At the start of 2016 I moved to New York City. Why? I’m not entirely sure… I knew only that I wanted to try it, and now seemed a good a time as any. I had no steady job, no boyfriend, no house payment keeping me in one place (Adulthood seems to be dodging me like a game of Whack-A-Mole).
There was no reason for me NOT to go to NY. Nor was there reason for me to stay in Florida. So I said what I say before I click “book” on all my tickets–“Why not?”
With that I overpacked two suitcases and boarded my one way flight, bearing 150 lbs of luggage and 5 bajillion pounds of anxiety. Two panic attacks later I made it to my sublet safely, moved in, and began my month of auditioning, dancing, and wandering around New York. I vacillated between days of “I got this!” and days of “What the hell do you think you’re doing.”
Here’s the breakdown.
I’ve moved into my apartment. It’s tiny and dirty, like I’ve heard NYC apartments are. The amount of dried mouse poop is slightly disturbing. But I’ve gone through approximately 3 tubes of antibacterial wipes and now feel pretty good about my new home. I can’t stop thinking of ways to make it tidy and efficient. I imagine a Swedish designer lives inside my head and is yelling at me like I’m his favorite reality TV show. He does it while eating lingonberries like popcorn.
I went to my first audition (the whole reason I’m in NY–to dance). When I enter the holding room, dancers are sprawled out from corner to corner, stretching and claiming their little piece of real estate with their enormous dance bags and winter coats heaped next to them like their bulky human shadow. As I make my way to the sign in desk, no one moves. It’s expected you wobble through the crowd on a zig-zag tightrope. But I guess I’m a dancer—balancing precariously is my jam.
I’ve been to 3 auditions now. It begins to feel like my routine and I realize that it IS the routine. Dancer is my name, Auditioning is my game. Dancers move here to do this very thing. So today is my first full day off…. The apartment is clean and I’m off to all of the TJ Maxx’s in Manhattan to feed the interior design monster that has erupted from me like that scene from “The Thing.”
I’m beginning to feel a deep sense of satisfaction with myself for moving here. I realize this as I’m walking down the street and I have one of those out-of-body moments where I talk about my life like I’m narrating the trailer to a rom-com. “Kelsey is just just your average twenty-something Millenial, trying to find her place in a loud world. A SMALL girl looking for purpose in a BIG city. She’s independent, determined, and not taking ‘no’ for an answer…” (cue plucky orchestral music).
Walking into midtown and I read a sign outside of a parking lot that says “Go ahead. Drive around the block a few more times. See if you find better parking.” I automatically read it like a Jewy mother sitting in the passenger seat. I laugh out loud.
This walk into midtown is full of surprises. I’d just passed a homeless man in a wheelchair when he leaps up and says “WELCOME TO AMERICA!” I’m alarmed, mostly at how spryly he just jumped from his wheelchair. I’m also pleasantly amused. I feel like this is New York’s way of saying “Welcome. Can you dig it?”
I’ve been taking dance classes at one of NYC’s iconic studios. I’m three stories up on the Upper West Side waiting to enter the studio for my theatre jazz class. While I’m sitting there I’m listening to two girls talk about how one had 3 peanuts for breakfast. Meanwhile “Fame” is blasting loudly from another studio. An old guy in ballet tights and a terry cloth headband is mumbling “5,6,7,8” over and over again. New York’s dance scene is fulfilling so many stereotypes right now and I’m finding it oddly amusing, like a plotless movie from the 80’s.
I’m on my way through midtown when I get a message on my phone from an old friend. I tell her how clean I’ve make my apartment and all the mouse poop I cleared from behind my dresser. I say it like I’m a badass recounting their most recent mud run. She then reminds me, in an all-too-nonchallant way, of the airborne diseases that can be contracted from rodent fecal matter. Now, of course, I’m terrified.
I buy a Keurig coffee maker off Craigslist. I’ve been spending too much money on the oh-so-convenient Starbucks on my walk to auditions. The guy from the Craigslist ad meets me in his downstairs lobby and tells me he doesn’t drink coffee. He got the Keurig for his boyfriend, who broke up with him 2 weeks after…I happily take the heartbreak off his hands and walk away feeling like a thrifty mom/Dr. Phil. I buy all of the K-cups I can find on clearance at TJ Maxx and as I’m arranging them in their drawer I reminding of something my gynecologist once said: (As she’s inserting my Mirena into my utuerus) “You’re going to love you IUD, I just love mine. It’s one of my favorite things—My Mirena, my dog, and my Keurig.” I hated my Mirena.
I’ve been getting really into tap dance again, something I haven’t done in years but in a surprise twist feels just like riding a bike. I realize though that my early education in tap in Central Florida was incredibly limited. It’s like that feeling you get about your public school education the first time you go to file your taxes.
I’m walking home at dusk and a man is hawking flyers for something and shoves one in my face and says “Hey baby, let’s drink wine and make love.” I decline by walking away stone faced, but secretly wish some guys could be this honest and frank.
New York is buried beneath a blizzard. Also, I have no idea what a blizzard is. I bundled up in my coat prepared to walk uptown to my favorite yoga studio, only to find I’d need a snowmobile…. For some reason I just assumed sidewalks would be cleared? As if the snow only fell neatly on rooftops and cars, leaving the rest of the city to function as normal.
Turns out, I also do not know what “snow boots” are. I definitely don’t have a pair. My feet are cold.
The first month is coming to a close. I’ve been to 14 auditions. Today is my last one of January. By some stroke of luck I finally get a callback. I’ve become so used to not hearing my name called for callbacks I haven’t practiced my vocal material in weeks. I proceed to go into the womens restroom and run the hand dryer on repeat so no one can hear my voice cracking as I warm up.
I’ve done it. Survived a month in NYC. I know how to hail a cab, how to dodge slow-moving tourists on the sidewalk, and how to jimmy the laundry machine at the laundromat so it’ll take my quarters. I feel like I belong here. But only in the way that no one belongs here. Can you be indigenous to a place that’s entirely man made? So in that regard, anyone here can belong. New York City, a place you go when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to fit.