people.  Temp-ing provides all the perks (making lots of fast connections) of a New York City swanky party minus all the actual perks (booze) of a New York City swanky party.  You never know who might be able to advance your career or just want to add you to their Facebook friends list so they can stalk all your photos and then awkwardly comment on them all.

9. Paychecks.  Sure, it’s not like you’re rolling in the Benjamins (like apparently a lot of rappers do…or at least, that’s my impression based on their lyrics and music videos), but at least it’s a decent paycheck to help pay the rent and the highway-but-actually-train robbery known as Unlimited Ride Metro Cards from the MTA.  As any actor will tell you, any paycheck is a welcome paycheck (a fact which Nicolas Cage’s more-recent film credits currently reflect.).

10. Different bosses/supervisors.  I’ve had my share of strict and not-so-strict bosses (luckily, most of them have been the latter).  If you can’t stand your boss because she’s an ice-maven a la Miranda Priestly in Devil Wears Prada or he’s a “that’s what she said”-ing doofus a la Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin, thankfully your job will be a quickie rather than working under them for forever.  That’s what she said.

The Cons of Being an NYC Temp Worker While Trying to Be An Actress:

1. You’re not actually on Mad Men.  No Don Draper.  No quippy one-liners from Roger Sterling.  No drinking in the office.  No screwing in the office.  No Don Draper.  No cute 1960s outfits.  No awesome office presentations about Kodak Slide Projectors.  No Don Draper.  I could go on and on, but for those of you poor unfortunate souls who either don’t get AMC or just don’t watch the show, I won’t waste your time with lots of insider references.  But please, do yourself a favor and watch the damn show.  Did I mention Jon Hamm is in it?

2. Never staying in one place long enough.  You don’t always really get to know people and forge any lasting connections.  Oh dear me, how ever will I find a husband or a doubles tennis partner?  Oh right.  That’s what working the U.S. Open is for.  Or being on the Bachelorette.

3. No Facebook/Twitter at work.  Companies who want people to be more productive have such websites blocked, which means I can’t stalk the cute guy in the cubicle down the hall or let everyone know I support #SelenaandJustin4eva.  This means I have to stalk people the old-fashioned way: Google and a pair of binoculars.

4. Boring office tasks.  Without Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer or Jim from the Office to distract me from the mundane tasks of office work, how can I possibly keep from falling asleep?  Oh, and thanks JG-L for giving me completely unrealistic expectations about getting a hot makeout session every time I go into the copy room.  And also IKEA.

5. Always being “the new kid.”  Now I know how foreign exchange students feel (Sorry for making fun of your Hasselhoff obsession, random German kid in high school) and also animals at the zoo (no wonder the Bronx Zoo cobra escaped!).

Clearly, the perks of being a New York City temp worker outweigh the cons although, being a temp worker means I’m still not actually doing what I came to NYC to do…land a husband.

As if!  I’m only 23, and this is New York, not Kentucky!  (No offense, Kentuckians, just trying to make a veiled Clueless reference.)

One day, I will no longer be the resident Xerox-girl, but until I land my big break, I’ll just drown my boredom in free coffee and thoughts of Don Draper.

It’s a Helluva Town

I have been in New York City almost three weeks, and yet I still haven’t grasped that I actually live here.  Have you ever wanted something so much that once you get it, you can’t believe that it’s real?  That’s how I feel about living in New York.  I have been dreaming of it my whole life, and now that dream is real; I’m living it.

Things are starting to feel normal now.  Well, more normal.  I have now been in New York longer than I ever have, and it’s starting to feel like home.  I know, you’re wondering how a city of over nine million people, massively tall buildings, frequent noise, and a definite lack of greenery can feel like home.  Not to get all Bill-Clinton-at-the-Impeachment-Trial (oh the 1990s!) on you, but it depends on what the definition of home is.  Sure, “home is where the heart is,” but I think home is a place you feel comfortable and happy and especially where you feel infinitely sad upon leaving.

I suppose I’m still in the “honeymoon phase” of my life here: everything seems wonderful and new and significant.  You know what?  I’m okay with that.  I think we’re too jaded these days about everything in our lives; we’ve seen it and done it all.  I don’t want to go through life never enjoying anything because it’s passé to still be genuinely amazed by things.  Though I’m starting to feel more at home here, sometimes I’m walking around Manhattan at night when the skyscrapers are all lit up, and I can’t catch my breath.  I just look around me in wonder, thinking, “Wow, I really live here.  It’s just so beautiful.”  I have a realistic version of New York City and a romantic one; usually I live somewhere in between, but right now, I’m living more in the romantic one, the one where the sight of the Chrysler and Empire State Building make me swoon and a leisurely walk through Central Park makes me dream about having a great romance with someone.

I have my worries too, mostly concerning finances.  In a city where you have everything at your fingertips, they don’t tell you how much having everything at your fingertips actually costs.  I suppose it’s a rude awakening for any young person, moving out on his or her own and starting their life.  Having to pay for everything your parents took care of for you like groceries and utilities and transportation can feel overwhelming.  I’m only about three weeks into it, and I finally fully understand my parents’ worries about how to make ends meet.

On the other hand, I am wholly optimistic about the future.  As of this moment, I only see possibilities, and I’m keeping the negative thoughts at bay.  The bad comes with the good too, you see, and you have to figure out how to deal with both, and right now, I’m doing a pretty good job of focusing my energy into positivity.  Yesterday, I auditioned for and was cast in a cabaret show at the Duplex down in Greenwich Village.  It showcases emerging talent and gives us an opportunity to perform, potentially for agents/managers.  I’m performing in November, and I’m pretty excited to have a chance to do that again since I spent my summer winery-ing and being jealous of all my friends with summerstock jobs.  It’s a place to start.

A New York debut.  You only get one (and of course, you only get one Broadway debut, but that will take longer to secure).  It’s hard not to feel like I’m on the precipice of something special…a life finally fully beginning.