People often think pursuing education in a creative art is the foolish and selfish endeavor of a delusional person. They are not wrong. But I think, for the most part, they’re missing the point. No one goes to “school” in a creative art because they believe they’ll be handed a 75k a year job in writing/sculpture/painting immediately after. For many artforms, especially playwriting, there is almost a zero percent chance of making a living entirely off art . Graduate education offers community, connections, and further chances to workshop material. But more than anything (and the primary reason I’m here) is that it gives you time.
I knew pretty much since I went to Sarah Lawrence in 2011 that I was moving to the city after. At that time I had no idea who I was or who I wanted to be. But growing up in New Jersey presents a specific type of angst that can only be satisfied by conquering the great titan of New York. I’ve known it in one way or another since I was a small kid, and every time I visited growing up I’d see more and more experiences and places to uncover. It seemed endless with activity and bustling with life and presented this alternative reality of being an anonymous figure amongst many. Obviously I am the billionth person to write about the magic of New York, but the allure is real. So in 2015, literally the day I graduated college, I moved to the city with my friends.
Disillusionment was inevitable. When you view anything in microscopic detail on a daily basis you’ll soon notice the smaller cracks before the larger beauty. But even in my life time the city has changed. And there is simply no way, even as someone who grew up in its proximity, for an entrance point of becoming a New Yorker. I was there for three short years. In maybe fifty, if I had lived there long enough and contributed enough to its culture, I could consider myself amongst those who will live and die in the greatest city in the world. Before I came to Illinois I often thought I might do it.
But there’s something about my life right now. Where I come home to a bigger apartment with a person I love. Where I walk to school and work everyday listening to music. Where I bike home after my night shift in an empty town. I just feel so happy. Like I have all the room in the world. In many ways Evanston and by extension Chicago is much smaller and more limited than New York, but then again I never really had access to so much of New York to begin with.
Even a few months later, when I look back at NY I immediately feel tired. A big part of it is spending a massive chunk of the day on public transit with far too many people, all irritated by delays. But then there’s also just the constant rat race. In comedy, in writing, even in work. I’ve written here before how even leisure time would make me feel immensely guilty. But too often I’d come home so tired that I would just go to sleep in attempt to garner enough energy for the next day. Social events felt more like obligations because of the time spent getting there, and the risk of them being too ‘unfun’ to be worth the hour long endeavor each way often lead to me skipping them entirely. It’s weird to think how even now I see my friends at about the same rate I did when I lived in New York.
Then on top of all this, trying to write plays. Trying to get motivated enough to truly sit by myself, distraction free, and actually fucking write something. And then to go back and look at it and change it. And pass it around, trying to get literally anyone else to read it. And to submit and to get rejected, over and over again. Every rejection felt like a massive sting, existential crisis inducing. Here I am, 10 am on a Wednesday, getting a standardized impersonal rejection letter for an application I spent a week on, for a play I spent a year on. And I’ve still got 7 more hours of coding work to do. Then an hour train home. Work out. Go grocery shopping. Go to sleep on time. Wake up and do it all again.
And here now, it’s a Friday night. I’m at my job, and I’ll be here until midnight. I’m working on a play and reading Dance Nation by Clare Barron (truly one of the best scripts I’ve maybe ever read I love it so much). I’ll bike home and see Sarah and Hector. Then tomorrow I’ll get to shoot a film, start a project, do any number of things. I feel relaxed, content. I’m stressed but excited. I wake up everyday thinking how lucky I am to be here.
Sometimes the most disturbing thing about thinking back on New York is how little I miss it. Mostly because, my time here will run out, and I’ll have to go somewhere and do something. But maybe the best thing coming here has taught me is how small New York really is. In New Jersey it seemed like everything. And if I didn’t enjoy it, that was too bad, because this was as good as it could be. Now I’m not sure. In a way, I feel like I have more time than ever. It’s the most optimistic I’ve felt about anything in a long time. Which is wild because, who the fuck knows what’s next.