There are a few things to expect if you are moving out to New York to follow your dreams of becoming an actOR. For example, whenever you come home people will ask you, “So, have you done any shows lately?” That’s the first thing to expect. The second thing you should expect will be your sudden impulse to make your life sound super cool. Like this:
“No, but I smiled at Fred Armisen the other day and then he looked back at me like he saw dried blood between my teeth.”
“No, but my neighbor got murdered so that reeeeeeally sucks for me.”
“No, but I waited on the executive producers of this hit reality show and they yelled at me and some of their spit went in my mouth.”
“No, but I cater for this company and they only hire pretty guys so I’m, like, pretty and stuff.”
“No, but the other day this stranger told me I was handsome and then kept walking.”
“No, but I accidentally sat on this girl on the subway and she called me a ‘tall, skinny motherfucker’ but she also called me ‘skinny.”
“No, but I walked out of my apartment the other day in shorty shorts and someone said, ‘LEGS!'”
I get all nervous, because when someone asks something as simple as, “How’s New York?”, I automatically hear, “How successful are you?” When people ask how New York is,I feel like they want to hear about how awesome it is. And how fun it is. And how fulfilling it is to follow your dreams. I feel the need to say, “New York is super awesome! Every day is a success! And the only reason I’m not currently cast in a show is because all the casting directors fought over me and it ended in a bloody massacre with zero survivors. Gr! Doesn’t that suck?” But what I really want to say is the truth:
“New York City is my abusive boyfriend to whom I’m addicted.”
“I was released from my show, because I am too tall to play the role of myself.”
“The other day I totally embarrassed myself in an audition, because I didn’t have a suitable additional song when asked.”
“Everyone in NYC is so gorgeous it makes me wanna stuff my underwear just so I feel more confident.”
“The other day I was waiting tables, and I got so desperate for food that I ate cake out of the garbage.”
“One day while waiting tables, I started crying because I couldn’t find any clean forks…. FORKS, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!”
“I go to the bathroom to talk to myself in the mirror when I’m feeling shitty.”
“When I get up in the middle of the night to pee, I turn on the light in my room because I watch too many scary movies.”
“The other day at an audition, I ran into a guy who I was seeing that randomly stopped responding to my calls and texts. And then I HAD TO MAKE AWKWARD CONVO IN THE ELEVATOR WITH HIM.”
(True stories. All around.)
This time when I came home, I was on the plane thinking about what my plan of attack was gonna be. How am I going to make my life sound super flawless and totally sin-tacular?! What will my angle be? But after much deliberation, I decided to be honest without making people wanna cry for me Argentina. When asked about New York, I was vulnerable and truthful: “It’s hard. It’s really, really hard and really, really expensive. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of fun. But it’s hard. I have a good network of friends who have become my family, and I love them to death. I’ve realized how important it is to come home to people who make you want to come home at the end of the night. Because being away from Waunakee, my HOME home, it’s easy to feel lost. My apartment isn’t the physical symbol of home like my house in Waunakee. But coming to my apartment at the end of the day to people who are excited to see me and vice versa, that feels like home. And my friends have become my home. So blah! It’s hard work but I love it for the most part. And I’m not giving up.”
And you know, the phrase I’ve heard most since being home is:
“James, I’m proud of you.”
I’ve heard: “James, it’s not easy but you’re still sticking it out. You’ve been out here for almost two years, and you’re still going. It’s really hard in a city like New York not to be dragged down into the dumps. So good for you. I just want you to know I’m proud of you.”
I’ve been feeling pretty lost lately. But you know, I feel like when I look at my life since moving to New York, I think, ‘Well, James, keep going and maybe you’ll eventually accomplish something worth being proud of.” But the people I love are already proud. It really warmed my heart, and it gave me the inspirational fuel I needed to keep going. Because I should be proud of myself. I moved out to New York one-and-a-half years ago. I can now afford groceries. I’ve booked 5 jobs so far in my field. I have a nice apartment. I have an amazing group of friends. I’m finally catching fire with certain casting directors; they’re remembering me by name. I’m still auditioning. I’m taking dance class and voice lessons. I’m taking care of my body. I still care about being a kind person. And I try really hard not to sit on people when the bus suddenly jerks forward while I’m trying to plant myself in a seat.
Oh, and I’m not giving up.
And then all the really cool things about my life in New York come to mind:
I can wear the gayest outfit in New York and not give two shits.
I can go wherever I want whenever I want.
I get to pursue my dreams.
I get to ride the subway with Vanessa Bayer.
I have a manager who believes in me.
I have an acting coach who believes in me.
I have a voice teacher who believes in me.
I have friends who believe in me.
And I have a million people in Wisconsin rooting for me.
Bitch, I’m still fighting and working and serving up body-ody-ody, Jesus. And I is not giving up. And that is something to be very proud of, James.
“Kendrick have a DREAM!”
~”Backseat Freestyle” by Kendrick Lamar