I bought my one-way ticket out of New York tonight.
This triggered a memory of the last one-way ticket I purchased. It was 2008, and I was fresh out of college (by way of 9 months dancing in Tokyo) and I was itching to get started living and dancing in the Big Apple.
I had two suitcases (because you were allowed to fly with 2 suitcases for free 9 years ago!) and 100 pounds of clothes and dance shoes. I didn’t pack a pair of practical tennis shoes, but I had ballet shoes, jazz shoes, tap shoes, tap heels, and character heels – so I probably figured a good pair of “walking shoes” was over doing it.
There was half of a queen-sized bed waiting for me (and a college friend) in an illegal basement apartment. I remember getting lost in the cab on my way there. I had an address in Long Island City (Court Square – before it was a nice place to live) and the cell phone number of my roommate. With no smart phone or GPS to show me the way, my cab driver and I quickly became completely lost.
I walked past this very apartment on my way to the library with Kip a few days ago. I wanted to tell him the whole story, and how many ridiculous city adventures I’ve had since. It’s funny, arriving there on that corner with my life in two suitcases, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that 8.5 years later I’d be living 7 minutes away, raising a family with my husband.
The only thing I had imagined, was being able to boast myself a “Broadway Dancer” before I left this place.
Not to make excuses, but 2008 was a tough time for anybody to get a job, let alone a dancer with a polka dot resume. I poured my heart and soul into this dream and in the end, I didn’t achieve the Broadway goal set 18 years ago.
It’s hard for me to accept this reality – and that my time for pursuing that path has expired. And while this feels like failure, I know that even without that elusive Broadway credit, my career as professional dancer in New York City was ultimately successful.
(It’s absurdly hard for me to compliment myself for my accomplishments, so if this wording gets awkward it’s because I’m struggling to get it out).
I’ve realized that in my 8 years here, I’ve had one or two major accomplishments every year:
- 2008: Equity Card and Equity Contract for production of West Side Story
- 2009: Equity Ensemble Contracts for A Chorus Line, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
- 2010: Equity Ensemble Contract for 42nd Street
- 2011: Equity Ensemble Contract for Victor Victoria
- 2012: “Retire” from Musicals, Get Real Job, Get Engaged :)
- 2013: Get Married (that’s basically an Equity Contract, right?!)
- 2014: Equity Ensemble Contract for Mary Poppins, Start my blog
- 2015: New Starring Role: Mommy!
- 2016: TBD
I still can’t decide if I’m proud or embarrassed by that list…maybe BOTH!
I know how much incredibly hard work was invested in securing each of those contracts. I can even remember exactly where I was standing and what I was doing at the very moment that each call came in letting me know I’d booked another job. What a feeling of elation, relief, and validation!!
I also know how many final callbacks were attended, and how many heart wrenching mistakes I made that cost me 10 to 20 times that number of shows.
Looking back on this list I have to wonder, would I have even come to the city had I known that I’d spend most of my best dancing years working survival jobs and claiming unemployment?
(It took me typing that out to finally realize it’s an entirely RIDICULOUS question!)
YES!!!! OF COURSE I WOULD!!
Even though I didn’t make it to The Great White Way, I had an amazing time living and working with my very best friends in the greatest city in the world! We were all barely scraping by, but what an unforgettable adventure we had together. Even though we knew we were lucky to be living this NYC dream together, we definitely didn’t know how much we would miss those days!
The following breakdown of my time in the city feels more true to my experience:
- 5 Apartments
- 6-15 Roommates (dancers move around a lot!)
- 2000+ trips to Starbucks (that’s painful to admit)
- 1 Agent
- 750-1000 (more?!) Auditions Attended
- 35+ Broadway Shows Attended (most with student rush or lottery tickets)
- 5 Standing Ovations for Best Friends’ Broadway Debuts (those truly are priceless!)
- Countless Subway Rides
- Millions of steps all over Manhattan
- 6? Public Emotional Breakdowns on the Subway or Street (I wont miss those!)
- 3 Blizzards
- 2 Hurricanes
- 1 Earthquake
- 6 Equity Ensemble Contracts
- 3 Commercials
- 10-15 TV Episodes (as an extra)
- 1 personal mention in a Review in the NY Times
- 300+ Dance classes
- 11 Survival Jobs (that I can remember)
- Hundreds of minutes on hold with NY State Unemployment
- 7 first dates (that I can remember…)
- 25+ Truly Lifelong friendships kindled
- 1 Husband & Best Friend
- 1 Baby Boy who loves this busy city even more than his Mama
- A Lifetime of Memories to Treasure
There. That’s more like it.
Thanks NYC, I came, I saw, I’d say I conquered, but I feel like we took turns conquering each other instead.
Now it’s time for me to go.
I’ll miss your pretty lights out my window, but I’m ok to be trading them in for the chance to see actual stars again soon.
See you soon.