Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays. This post is a holdover from two weeks ago. Matt and I took inspiration from Esquire’s “What I’ve Learned” series.
The Biggest Lesson I Learned In 2013: You Can Handle It
In the weeks before embarking on my New York City move I wrestled with the phrase “I can’t” on a daily basis. I can’t afford the city. I can’t find work fast enough to afford the city. I can’t feel settled in a city with eight million people. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. Wrestling with that blasted contraction felt like wrestling a gator. You wrestle gators long enough and eventually your head ends up in one’s mouth.
In the midst of my near crippling self-doubt I met my good friend and one-time college speech instructor Bill for lunch one day. In two weeks I planned to move from south Louisiana via Portland, Ore., to the Big Apple. And that petrified me. Bill provided calm reassurance, like aloe for my nerves, and recommended I read Susan Jeffers’s Feel The Fear … And Do It Anyway. He repeated the book’s mantra “You can handle it” numerous times that day at lunch.
I headed to the nearest Books-A-Million after finishing lunch and purchased the book. Reading the first chapter lifted the thunderclouds that previously camped overhead. I felt confident, assured, and optimistic. Bill was correct. And while our conversation took place in the fall of 2012 the words “You can handle it” factored in 2013 perhaps more than any others.
It’s hard to overstate how massive a change moving from a relatively slow-paced west coast city of around 600,000 people to a fast-paced east coast metropolis of 8 million is. For instance, I take public transportation everywhere, this after driving myself around since I was 16. I now live in the most expensive apartment I’ve lived in … with three other roommates and one bathroom. And if that weren’t enough, I left my reporter job at a daily newspaper for life as an independent contractor who has to book his own gigs.
The list of changes stretch wider and farther than the south Louisiana village – nee endless canefield maze – where I attended high school. I won’t bore you with my list. Jeffers’s refrain “You can handle it” has served as a constant amid the changes, whether at the front of my thoughts – like the first time I drove (and failed at parking) a cargo van with a hitched trailer for a TV show I worked on – or in my subconscious recesses.
New York City, like any city, is an exercise in learning and adapting. Due to its scale and volume the Big Apple provides a more challenging learning curve – one brimming with fear, anxiety, and doubt if approached with the wrong attitude. It also provides more opportunities and experiences for the same reasons listed above. The trick is perspective. Thus, the biggest lesson I learned in 2013 remains just as important for me as I embark on my second full year in New York City as it proved in my first.