It started with a craving.
Prior to living in New York, I lived in Nashville, and prior to living in Nashville, I lived in England. England has chips (akin to French fries). And chips, like cheerios and Girl Scout Cookies and a handful of other food products, are made of CRACK. It’s the only explanation I will ever have for their delicious and addictive properties.
I’d been home from the UK for a solid 8 months, but I still dreamt of salt and vinegar chips. And then a few nights ago I was online, bemoaning a particularly strong craving and my present lack of chips, when something struck me.
I live in New York City.
A place that has everything (literally you guys, EVERYTHING; Rachel and I discovered a workshop on mouse taxidermy).
Don’t ask me why I didn’t think to search out proper chips before, but it was a kind of revelation. The doors of New York-specific opportunity were thrown open before me.
Let’s back up.
Prior to my move to the city, I’d only been here twice, and both times were steeped in the glitter and joy that is publishing. I would come, visit with my agent, my editor, my publisher, and feel like a shiny thing. And I think some part of me thought that by living here, I would get to live in that glittery world ALL the time. But here’s the thing. Writers don’t belong in publishing. That doesn’t sound right, so let me try to explain. Writers don’t PHYSICALLY belong in publishing. Their roles intersect with those of members of the industry, but the amount of overlap is very slim. And that’s better for everyone, I think, and additionally it’s just the reality.
I can honestly say that my being here in the city has given me access to book signings, and it’s afforded me the opportunity to have an editorial meeting in person instead of over the phone, but those two things together have amounted to, oh, THREE DAYS out of the three months I’ve lived here.
The point is, I moved for the wrong reasons. I didn’t really think it through, and to protect myself from the emotional aftermath of realizing I’d made a huge move for a silly, naïve, and wrong reason, I decided it was FINE. I was in a city. Cities are cool.
But it wasn’t enough I didn’t want New York to become just a city, the way Liverpool was, a means to an end. I wanted it to be special.
And so, I had to redefine my reasons for being here. And that was rather daunting, but really, the only two options were to redefine or leave (I suppose there was a third option, to stay and live under the blanket of disappointment, but that’s not really my thing). So I redefined. I should say I am redefining because it’s a process. And it’s a process that I am devoting myself to.
OKAY. So back to the chips. The chips were integral to the redefining. The night I had that craving and made the discovery about LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY was about a week after the blanketing dread of OH GOD WHY DID I MOVE HERE?
And, since notions are like firecrackers, the revelation that this city had ALL the things sparked another revelation.
Since I graduated college two years ago, there’s been an absence in my life. I’ve put off graduate school because of professional reasons, and I while I have every intention of going eventually, the fact is that RIGHT NOW there is this hole. Knowledge. Discovery.
The thing I miss most about college is the course catalog.
I miss flipping past the sections I NEEDED to take to fulfill my major and sneaking glances into the other subjects, the ones I wanted for the sake of sheer discovery, the ones I couldn’t justify, the ones I’d have to forego sleep and sanity to squeeze in. Astronomy. Japanese Culture. Philosophy. Gothic Art History.
And here’s the thing: New York is like a course catalog. The information is a bit spread out, but it’s all there. And I’m discovering it.
And that’s what I’m doing now. Scavenging the city with a highlighter and a desire to learn, to discover, to be inspired.