Yes, I have been told I have a natural sunny disposition in the first place. But to be quite honest, these last few years haven’t exactly been sunny for me. As the financial demands of New York City became more brutal by the day, so were other factors in my life as it appeared to have slowly turned on its head:
- Post-production set back on my first storytelling project
- Did I or did not have cancer? And will my surgery prevent it?
- A couple of jobs that transformed me from a human-being to a work horse
- A leakage of toxic chemicals that invaded my apartment building, causing a housing crisis that pushed me out of my home
- (Speaking of home), then came the three family illnesses as the holidays were approaching in 2018
...I can truly say that it was hard for me to write because I had no idea how the outcome or moral of the story was going to transpire.
Was all of this suppose to break me?
Was I being too optimistic to see reality for what it was?
Were things going to get worse?
Up until a few days ago, I still didn’t have the answers to these three questions. But then reality started to sink in when I had to inform my NY peeps that I will be leaving for Arizona and suddenly...it was like an “Open Sesame!” to a wealth of insight I wasn’t made aware of until now.
Was I being too optimistic to see reality for what it was?
To an extent, yes. When I first moved back, 10 years ago, I was warned that measures of greed were going to dominate NYC’s culture - pushing out all of the lower and middle class, enabling the city be a playground only for the rich.
The moment I was displaced by my housing crisis last year, I had 2 months to take a step back from my manic city schedule to see that that’s exactly what is happening. Several times throughout my residency, I had to work 3, sometimes 4, jobs to survive. And as soon as NY Representative Democratic leader Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said in a televised interview "Unemployment is low because people are working two jobs ," my social media feed was engulfed by this shared broadcast with many throughout my cNYC network stating that this is their current reality.
I dug deeper into this matter, just to make sure that the hype I was experiencing was accurate by having a discussion with a few friends from my NY performing arts conservatory days who had to work while being a full-time student from early to mid 2000s. All, but one said they only had one employer: One weekend of work paid their rent and the rest, they were able to invest in more education as well as savings.
...Yeah, those days are long gone...
...So much so that articles are constantly being written about the rapid rate of artists leaving New York.
Artists - New York City’s primary socioeconomic developers that put Williamsburg, Chelsea and Greenwich Village (was known as The Village in early 2000s - now known as East Village and West Village) on the map.
For the longest time, My optimism didn’t want to believe this negative report in the media, but my last modeling gig at the Fashion Institute Of Technology further confirmed this when every single graduating art student I spoke to expressed no interest in staying in New York and that Philadelphia and Atlanta were both recently crowned the new “Land of Opportunity”. This, for me, was the ultimate wake up call that New York City is no longer the cultural capital of the United States.
Was all that happened suppose to break me?
No. What I’m learning from New York City is that it is hard to live here, in general...and when personal matters implode, they are magnified when I'm in an environment that expects the very best from me 24/7. Yes, the intensity had me uncomfortably cornered but at the same time,I was given challenges that I had not been given anywhere else and the more pressure I was under, the harder I worked - and the harder I worked, the more my focus was sharpened. Some challenges brought me to achieve performances on a new level. While being a work horse at a couple of jobs, I was able to use that intensity to push myself to newer limits through writing, producing, workshopping my first play, publishing articles, and experimenting with film directing.This was an adrenalin rush that left me so intrigued, the blood, sweat and tears became intoxicating.
When it came to dealing with difficult people during these challenges, this I have to say would have broken me if I had let it...
Although sexual harassment was always something I’ve grown accustomed to remain cautious of in a work environment, bullying was something I was ill-prepared to experience...And I’m sorry to say this, but most of the bullying I’ve encountered were women bullying other women.
A contact of mine touched base with me after he eye witnessed a scene he described as “brutal” when a female colleague verbally abused a newer, younger, female colleague - reducing her to tears, in front of the entire team during a meeting:
“Don’t get me wrong, men have their way of being harsh with one another, but seeing how women treat each other is just flat out vicious!”
My response: I'm not surprised. A similar situation happened to me, at my table, during a public event for a company that I worked for a while back. I still remember everyone getting up from my table and leaving immediately afterwards they felt so uncomfortable, it was really bad.
Now mind you, this is someone who knows all of my graphic detailed history of being sexually harassed, along with my reason to remain silent during the #Metoo movement (even though it has always had my full support.) - with that said, his next question was inevitable:
“So ... whenever you are seeking a new employer, do you have to ask yourself whether or not you’d rather work for men and risk being sexually harassed or work for women and risk being bullied?”
My response: Yes.
Since the day it became known to me that leaving NYC was likely to happen, I made an effort to sit down and have candid conversations with people I highly respected when sharing a work environment with them. Through revealing some of my struggles working with difficult individuals, immediate discoveries trickled into our conversations - unveiling an ongoing pattern of “dirt” on those who belittled me ...and apparently others, too. Suddenly knowing that this behavior was becoming a bit of a pattern, a light bulb went off in my head - shining a light on the truth that these individuals are acting out based on the reality of being too weak to hold their own. If an individual must withdraw attention from their responsibilities to seek self-gratification by disempowering others, what does it say about them? Especially, someone who is supposed to lead? For me, this is an obvious indication that they are not qualified for their current roles...
I could have been broken a few times... but now I see that fate and destiny had other plans as I engage with the strong women and men in my network who’ve demonstrated what true leadership looks like and have empowered me along the way. As they are making their feedback known to me before my departure, they have revealed that whatever ill-feelings I’ve had in bad work environments, they are valid. So is my work ethic and my voice.And now, I have a choice on how I wish to conduct myself through the history of experiencing good and bad apples. As part of my choosing to walk the footsteps of those that have demonstrated their strength to lead, I hope I have what it takes to pass down the lesson they’ve shown me:
Serve a purpose that echoes your values and always make time to invest in those whom you believe could serve as tomorrow’s leaders.
Were Things Going To Get Worse?
Things got worse not too long ago when my husband was offered and opportunity of a lifetime that would involve us moving to Arizona. This news was like a big punch in the stomach since I never had any desire to leave New York, plus it’s Arizona...Arizona?? I was not thrilled, however, once I broke the news to family and best friends I was met with shocking responses:
“You are so lucky!!”
“Arizona is f*cking beautiful!!”
“Oh, this would be a wonderful break from the city!”
“It’s so laid back there!”
“It’s a really hot market and you are being sent there! Do you have any idea how lucky you are?” - evidently not
I started to absorb the enthusiasm from those who have actually been to Arizona (unlike myself) the moment I sucked it up and dove into some research. From what I’ve gathered, so far, Arizona will offer me the opportunity to take advantage of nature through scenic hikes and satisfy my endless appetite for sensational Mexican food...so far so good. The pit in my stomach and my overall mood began to lift as I was coming to realize that this could be an adventure...something I always yearn for. It brought me to New York and LA, after all...I’m not sure how this adventure is going to be different. Whether it’s good or bad, I’m sure that even on the hottest, most stifling days coming up, I can at least look back and say “I’ve been through more than I could have imagined these past couple of years, I think I can pretty much handle this heat compared to that Hell.”
I’m writing this now in between breaks of my latest temp job and I’m sorry I have to leave it, for it has been very uplifting to be in a work environment I really enjoy. It further adds to leaving New York on a high note. Things have been tough, but at the same time New York has been wonderful to me through the wealth of encouragement in creating my own material as well as meeting many great, hard working, innovative, storytellers that I will forever be inspired by and some I’ve been lucky enough to call my friends. I guess there really was a reason why I was loaded with optimism here. Maybe all of this was a trial run to show me that there are too many good things in my life to allow myself to ever be broken by hardship and toxicity. And perhaps if I hadn’t learned how to role with the punches when all that happened was happening this past year then maybe things would have gotten worse on my accord by lack of flexibility. My mindset may have changed, but my goals and determination have remained the same... I’ve just needed to learn how to take a step back and breathe for a second. Actually, I’m still kind of learning how to do this.
I will miss the city life and the people I know here, but through this bitter-sweet departure, I’m hoping this new journey will only strengthen my character and provide new insight so that I can have so much more to contribute when I return.