New York

After I got out of grad school, I went to New York to become a publishing industry bigwig. I pretty much failed. On a lot of levels. But most basically at the level of being able to live in New York City. It was too big and too different and I couldn’t find people I liked nor did I have any idea how to find people I liked. Everyone I liked there was just by accident and there just weren’t that many.

Eventually, I went to New Jersey and hid in my aunt’s basement and felt like a failure–like if I’d just been tougher or stuck it out longer or known to move to Brooklyn not Manhattan or whatever–I could have done it, but that I fucked up without even knowing what I was fucking up.

It was a really difficult time in my life. I’ve failed at things I wasn’t very good at. And I’ve failed at things I didn’t give a shit about. But I’d never failed to do something I really, really wanted to do.

But I did.

7 thoughts on “New York

  1. What is failure, though, in the context you describe, B.? I’ve always gotten the impression that there’s this vibe broadcast directly into our American skulls by our culture that tells us ‘you can do whatever it is you set your mind to, as long as you work hard and are willing to sacrifice blah blah blah…’ There’s probably a term for that that I’ve forgotten from my ongoing, haphazard, and uneven university education. I want to say ‘determinism,’ but I don’t think it fits. Maybe it’s whatever means the opposite of determinism. Anyway, it’s a kind of personal manifest destiny. Problem is, it’s bullshit, and in a practical sense very nearly all of us find that out at some point, but it’s still tough to shake the standard of ‘I am the master of my universe, and it’s my responsibility to bend it to my will.’ It’s an impossible, standard, yes, and it’s reinforced by popular culture, religion, and just about Western epistemological input you set your senses on. So, in that regard, just about all of us are likely to feel like a failure about something in our miserable lives, if not about the whole ride. It’s a crappy deal, except maybe for the relative handful of vampires out there who profit from the rest of us struggling against thinking of ourselves as perpetual failures.

    What I’m getting at is, what are you getting at? You? A failure? Because you had a youthful idea about the way a thing was going to turn out, and then it didn’t turn out that way? Did you ever consider that it was New York and that whole deal that failed you? I’m thinking positively here, and expecting that you’re going to tell me that you’re just reflecting on this to demonstrate how you’ve moved beyond that bullshit notion.

  2. No, it’s weird. I don’t regret going to New York. I don’t regret leaving. I think it’s good to have experiences where you fail. As much as it sucked to set my heart on something and not be able to make it work, and not because anything went wrong, but just because I couldn’t do it.

    But I’m just feeling a little aimless and lost in that same way these days. And not sure what’s actually a good use of my time. Should I, metaphorically, retreat to New Jersey and hide in a basement?

    Ha ha ha.

  3. No, you should follow the example of Steve Earle, who also failed at New York City on his first try, and make art out of your experiences. Oh, wait, you’re already doing that. So, I guess, to follow the example of Steve Earle, you should try again, because he lives in NYC now.

  4. Hey, me too! We made a go of it for about 4 years. I even got a publishing job. But when I tried to move to another job, they offered me 23k. In 2002. In NYC. And that’s the only offer I could scrape together, despite contacts and experience. Because publishing is losing money and being consolidated and it never really paid enough to live on when it wasn’t. So we came back to Texas, which I was Not Happy about for a loooong time. It has turned out better than I thought it would, so I no longer hate it. Mostly. I still dream of Portland a lot, even if it has too many hipsters in it.

    But I never really adjusted to New York. I could take the weather, and the walking everywhere (mostly enjoyed those), but maybe because I was always so poor there, I could never really enjoy what it had to offer. And I got to longing for just a few minutes a day where I could go outside and not be in viewing distance of anyone, and there is no such thing there. I don’t miss it, not really.

  5. I’m kind of with Sam Holloway in thinking that it wasn’t so much that you failed as that you had one idea based on faulty information from wherever and that when reality turned out to be different than the idea you moved on.

    I don’t know how old you were, but I’m assuming that it was around what folks are now calling the “quarterlife crisis” when you hit 25 and are out in the world fresh from college/grad school. Everybody has romanticised notions about what they want to do; when they get a taste of the reality that is far-removed from those notions they have to adjust and change course. It happens several times in one’s life, but I like to think it gets a little bit easier each time out.

    My similar experience was London. I was going to live there and do wonderful things and study linguistics and Gaelic and hang out in the theatre and just be all around fantastic. Instead I wound up living off of beans, horking black smog out of my nose fifty times a day and realising that without paid work–which was almost impossible to get without a legitimately importable skill like being a neurosurgeon–there was no way I could have that life. I still remember sitting on a bench outside of St. Paul’s and just being hit with the realisation that this dream I’d had since I was 12 was just…it was a dream not based in reality. I sat there, had a good cry and then called my parents to wire me some money so I could get something to eat. I came home when the term was over and didn’t follow through with my auditions.

    I still don’t think of that as “failure” as much as I think of it as the process of becoming an adult with an adult view of things.

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