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.