I Ran Away to New York City

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been doing so well.

I’ve been really struggling with my mental health, with my purpose in life, I’ve been wondering where I want to be and what I want to do more so than usual. I feel like these are all normal things that so many people deal with, but lately, it’s felt like I’ve been going through it all alone.

Truth be told, I’m really unhappy and I hate admitting that. Especially because some days, it feels like I’m living a dream. There was a point in my life where I never thought I would get to 16. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before, and it might seem crazy to some, but it’s true. I really never thought I would make it. I was really confused and overwhelmed on my 16th birthday and I’m not sure that that feeling has ever left. I’m 20 now.

It all kind of got to be too much. The last couple months have felt like barrels coming down a hill, trying to catch me, and I finally got to a point where I couldn’t run anymore and I got hit. Hard.

So naturally, I did what I tend to do best. I ran more.

But this time, I ran to New York City. I crashed with some friends whose generosity will never be forgotten as I planned a whole weekend in less than 24 hours. I decided to see some shows – shows whose soundtracks I’ve been listening to on repeat for weeks. I wanted to see my sister, I wanted to get out of my head.

The intense feeling of dissatisfaction has been following me around for while. I guess we should go back. It’s kind of a long story so bare with me here.

I would say it started around June. I had just finished my first summer session and was on a brief break. I spent the first three weeks of June traveling around North Carolina going to various prisons – yeah, you read that right.

I was in class called Correctional Field Experience and we visited various minimum, medium, and maximum security jails and prisons throughout the state, learning about the various programs offered at each facility, meeting inmates, hearing their stories, asking questions, and learning how the system functions from the inside. Overall, it was a really cool experience but it was really draining – physically, emotionally, mentally. It’s hard to see people be treated so horribly by a system that is supposed to be helping them, changing them. That’s a different story for a different day though.

As I finished up that class, it all just became glaringly clear how emotionally drained I was. Michael was out of town, visiting family, spending time with his parents, having a great time going to D.C. Pride (still hurt he went without me), but I just started to feel really alone. More so than I usually do.

The best way that I can describe depression, anxiety, loneliness, basically any bad feeling I experience is with a “Dawson’s Creek” quote, believe it or not. Pacey and Joey are locked in a K-Mart overnight and he kisses her (a serious plot arc if you’ve ever seen the show) and she asks how long he’s wanted to do that or something along those lines and Pacey says that the desire never really goes away, it’s always there, it’s just something you learn to live with. While that’s a different situation, the theory still applies.

Some days I find myself getting really angry and feeling really defeated because it hits me all over again that I’m never not going to feel like this. These aren’t things that I won’t ever have to deal with. I’m going to have depression and anxiety and probably PTSD for the rest of my life, there’s no getting around that. I can take medication, go to therapy, work on self love and making sure I’m a priority in my own life (a true concept), but it’s never going to leave me and it makes me incredibly angry. This isn’t what I want for my life. I don’t want to have these deep desires to achieve these things and then be scared and back down because I can’t find the energy to get out of bed or I become so focused on school or other things that next thing I know, it’s been 3-4 weeks since I originally had an idea and now it’s too late. I understand the logic is flawed, but that’s how it feels. It’s frustrating to have a breakdown every couple weeks because I realize that these are the companions I’m going to have for the rest of my life.

Everything just came to a grinding halt. It was June 19th and I just fell apart, for lack of a better description. I started running through scenarios in my head and what it would look like if I really did just give up. I was prepared to pull the proverbial trigger and kill myself, to be quite frank. I’ve never really liked the idea of my close friends or family finding me so it was okay for me that one of my summer roommates might. We weren’t super close, but we weren’t strangers. I liked one more than the others and as much as I didn’t like the idea of her finding me, I came to the conclusion that I’d be okay with her finding me before I’d let Michael or someone else find me.

I entertained the idea of going to the hospital – which I really almost did. I thought, hell, I’ll just pack a bag, I’ll call an Uber, I’ll walk into the emergency room and I’ll look the person in the eye and tell them that I want to die. I figured I’d probably be admitted on sight or moved to a psychiatric unit/hospital, or maybe a rehab. None of which seem particularly appealing to me, but after all, I was just daydreaming.

I can’t tell you what happened or what changed my mind. I remember texting various people who I rely on, but not really expecting much. I think in my mind, I told myself that if they didn’t respond, it was because they didn’t care and it was all the more reason to just let go. They responded, much to my dismay. I couldn’t really explain a lot of what I was feeling or the reasoning behind any of it – another very frustrating symptom of mental illness. All I really remember is the vivid feeling of being pulled under water, like if I didn’t harm myself in some way or try to just end it all, there would be dire consequences anyways so I might as well go my way than any other. I think it’s really hard to understand that feeling, the cliff that you end up on when you’re in that headspace, unless you’ve been there.

I think I ultimately decided to write and that if the feelings were still as strong after, I’d make a decision from there. Luckily, writing walked me off that ledge. Like it has on many occasions. I woke up the next day, I stayed in bed, watched TV, ignored my phone, and just wallowed in my feelings. The day after that, everything was back to normal – as much as possible, at least – and it was just another day.

I realized after that, though, that I desperately needed to get out of Charlotte. I hadn’t left since I was home in Colorado in January of this year for the Christmas break. It’d been the longest time I’d been here consecutively and I couldn’t do it anymore. Alas, being poor and dodging my hometown – again, different story for a different day – I ended up in the “mountains” of North Carolina, Boone.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you might know that I went to California for Spring Break my junior year of high school and I stayed with my mom’s best friend Bobbi. Well, around after I graduated high school, she and her family left California in favor of the North Carolina mountains. I went up there and crashed with her son and his girlfriend for a week, give or take a couple days. I think that trip made me realize how healing it is for me to be in the mountains. As much as I disdain my hometown, the mountains have always felt like home and have never failed to bring me back and center me. I’m not sure that will ever change, as least I hope it doesn’t.

While in Boone, I hung out with cats, watched a lot of movies and tv, read some books, ate yummy food, saw Toy Story 4, drank way too much orange juice, and decided to hop on the job hunt. I applied for anything and everything I thought I was remotely qualified for or that I could learn. I’ve been working sporadically since I left my job at JCPenney and moved to North Carolina for school (RIP to the Longmont JCP). I’ve nannied, worked in retail, done some odd jobs to tide me over, but I somehow came to the conclusion that I was ready for something steady again.

I landed a job in a doctor’s office – consistent hours, good pay, benefits if I stayed long enough. It sounded like everything I’d been looking for. I’d been saying for years that I thought a steady office job would be really great for me. I thought that I could really thrive in routine and that it would really help my mental health to have some consistency. Boy was I wrong.

Now listen, if you thrive in the consistency of a routine, same job every day, if that’s what you want in life, more power to you. But for me, it sent me into a crippling depression. Literally doing the exact opposite of what I wanted. It became blatantly obvious that I wasn’t made for this, and that everything I thought that it would do for me, it didn’t.

One of the people I worked with has been in that job for 10 years. I think he really enjoys his job and is happy with where he is. Truthfully, I wouldn’t know because I didn’t know him that well, but for me, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t work 5 days a week, 8 hour days, doing the same thing every day for 10 years. That’s not to knock him, like I said, I think he’s happy. I hope he is. But for me, I can’t function like that. I was really struggling with keeping my head above water all over again. It just became abundantly clear that I need something else.

I’ve noticed, as have many people around me, that I thrive most in chaos. In the inconsistency, the running of a clock, the pressure to finish something at the last minute, I do my best work. I don’t really know why that is. Maybe it’s a metophor for my life, as I feel like it’s been in constant chaos since I came out of the womb and this is where I am.

In a weird but couldn’t have been greater timing kind of way, I ended up getting fired from that job for reasons unrelated to any of the things we’ve just discussed. I think it might’ve been a blessing in disguise. It’s allowed me to refocus on what I really want in life, thinking about whether or not this really is the path that I want for myself.

Which brings us to this weekend, my impulsivity, and my trip to New York City. Since losing that job and school starting and not having a lot of room to move, in terms of new employment opportunities, I started to feel stuck again. I’m enrolled in classes full-time, 18 credit hours, but I’m only in class 3 days of the week, in the evenings for a couple hours. I then have 3 online classes. So, my sleep schedule is messed up, I have a lot of time to think, and I have consistent 3 day weekends with a nice Tuesday break.

After being hit in the face with the realization that I’m not happy in a 5 days a week, 8-5, 40 hours a week job, I was back to square one. I’m on the path to go to law school right now. Which, is everything I’ve realized I don’t enjoy. I don’t think that working in the criminal justice system is the same as working medicine, medicated weight loss no less, but I do worry that while I am extremely passionate, maybe a little neurotic, when it comes to what I’m studying in school, at the core of the legal profession is the consistency of work, long hours, and being married to your career for the first couple years, if not the first decade after you graduate.

It’s not that I don’t think I could be happy in the legal system. I think that I would find a lot of happiness in it, especially because I am so passionate. I just don’t know if I’d be satisfied. I don’t know if I’d go to bed with a smile on my face, knowing that I am living my dream. Because the truth is, it’s not my dream.

Well, it kind of is. But not in the way that you think.

It’s what I like to call my practical dream. At some point in middle school, I hit a spot in my growing where I became painfully aware of how financially unstable my family was and this intense anxiety crawled into my chest and has lived there since then. It’s wrapped its way around my heart and become a sort of chastity belt for anything that I love that I couldn’t make money in unless I was a one in a million, and in my experience, I’m not that one. As much as I’ve always had a passion for the arts, entertainment – film, television, music, books, writing, etc. – my practical chastity belt wouldn’t let me engage in the idea of pursuing any of it as a serious career. And thus, my practical dream was born – criminal justice.

The funny thing is, my passion for criminal justice reform, prison reform, social justice issues, and history have all stemmed from various movies, TV shows, and documentaries that I’ve watched, wishing I created them instead of binged them in the middle of the night. I first fell in love with the idea of pursuing criminal justice around 6th grade, when I really got into Criminal Minds and it’s since grown then as I’ve found and fallen in love with shows like Chicago P.D., NCIS, Law and Order: SVU, The Code, Bull, Bones, White Collar, The Keepers, etc.

After feeling like everything has come to head, I impulsively decided to go to New York City for the weekend. I’ve been listening to the soundtracks of “Dear Evan Hansen” (2017 Tony Winner for Best Musical and 2017 Grammy Winner for Best Musical Theatre Album) and “Waitress” (written by 7-time Grammy nominated artist Sara Bareilles) on repeat for weeks and upon deciding to go to the Big Apple, I decided that I had to see these shows. Especially with Evan Hansen being played by Andrew Barth Feldman, an extremely talented individual whom I’ve grown to love in the last couple months, and Dawn (“Waitress”) being played by non other than Miranda Sings herself, Colleen Ballinger alongside Todrick Hall who is playing Ogie – Dawn’s husband – it seemed like kismet (if you know, you know) and I had to see them.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been hit in the face with something I love so much, that lights such a fire in my belly and makes me remember why I love music and film and television and writing, and that’s exactly what these shows did. I would say that “Dear Evan Hansen” did more so than “Waitress” but it’s not because the latter wasn’t good, I just related so much more to the former that it felt like I was pulled out from under the water, I could see and hear clearly and I have just fallen for the arts all over again.

In all seriousness, being in NYC by myself for a couple days, seeing people I admire so much live their dreams and do it so fearlessly and with everything inside them, it’s hard to come back to Charlotte and realize that while I do have a passion for what I’m learning, it might not be the thing I want to do for the rest of my life.

Oh god, what it feels to admit that.

I’m really scared to admit that. To say that after everything I’ve been through in life and in the last few years and months that everything I’ve worked for, I might not even want to pursue, it’s crazy, right? I feel guilty for not wanting this as much as I want to write or make music or read. I feel like if I do finish my degrees and walk away from my this path I’ve created for myself, that I’ll be letting down my family or that everything I’ve done in the last two years is irrelevant.

There’s a part in the first season of “Jane the Virgin” where Jane and Rafael flash back to the first time they met and he asks her what her dream job is. In turn, she asks, “am I being practical or brave?” and he says, “practical” and she responds, “I’m a teacher.” He then says, “brave.” To which she replies, “writer.”

So for me, if I’m being practical, I’m a lawyer, maybe president, maybe a Supreme Court justice. If I’m being brave, I’m a writer, a musician, an actress, an artist, wherever it would take me.

I think that either way, I would be happy. I think that only down one path, I’d be satisfied. I guess now I just have to figure out what that means in terms of what my life is going to look like, where it’s going to go, and what I’m going to do.

I guess there’s a reason why New York City is dubbed the city of dreams. I suppose it took me taking an impulsive trip, *almost* breaking my bank, and crying during two Broadway shows to put mine into somewhat of a perspective.

As bold as I am in writing this, I still don’t know what I’m going to do. I think no matter what, I’ll finish school because an education is really important to me and while I wish I could have success in the entertainment industry tomorrow, I am really excited about the classes I’m in, what I’m learning, and how it’s all fitting together. I think that I will try to devote more time to writing and being more brave, for real this time. I think I will continue to work on my art and trying to improve. I think I might get involved in some stuff on campus or throughout Charlotte, I don’t know. I know for a fact that at some point, I’ll make my way back to NYC to see more shows – hopefully in the next couple months before several leave Broadway.

To NYC, for helping me be brave. Here are some pictures of me in the city, having the time of my life, seeing my sister, acting a fool – the only way I know how to exist.

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One thought on “I Ran Away to New York City

  1. You are an inspiration and I hope you know that. I have always looked up to you and wanted to be as brave and as strong as you are. When you graduated I bought this book (which I had every intention of mailing and I forgot because I’m the worst) but when I moved, I pulled it out of a box. I wrote how I knew you would light the world on fire someday and this is still something I believe to be so true. I can’t wait to see the amazing things you do and know that I’m always cheering you on.

    Liked by 1 person

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