I’ve been coming to New York regularly since about 2005, when my studies in and pursuit of voiceover began in earnest. Things that seem normal to me are thought to be unusual here, like making eye contact, smiling at strangers, not rushing through conversation. I’ve been told that I have very good manners. That may be true, though it could be not so much that my manners are particularly notable, but rather that it’s a priority to use them in every interaction, not just with someone who might be able to do something for me.
I’ve been successful developing friendships and business relationships in this city over the last several years, in part, people say, because it feels like I’m a “breath of fresh air.” This “fresh airiness” about me must come, in part, from the fact that so far every trip to New York has been an adventure, a short-term break from real life, so my view of the inner workings of the city and her people has been through rose-colored glasses, and that perspective has been a pleasure for others to experience.
I like my rose-colored glasses. I like being the cheerful, “everybody loves everybody” girl in the room. I like feeling that people are trustworthy, kind, generous, supportive, that they’re safe.
But now New York is where I live, not where I visit. When I return to New England in the future, it will be for a few days to decompress, breathe deep, give thanks that Maine and her people will forever and always be in my bloodstream and heartbeat. I have a place to get away from the asphalt and frenzy, a place where I am unconditionally loved and supported and feel as safe and cherished as a baby bird in a nest.
But then I’ll return to New York, where people are in constant competition — for space, for gigs, for opportunity, for time, for position. And that’s fair. This city is beautiful and magical, but it is tough here. It’s hard and aggressive; if you don’t compete, you’re going to get run right over.
And the truth is that actually, not everybody really does loves everybody. And not everyone is trustworthy or safe.
That’s not to say that people are not nice here. People are extra nice in New York. People hold doors for you, and give you directions. They’re funny, and communicative, and curious. They smile, and they’re warm and helpful and kind and generous. I love New Yorkers, and I love my New York friends, and I love being here. It’s exciting to develop a life and career from within the city, rather than from the outside. But it’s not going to be the same as it was when I was coming in from somewhere else. It was never going to be the same — change was inevitable — but the shift is a little more painful than I anticipated.
Already I’ve been challenged in ways that surprise me. People I’ve known for years and who have been very kind and generous and who have expressed support and encouragement are now approaching me with a bit harder edge. My motives are being questioned and challenged in ways they never would have been before. Now I’m not an interesting “other,” I’m right there in the thick of it, fighting alongside everyone else for space, gigs, opportunity, time, position. The people I know have taken off their rose-colored glasses, so they’re seeing me with new vision, as much as I’m seeing the world around me with sharper lines and angles. It’s not personal. It’s survival.
My friends will remain my friends. Some will prove to be more loyal and devoted than I ever could have anticipated, and some will move farther away from my inner circle. That’s normal life, and it’s okay. I’m still going to be a kind and thoughtful person with excellent manners. I’ll still talk to strangers on the subway, and tip street musicians, and let people cut in in traffic. Heck, I’ll even still drive a car!
But it’s going to take a thick skin, a willingness to not take anything personally, and most important, an unwavering commitment to who I am and what I stand for, if I’m going to continue to thrive here.