Once upon a Brooklyn time there lived four friends who were very different in personalities but were all alike in heart: the lawyer, the nymph, the prude, and the writer. Together they embarked on a journey called Living in New York in Your Twenties in which all kinds of hilarity ensued. It would forever change their stories. Their burdens, in harmony with their triumphs, were shared over many uncorked bottles of wines and Sunday night re-runs of Sex and the City. By the end of a blink-and-you-miss-it year they grew to be confidants, partners in crime, a familiar face amidst a sea of eight million strangers. But because all things must come to an end a career opportunity came knocking that led one of the foursome full circle back to where they all had their start: sunny Home, Florida.
As an actress I knew that I would always go where the work was and for me the Great White Way was mecca. So without hesitation I picked up my over-sized winter coat and off I went, Broadway bound, feeling somehow privileged to be one of the chosen few whom Coelho so lovingly refers to in his books as “warriors as light”- the few who bravely follow their dreams. Eventually, though, that sense of privilege turned to snobbery and from my high horse I judged anyone whom I deemed too weak to fight for what they wanted. It was almost imperceptible the way in which I equated success with living in “mecca”. I thought only in New York could one really “make it.” After all, if you can make it here… My friend’s parting news, however, made me see how wrong I was. In my narrow geographical judgment I wasn’t being fair to him or the other countless friends who chose to pursue passions not unlike my own right in our hometown. I wasn’t being fair to their great quality of work or their perennial dedication to the same art whose love we both profess. They are the ones shaping the minds of future generations, pushing the boundaries of experimental theatre, exposing their community to relevant issues. These friends are masters in their own right worthy of respect and no coordinates on a map can change that.
For me moving to New York was as much about chasing my ambition as it was about chasing my happiness. But how could a city hold the key to happiness? The answer was- it couldn’t. The answer is we carry our baggage wherever we go and only until we master ourselves can we learn that happiness is always an inside job regardless if it’s in Miami, Paris, Havana or Barcelona.
At his farewell dinner we talked about all the things worth going back home for- family, grandma’s cooking, pastelitos, and the familiarity that comes with knowing a place like the back of your hand. I thought how easy the purchase of a one-way ticket would be, homeward bound. “So, how about you, when are you moving back?” The question brought me out of my reverie and I saw the mischievous twinkle in his eye, witness to my many whining moments of home-sickness. But the twinge of melancholy I’ve come to associate with home never came and I had to wonder if it was because I no longer saw my life there or if I’d finally found my groove here.
The following day I had to leave a friend’s party for her precious one-year-old to meet another friend across town for her birthday celebration as well. I rushed to the train as fast as my heels allowed, trailing behind me the pink balloon I’d grabbed on an act of whimsy on my way out. As I made haste towards the beautiful Lincoln Center I thought about the friends I would soon meet up with; the same friends that once sat around shooting the breeze till four o’ clock in the morning eating Spam sandwiches and breaking out into the Friends theme song “I’ll Be There for You.” Those crazy liberals who were glued to the TV on November 6 watching history being made a second time around. How loud we screamed in victory! How many “Meanwhile in Florida…” jokes we cracked! I also thought about the early audition I had the next morning and how against all the ups and downs there’s still nothing I’d rather do instead because if interest is any indication talking about the craft three hours can go by in three minutes. In short, I thought about my life here and how “at the end of the day” it is exactly the life I’ve created for myself. It may be a small life filled with simple pleasures but it is definitely a charmed one.
When the light blinked red I turned to cross the street and was momentarily stunned. On the corner of 64th and West End Ave burned the most glorious setting sun, tucked away between two skyscrapers and in the stillness of the lulled traffic the City stretched out for miles: a Manhattan Stonehenge. It was my New York’s way of saying “I’m not done with you yet.” In the middle of the street I let the balloon float up with my reply. Not just yet.