It was a year ago September 1st. I stepped off the plane from Chicago, back in New York. A new chapter.
I should probably start at the beginning. It was a crazy decision to leave in the first place, or if not crazy, at least random as hell. At some point last spring I found out that the restaurant I was working at was closing for renovations. The wheels started turning. What to do without a job? There was of course the obvious answer of finding a new one, but that didn't sound fun. I was tired. Tired of working in a restaurant for a year, and honestly I was tired of New York. Being in New York now for over five years I feel like I have these brief flashes of perspective where I realize I'm living in the greatest city in the world...and then a rat-sized cockroach runs over your flip-flopped foot. Sometimes it's hard to see the broad side of a barn if you're standing right next to it, or in my case you only notice that whatever side of this barn you're looking at there's bugs and smells and you'd really like to be looking at a different barn.
Chicago. That was the plan. Somewhere I had never been, but somewhere close enough that I could bring my voiceover equipment and work remotely if necessary (I thought about spending a few months in Thailand, but not exactly a place teeming with recording studios). Chicago also had the added benefit of being home to Second City, the legendary home of comedy's greatest: John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, John Candy, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, the list goes on and on. I thought about the plan for a long time. Was the idea of randomly uprooting my life a little too ridiculous? Maybe, but what the hell? What's life if you don't take risks? I decided to spend two months in Chicago, taking a variety of intensive classes at Second City and improv workshops at iO.
Halfway through the summer I was biking home after watching my first game at Wrigley Field (a religious experience in and of itself). The game had ended early due to rain - pouring, torrential, thunder and lightning, rain. I was soaked within seconds, freezing cold, and thought I was going to die multiple times on the ride home. As I pedaled home with rain pelting me in the face I knew that if I could make it home alive that it was something I'd never forget. I was making this memory in a new place, and as crazy as it sounds I finally felt at home, like I lived in Chicago. If I hadn't already figured it out, that night I knew that leaving New York for two months was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
I was a little scared to come back to New York. I didn't want to fall back into the same frustration and negativity I tried so hard to escape in the first place. I opened my notebook on the plane ride back from Chicago and jotted down a few words.
"A new perspective. A new outlook. A new chapter in New York. And so I'm going to approach it the same way: with wide-eyed optimism. Finding the unfamiliar in the familiar. Allowing myself to 'discover' a new New York."
I promised myself I would invest more time and energy into my acting career. I had spent the previous year getting my voiceover work off the ground, now it was time to get back on stage, to get back in front of a camera, to get back into classes. I also knew I didn't want to work six days a week at a restaurant like I had been. I wanted a part time job I actually enjoyed doing.
Last October I made my New York stage debut, albeit was playing a questionably racist Mexican character, but a New York stage debut nonetheless. That same month I joined the New Mercury Theater company and in December we put on our first benefit performance for charity. I began working with Matt Newton, a amazingly talented acting coach who has taught me a lot over the last several months. In January I signed a new voiceover contract with Paradigm. And in June, after a three year break I started new classes at Upright Citizens Brigade theater, I was cast on a new improv team, and got new headshots taken.
As for the part time job - in April, after studying my ass off for three weeks, and then taking an endlessly long exam asking the most random questions about New York you can imagine, I became an officially licensed tour guide. I taught myself more than I ever thought I wanted to know about New York and I literally re-discovered a whole new city. I was hired by Urban Oyster, an amazing tour company that does walking food tours through New York neighborhoods. Now, I did get a few people lost while guiding a tour a few months back, but I'm confident I've rectified that problem. Here's hoping.
It's not always about the big things. In fact, more often than not I think recognizing the little things along the way are sometimes even more important.