It’s been almost a month since I’ve come home. I’ve had a lot of questions about my trip to New York and I finally feel ready to put my thoughts into words. At the end of my stay, I was lucky enough to spend a week in with my aunt Savitri in Maryland. I got to meet her husband’s family and enjoy a decadent Thanksgiving in a pastoral setting. Being away from New York and from home left me wondering about the effects of my time in New York and whether I had accomplished what I was there to do. In truth, it was too early to tell. Did my artistic career gain directly from my time in New York? No. I did not get work, I didn’t even get close to knowing how to get work. There is no clear indication that New York would be better to me than Montreal in that department. The true test of the trip’s value would occur once I had returned to my normal life.
New York was exciting, to be sure. It’s a grand place bustling with people and stories and dreams of starting over. People who live there are generally a stimulating bunch and there are great conversations to be had. But with all of this, it did not feel terribly different from Montreal. Just bigger. Much, much bigger. I got back to Montreal at midnight on a crowded ride share and the first thing that struck me was how quiet and deserted the downtown streets were. That gave me a sense of calm. Nothing is ever deserted in New York. There are people everywhere, all the time. It is relentless. And if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t miss that.
In a strange way, I feel like I carry the city with me. Most TV shows I watch are set in New York. I recognize everything now. I know what subway stop they are at, I know what that slice of pizza tastes like, I know how long it takes to get to Brooklyn. While I was in New York, I didn’t feel all that different from other people I met. Most of them were from elsewhere. Many of them were searching or transitioning.
One thing I did not experience in New York was a strong sense of opportunity. I didn’t feel like I was in the land of plenty and that artistic work was ripe for the picking. I felt like I could move there and network and that after 2 years, I might get a first acting job. Same as anywhere. Being there made me realize the wealth of opportunity that existed for me back home. Specifically, self producing a work of art is relatively simple in Montreal. I know venues where I can rehearse and perform for cheap or for free. I know talented artists. If I produce something that is really worthwhile, I can always bring it to a small venue in New York. But incubating in New York, while paying its ridiculous rents and eating its terrible produce seems absurd to me. New York is a wonderful place to present and a terrible place to create.
But the Big Apple also gave me something. It’s a wonderful place to go to free yourself of imaginary constraints. It’s a city of ambition and shooting for the stars. They know how to market art, they know how to be aggressive, they know how to be creatively uncompromising. New York taught me that it’s worth pursuing a crazy idea and it’s worth polishing the hell out of it. It also taught me that success is nothing to be ashamed of. I came home a little bit taller and a bit more ambitious. I also came home with a clearer idea of what I want.
Figuring out what I want didn’t have to happen in New York. I could have been in Sudbury and had the same opportunity to take a step back and examine my life and goals. Toward the end of my stay, I went to a cafe and I wrote it all down. The list was not as long as I thought. There were six points. Six artistic goals. Each one was simple and truly my own. Each one gave me a strong sense of self and peace. These goals were not about “making it” or pleasing casting directors. They were about fulfilling an inner promise to myself and coming into my own.
The most magical part was that, in the past month since coming home, my artistic life has been moving at lightning speed. The two films I coproduced over the summer had been stagnating for months, and as of this week, they both have completed rough cuts. I dreamed of deepening my vocal practice and I found a new coach and worked intensively with him for three weeks, the actors gym I’ve been talking about will be seeing the light of day faster than I imagined. I am cultivating a certain degree of personal fitness. And my personal creative production project now seems possible in a way it never did before. So much of my fear has dissipated and I no longer intend to hide in the shadow of other artists.
Just so we’re clear. My trip was no dreamy walk in the park. I was confronted with all my demons. I had frequent insomnia. There were days when I felt deeply discouraged and wondered what I was doing there. I felt ashamed of “not having what it takes.” I felt it was time to give up. I felt the culmination of all the dark thoughts I had been experiencing over the past two years. I have no money, I have no success as an actress, I have no future and I may never procreate. I am a failure.
But a miracle happened. I caught a glimpse of what my own measure of happiness and success was. And that knowledge is now the most precious thing I have. And I feel younger for it. And more hopeful and grateful.