New York I love you, and I love this song and video. I think it sums it all up quite nicely, right? (Thanks to the lovely Mindy Raf for posting it on Facebook today!)
It reminds me of a piece I wrote for Shoestring Magazine a few years ago about when I “quit” my career and New York City. For some reason the link to the piece is missing, but here is the draft I saved on my computer. I really like this essay and should re-read it more often to remind myself that I have do in fact have the power to be positive and to persevere. Like most of my essays, it’s a long one, so grab another cup of coffee and get ready for a sweet cyber hug:
Fake It Till You Make It
Identifying as an artist is a commitment. A commitment I have tried to break many times.
In my first month of doing stand-up comedy an older comedian was complaining that he didn’t get enough laughs during his set. I saw his performance, which in fact got a great response and said to him “Really? But everyone was laughing really hard, you did great!” He replied “I saw a few people not laughing, and it’s not great unless everyone is laughing. Nice try at being positive kiddo, don’t worry eventually this biz will bring you down.” To which I replied, “if the biz ever makes me feel that down, I’ll quit.”
And I did. Five years after that conversation I “quit” the entertainment business. After felt like a lifetime of wandering aimlessly through the winding and seemingly dead end roads of stand-up comedy and acting, I felt defeated. At this point in my life I had already spent four years in Los Angeles pursuing and procrastinating my dream.
And now I was in New York City where I had to start all over again in a harder and less sunny city. I was sick of late nights of doing stand-up for little to no pay and little to no acknowledgment. I was sick of rejection, judgment, and disappointment from failed submissions and auditions. I was sick of “so what are you working on these days?” conversations with my peers where I want cry and scream “nothing! I am working on nothing except for this fourth cocktail and I am working on not accidentally throwing myself onto the subway tracks.”
Yup, the biz had brought this kiddo down (oh how I hate the term kiddo, it just reeks of condescending bullshit) so I gave up. I convinced my then boyfriend to move into one of the apartments my dad owned in the suburbs of Boston, I could get a nine-to-five job, maybe go to grad school and we could start a “normal” life.
When I left the entertainment business I began to get those condolences that artists get when they stop chasing the dream. Why is it when a person decides to become a teacher after working for years as a computer programmer, people say “cool, congrats!” But if a person decides to become a teacher after years of working (or trying to work) as a singer/dancer/actor/writer/etc, people say “ Oh no! You’re giving up? Why? I’m so sorry.”
And I was also sorry. While I was trying desperately to detox myself of the cutthroat creative industry for a life of stability, security, and perhaps sanity all I felt was a life of sadness. After less than two months of leaving the biz, I ran right back. I was more depressed being away from entertainment than I was being in it. I started traveling back and forth regularly from Boston to NYC to perform and audition and it was on those long bus rides that I had time to reflect on what it was that I wanted and how I was going to get it. On those days that I was wondering uncomfortably through my suburban life I started to learn that there was no “normal” life. That being “normal” for me is being an artist and how dare I deny myself of my true identity?
Being in the creative field can drive a person absolutely crazy. The highs are incredibly high, the lows are heartbreakingly low. And that is why I went back, because those highs are too glorious not to try and reach. The high of seeing your words, your vision, your work affecting others is beyond any other feeling in the world.
After living for a year with one foot in my dream and one foot in a life I never wanted, I moved back to New York City full time, stronger and more centered. I left my suburban home, my secure relationship, and my doubts behind and accepted the fact that I am an artist. Once I accepted who I was, I was able to be who I wanted to be. Before I knew it, I was actually making my living off my art and I was living my dream. So if you’re feeling stuck in your creative career, here are a few tips for what to do when the “biz” brings you down