New York can be a really lonely place.
In a city of 8.5 million people living on top of one another, it is really easy to feel lost in the shuffle. Everyone living in NYC is at the top (or fighting to be at the top) of his or her respective field. These people have come from all over the world to be -and be surrounded by- the best of the best. After 5+ years, I have finally started to fully understand Frank Sinatra's sentiment, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." I really feel like living and competing in any other city in the country would feel like a piece of cake after this insanity. This also means that everyone is busy, literally all of the time, trying to do more- to be better
New York is brutal.
Even the weather is extreme. Yesterday it was 60 degrees and beautiful. Today, it was freezing and snowing! - But that's another story. This story is about people.
I have found that New York tends to attract like-minded people. Or, because NYC is so extreme, like-minded people often find one another. And when you find people with whom you feel connected in a city of 8.5 million, you cling to them for dear life.
Winter can be a particularly difficult season to maintain these relationships. It's cold. It's dreary. People are broke because of the holidays. And the Mass Transit Crisis certainly doesn't help. You've got to work extra hard to carve time out of your schedule and coordinate encounters with other humans, or you will, most assuredly, go completely insane (especially if you're an extrovert...seriously it's a problem). And as wonderfully motivated as these 8.5 million people are, 90% of them are complete flakes when it comes to social engagements. As an individual who lives, eats, works, and breathes as dictated by my paper planner (Yes I still use a paper planner. Yes I am a little Type A. No, none of this should surprise you if you know me), this drives me nuts. Once I have your name written down in my planner, that time is yours. In addition to my rigidly planned schedule, quality time is one of my love languages, so it's a big deal for me to say no to other requests or obligations and devote that time to (the hypothetical) you. If you cancel on me last minute... Ooooooooh no. Just don't. Anyway. Again. Not what this is about...
While some people are flakes, a handful of those 8.5 million people are, in the words of the Original Galentine Hostess with the Mostest, Leslie Knope, "poetic and noble land-mermaids." I am so thankful I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with some of those land-mermaids today at a beautiful Galentines celebration in Harlem. Our delightful host (and one of my absolute Besties) Katherine opened up her cozy apartment to 30+ glorious women of different backgrounds, with multiple career trajectories, in various stages of life, and with a myriad of dietary restrictions, to celebrate one another and get to know each other just a little bit better. It was such an honor to stand around with these women, sharing stories and laughing. I had a moment this afternoon where I looked around and realized that even with the brutal snow blowing outside (SERIOUSLY?!?! MORE SNOW?!?!), we were warm. Even with all of the heartbreak and evil in the world, we were united in laughter. Even with all of the challenges, headaches, and heartbreaks New York can throw, we were living the dream! I don't think there are enough words to express how important and encouraging this was to me in the middle of what has been a long and rather challenging winter.
Women are awesome.
Women surviving and thriving in New York are especially awesome today.
I am so very thankful to be one of them.
And I hope that wherever you are, you have moments like this at some point this week- moments that make you really truly thankful to be exactly where you are- where you are meant to be.
Grace Be With You,
Sunday, February 11, 2018
The month of January and I have a tumultuous love/hate relationship. I always have such high expectations for “The New Year.” And my birthday comes along just two weeks after that- and I LOVE my birthday. However, after 28 years of midnight celebrations and birthday wishes, I’ve realized that January is just not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s cold. It’s dreary. Everybody is broke and tired after Christmas, and nobody wants to go outside. Sometimes it just downright sucks.
Now, I do feel the need to clarify that I have had some amazing January moments: I won “Best Actress” in the Mississippi State Theatre Competition one year on my birthday. My family and I rang in one New Year with my family with fireworks and dancing at Disney World. I spent one birthday evening singing in front of Chris Jackson (from Broadway’s Hamilton) at a musical theatre intensive. I got to watch Kristen Chenoweth perform an incredible concert in Los Angeles while the clock struck midnight on the East Coast.
However, a considerable number of my New Year Eves have passed on the couch with SciFi Channel’s marathon of The Twilight Zone and the TV broadcast of the New York Ball Drop.
And my birthdays…
Oh boy my birthdays have been so interesting that for a long time I truly thought I might be cursed. Here are some of more memorable birthdays, in no particular order:
1) One year for my birthday I wanted highlights… my mother dyed my hair orange… and not just a regular orange… a calico cat, spotty orange. It was bad… I cried.
2) It snowed on my birthday! In Georgia! And we got the day off of school! But I couldn’t play in the snow because I had broken my toe a couple of days before and was in a boot and crutches, so I sat on the front porch and watched… and cried.
3) My birthday fell on a Wednesday one year, and I was so excited to bring my birthday cake to the church youth group that night! I started feeling crummy at school so they nurse called my mom, but my mom reminded me that our house rule was “If you’re too sick to stay at school, you’re too sick to go to church.” So I stayed at school all day long. When I came home, my mom checked my temperature and I had to stay home all night because I had the flu with a high fever… after staying at school all day long… I cried.
4) I love macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders. Literally nothing is better. It’s a problem for me. One year for my birthday, my mother was kind enough to make my favorite meal for my special birthday dinner… Except she burned it to a crisp and almost burned our kitchen down… I cried.
5) One year I gathered a handful of friends to do an Escape Room. They were all extremely skeptical, but we had a good time… except that we got the final lock open 5 seconds after our time stopped and the buzzer went off… So technically we lost. Which was fine, except later that evening we were having a party at the apartment of the boy I was dating at the time, and I found him curled up on his bed flirting with a girl he invited to my birthday party… I cried.
6) I was on tour one year, and we had a particularly long load-in at a theatre in the middle of nowhere Texas. I was working on bolting the set together and when I lifted one of the flats, my knee gave out and I hit the floor. After a couple of hours of ice and rest, I couldn’t put much weight on it, so my tour manager took me to the urgent care for x-rays and painkillers. When we finally returned to the hotel, late that night, I found my parents waiting in the hotel lobby with a king cake… I cried… These were tears of very mixed emotions. My parents are the best! They surprised me! They had come to see me perform, but I was injured. I was heartbroken. Thankfully after some of those afore mentioned painkillers and some immense support from my cast, we survived the following two-show day with a couple of minor adjustments, and my parents got to see me perform. When we loaded out and got back on the bus… well… I cried again.
7) I was in New York one January for my birthday – actually the birthday between the summer I spent in NYC and the summer I actually moved to the city. My best friend Katherine and I decided to have a Disney Princess Dessert party. We made Jasmint Fudge, Alice’s Tea Scones, Gray Stuff (it wasn’t delicious), and a colorful array of assorted themed treats. I invited all of the wonderful friends I had met the summer before, and we worked all afternoon decorating and baking. Then it started snowing… hard… And only one person showed up. We at a lot of sugar, and we ended up having fun, but when Katherine and our one other guest left… I cried.
8) A couple of years later, when I was actually living in NYC, I decided not to have a birthday party. I don’t remember why. But my best friend came over and we ate ice cream sundaes out of macaroni bowls on my couch. We talked about how hard it was to be an adult… and we both cried.
This year, though, may have been the worst birthday yet. I got a phone call on the Friday evening before my birthday that my grandfather had passed away. I knew immediately that I needed to hop on a plane to Mississippi as soon as possible to be with my family and to lay my Grampy to rest. And, keeping in line with my terrible tradition, we buried my Grampy on my birthday.
And I hugged my family and we remembered the good times and we laughed and cried together. And then they sang happy birthday, and I smiled.
So I started thinking and reflecting, and I spent most of the month of January just trying to catch up with this new year and all of the new things it brought along. Now that it’s February, I feel like I’ve settled back in and am moving forward at a normal pace, knowing that at any moment something else could happen to interrupt any one of my celebrations. But I also have a new mentality for this new year. I’ve realized that even when the day sucks (even after all of the effort I put into making it a success), I enjoy celebrating! And that’s a good thing. And while I often have obnoxiously high expectations- especially around holidays- and I’ve had some pretty steep disappointments, none of those birthdays were inherently bad. And that’s life. Sometimes bad things happen. And we survive them. Sometimes we get hurt. And we overcome. Sometimes we get tired. And we get through it. Sometimes it takes longer than we expect. But eventually, we can look back and laugh and tell the story… or we can cry… and that’s ok too.
Grace be with you,
Grace be with you,