Chapter Two

Call it "mid-life crisis or  call it "hastening my second act", but after ten years in Austin, I have made a major decision, and taken a leap of faith.  In truth it's something I've always dreamed of doing- and it's also the thing I am most afraid of doing.  As they say, those two things are usually one and the same.

The first, and (up until recently) only time I went to New York, I was twenty years old.  Back then I was touring in a musical (a children's musical in which I wore a giant teddy bear outfit and a little jumper, God help me) and we had a stop just outside Manhattan.  We had limo service to and from town, stayed in a gorgeous hotel, and were pretty much spoiled.  In short, we had it pretty good and I saw the town under the best of circumstances.  And yet, more than anything, I was overwhelmed.  I fought my way through crowds of people moving with deep intent!  I saw a rat in the city!  I paid twenty dollars for a sandwich!  I felt like I spent all my time asking for directions, and while I loved feeling like I was in a movie, it was all too much.  When I left, I heaved a metaphorical sigh of relief and never thought I would go back.  Ever.  I'd been to Ferncliff and placed yellow roses at Judy Garland's grave site.  I.  Was.  Done.  Heart of American culture or not, no thanks.

Fast forward through a few years in L.A., and nearly ten in Austin.  As much as I love it, I miss the urbanity, the creativity, the opportunity of a big city.  Austin is my childhood home, and I couldn't help but feel like I was avoiding my dreams and passing time.  I've been performing here, but making a living?  There aren't many people in my field in this town, who are doing this.  They all have day-jobs.  And me?  Is it that I was never truly able to think of anything else I could do?  Yes.  My skills are not practical, my brain is not practical, and if that's the case, the doubter in me has thought "New York is the last place you should be."  "What if you aren't tough enough?  What if you can't support yourself?  Yes there are tons of opportunities and there are many more people out there pursuing them.  People with drive and guts and nerve.  Have you got that?  Forget about the crime and the crowds and the dirt, could you feed yourself?"

As a consolation prize I considered a move to Chicago, which is not as frightening as New York and is right in the heart of the Mid-West.  And's also very hard to support yourself as an actor there.  If you are in Chicago, as in Austin, as in Minneapolis, etc.  You will most likely always be supporting yourself through alternative means.  So it was less risk, but less reward.  And even when I thought of doing it, I knew I was taking the easy route.  And hadn't I done that so much in my life?  Not that New York is an easy place for people to make a living from performance, believe me.  I know.  But being a performer ANYWHERE is a struggle.  Pick your poison.  Big pond, little pond, they all have their drawbacks.  This shit ain't for babies.

In the meantime, friends of mine were moving out there.  They were working.  And new little youngies straight out of college moved there all the time.  "Good luck!" I said, all the while wondering how long it would be before they came back with their tails between their legs.  And you know what?  Some came back.  And some didn't.  And did I judge those who returned?  Who tried it and didn't want that dream?  No.  I didn't.  What else is life for?  Did I envy those that went?  That sought out their fortune like those three little pigs in the story?  Regardless of the outcome? Yes.  I did.

In the meantime, here in town, those that didn't head out to NYC were having babies, going into grad school, finishing up their grad programs, and what was I doing?  Where was it leading me? 
Then last year my best friend and his wife (also a good friend) joined those intrepid souls out in NYC.  In February I visited the two of them, and some other dear friends out there.  And what was it like?  I got lost on the subway, I lost my fitbit, at one point I left my keys behind in the apartment.  In those moments I thought to myself, "this city would eat you ALIVE, bitch!!!!  ALIIIVE!"  And yet, I also found my way to several places, became acquainted with the subway systems and the various apps that help you through life there.  I saw six shows, some amazing, some not.  I went to a lot of places on my own, and had a blast.  And I learned some tips on how to save funds and live on a budget, I met a couple of great people...  There was life here!  And so many gays.  The city was teeming with gays of all shapes and sizes.  A lot of them very friendly, and not all shoved into one tiny little part of town.

I learned something else on that visit.  Everyone in New York is humping on through.  The struggle is real.  And there were so many crazy people on subways and in bookstores that I no longer felt like the weirdest one in the room.  Occasionally someone sneered at me, or honked, or was bitchy.  Guess what?  Those people are like that to everyone.  It no longer felt directed at me, and the experiences no longer felt targeted towards me alone.  I didn't worry about having the best shoes, or the best hair, because right next to me there was someone with a busted up pair of flip flops in Winter, and then on the other side there was a man in glossy designer boots.  I was somewhere in-between.  I was myself, and that was somehow all that mattered.   And I wanted to be NYC.  I wanted to be around those iconic statues and landmarks that made you feel like a character in a place you'd read about in a book.   It was as if The Emerald City was real, but it was called "New York".  Life might suck, and believe me, I knew life in New York would have it's horrific days, but at least it would  be sucking in New York.

I came back with a secret intent to move there, and thought to myself "someday".  A month passed, and another.  I stepped back into the real world, and thought several times of letting the dream go.  "New York is a great place to visit," I would hear someone say, "but it's some other fucking thing to LIVE there."  I was sure they were probably right, especially for me.  But the end of my lease came near.  My roommate was moving out farther South for school.  I didn't know where I was going.  I'd said halfheartedly that I was moving, maybe in the Fall, but I said it more to convince myself than I was saying something I believed to be true.  Should I get another six month lease? 

And then, something changed.  Slowly, at first.  I grew stronger in my conviction, started to imagine myself there, to plot out solutions to possible challenges.  A couple of acting gigs here didn't pan out, and my desire to audition for new ones waned.  I got new headshots done by a photographer who knew what the market was like in New York.  My folks offered to love and care for my dog Stella while I figured out living arrangements.  Friends sent links to resources for "gypsy housing" and I allowed myself to dream.  Next, I declared my intention through social media and the response was huge, and so encouraging.  I found out I could pretty easily get my Equity card through my SAG membership.  And then I was offered the opportunity to house sit for about a month, with other possibilities beyond that.

I took a leap.  Saturday I purchased a one-way ticket to New York City departing July 1st.  Yesterday I gave my notice at the Title company where I'm employed.  Over the next month I will pack up my apartment and say goodbye to my friends and embark on a new life.  Not sure how long I will last there, but I'm not intending to give up easily.  I'm staying open to opportunities, and taking small practical steps every day.  It's strange because it feels like there are A LOT of fresh out of school little dumplings heading to New York, and not so many grizzled veterans, but I've always been a little late to the party, metaphorically speaking, and I always get there just the same.