Archive for survival guide

Life Is A Carnival

Dan,

It’s been four short years since I moved to the city I now happily call home, and I find it a struggle to recall how it felt to not live in this place. The years here haven’t always felt smooth but being a resident of Seattle has almost always felt “right” to me, as if I found the magical place where I belong. But no place is perfect, no matter how besotted you are with it.

In the last four years I have had one moment of doubt regarding my choice to pack up my life and drive to Washington. So here’s the story of how on day three of living here I nearly came crawling back to Montana.

I moved to Seattle with no job, no home and very few acquaintances. I left my family and the comfort of a place I had known for twenty-three years in the hopes that this city would become my new home. Three days into this adventure I came outside to find the windows of my car shattered and part of the car’s steering taken apart (not to mention a fair amount of blood on the interior).

At the time that I came across my vehicle I was on my way to meet my friend Megan, we had solidified our friendship less than 24 hours prior but she handled the situation like a champ. As we waited for the police to come file a report she helped me remove the belongings that remained in my vehicle and take them into my friend’s apartment. We then made phone calls to find a mechanic open on a Sunday and when my car was safely towed away she drove me to a job interview I had scheduled for later that day.

After the interview, she dropped me off downtown where I was staying, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I felt like a part of me had been violated, knowing that a stranger had sifted through my photos and books (which was pretty much all I had in the car).

I came into my friend’s apartment and found it empty so I sat on his couch, looked out the window and wondered what the hell I was thinking when I made the decision to leave my home. I called my mother and cried, I told her I missed her and felt so alone and didn’t know if I made the right choice. I wanted some encouraging sign but I felt as if the city itself was rejecting me.

After I got off the phone, my friend walked in and took in the whole scene of me sitting in a dark living room and crying. Uncharacteristically, he hugged me and told me that it was just a bad day and offered to make popcorn and put on a movie for us. As soon as he went into the kitchen, my phone rang with a job offer and moments later Megan texted me with words of encouragement and it felt as if the puzzle pieces were coming into place.

My life didn’t come into immediate focus that night but as I sat on the couch next to an old friend, watching the ferries glide across the dark water, and texting my new friend, I felt like I could handle it. I had a support unit, a job and a roof over my head. And for the first time I really saw that there was potential of something great in this city, something I couldn’t yet verbalize but now recognize as finding your place.

Navigating choppy water,

Adair

 

 

New York’s Not My Home

Adair,

Much of my time in New York has been spent in the service of others. Not in the “feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless” way but more in the “on the rocks or up?” sort of way.  And while I don’t want to bartend forever, I must admit that I do like my job the majority of the time. It’s not a vast majority, certainly not enough to amend the constitution, but over 50% of the time, I like it.

I have an interest in alcohol, I enjoy the social experiment of watching people interact while drinking, but most of all, I love stories. And it’s the stories of my patrons that I will remember long after the stink of beer is washed out of my clothes and my tips have all been spent.

One such story belongs to Grace.

Grace is who I think of when I think of a New Yorker. She’s tough, opinionated, and not afraid of anyone. She has her standards and she knows what she likes. She doesn’t like how the city is changing, but she loves all the new places to eat. Grace is all of us after a few decades in Manhattan.

Grace is a firecracker. And I mean that how a 1930’s newspaper editor would have used it. She has so much spunk and moxie that while in her seventies, I have no doubt that she could match wits with anyone who dared to challenge her. Having written and published two novels that are still in print, she was already a hero of mine, but in one night she become someone who I know I will never forget.

One night back in April, Grace and I were doing our usual routine. She came in from her apartment which is on the same block as the bar, and I greeted her with a rhetorical “would you like a Prosecco?” I poured her drink and, as a writer, Grace extended her routine but earnest inquiry into my creative life. “How’s it going? What are you working on?” Without fail, she would ask about my writing. And this night, I was honest about my struggles.

I said, “Grace, I can’t wait until I can wake up somewhere quiet, make coffee, take the dog on a walk, come back, sit down at a desk of my own, and just write.” Grace looked away and considered my words for a moment. “Well, would you like to come and stay at my house in Maine?”

In that moment, I could have cried. I took it as a joke, but she was serious. She offered to let us stay in the off season, September-April rent free so I could have a writing retreat. “Now you would have to pay for the heat,” she added as a qualifier. But the wood to burn in the stove of the 1860 built Victorian getaway for a whole winter would have cost less than our Metro cards for the month.

The kindness of an established writer who genuinely wanted to help another artist was remarkable. Never in my life had I been so flattered and thankful for a gift. And in my mind, that will always be how I remember New York. Busting my ass at my job and trying to make real relationships, and seeing those relationships blossom into something truly special.

As you know, for a couple different reasons, this offer didn’t work out. However, it was and will remain a real benchmark in human kindness that I have experienced in New York and beyond. And one day, I hope I can do the same for another writer.

Thankful,

-Dan

Home from Home

Hi Lexi,

You touch on a great point regarding identity. I, too, had people asking me months before I came back to the States what I was going to do once I returned. I found it hard to answer because I didn’t have an answer. I know I want to live, and live passionately. I’m searching for my next opportunity to do that and I’m thankful I have a degree that will allow me to lead life with my heart. And I can only hope that I can be as happy as the Scottish grocery clerk you speak of.

In my transition back to living in Montana I’m realizing more and more that we are minorities. Especially in our big, low population, state. We’ve spent continuous months traveling the world and having cultural experiences. While I consider us lucky to be a minority in this situation I also find it difficult at times. We can turn to few friends to reminisce about long train journeys, flight delays in foreign countries, or trying to order a meal in a city where the only words you can say in their language are ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’

In my twelve months of living in Switzerland I averaged more than one country every month. I’ve walked many historic streets and had much time to wander. I’ve developed into the type of traveler who would rather walk the streets of a new place to find cities best-kept secrets instead of riding the metro from point A to B. I have put in countless steps in some of the most beautiful places in the World. I once stumbled upon a park in Brussels that a local had never heard about. I sat in a restaurant in Rome over the Christmas holiday for three hours talking to the owners while drinking house wine. And I’ve walked the streets of Istanbul where suicide bombs went off just weeks before.

I’m overwhelmed. When I see people I haven’t seen or talked to in a year and they ask questions like “How was it?” How do I answer that? It was great! It was humbling. It was the best year of my life. Travel, experience it yourself! I want to share, but not too much. These memories are intimate and sharing too much feels like I’m giving my heart away. And then there are people’s reactions to what I share. Fear, awe, amazement, shock. To me, my adventures seem so normal so I’m finding it hard to grasp when people have such exaggerated responses.

The things I’ve learned are really important to me. I’ve learned to not take convenience for granted. Grocery stores being open all night, shopping on Sundays, and owning a car. These are things considered normal in our country and when I first moved to Switzerland I found it odd to not have these things. Now I find it weird to be able to shop on Sundays, grocery stores being open 24/7, and I miss my nine-minute train into Zürich. My thought-process is different now, I think differently. How do I take my newly wired mind and adapt to what used to be my normal?

I was telling my mom and her friend the story of terrorism causing me to have to cancel my flight from Prague to Zürich because of a layover in Brussels just five days after the airport bombing. While speaking about this I was reminded of something. These journeys and experiences made us brave, courageous, strong, fearless, and strong-willed. And whatever obstacles we face in our hometown, state, or country we can take on. I know we can because we’ve conquered other things with more barriers than I could speak to. We’ve got this.

I hope you enjoy those long talks with your dogs and I wish you luck in answering the “what’s next” question. Enjoy these moments.

All my best,

~Vanessa

I’ve Been Failing You

Dear Adair,

So much is going right for me this year. I’ve reached a new level of creative involvement with my peers, new opportunities after a few years of stagnation. So many new things are happening that giving the rundown of “what’s new” to people I don’t see on a regular basis has become a monologue listing these projects. But, this is only half the story.

I am involved with a lot of projects, but I am failing at even more. Half finished scripts, ideas only outlined, a rewrite badly needed, an audition blown off, and a Shakespeare monologue I really need to memorize, are just some of the items in my unfinished business folder.

Just since I started writing this post, I have checked Facebook, looked at The Black List, researched a film financing company and texted my sister. Should I have just sat here and finished this piece? Absolutely. But my attention is something that can be captured or even held for any long period of time (expect by stories of importance and science of all kinds).  My mind can create at the speed of thought, but my thoughts rattle around and trap me in a cycle of thought, attempt, failure and distraction. Rinse and repeat over the last twenty years.

I struggle on a daily basis to make my ideas manifest. Sometimes, my fingers fly and the words fall in the right order and the idea makes it through to the page. A thought comes from my head and into the world and like a demon being driven from my body, I’m freed from the unyielding locomotive of my own consciousness. And sometimes, I watch cartoons and make a sandwich because it is easier than trying to live up to the spark of creativity that won’t shut up for five minutes.

I would say that I’m getting better. And with smaller, more easily created projects and ideas, I am. The poems that used to clog my mind and prevent my sleep are safely in my hard drive. The TV series that would span ten seasons and end with with a roar is still a one page outline, but progress is progress. Every day when I hit the keys and let my mind seep onto the pages of something that may never live beyond the binary coded tomb of my expelled ideas, I am better for it. But those days are hard fought.

I failed to write every day this year. I’ve failed to finish my novel, or even share my play with anyone. But I did start a production company and launch a podcast. I have written thirty poems. And I’ve begun many new and interesting ventures that I can’t wait to share with the world. And if I can keep trying and succeeding to bring some ideas to life, I might one day push myself to having more days like today, where my mind makes the words happen in real life.

Getting better (I hope),

-Dan