I took a little detour this morning after a lovely French conversation Meetup to come back to this old Starbucks cafe on the Lower East side.
It’s the exact place I once came to, to do some writing in my diary, when I was then told as I was leaving, “good luck with the writing!” by a guy who had been sitting next to me. A total stranger that is. People talk to strangers here. Sometimes. (Sometimes they just yell at them. Or babble away insanely to themselves.) I wanted to come back to see how it’s changed and to see if anyone would remark on anything today. Sure enough, within about 10 minutes, a gentleman commented that I looked very graceful typing on my flat-looking keyboard next to my iPad. And as he left, he promptly told me, “Have a wonderful year.” I love New York. I get the best compliments here. And as such, it would appear that New York loves me back!
Noticing the contrast between things now and back in 2007 was revealing. Having just watched the film, “The Big Short”, all about that era just before the financial undoing of the western world in 2008, I feel ever more aware of the fragility of the concept of financial stability. I remember being here in NYC before everything crashed and the pound was so strong, I practically lived like a king on my earnings. Things are certainly different now…With Theresa May insisting on a “Hard Brexit”, I’m earning in just about the worst currency possible to be trying to live on in NYC. It’s humbling. The value of the pound has plummeted and at the same time, I feel like my own value has tanked due to no longer having guaranteed access to work in the rest of Europe. What use is a British passport these days, I wonder?
It’s funny to think that the guy who’d said “good luck with the writing” to me all that time ago, must have known something I didn’t. I hadn’t planned on becoming a writer at that time at all. Other than the songwriter I already was. And yet here I am, about to launch a book of poetry in a month. I didn’t really intend to move to NYC at that time either. I loved the thought of it, but knew I couldn’t dare to imagine living here. It would be too expensive, of course. Like that typical sharp intake of breath every plumber makes when about to quote an extortionate amount for the part they will need to order for you as you ask the cost of a repair, I was brought up not only by my parents, but my teachers to believe that there were some things you just shouldn’t try because it would be too difficult, too expensive and certain to end in disaster. Except of course, the only thing that would be disastrous for me would be not being able to keep my promises to myself. (Although, if I have to be a bit flexible on the timing of those promises, I can live with that.)
A recent New York magazine article about the attitude towards New Yorkers in the wake of the Trump result was very revealing. It discussed New Yorkers’ thoughts about the rest of the country; not that they felt far superior necessarily, but that they felt so much better off for the culture they get to enjoy. The independence felt is perhaps equal to the sense of independence you feel being in a big city with a public transport system compared to living in the suburbs of a small town where a car is a pre-requisite to living at all. I’ve noticed a certain pessimism and cynicism here in contrast to in 2007, of course, and understandably so, but I also note that there is a special New Yorker camaraderie that exists here that it took the London bombings in 2005 to bring out in Londoners. I am neither a Londoner nor New Yorker, at least not by birth. (However, given the circumstances of a woman dawdling right front of me at the top of the escalator before moving off onto firm ground, it doesn’t take me long before I’m remarking out loud, ”take your time, lady!” just like a regular stressed-out New Yorker.)
I feel that we creatively minded people need to create a greater camaraderie too.
Some of you may be from the UK like me and currently feel robbed of the close relationship we felt was always going to be there waiting for us, should we ever choose to work abroad in another EU country (and I am so glad I made use of that right). Others may be from the US and feel equally as robbed that someone they barely considered a law-abiding human being is now going to be president of their country against their will. We all feel like control has been taken away from us. We all feel robbed and cheated. And some of us, may have been through the mill in our personal lives too. So, that’s why it’s all the more important to group together and create our own country. Our own tribe. A tribe that needn’t be defined by geographical borders. Those of us who believe in justice, in kindness, in being intelligent enough to ask questions, we need to focus on each other and seek out a better way of living, rather than the one we were told we should simply accept because “that’s what everyone else does”. No. No more. It’s time to take a stand. And the best way that I can see to do that is to do far more of the things we love. Spend time in the places we love. Spend time working and talking with people we love.
I have taken the big leap to leave my reliable but minimum wage job, that earned me just enough to live in a place where I couldn’t even practise on my keyboard silently with headphones on because I got complaints about the sound of the tapping of the keys. This illogical situation made no sense to me and I had already stated my goal to myself to get to NYC by the end of the year. So I did. And not only that, but I completed the content of a book of poetry. Not too shabby, right?
So let’s all take that step, hop, skip or jump that we’ve been hesitant to take the risk on, and just try something exhilarating for a change. Because this is our life. Our world. Our future. Let’s claim it before the Trumpitude or Maydom of the current political climate engulf us in cynicism, pessimism and apathy. Because, as Eminem once put it, “success is my only motherfucking option. Failure’s not.”