Daily Kayla, one of my favorite bloggers brought this book to my attention today. I immediately went to Amazon and ordered a copy. She wrote her own story which in turn inspired me to think about my journey to get to New York. I enjoy her posts because she often mentions New York and if there is anything that two strangers can bond over, it would be those that lived in New York for their very formative 18-22 years, which we both did.
NYC at 17
I first went to New York in the second grade. It’s not that I didn’t love it at the time but I just didn’t get it. I remember declaring to my Mother post-trip, “I would never live in New York. You have to walk everywhere. How are you supposed to get your groceries anywhere?” I remember the exact time and place of where we were. We were back in Florida and walking into a super-Walmart. She looked back at me and said, “Never say, never, Cassidy.”
I didn’t go to New York again until I was 15. For my sweet 16. I had seen a John Mayer concert that September and knew that I wanted to go to his album release show that November for his record “Try!” He was doing a meet and greet show at Tower records on November 22, an album release show on November 23, and a Letterman appearance on the 24th. Then, I was turning 16 on the 26th. I remember sitting at my computer and looking up at my Mom. She said, “Is this what you want to do for your sweet 16?” I replied, “YES, YES, YES!” and she let me book the tickets. Ironically enough, you had to be 16 to get into the Bowery Ballroom for the show, so I had my very first foray into using a fake ID. I borrowed my friend Jennifer’s ID because she had turned 16 on the 21st.
That trip. That trip is the type of trip that changes your life forever. I had always wanted to be an actress but I didn’t think that anyone in the “real world” actually pursued it. No one that I knew in Florida seriously considered a world in the arts, the very unreliable, and heart breaking world of pursuing something so lucrative.
First impressions of New York as a teenager; the clothes. Oh, the clothes. I felt like I had come home. I wore all of my best Sex and the City impersonations that trip. I paired the heels that I usually wore to a dance once a year with dark black leggings and huge flouncy dresses. I wore red lipstick because I felt like it. Nobody looked twice. In Florida, you couldn’t get away with things like that without looking completely strange and out of place. I felt accepted. People didn’t roll their eyes or looked judgmental when I told them I wanted to be an actress.
I went into such a state of blues after that trip. I had just seen what I wanted my life to be like but I still had two more years of high school. I was incredibly depressed to be back in Florida, in the middle of nowhere, and feeling like I was missing out on the life I wanted to be living in New York City. I came back from that trip and everything about sitting in a classroom drove me crazy. I felt like an adult, I had just been let loose in New York City and I came back to all the rules that were there before I discovered an alternate universe outside my small town. I was studying in the International Baccalaureate program and decided I was going to transfer to a performing arts high school for acting. I auditioned in January, was accepted for the following year, and I knew I had to get out of Florida as fast as I could.
My move to New York was the most planned, strategic thing I’ve ever done in my life. I condensed my junior and senior year into one so that I could graduate a year early. I did my junior classes, worked a hostess job to save money for New York, and then went home to do my online classes for four hours every single night. When May came around I had actually achieved it, I was eligible to graduate, and had saved about $6,000. I found an apartment on craigslist, told my Mom I was going to rent it, and asked if I had her blessing. She said, “Yes.” I sent off a deposit for $2,000 including first and last months rent and thought everything was set.
On the day of my graduation, she started wavering. She begged me to reconsider. She told me that it would be best if I wait six months until I turned 18 that November and then we could talk about it. I started to see my dream slip away. That night, after graduation, she told me that she just couldn’t allow this. She had been sitting next to some police officers in the stadium and told them the whole story, of course they told her that they would never, ever allow their children to do that.
It was the worst night of my life. I had sacrificed so much that year to graduate early and save all this money and now it was just a huge buildup to nothing. I felt empty. I had so much despair. I begged, I pleaded and still all I got was, “No.” I had never felt so much rage in my life. I told her I just had to be away from her so I called our lifelong friends of the family in upstate New York in the middle of nowhere and asked if I could spend the summer with them until I figured out what to do for the next 6 months. They agreed, my Mom begrudgingly let me go live with them. I was there for two weeks when my brother called to tell me that he had a business trip in New York City.
He didn’t know everything that had happened, all he knew was that I was in the state and it would be fun to catch up with one another. My mind started spinning. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I got permission from the family I was staying with and my Mom. I had to promise I wouldn’t stay in the city after my visit with my brother. I knew what I was going to do all along. Finally, on June 7, 2007 I woke up at 6AM to take the train to Manhattan. When I got to the station, the train had been cancelled because of scheduling conflicts. The only option was a Greyhound, so Greyhound it was. I wrote in my journal the whole way, it’s still one of my most favorite journal entries ever. The final sentence is, “I see the skyline. I’m here.”
I got into Penn Station at lunch time. I had a suitcase, the address of my brother’s hotel written on a post-it, and my cell phone. It was hot. One of the hottest days and I was wearing flip-flops that kept slipping off my feet. I remember calling the hotel and asking how to get there. My first real impression of my arrival was walking through 34th Street Herald Square. I got to the hotel before my brother and his wife arrived with my nephew. I dropped all my bags off and went to the hotel office space. I printed out, “Top New York Acting Agencies” and walked to Madison Square Park with my list. I spent the next hour calling every single one of them. Then, I went back and scrolled craigslist for apartments for rent. Then, I went and called every single one on that list. On the third day, I found a place.
My first place. On 10th street in between 1st and 2nd ave. East Village. Half a block from an Urban Outfitter’s and not far from the “Half Priced Sushi” place on St. Mark’s Street. That was it. I had found a place. Every significant moment in my life had lead up to that point. That apartment is the one that lead me to meet one of my best friends, find a job that I ended up at for two years, and the neighborhood that gave me the most impressionable summer of my life. Seventeen years old, living on my own for the first time, and a resident of the East Village. I would go to bed late but could never sleep in because the second the pigeons woke me up, I started planning all the adventures I would go on that day. Every single day I went out and discovered the parts of the city that still make my heart skip a beat when I see them now.
This June will be my four year anniversary of when I started living on my own for the first time. Sometimes the nostalgia pours over me. So many people have left the city, are at a different point in their lives now, became parents, quit pursuing the industry, moved to the suburbs, or just lost touch. I yearn for those times when I was with the exact groups of people that I knew then, living in the apartments that are no longer mine. I can’t walk past places I used to live. It makes me too sad to know that that part of my life is over. I remember slipping through snow holding huge grocery bags in each hand and finally collapsing on my stoop once I arrived. If I walk past my old stoop, I just see myself, and what it was like when I used to live there. I remember the first NY boy I dated walking me home and kissing me good night on that stoop. I remember being locked out when my purse got stolen the first time because I left it on the back of my stool in a bar. Those shadows of a life I lived there are starting to fade to everyone but me. Sometimes an old neighbor recognizes me but for the most part, no one really cares when you walk by. They have no idea how significant that apartment was to me or how hard I had worked to get there. All I can do is remind myself, “Never say never” because the last time my Mom said that to me, it completely stuck with me and made me change my mind forever about a place I had written off.
Revisiting my first apartment, exactly 3 years later. I haven’t been back since.