Funny thing about time: it flies. Six months ago I left Sydney and moved to New York with precious little money, no job lined up and few possessions filling my suitcase. The story since has been full of unexpected twists, remarkable characters and more highs and lows than a sine wave. Here are a few bits and pieces from the last half-year, culled from my journal. Oh, and credit where it’s due: this post was inspired by a cracking blog entry by Rocketboom producer Leah D’Emilio.
Flashing my Jason Bourne-esque passport collection at Hong Kong airport
Jan 19 (Sydney)
So, this is it. In mere minutes I step onto a plane and into another life. I am so ready. The goodbyes were sad; they snuck up on me. We were at the airport. Four wonderful friends escorted me there. I was fine and then it was time to board. And suddenly the enormity of the imminent upheaval hit and I was crying. The next phase begins here.
[After two weeks in London]
Feb 4 – New York
This place is amazing. I went exploring a bit today, and just being around people who exhibited that unique NYC sass was hugely gratifying. Then I went to Whole Foods and saw the organic pretzels with peanut butter inside and my poor little mind was blown to pieces.
Career-wise, I’ve decided I am going to do my damndest not to compromise my ideals and dreams, however fanciful they may be. If all else fails, I can sell my ova on Craigslist.
I’m about to get ready to go out for a bit of sightseeing. I do love the little pockets of unexpected delights: subway a capella groups, snatches of Yiddish-laden conversation, creative outfits. But there are also things that are frightening. Yesterday a man in a wheelchair got on the subway and I looked down to see that half his foot was gone — eaten away by some kind of infection. The top surface of his foot was red and striated and glistening, like a cut of raw meat. It was such a shock. I have a feeling that this mix of horrors and delights will characterise my time in New York.
I really felt like I couldn’t cope the first few days I was here. My head was full of worries and noise and I couldn’t seem to quieten it all down. I was on the subway one night going to meet a bunch of people — none of whom I’d ever met before — and was suddenly seized by such a raw sense of loss for the people and places I’ve left behind. It affects the way I feel, my ability to sleep. It plays on my mind all the time.
My strategy thus far as been to say yes to every invitation — to try and go out and make friends and do important Career Things, but I feel anxious or disconnected or sad all the time.
I keep thinking that this is a moment in my life — a crossroads — that’s going to haunt me. I’m questioning why I’m here. I know it’s meant to be hard, but the misery and panic on some days is debilitating.
I just applied for a job. A full-time job, no less. A full-time job that involves spending all day on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure I could do it, but is this the road I want to choose? Sitting in front of a computer all day does seem like a cop-out for someone who came here to write and perform and have adventures.
I sent my resume last night, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready to face fluorescent lights and office politics once more. I’d rather spend my days hula hooping — my new hobby — and learning about acting. Perhaps I can fit it all in.
Of course, all this analysis could be moot, as I’ve not yet received a phone call to tell me I’m the perfect candidate for the job. And it’s been almost 24 hours. Jeez, what’s keeping them? [I never got an interview. Ha!]
This city has the effect of reducing its newest inhabitants to a state of floundering infancy. Having conquered the funny little intricacies of your own home town, you are suddenly transported to a place where everything is louder, faster and busier. The old rules are instantly thrown away. Everything appears as a cliche of itself: towering bright lights blare at you from every corner; steam ghosts over your face as you cross the street, where cabs are honking at you to get the hell out of the way. Grimy subway stations play host for a theatre of neuroses, its players mumbling or screaming to themselves in a futile attempt to drive out the demons.
This is a city that raises your hopes, your expectations and your adrenalin levels. It’s a giant pinball machine that pings you from one canivalesque place to the next and makes you feel like you’re going mad. There is a reason that the typical New Yorker totes dual prescriptions for Xanax and Valium: the human brain was not designed to be constantly overstimulated. But how can you calm down when you live at the centre of the universe?
[I was living in a teeny studio apartment with my mother and sister until..]
I’ve signed up for a three-month sublet with two girls in Park Slope, Brooklyn. My room is absolutely tiny. It’s sort of like a servant’s quarters — one of the doors leads to another bedroom, and the other is an entrance out into the hallway of the apartment block.
Park Slope is the neighbourhood Gawker labelled “everyone’s most detested yuppie mecca”. I care not for your epithets, Internet. As long as I can purchase organic vegan spelt sushi within a 200-metre radius, I shall be content. The place is right next to Prospect Park, and I have fantasies of riding a vintage bicycle down the street while children frolic in the cooling spray of a tapped fire hydrant.
Three boxes full of old letters and school papers arrived by sea from Australia on Friday, and we’ve been poring over these relics of our childhood. I’ve also been having some really interesting chats with my mum, aunt and sister about all this stuff I had forgotten. I can’t believe I lived away from my family for eight years. It’s only now that I realise the impact of it all and start to remember things I had consigned to a dark corner of my mind. Funny old life.
An early write-up on my sister
I went to the Brooklyn library today, and while I was browsing the literature section, a voice came on the PA and blared “Hey teens, are you interested in the alleged beating of Rihanna by Chris Brown? Then come to our talk on domestic violence at 4pm in the young adult section. See you there!” I laughed reflexively, then felt terribly guilty.
The job front remains faintly terrifying. I’ve applied for about 10 decent roles in the past few weeks, and received nothing in response to my carefully tailored cover letters and resumes. More and more I am convinced that online applications get sent into an inky black void.
Other than that I’m going to a bunch of web/TV/film industry things and schmoozing with people. It’s quite an adjustment for a formerly sociophobic recluse like me, but I’m glad I’m forcing myself to do it. There are some very interesting people out there.
I’m still walking along the street and marvelling at the fact that I’m here. Crossing Park Avenue still puts a kick in my step. But things that seemed so alien and incomprehensible during the first week now feel normal. I ignore panhandlers and crazies on the subway. I eat American-sized meals. I try to rationalise this gluttony by thinking about all the subway stairs I climb when racing from one place to another.
Claire and I are moving in together next month. We found a place in Astoria, the hallowed birthplace of David Schwimmer. The rent is almost sort of affordable if I don’t buy food or clothing for the next six months. This could be the greatest idea ever, or the beginning of our downfall as sisters and credit card holders. Stay tuned for the next exciting installment.
New York isn’t as competitive and intimidating as I had feared. So much of people’s success is due to the basics: confidence, persistence, talent and hard work. On a good day, I have two or three of these. It’s time to aim for four.
Oh my stars! On Sunday night my phone rang, displaying an online number. Not feeling particularly sociable, I let it go to voicemail. A few minutes later I listened to the message, expecting it to be roommate-related or even a wrong number. It was Andrew Baron asking if I wanted to be the new NYC correspondent for Rocketboom. Um, let me just think about th-YES.
It’s a total trip to be associating with people you are only used to seeing within the confines of your web browser. I’m so excited. I’m doing exactly what I want to do. It’s perfect.
Smile through the madness. It helps!