A New Growth (why you're never really back at square one)

It’s been a long time since I was a stranger in a strange land. Eight and a half years ago, in January 2008, I moved into a tiny “junior one bedroom” apartment in Astoria, Queens. Within six months, I was ready to walk away from performing and become a dramaturg. Or a lawyer. Or a medieval studies scholar, poring over old illuminated texts and interpreting stained glass windows (options 1 and 3 still make my heart beat a little faster, to be honest). I had spent half a year auditioning, half a year waking up early, waiting in lines to never be seen, or if I was lucky, to get 45 seconds in front of a casting team. I was temping at various reception desks all over the city, I was a cater-waiter.

Every day I showed up someplace new, unfamiliar, unknown. I was terrified of not having enough money to pay my rent. I was carefully doling out a box of pasta for 5 or 6 days’ worth of dinners. I was avoiding my high school friends, embarrassed that I didn’t have the money to meet up for drinks or dinner, ashamed that I wasn’t achieving the same kind of success I’d had back in senior year.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t move out of NYC back in 2008. I booked two shows, back to back gigs in Maine, and my faith in the entire industry was restored. I booked more shows, I joined the actors’ union. I met new people, developed hearty, enduring friendships, expanded my support system. I slowly worked my way up through better day jobs – the kind that were great until they weren’t anymore – restaurant host, office manager, personal assistant, legal secretary. I became a writer in my own right, a yoga teacher, a coach. I celebrated my 30th birthday and gained a greater, more grounded sense of who I was. I met someone and we fell in love.

I moved to Boston less than four weeks ago. In my first week, I spend the day at a co-working space in Cambridge, followed by a yoga class. On the way home, talking to Greg, I started to cry. I realized I had gone the entire day surrounded by people, but I hadn’t spoken to anyone, aside from giving my name at the check-in desk before class. That feeling of loneliness is what I had felt in my first months in NYC, and I dreaded the thought that I was going to be back there, starting over all over again.

But today, as I jotted down notes for this post, I realized how many opportunities have been laid at my feet in these past few weeks.

An acting teacher connected me with a fellow student, and suddenly there’s a chance for performing laid right at my feet. I’ve walked into yoga studios on multiple occasions where the teacher behind the desk generously and immediately offered me the manger’s contact information for subbing and teaching. I strolled into the gym down the street from me, the gym that just happens to be looking for a prenatal yoga teacher. A simple Facebook message turned out to be an offer of free advertising for Edge of the Mat. A last-minute dinner party invitation became a warm night full of genuine, authentic conversation.

There is a jade plant that lives in the kitchen window of my new home. We’ve had it for almost a year now, and in that time, its shape has changed dramatically. Look closely, and you’ll see the sturdy brown branches flecked with more slender, more supple bits of green. New growth, representing both present transformation and a natural progression from the past. It’s the same plant it once was, and also completely different.

I’m not in New York City in January 2008. I’m not repeating that phase of my life, and I’m not beginning all over again. I don’t have to relearn the lessons of the past nine years. Today, I’m so much more open to possibility. Even when I’m feeling isolated and apart, I’m still more connected – to other people, to the universe at large – than I was back then. It’s not starting over. I’m not taking a step backward.

It’s a new growth.