Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Life in the Small City

Some people told me I would regret it. That leaving New York for a city not only much smaller but much further south was a mistake. That my writing career would take a hit and I might never get it back. Some people accused me of being incapable of "hacking it" in New York, which was comical because I could have stayed there for another 10, 15 years and done just fine. New York didn't kick me out, I broke up with her.

On the nine hour drive to Raleigh (I split the drive up from New York) a lot of this went through my head. The further away from the city I got, the more disconnected I felt. Maybe I WAS making a mistake. Maybe I WAS going to regret this.

"New York will always be there" I told myself. "I can always go back".

When I pulled up to my new home on Smith St. downtown, I had to smile. My entire room - complete with 25 foot ceilings, a master bathroom and a walk in closet - was bigger than 2/3 of my apartment in NYC. Hell, my private porch was bigger than my room in NYC. I had a weird, immediate sense of feeling at home the second I stepped foot in the house (even though I went from an apartment smelling like floral shampoos, hair spray and perfume to a house smelling like typical Bro).

I had a few breakdowns. Bad ones. Fuck dude, how could I leave my cushy life in New York, my sick apartment, my job where I had free reign, my friends and family? I was scared about a new job. I had been at BV's for, hell more than half a decade. That place was home to me. Starting somewhere new scared me. I was nervous about my writing. I was scared being down here would be a bump in the road, if not a complete white flag. Who would want to read anything about a girl living in a small town? Who would want to take a pitch from some girl from South Carolina? I began to think I might never write a script again, but just stick to my BroBible and Huffington Post articles. And for a little bit, I was okay with that. I knew I had moved here for a different life, and I knew a different life might mean giving up certain things in order to allow different ones into my life. It didn't mean I wasn't scared and that I didn't have regret. It didn't mean I didn't feel like a quitter in a lot of ways.

I knew why I moved. So many people had so many different assumptions. That it was about a boy, that it was about a job, that it was about being scared. The truth of the matter was I was just tired. Tired of NYC, tired of the same old shit day in and day out. I had written a couple of scripts that had gone no where with my agency. I felt trapped within my own life. Going out was too expensive, my friends were all kind of married and moving on with their shit, and I felt like if I stayed I would never leave the complacency of my own life. I just wanted something different, if even for a short time. At 28, with no debt, no kids, no mortgage, no job that absolutely required me to be in NYC, I thought this was the time to make a move. When it came down to a choice between regretting leaving NYC, and regretting never leaving NYC, I wanted it to be the former.

Three weeks of unemployment bliss was a good start. A lot of fun dinners with friends, a lot of good drinks and laughs. I was living with two boys I had never met before that suddenly helped make me feel right at home, like one of the boys (one of the boys who was totally comfortable walking around in a tshirt without a bra). I was going out every single day, whether for a run or to the battery, job interviews, dinner, plays, happy hour. I was doing shit I never did in New York. And then I'd come home and sit on the porch in the evening and I'd get the itch. The itch that sometimes went missing when I lived in New York for weeks and months at a time. I started feeling it all the time down here. So I started writing. I'd crack a beer, throw my headphones on and I just got into it.

And so each night I wrote a little bit of this script. One my agents said at first wasn't viable. But I said "hold up a sec, let me give it a shot". I played around with some story lines, ideas, dug through some news stories and within a week, a 55 page script was sitting on my laptop, waiting to be read.

I was hesitant at first. I had had a few letdowns in the last six months, and I thought even if I loved this script - which I did - I shouldn't get my hopes up. I reminded myself I wrote this for me, because I thought it was a good idea, because I wanted to prove to myself even down in Charleston I could bust out a script if I needed to. I sent it off to my agents with an explanation of why I formatted it the way I did, said a prayer and had a beer.

There are some words and phrases you don't expect to hear very often from an agent. The phrases "amazing", "loved it from beginning to end", "a true whipping", "will get you hired", and "a truly great read" are some of them. Hearing all of those things from my agent's mouth on the phone on Monday was like getting a hug and an "I love you" from the parent you always thought hated you. It was validation, it was pride and it was slightly overwhelming.

What came next was mildly terrifying. "Would you be willing to relocate to LA?" He asked me. Without hesitation I said "absolutely". But in my heart, I looked around my 94% finished room and thought, "but I just got here."

There is a strong likelihood I will be moving out to LA come February or March. Whether this script sells or not, it will be used to potentially get me staffed on another show and with that comes the burden of uprooting once again. And ironically enough, I'm worried I'll be more homesick for Charleston than I ever would have been for New York.

But at the end of the day, writing is what I love, it's what has legitimately kept me alive the last few years and it gives me a sense of purpose. And I know an opportunity like this comes around very rarely, if ever.

In the month since I've moved, I've felt like an entirely new person. My friend Donnie even said to me the other night, "there's something different about you. I think it's Charleston. I think it's in you now." And he's right. I was afraid when I moved that I wouldn't feel the way I did each time I came down here on vacation. But the truth has been that moving here has changed my entire outlook on life. It's given me a whole new perspective, a whole new sense of accomplishment, and a whole new desire to constantly seek happiness, real happiness, instead of settling for mediocrity and complacency, because I now know what that search can yield. And I can honestly say I don't know if I would have written that script - arguably my best one to date - had I not moved here. Had I not had all this emotion and confusion and anxiety. In an article I once wrote about Charleston, I said there was a warmth here that went really deep into my bones. I still feel that way. And after this move, I think it is a warmth I will take with me wherever I end up.

There are so many new prospects ahead of me. The idea of pitching again is so thrilling, I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas. I have e-mailed my agents every day asking about when the meetings will be set up. I feel alive and hopeful and above all, grateful again. And I genuinely believe Charleston gave those things back to me. This city, the people in it, fuck dude even just the good weather and beach, gave me a sense of calm and peace where I felt capable of getting my shit together and taking my own time for things. When I left New York, I wondered if I'd ever write another script again. And now I'm on the verge of pitching my second show concept in a year.

If I have to move to LA come the winter, I will do it. But I know from this day to the day I potentially pack up and leave again, I will enjoy every single moment of what I've got going on here because it's a blessing. I loved New York, loved my home, my family and friends. But there is a life I found down here that makes me excited to get up every day and go do new shit and see new people and try new beers (no joke). To attempt to crack open a steamed oyster, hang out with people I'd never normally hang out with, stand up for myself and not get walked on. And above all, an inspiration to write. A new perspective from the second story of this house on Smith that gave me perhaps the greatest opportunity I've gotten as a writer to date. And when the time comes to leave again, if it comes at all, I am confident that I will take this new sense of self, this warmth in my bones, and let it translate into my writing and all I do moving forward. This is a place that will stay with me for the rest of my life, whether I live her for the next eighty years, or find myself wandering the West Coast looking for a Westbrook White Thai.

This move was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. And I am so glad I get to take Charleston with me now wherever I go.