Taylor Hughes Smith. I’m thankful for him, our friendship, and the fact he lives here in this crazy, huge, weird, yet wonderful city with me. We’ve been friends since we were five, but really became closer than close in middle and high school. He is one of my oldest, dearest, best friends, and I just can’t believe we wound up here together like we always said we would back in high school when real life seemed so far away.
Taylor and I always knew we were two-of-a-kind; artsy yet focused free spirits in a conservative, small town. When classmates around us talked about wanting to stay in Missouri for college, becoming a teacher or something “practical,” the two of us would just smile and nod, because we both had bigger plans. I should note there’s nothing wrong with our classmates’ plans; plenty of people do exactly that and are very happy, and I wouldn’t deign to belittle their dreams simply because they are different from mine. Teaching, banking, owning a business, being a doctor or lawyer are all noble professions, it’s just not what I ever wanted for myself.
I can remember so many times we’d sit together on the way to a band competition or in the choir room, making plans and dreaming about what we’d do when we graduated and left our hometown. I’ve wanted to live in New York practically my whole life; I had this romantic vision of taxis and Broadway shows and grand apartments and picnics in Central Park. After growing up in a town where I could go to Wal-Mart and see practically everyone I knew (especially when I was buying something embarrassing like lady-parts hygienic supplies), the idea of living in a city where nobody knew my name or reputation or what brand of lady-parts hygienic supplies I bought was completely welcomed and wholly appealing. Not to mention the fact I needed to be in a place where I could embrace my art and more importantly, that place would embrace it.
Taylor felt the same way. He was desperate to play in a symphony orchestra where all his hours of practicing the bassoon were not thought odd (his dream job is the NY Philharmonic). Being one of the first and few openly gay students in my high school often put Taylor at odds with other students and teachers who couldn’t and wouldn’t understand why he was the way he was (well, is). He faced a lot of bullying, hurtful comments, and downright discrimination on several occasions simply because he refused to hide who he was or change it to make himself less “controversial.” Music was his escape. And he was/is damn good at it. New York, for both of us, meant escape. Freedom. Art. Love. It became a beacon of hope in a town occasionally stuck in the dark ages.
He went to school in Kansas, and I went to school in Oklahoma. We often had phone dates to catch up on each other’s lives. We were both happier being at schools where we could be free to be ourselves and pursue our passions. Several spring breaks, we both wound up being in New York together at the same time, so it became like a preview of what life could be like: our dreams inching closer to reality. When I finally moved here last year, it was without Taylor. He still had a semester to finish his second degree at KU. True, I had my other dear friends, and things were good, but it didn’t feel quite right being here without him too. He would occasionally come to visit, auditioning for grad schools and catching up with friends like me who already had lives and jobs here. Finally, he was admitted to Manhattan School of Music, and moved last winter. The dream became real.
We don’t see each other as often as we’d like to now that he’s started grad school, and I’m busy working and auditioning (but we have lots of fun when we do, see here), but knowing we’re doing this crazy thing together like we always planned makes me feel wonderful anyway. I’m not sure if I ever thought it would really pan out the way we wanted it to, but so far, so good. Neither of us have our dream jobs yet, but living here together, working hard to get those dream jobs is a start. And if we could accomplish the living here part, I have a feeling we’ll both eventually accomplish that whole dream job part too.