New York, I Love You (Not): Take 2

Photo © Jessica Taghap.

I’ve been thinking a lot about New York lately.

Which is a silly thing to say, since I probably think about this city everyday, whether I like to or not, as I do actually live here and all. The thing is, perhaps out of some early-onset quarterlife crisis, or ’cause I happen to be full of ennui at the moment (or maybe ’cause my friend Crystal and I had a conversation about it on the train in the wee hours of the morning, wherein she’d mentioned this post she’d written based on another discussion she’d had), I’ve mainly been thinking of NYC in terms of me.
That is, to say: What the hell am I doing in this god-forsaken place anymore?
Some readers may remember a similar post I’d written a few months ago, a response to Joan Didion’s essay, “Goodbye to All That,” which pretty much echoed the same sentiment I’d written of then, as well as now. While that post mostly had to do with my jaded New Yorker sensibilities yearning for her Eurolust — fed by highly romantic notions of the continent — to be satiated & consummated (a sort of Location Adultery, if you will, the reality of which had been shattered with a swift, blunt: “Europe is just not that into you right now”), the theme of feeling displacement in one’s own city springs back to mind at a time when I should have already graduated and started “real life,” as my dear friend Shakti recently put it.
Indeed, this time around, I find myself still in New York, drumming my fingers, wondering if something worthwhile will come my way. Which is not to say that what I’m doing now isn’t worth my while — I’m loving everything about my internship and all the opportunities it brings. What I mean to say, I suppose, is that I’ve been re-thinking certain Life Choices, as well as what Isaac Butler wrote as “What It Takes,” which can be found as a two-parter essay here and here (and which theatre actor and fellow blogger Karl Miller later termed as NYC-Centrism).

In terms of the so-called Life Choices I made, it makes sense for me to be in New York right now. After all, I want to be a theatre journalist/critic. New York is the hub in which theatre and publishing reside. I’m studying journalism and theatrein New York. Makes total sense, right? Wrong. Or, at least I feel that way.  

All this uncertainty is the culmination of a lot of things, much of which stems from the disapproval of my mother, and questions of “Did you graduate yet?” from others — not to mention the sinking feeling of inadequacy burrowing itself into the pit of my stomach everytime it’s mentioned. The truth is, it’s not my fault I didn’t graduate on time; my whole college career thus far had been one hell of a confusing ride.

A pre-Nursing student at the start of college, I was forced into an education I didn’t want, in a school I didn’t want; and since then, it’s something I’ve been trying to want for myself, on my own terms. As I write this, I think of was what Karl Miller had written to me almost four years ago, when I had spoken to him then about Life Choices, still in my pre-Nursing phase:
I think the most important thing I could tell you is … Even if you get what you want — a transfer, family approval, anything — this choice and this battle isn’t going to go away. Family, school, the rest of the world … they’re all going to present challenges and obstacles equal to or greater than the ones you face now. Sadly, many of the forthcoming obstacles have to do with money, but most of them have to do with emotional health: how you deal with rejection, caprice, cruelty, nepotism, ennui, and a world that won’t be there to validate your existence with a grade every other week. Other obstacles are going to be internal: how you deal with discomfort, poverty, transience, self-discipline and so on. None of them are insurmountable — but they are variants of the dilemma you’re facing now.

Back then, I definitely knew the importance of his words, but it wasn’t until much later that I understood their meaning. Two years later, after an embarrassing (and admittedly, very public) crying jag over the phone with my mom and then-stepfather at school and a semestral break in the Spring of 2008, I returned to Hunter College that Fall with a regained fervor, capped off nicely with my changed major (Media Studies, if you please) and newfound hopeful attitude at school. My grades got better. I made friends and became more sociable. I was doing well.

But then, things changed. My home situation got rocky, resulting in a separation, a move back to Queens and my having to stay at my aunt’s place once more. Displacement. My ability to concentrate on school worsened as personal problems increasingly arose, to the point where I dreaded going to my theatre and journalism classes. The fervor died, and with it, my passion. Again, that word: displacement.

I’ve come the point where I just don’t know if I made the right choice, anymore. I’ve even recently considered doing a two-year nursing course once I graduate, which to me ishonestly a step up from suicide. The fact that I’d rather be slitting my wrists right now probably says a lot, but doesn’t quite explain the absence of my passion for mycalling and why I’m suddenly warming up at the prospect of donning scrubs.

I can’t say I remember where the turning point for me was, but the past few theatre seasons have left me less than thrilled, despite my seemingly recent excitement overAmerican Idiot and the like. I stopped following things, so I stopped reading the blogs, thusly isolating myself from any future conversation and/or debate, so the passion died. I’m not even blogging about theatre anymore.

The passion died, just as the passion for this city died. The thing is: I want to stay in theatre, just as much as I want to want to be in New York. There’s a reason everything happened the way it did, why I met the people I’ve met,and there’s a reason I’m feeling this way now. Perhaps it’s to remind me of the very reason this all started for me. The very reason why I wanted to go into this business, and why I still want to. Remind me of all the people I’ve come across that have encouraged me and the ones I know that have not,the wordswordswords of it all:  There’s no money in the arts. Follow the path of the artist. You’re just wasting your time. [Art] has to be activated, defended, excercized…or it atrophies and dies. Be practical. Knowing doesn’t make it any easier, but doing it will make it easier.

So here I am, in a city chock-full with, quoting Karl once again, “artistic stimuli” and like he said, nothing can stop me. All this comeson the eve of the upcoming New York Fringe Festival, at which I will be volunteering over the coming week or so. It will be my second time doing will call for the fest, and probably my first actually getting to watch something, too (which I had not gotten to do last year due to moving). Maybe then we’ll see if theatre in this city is still worth something, and hopefully the passion will rekindle.

‘Til then, I will probably go on hiatus… and if I end up blogging sooner than anticipated, then perhaps we’ll know whether this town still has anything to offer. In the meantime, wish me luck.

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