Recently, I attended a wonderful event hosted by Jane Jourdan, creator of Fit for Broadway. FFB is a blog for which Jane interviews Broadway performers about their daily lives and fitness. At the amazing event that I attended, Jane spoke about how looking at performers without the shadow of their success, but as everyday people, is a beautiful, empowering thing. There is nothing more beautiful than reality. I think that so often we only show our best selves to the world, especially on social media. That’s fine, but can be problematic because that leads to the belief that people don’t struggle or have problems. So, here I am. I’m going to be frank and honest about what’s been going on, in the hopes of finding closure for myself and maybe even helping someone else.
Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed of being an actor and living in New York City. I don’t know exactly where this ambition came from, but it’s definitely been there since I was really young. So, when I finally had the opportunity to move here to the city and go to school, I was so excited.
I had started my schooling in Minnesota and then after I didn’t get into my chosen major, decided to take a year off to travel. If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I had an absolutely incredible trip to Europe that was wrapping up around this time last year. I learned more about myself and about the world in those two months than I could ever put into words.
While I was traveling, I believe that I stumbled upon my true home: Austria. I love the culture and the people and of course, it could not be more beautiful. As soon as I left, I wanted to go back. Even now, hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about Austria. Honestly, my friends are probably really sick of hearing about it. While I was exploring Austria, I received an email stating that I had been accepted to a school in New York City. I could not have been more thrilled. It was a big step and I was so excited to finally take it.
Fast forward three months and I was living here in the city in an over-priced, tiny dorm. For about a month, it was magical. I was getting to do everything I wanted. I was in school full time, trying to find a nanny job, and had a fun roommate. But by my 21st birthday, reality set in. All of the novelties started to wear off and things I once loved began to annoy me. While I used to be fascinated by all the people, I began to feel suffocated. I started to resent the fact that I didn’t have money to do the things I wanted. I did find a great job, but it was only occasional. Definitely not enough money to live on. I started to feel really homesick, something I only experienced periodically and mildly while I was in Europe.
I missed my friends a lot and was hurt (because I am sometimes very sensitive and take things too personally) when they didn’t make an effort to stay in touch with me. Even though I could understand that they weren’t deliberately hurting me and were just busy, it made me feel very sad and alone because I hadn’t made very many new friends yet. But, it was also difficult for me to reach out and tell them how much I needed them because I didn’t want to admit (more to myself than to them) that this wasn’t turning out to be everything I’d hoped it would be.
By the end of the semester, I had made a couple of friends in the city, but only really connected with one of them. My professors were decent, but I felt like no one really had the time for me. My classes were great though, and I really learned a lot. I had a couple of friends from home living here, but we were all scattered throughout the city and were too busy to hang out.
I went home and to Florida for winter break and by the end of it, knowing I was moving into a new dorm by myself, I was ready and excited to come back. I landed what I thought was a great job within two weeks of being back and was so happy. I was now living in the same building as a few if my new friends and that really helped.
My classes were really great and challenging, but my professors simply didn’t feel that invested in me as a person. That’s to be expected in most classes, but even within the theatre department, I didn’t feel like they really cared all that much. Don’t get me wrong, they were all great people, but I need more individual attention. The main problem with my school (at least for me) was that everyone is just passing through. It’s simply a steppingstone to the next thing. It feels like no one wants to be there and for the first time ever, I didn’t feel like being at school either. If you know me, you know that that is super strange. I was always (and still am) that kid who looks forward to school during the summer and gets excited about school supplies. Until this year, I have always wanted to be in school and learn more. In fact, I want to go to grad school, earn a PhD, and maybe become a professor. I love school. But, I’ve also always been around people who love learning. Once I was out of that environment and suddenly in a poorly-run and over-crowded setting, I had no desire to stay longer than necessary. Huge red flag.
The thing people who aren’t from New York say about New Yorkers is that they’re not nice. Now, on an individual basis, they have the same varied personalities as anyone. But, as a whole, they aren’t the nicest. Because this city isn’t nice. And being nice won’t get you anywhere. Everything is a battle here: the fight to stuff into a subway car, the competition in hailing a taxi, the intensity of just walking down the street. Everything here runs at triple speed and there’s no time to be nice. I even notice how angry and frustrated I’ve become since living here: I have no patience for people who walk to slowly, even if I’m not running late. When I’m in Minnesota, I find myself rudely ordering immediately at a coffee shop, skipping the niceties. Here, actually responding to their polite “how are you?” gets me impatient looks from the cashier and other customers. I don’t want to be an impatient, borderline rude person. I don’t like that this city has turned me into that type of person, even a little. I’m accustomed to passive-aggressive, non-confrontational, Midwestern, Minnesota Nice. I want that back.
That’s not to say that it’s not a good place to live. I know a lot of people who LOVE it. I do love some things about it, but I don’t like the kind of person it makes me. The pace of this city brings out a very anxious, stressful side of me. I have learned that I need more quiet, more peace. I have learned that I don’t want to go at such a quick pace. I want space and time to breathe. Clearly, NYC is not the place for that.
That’s why I’m leaving.
I want to live in a place that inspires me and sustains me as a person. New York used to inspire me, it used to encourage me, but now it just exhausts me. There are a lot of amazing things to do here, but it’s extremely difficult to do them when I’m exhausted all the time, simply from the over-stimulation. Of course, there’s also the money aspect.
I always knew that New York was extremely expensive, but it’s especially expensive when I cannot be working full time because of school. Which is fine, but makes it impossible to take advantage of this city. Now, if I don’t get to fully experience the city and don’t LOVE my school, what it is the point of wasting my money and time?
This has been a really difficult situation for me because it feels like I’m giving up on a life-long dream of living and going to college in the city. For so long, I thought this was what I wanted, but clearly it is not. It is hard to let that go, but I feel confident that leaving is the right decision. A friend and mentor of mine gave me this profound and inspirational advice: “A true dream never goes away, it changes and grows with you. If you let it go, you’ll find it’s right there waiting for you.” When she said this, a light went on for me. It made me feel hopeful about the future and I started think about the dreams that have flourished over the last 21 years of my life and how they have developed.
I dreamed of attending school in New York City, not of graduating or living here forever. I lived here and attended school here and learned so much. What more can I ask?
This realization came after a lot of reflection and prayer, which is why I’ve struggled to share it. I needed time to process this and make a definite decision about what to do next. I’ve decided to attend a small, private liberal arts college in Minnesota to finish the last two years of school. I’m thrilled to be continuing my education and cannot wait for the next adventure!
Thank you for reading and thanks for your support. I appreciate it more than you can ever know.