Monthly Archives: August 2013

43. James Stops Drinking

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I have mastered the art of bamboozling other twenty-somethings living in New York; I gave up alcohol. Just ‘cuz.

“Wait, did something really bad happen? Did someone, like, die?”

No. Nopey nopes. Nobody died. I just don’t really like drinking. Don’t get me wrong, I think some of it is DELICIOUS: Jack & Ginger, Pinot Noir, Captain & Coke, ANYTHING WITH MALIBU. But I hate everything else that comes with it.

I don’t like feeling altered. When I drink, I don’t feel completely myself anymore. I understand that some people really enjoy that feeling of escapism, but I don’t. I want to be me. I don’t want to drink to make myself more tolerable to other or myself, and I don’t want to drink to escape my life. I’d rather deal with it head-on, because all my bullshit will still be here when I come down. People used to tell me, “You’re so funny when you’re drunk.” And I would think, ‘Bitch, I’m a spitfire when I’m sober, too! But when I’m sober, I’m making intentional humor with my wit and my story-telling instead of when I’m drunk and you’re just laughing at my googly-eye.’ Drinking makes me feel slightly less aware, and I don’t want that. I want to feel my life. I don’t even like taking medicine when I have a cold or ibuprofen when I have a headache. All of that weirds me out and makes me feel like I’m not getting the full experience of every day. I want to be here.

I also felt like I was drinking to satisfy other people my age. Because twenty-somethings LOVE to drink. What do twenty-somethings do for fun: DRAAAAAAANK. What do twenty-somethings do after work: get a cocktail. What do twenty-somethings do on the weekend: go out drinking, go to bed, wake up for brunch and then DRINK SOME MORE. I realize that this is a generalization, but this is what I’m finding to be true for a majority of the people I see in NYC. But when I would go out with my friends, I ended up drinking to make them feel less self-conscious. You know how if you and a friend go to a diner but only they are hungry, they won’t want to eat because they’ll feel self-conscious? Drinking is like that but times a MILLION. I would go out with friends, and I wouldn’t intend on drinking. But if I’m sitting there not drinking while they are, they feel judged. As if I’m judging them. Then they start questioning themselves, which is NOT my intention; I just came out so I don’t have to be alone; I did not want to make all these people second-guess their life choices. So then they’ll say, “Come on, James. Just have one drink.” And being the people-pleaser that I am, I’ll have a drink. And then on the train ride home I’ll feel something similar to self-loathing as I realize that once again I’ve done something I didn’t want to do to please the people around me. So I realized my solution: don’t go to bars. Now, as a 24-year old gay actor living in New York City who doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs, I have significantly decreased the amount of social gatherings I am likely to be invited to and, ultimately, attend. In layman’s terms, I am fucked when it comes to making friends.

(As a sidenote: I do not judge people who like drinking or smoking or do drugs. It’s just not for me.)

This is an example of a conversation I’ve had:

Potential Friend: Hey, do you want to go out for drinks later?
Me: I don’t drink.
PF: …Why?
Me: I don’t like it.
PF: Oh, but you, like, smoke, right?
Me: Nope. I don’t really do anything.
PF: Oh, but, if you were at a club you would do Molly, right?
Me: Nah.
PF: So what do you do when you go to bars then?
Me: I don’t really go to bars.
PF: Oh, that’s…cool…

But a typical day-to-day conversation goes like this:

Potential Friend: Hey.
Me: Hey, what’s up?
PF: Damn, you’re tall.
Me: I know.
PF: Wanna get a drink?
Me: I don’t drink.
PF:………why?!!??!

As if I’ve just told them that I like to chew the gum from under the seats in the movie theater. I realize that I’ve added limits to my social life. And when I talk about how it’s difficult for me to make friends, people say, “Well, can’t you go out to a bar and not drink?” And I say, “Is it fun to go out to dinner with your friends and watch them eat?” But having this conversation on the daily makes me feel like an aberration. And maybe I am.

After writing my last blog about saying goodbye to some of my besties, the loneliness really started to settle in. Not only do I have fewer friends in the city, but I also am struggling with how to make friends with people my age. So I really hunkered down on furthering myself in my career. I started going to ballet class about three times a week. I’m practicing songs in my book, and I’m adding new songs to my book. I’m auditioning. I’m looking into getting into modeling. But even though my career won’t wake up one morning and tell me it doesn’t love me anymore, it won’t hang out with me at the end of a long day, make me giggle, pick stray boogers out of my nose and tell me it loves me. And I’ve found the fundamental source of my suffering: I don’t respect myself.

My lack of self-respect has consequences that have really hurt me. I did things to appease other people who I realized wouldn’t do the same for me. I’ve engaged in emotionally abusive relationships, and I’ve let myself be used physically. And I let those things permeate my being. And I’ve said, “ENOUGH, GOD DAMNIT. I WANT MY LIFE BACK.”

I’m starting therapy tomorrow. I was nervous I wasn’t going to be fucked up enough to qualify for sliding-scale therapy. She asked me if I started fires and I thought to myself, ‘If I say yes, am I more likely to receive care?’ But I told the truth, and she accepted me and called me “high-functioning”. I blushed and took her evaluation of my mental health as a compliment.

This is my life, god damnit, and I’m done living it for other people.

Seize this day, Jesus,
James

(As a sidenote: I am trying to strengthen my relationships with the friends that I do have in the city, so please don’t feel marginalized if you are one of those lovely people.)

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42. James Says Goodbye to Home (Again)

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Tomorrow I’m saying goodbye to another of my best friends as they depart New York. Last Saturday, I had to say goodbye to one of my all-time ride-or-die homies: Kelley. She moved from New York to Dallas a couple days ago, and tomorrow morning I’m helping Katie and Alex load their U-Haul as they make the big trek to Chicago. I’m a Cancer, so we all know I’ve cried about this a little bit. A little bit times ten.

Let’s go back to when I found out they were moving.

About two weeks ago, Kelley told me she was moving. We were talking about it on the phone while I was sitting in a theater waiting for the show to start so I had to awkwardly hang up on her when we were both choked up. But I tried not to be too self-centered about it. I know that she’s going to be much happier in Texas. So I cried a little on the train, but Kelley said, “You’ll still have Katie and Alex.” “You’re right,” I said.

The next day I’m with Katie, and she tells me she has news: she and Alex are moving to Chicago! This is so exciting for them! They’re going to be so much closer to their families, and they’ll be back in the Midwest where price tags make more sense and people are kinder. Yay! Not the greatest news for me, but this is awesome news for them. And I’m not going to make this about me either, so I smile and we talk about how fun Chicago is gonna be.

Later that night, I’m walking home from the grocery store, both arms fully laden with plastic bags of food that I surely don’t need, but maybe I can use them to caulk my tear ducts. And I finally let myself have a moment to be sad. I didn’t want to be sad in front of them, and here’s why: Yes, moving to New York is really, really hard, because you’re learning a new subway system, you’re so far away from home, everything is so expensive, it’s dangerous, and everything is foreign. But moving away from New York…that’s so hard for different reasons. When anyone considers moving away from New York after making the Big Move out here, I’m positive that their first thought is, ‘What will people think of me?’ There’s that fear that people will judge us, or laugh at us, as if we’ve given up. In our head, we hear all the nasty things we think people will say about us. But FUCK ALL THOSE PEOPLE. Most of them probably don’t even exist, they’re just manifestations of the rude things we say to ourselves in our insecure moments. But ANYONE who has lived in New York after moving here from somewhere else can empathize with how fucking difficult it is out here. And leaving New York is a success of it’s own; you’re escaping all the shenanigans of equity calls, the OBSCENE rent for a cockroach-infested watercloset and the subway cars that decide to randomly unleash a trickle of dirty water on your face at the end of the day just when you think to yourself, ‘Well, at least today is over.’ At one point, we ALL have had it with New York. And leaving this Bitch takes a lot of courage. So take solace in that in your moments of uncertainty and self-doubt.

I know Katie & Alex and Kelley will all be much happier. And they definitely won’t be lonely. But as I was walking home from the grocery store, I realized that my life wasn’t going to get better by them leaving, and I was going to be lonely for a little bit. As I trudged home, I allowed myself to just be sad. I didn’t have to be Strong, Supportive Friend for a few minutes. I didn’t want to cry in front of my friends and make it more difficult for them to leave; I don’t need to make their move any harder. But the thought of not seeing them every day makes me really, really sad.

The hardest part of moving away from home to New York City is that I lost my sense of belonging. I moved to New York away from my family and everything I’ve ever known to a huge city where it’s easy to be forgotten. It’s hard for me to find a sense of “home” here. I don’t really feel at home when I come to my apartment at the end of the night. I don’t really feel at home when I’m hanging out with new friends (not to discount my relationships with them AT ALL; it’s just that they haven’t been through SO MUCH with me like my old friends have). And whenever I stop moving for a few seconds, I’m overwhelmed with how lost I feel. But when I hang out with Kelley or Katie/Alex, I stop feeling lost for a few hours. I forget about New York kicking my ass, and I laugh. And I feel at home. Those friends are my home, and it’s ldifficult to say goodbye to them. Because not only will I miss them, but I know that I’m going to feel lost more often without seeing their faces every other day.

I don’t know how to create a home. I haven’t the knack for designing a comfy apartment, and I can’t keep my room clean. I don’t know how to make a home-cooked meal without using the microwave. But if there’s one thing I know how to do it’s to look into my friend’s eyes and think, ‘Home, sweet home.’

It will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to Katie and Alex after saying goodbye to Kelley last weekend. I’ve already felt myself trying to fill the approaching emptiness with new friends, bad food and humor. But I will put on my best warrior face tomorrow to be Strong, Supportive Friend again.

Katie, Alex, Kelley: I don’t know how to express to you the immense difference you’ve made in my life. So just know that you’ve taken some of my worst days and made them so tolerable and so significantly insignificant. You’ve altered my New York life, and I am so grateful for you.

This is my sendoff to you.
Don’t be strangers.

I love you,
James

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