I’ve been in New York for two weeks now.
Even in winter, it’s everything wonderful I remember: towering architecture, flashing marquees, glowing stage lights and bright, yellow taxicabs; crowded subways and quaint cafes filled with people from all walks of life. The bustling noise and busyness is always offset by a quiet, wooden park bench, and the harsh wind and cold, made warmer by the coo of a lone dove perched on the fire escape.
I love this city with all my heart.
I’m staying in my friends’ apartment in West Harlem, while they are away for several weeks. A couple of months ago, while I lay sick in my bed in Pasadena, I declared over social media I was going to allow people to love me this year. Almost immediately, I received a phone call. My friends responded with, “Come to New York, stay in our place and pay what you can. And by ‘what you can’ — even if we don’t get a dime, it’s okay.”
I burst into tears, accepted their more-than-generous offer, and started packing.
Here I am, and I even survived – I’d say frolicked in — the big blizzard of 2013.
It’s hard to not project into the future, however. I started looking for apartments so I can live on my own, but quickly got discouraged because I can’t afford it. I’ve been auditioning as much as I can, but nothing happens overnight. I need work, and badly. I want so desperately to be able to support myself and really make this happen. I am determined to not have to move back to Los Angeles, with my tail tucked between my legs, and nothing to show for my time here.
I’ve been given a second chance and do not want to fail.
I’ve lived in New York City before. I moved four years ago, on February 13, 2009. X accompanied me on the plane ride out, for I didn’t want to go alone. I was still reticent about the decision we had made – and prayed for – together, but somehow I knew it was a huge step forward in my life.
We arrived at JFK and lugged my three tattered suitcases through the subway, towards Morningside Heights (Harlem). The same couple housing me now had offered their couch for a couple of weeks while I waited for the room I had rented in Queens to be available.
As we crossed the threshold into my friends’ tiny apartment, I immediately felt at home; peace.
X and I sat down on the blue, velvet couch and sipped homemade coffee with our friends. We all marveled at how I had finally arrived in New York, with a job, and an opportunity to shoot for the stars — at least for six months. I complained about having to swing the off-Broadway show I was in (I want to go back and slap my entitled attitude!), and worried about how I’d manage a six-month separation from my beloved husband.
The answer was simple: we’d endure. It was only six months. The potential opportunities were worth the possible struggle of loneliness and separation.
Yet, those six months – February to August, 2009 – were the cruelest, saddest and loneliest times I have ever experienced in my life.
“I love you more than anything, Leslie,” X reassured me, after we had finished our coffee, and were waiting on the curb for his airport cab to arrive, to take him back to Los Angeles.
I kicked a chicken bone out from under the heel of my boot and brushed the tears from my eyes.
“I hate the thought of not being with you,” I cried. “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and your unwavering support and encouragement means the world to me. I could not do this without you. I honestly couldn’t have dreams without you, because I think you believe in me more than I believe in myself.”
“I support you one million percent,” X replied. “I will hate being away from you, too, but we’ll make it work. After all, we love each other and are most important to each other.”
The cab arrived. My husband hugged me, slid his tall, thin frame into the back seat, and drove away. I would see him in New York just once more in the following six months. Little did I know then, I had already lost him.
Four years later – I have gained a whole new me.
As I have wandered the city these past two weeks, I know I am different. I feel it. I may be alone, but alone doesn’t necessarily mean lonely. I have bigger dreams than I ever had the courage to dream before. I feel calm. Humbled. Confident. Expectant. Excited. My future has never been more unsteady or unsure, but I know it will be all right.
I am not worried about failing. Just by being in this vibrant city this very moment, and every millisecond that follows — for however long I am able to remain – I have already succeeded.