I woke to screen shots of three or four people ripping me to shreds last night (after a bit of pot stirring), and when that happens I’m always intrigued by what they focus on. In this case, one argument was that I couldn’t make it in New York.
Not only is that true, there’s an entire chapter in my book about it.
I was living in Oakland with my husband of a dozen years when he fell in love with someone else. Moving to New York was something I had intended to do since I was fifteen, and I considered it to be the unfinished business of my life. The silver lining in the separation was that I had nothing left to lose (I even quoted Janis Joplin in the closing of my way too personal notice to my Berkeley employer–a letter they used against me when I tried to file for unemployment to fund a few extra months in New York). The decision to make that leap also allowed me to deliver one of the best lines of my entire life, when my flippant husband came home and I announced out of the blue, “At this point in your life you need to be single, and I need to be in New York.”
The euphoria of being liberated, which lasted through a weeklong cross country trip visiting friends from Oklahoma City to Detroit, was followed by a crash once I arrived and reality set in, and New York was not the kind of place you go to lick your wounds and regroup. With several real estate recruiters telling me, “Nobody in this town will hire you without Manhattan experience,” writing jobs offering $25k, my savings dwindling, and the only regional job prospects being in places like Philadelphia and Hartford, I had another epiphany. This was an opportunity to downshift, return to St. Louis, and finish my long delayed book, Delusions of Grandeur.
So yes, it’s true I did not succeed in New York, there’s just not much power in that insult when it’s something I’ve written about years earlier. My failures are something I own, and they are an asset to my craft.
The only thing in the screen shots that annoyed me is the claim that I “crawled back to St. Louis,” as if this isn’t where I wanted to be.
I lived in San Francisco for a total of eight years (over two periods of time, and with the last year in Oakland) and during that time I not only wrote about how St. Louis was my muse, I convinced friends from around the nation to converge in St. Louis for events based on my stories about this place. On a civic pride level, I don’t like people describing this as a last-resort town.
I’m not from here, and there are certainly easier places to live.
My perspective as an optimist is there’s value in seeing what they’re saying, as long as you don’t let it get to you. Maybe someone will say something you can learn from, or maybe you’ll read it and think “Is that it?”
I also know that by this little group focusing on me, they gave another target the night off, and that person probably needed it.