Friday, September 28, 2012

Over YOUR threshold: On Why I Moved to New York...

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Happy Friday everyone!  I'm excited to get back to the usual "coffee" link-up this week.  I've begun a series here asking readers to reflect on the reasons they live where they do and the joys and challenges that the location of their threshold brings.  You can catch up on the original post here. Read Monday's post from Jennifer about living far away from family with (almost) 2 little ones here.  If you're interested in writing about this topic, please contact me.

Today's post comes from my cousin, Tim, who lives in NYC and blogs at City Composer.

This is a topic I've hit on multiple times, sometimes in the context of whatever was happening with me at the time I was writing, sometimes merely inspired by a random event, sometimes in response to people asking me if I'd ever move back and then sometimes, like now, in response to a request for a guest blog entry from my cousin.  I was going to write it in a single sit down but the process of typing the first few paragraphs got me thinking about checking in with the dream I had about 6 years ago to make this happen.  What did I think of the city then and what do I now think of it having lived here for 3 1/2 years?

When I first decided to move here it was a huge aha moment for me.   The seed of one of the most incredible journeys of my life really grew out of the ashes of my divorce, 6 years ago.  The aha moment was that, freed from that relationship and from someone who didn't think I could succeed, I could go on and do anything I wanted to.  Somehow New York entered my mind first, whether it was because I had artist friends and a cousin living there already or because I remembered how exciting and fun my first visit to New York City was back in 1998, I'm not sure.  Either way I just ran with it.  Before long I was making plans to finish my Masters degree in composition and save money to move here, a process that would take almost two and a half more years.

Back then, New York represented something to me.  Not just the freedom to pursue a career that I've always wanted to pursue, not just a chance to do something exciting with my young life but the chance to take control of my destiny and do something completely for myself, where before I had just been taking the path of least resistance.  I had missed some opportunities when I was younger, made some wrong decisions and looked up around 2005 and realized that I didn't have a clue how I was going to make it as a composer.  I won't go into terrible detail about the nature of the obstacles but suffice it to say, after my divorce something clicked with me and I realized that none of those obstacles were insurmountable and all I had to do was take the first step and I'd be on my way.

This realization led to an ever increasing infatuation with the goal of moving here.  It was a direction in which to head where before I had nothing like that driving me and was somewhat lost, in a way.  After I finished my degree, I decided to move in with my parents in Raleigh to save up for the move versus staying in Greensboro, NC where I went to school. The following fall and winter of 2008 I would spend nights at my overnight job in Raleigh scouring craigslist postings for apartments, reading books about the city, reading forum postings from people who had made the decision to move to New York.  Slowly I started to get a picture of this place that I'd never known how badly I wanted to live in.  Subsequent visits solidified my attraction to the city.  I even pinpointed the borough I wanted to live in most: Brooklyn.  It all seemed like this new frontier, a place where I could finally start living the lifestyle that I wanted.  A walkable city with a slew of artists and like-minded individuals that I'd live happily amongst and network with for my career.  My excitement is documented pretty well in the first year of my blogs.

One would think that all that dreamy-eyed optimism would have been dulled down a little after so much time plugging away and dealing with the stress of city life. But, these days, if I ever catch myself getting downhearted, whether it's simply annoyance with daily life in the city, or all out negative thoughts about my chances of really succeeding at what I'm trying to do, all I have to do is open my eyes and look at the city around me. I'll inevitably catch something that makes me realize what I find in this city that makes me want to stay, regardless of how little return I see sometimes in terms of success at my career.

Whenever I've been asked the question why I moved to New York City, why I chose to move to New York City over the myriad options open to me after I split from my ex wife, when not simply stating it for those who cared (or didn't care) to know, I've often felt like I was defending a decision that the other person deemed crazy for whatever reason.  Not always, though. Sometimes the person was just curious because they're either from here and never thought of their hometown as a destination, or because they just ended up here themselves rather more arbitrarily than I did and are more than likely getting tired of it and thinking about leaving.

But when I did find myself defending this absurd decision (to those who deemed it absurd), I would go to the more practical reasons first, the music and entertainment career opportunities, the not so hot summers, the chance to live in an exciting metropolitan area as a young person in the prime of his life.  Things like that.  And I save all the "I've been infatuated with this place since I was a teenager" stuff for other safer spaces, conversations with friends and family who don't think I'm crazy for wanting to subject myself to such a hectic, noisy, dirty, mean, depressing, harrowing place where dreams can die just as surely as not, and where the rent is so high because space is at a premium, (and space is a relative term) and the landlords so cheap they will let mushrooms grow out of your ceiling before they consent to do anything about it and where cabs won't always take you to Brooklyn from Manhattan sometimes, and people get mugged and people push you around, and where I almost got in a fight in the subway the other day, and the subway never comes on time and there's always track work and where not only the federal and state governments tax your income but the city government does as well and where terrorists have attacked multiple times, and where there are almost as many homeless people as there are pigeons and rats and…do you see what I'm up against trying to explain to someone why I would want to live here?

It all has to do with perspective, though. Those things don't seem all that troubling when you take into account that some of the above mentioned things could happen in a number of different places, and are not exclusive to NYC.  But beyond that even, if you like a place enough you can forgive it for things like that. Especially considering I have an even longer list of reasons why I wanted to move here and reasons why I like it now that I'm here and have been surviving for the past three years.  There's some overlap there but there are also things I like now that I'm here that I couldn't have imagined being so cool before I moved up here.  The rumor of NYC can't possibly encompass everything that's so attractive about it.

Take the outdoor festivals in the summertime (film screenings, concert series, theater…a lot of it free or cheap), the subway musicians seemingly around every corner, vast endless amounts of entertainment, the history of the city, in buildings towering over you, a lot of architectural firsts, the oldest, biggest and only 24 hour subway system in the world.  Endless amounts of activities for tourists and natives alike, literally something for everyone.  This is the city in which I have gone to Celiac Disease meetups, met with the Amateur Astronomer's Association to witness an astronomical event, taken in a roving theater production of Hamlet in the World Financial Center, seen one of the most amazing examples of immersive theater called Sleep No  More, twice, biked the length of the island of Manhattan on a beautiful new greenway system, been able to spend my break time from work wandering, alternately, the pristine waterfront park that follows said greenway and the historic meatpacking district containing the Highline Park, an ingenious idea started by a group of people not willing to see a piece of the city's history demolished, seen Botanical Gardens in two boroughs, a Zoo in another, seen some of the best and most famous museums in the world from the MET, to the Brooklyn Museum, to the Guggenheim, and done all this within a few miles of my home.  And add to that the enormous amount of artistically talented individuals that I meet on an almost daily basis, where some of the best friendships and business relationships have sprouted out of something so simple as a conversation on the train platform or at a bus stop.  After a mere three years and change, I truly feel this place is my home and I cannot imagine leaving it right now or ever.

Tim Daoust is a composer and voice recording artist based in the New York City area. Taking elements from his training in classical piano and composition and combining them with a passion for rock and electronic music, Tim creates music for a wide range of projects from film scores to electronic music to contemporary concert music and dance. He blogs often at City Composer about his experiences moving to and living in the city, reasons why he made the move, stories about every day life and about adventures trying to make it as a composer, or just trying not to stop composing despite the pressures of working and paying rent in the city that never sleeps.

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