Today is my two year anniversary with the City of New York, and I can’t help noticing how different my second year has been in comparison with the first. This second year has, by and large, been much better. Not that I’m surprised by this since transitioning to life in a big city tends to be rocky at first. What I AM surprised about is how OVERWHELMINGLY better this second year has been. Some of the struggles haven’t changed: money, career, etc. The difference, I suppose, is in my approach to dealing with the issues at hand. Now I can’t lie that as you read this, I am currently dealing with a big change in my housing situation, which was unanticipated, but what would an anniversary in New York be without a little drama?
Without further ado, here are some lessons I learned in my second year in the Big Apple:
1) You are not completely hopeless or helpless and asking for help once in a while is not a cardinal sin or indicative of your ability to take care of yourself (or your “adult” status). Someone out there, believe it or not, cares about you and your well-being and is, believe it or not, willing to help you if you just bite the bullet, put your pride aside, and ASK for it. My theory is that as long as you are actively trying to get your life together, people will be receptive to the idea of helping facilitate that process if they can. Also, my parents will never let me starve no matter how empty the bank account (“Ramen is not a suitable, substantial ‘meal’” – My mother).
2) A positive attitude really IS the best way to go. After a late-night journaling session toward the beginning of 2013, I had an epiphany that pessimism and cynicism had become my default setting (not an uncommon occurrence in Manhattanites). Somehow I had become a person who always felt defeated, someone who thought “why bother” when it came to so many areas of my life. And while I had battled a bout of depression only a year before, I realized I had ultimately become a person I never wanted to be, so I actively chose to push the restart button on my life and approach each day and situation with positivity. And the minute I made positivity my active life choice, it was like all the clouds shifted and suddenly I felt so much better. My acting teacher, the wise Robyn Lee, often points out that we can choose how we feel about any situation by simply acknowledging what our emotional boundaries are on both sides and then deciding what is best. I now choose to approach each day with positivity and humor rather than focusing on all the things that could (and sometimes do) go wrong. Negative energy is always the easier choice, but positive energy carries so much more power.
3) I don’t have it all together and that’s okay. I’m in a weird, transitional state where I feel quite settled in New York now, but professionally, I have no clue what I want to focus on. I have a general sense, but I feel as though I am looking for a resounding “YES” from the universe as to where to focus my energies. It’s frustrating, and I definitely don’t enjoy feeling as though I’m drifting through my post-collegiate life, but I know this state is only temporary. I WILL figure it out simply by process of elimination, continuing to work, journaling, and just living life. I have faith it will all work itself out if I’m patient. The good news is I’m not alone in my confusion and messiness; I’m not the only person who feels this way, and if everyone else can get through it, so can I.
4) Surround yourself with good people at all times. It is of the utmost importance to keep people around you who build you up, make you laugh, hug you when you need it most, listen, offer advice, and do anything else in their power to propel you forward in life. Anyone who doesn’t freely do these things is not worth it; this city is a hard enough place without them. Sometimes, that means making hard decisions and severing ties. But I promise it’s worth it in the long run. I cannot say it enough: I am blessed with wonderful friends, family, and other people here who want the best for me at all times. I deserve that. You deserve that. Invest your time and emotions in people who will wholly invest in you. It’s worth it.
5) Getting a bicycle was one of the best decisions I made. Thanks to the uber-generosity of my uncle (no birthday or Christmas presents for the next like, 4 years), I am the proud owner of a beautiful, silvery-grey Trek bike upon which I careen around the streets and parks of Astoria and NYC. I’ve only owned Elliott (my bike, named for Elliott of E.T.) since the end of June, but the effects have been radical. Owning and riding a bike in NYC is a bit different than other places as far as safety is concerned, but the freedom you feel totally makes up for it. I am noticeably happier and healthier (both mentally and physically) as a result of my bike. I go for rides almost every day now, and it’s almost become a meditative experience, a way for me to think through a bunch of things and also clear my mind. You can read more about my love of biking here. Plus, bicycle rides make for fun, free, yet surprisingly romantic dates (it helps when both you and your boyfriend own your own bikes). Let me tell you, a sunset bike ride in Manhattan is pretty damn nice. #feelings
6) Sometimes the best way to learn how to do something you’ve never done before is by throwing yourself into it full force. When I was asked to put together a benefit cabaret (see here) by my university’s NYC alumni organization for the Oklahoma tornado victims, I had no idea where to even start. I had never produced anything in my life let alone a charity event with Broadway performers. I knew I was organized and had a general idea of how to go about accomplishing it all, but it was definitely a major learning process for me, and while it was a lot of work and stressful at times, it was also a total blast. I proved to myself that I was capable of doing something I wasn’t sure I could do, and I found that I really enjoyed producing. It’s something I’m hoping to do more of in the future and for larger projects. I couldn’t have done any of it had I not had a little team of co-producers helping me along the way and teaching me things. And now that I’ve done it once, I know I’ll be able to do it again. Despite my fear of screwing the whole thing up, I simply didn’t accept failure as an option and stuck to my guns and made it happen, which is a lesson I will take with me in other parts of my life and new projects.
7) I accept there are a lot of things beyond my control. This is a hard one for me, and I struggle on a daily basis with the whole “letting go” concept. I always like to have a plan of action and think my way out of any situation and all its possible outcomes, but sometimes that’s not possible. The world is made up of an infinite number of choices, so you can’t account for every scenario. You can’t think your way out of bad things happening to you, because sometimes they just do. I’ve learned that even though I can’t always control what happens to me, I CAN decide how I want to move forward from those things. I believe how you deal with obstacles is far more important than the fact you have them, and that IS something I can control.
8) Always bring your umbrella. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny out. When you don’t bring it, it WILL rain. This is a fact in New York City.
9) Say “yes” more often than you say “no.” I’m privileged to have friends who have friends who have cool things like boats and houses out of the City. I know people who get free tickets to shows all the time. It’s one of the perks of surrounding yourself with good people who treat you to fun things. Yeah, we’re all tired and busy and a whole host of other semi-lame excuses, but you have to learn to be choosy about when you say “no.” Saying “yes” enriches your life with experiences and stories you won’t get when you stay in bed and watch Netflix all day (we’re all guilty as charged). Take advantage of opportunities when you can and be sure to thank those who provided them. Go boating off the coast of Connecticut. See Stomp for free with a friend after work. Attend a pal’s end of summer pool party in Long Island. Spend a weekend in Washington D.C. going to museums with your best friend. Volunteer at the Tribeca Film Festival. Learn and grow as a person because life isn’t just about work.
10) 98.5% of the time, Starbucks still never spells my name right on my coffee cups. (Who is “Emne”? Is that even a NAME?)
So, as I begin my third year here, I’m expecting things to become even smoother (minus the inevitable problems on the morning subway commutes) and hoping to shift into new gears especially in my acting/creative career. I can’t believe it’s been two years since I hopped on a plane with two large suitcases, but sometimes it also feels like I’ve been here five years already. I’m looking forward to turning the big 2-5 in November and taking more bike rides. I still plan on spending way too much time at the Performing Arts Library. I’m hoping to explore more of New York state and take a few mini-road trips into New England. Year 3 is already bringing changes to my life in ways I didn’t expect, so who knows what will happen by this time next year.
Here’s to you, New York and our two years together. Thanks for the hard lessons and the easy ones. Thanks for making me tougher. Thanks for giving me some incredible people and helping me learn how to slough off the ones who aren’t so incredible. Thanks for the great pizza and beautiful sunsets over your silvery skyline. Thanks for helping me grow up a lot.
I still think you’re pretty awesome…most of the time. Hope you got me a good anniversary gift this year (like tickets to SNL?).