Leaving Show Business in Manhattan to Recover in Hawaii

So I have a long history with staying in relationships too long.

Long after it’s over, I’m still hangin’ out. Trying to make it work. Trying to fix it. Trying to ignore how much the bad outweighs the good.

I guess sometimes, we don’t realize that this is our pattern, until something really good comes along and wakes us up. You know, gives us a real good slap across the face.

Like for example…Hawaii.

My seven years with New York City is another tumultuous relationship to add to my very long list. The city gives me so many thrills, but really bruises my heart more than I like to accept. Like a bad boy in a leather jacket with a chain-smoking habit, I am infatuated with the city and it’s ups and downs and how misbehaved it can be.

Hawaii came along and it is just so nice to me. I mean literally, the people here are so nice to me. It still shocks me. And the packaging that this new relationship comes in, is not so bad either. Palm trees, hibiscus flowers, and the sun setting on the Pacific ocean is not really so hard on the eyes.

So basically, the question that has been waking me up each morning the past few weeks is something that a friend of mine posed to me a few weeks ago when he cheated on his girlfriend.

Can you be in love with two people at once?

I believe you can.

Because I’m absolutely in love with two places at once.

And it is the hardest thing I’ve experienced to date.

I shouldn’t say it’s hard. I am actually incredibly blessed to be in love with two amazing places at once. It’s just, extremely bittersweet.

I mean, I got New York City. My roots. My people. My passions.

New York City. Just two and a half hours away from where I grew up. My family always just a bus ride away.

New York City. Excellent bagels. Un-toppable pizza. The best fucking tap water in the world.

New York City. Where the bars don’t close til 4pm and you can get a bodega sandwich at any time of night and home is just a 35 dollar cab ride away.

New York City. Land of auditions, eighteen dollar dance classes, the best voice teachers, and an entire theatre district employing my friends and some of the most talented people in the world.

New York City. Land of auditions, eighteen dollar dance classes, the best voice teachers, and an entire population of some of the most talented people in the world who might never see their name in a Broadway Playbill because of the nature of our current world and economy.

I think that right now, I might be one of those people.

I have always defined “success” by having Broadway be the final destination. Always. I just, never ever thought that anything else would happen. I was completely confident that my dream would come true. And I was willing to basically do anything to make that happen. Give up friendships, eat lettuce three meals a day, sleep four hours a night, spend all my money on ballroom classes, you name it.

I quoted my friend Brooke in my last blog post with her words that have kept me going every year. “We knew what we signed up for.”

I have to take back my agreement with that phrase. If I really am being honest with myself, I had no idea what I was signing up for.

When I was in tenth grade, and I was playing Zaneeta Shinn in The Music Man at my community theatre, and I was hugging the gay boys and being included in a community outside of my dance studio and having my hair done by my mom for two hours before every show because there were no wigs, I was having the time of my life. Literally. My mom and I bonded in those two hours, and then I got to go put my face on and dance around a stage with people from all over town that I never would have met otherwise. It was fantastic. It was the most joy I had ever felt.

So when I found out that you could go to college for just this, this amazing joy of performing for the fun of it and twirling your skirt and wearing high heels to dance, I jumped on it. Obviously. I mean I never ever questioned that I wanted to major in musical theatre.

But truth be told, I had no idea what I was signing up for. They don’t teach the “business” in colleges. They sure do try. But they don’t talk about lists that are 500 people long. They don’t talk about how cold it is in February at five in the morning. They don’t talk about how people look down on you for getting up at five in the morning to get on the list so you can get seen before you go to your waitressing job at 2pm. They don’t talk about how audition calls ask for you to show up in a two piece. They don’t talk about how networking really equals happy hour with someone new every day of the week. That’s not what they talk about in college.

So really, I had no idea what I was signing up for. And for years, I played the game. I played along. I tried so damn hard to get to the point where I could wear a two piece to a Casey Colgan audition. I tried so damn hard to put my hair in curlers and calm that shit down instead of letting it be as big as it really is. I tried so damn hard to re-vamp my resume, and send those thank you postcards, and pick songs that had money notes.

Because that’s what I was taught in school. The resume stuff. And the thank you postcard stuff. And the 16-bar cuts of exciting songs.

I wasn’t taught how to deal with rejection. Or how to pick my chin up after nine callbacks for The Drowsy Chaperone tour without a job offer. Or how to recover from five nights in a row of “networking” aka “drinking in midtown” while still auditioning at four different buildings every day for the entire month of March.

So I figured it out on my own. I became the strong one in my group of friends. I became the relentless one who preached about not taking rejection personally. And how much good stuff was coming from auditioning for so many different theatres. And being ballsy.

I was the chick who popped down in a cooter slam in every dance call because at some point, around 2010, I stopped caring what the business thought of me. I was gonna make my name mean something. I might not be able to riff like Natalie Weiss. And I might not be able to do the opening of A Chorus Line with all the grace in the world. But I could do a little bit of everything and I was, again, never worried that I would end up on Broadway.

And then 2013 rolled around. After turning down my Equity card in February, I was sure that my hard work and networking all these years would land me exactly what I needed to finish one more year as a non-equity performer before I entered the questionable world of Equity jobs and, most likely, longer stints of unemployment.

2013. My fifth audition season in New York City. My fifth year going in for the same theatres who know me, love me, and chase me down the hall after I get cut to tell me “we love you and you look fantastic and you’ve obviously been working on your body and we just don’t have a spot for you this year but keep coming back, we will have you with us one day.” My fifth year of eating bananas and tomatoes with salt and pepper all day with two binge days on the weekend. My fifth year of happy hours after good OR bad auditions. My fifth year of putting new colors on my resume and waiting to be seen at ECC’s and preaching to my friends that, “This is the year. This is it, you guys. This is our year.”

Turns out, it was my year. My year to take a few slaps in the face, enough to be knocked to the ground actually, and re-evaluate all of the things I’ve been telling myself for years.

I have been in an abusive relationship with my career for over five years. And that career is the reason that I stayed in New York City for so long. And I stood my ground in my three inch Laducas and I fought back really hard. Really fucking hard.

But I still took a beating. And my soul is legit, bruised.

So.

When asked yesterday at the new dance studio in Kona, Hawaii, where I will be teaching tap and jazz for the next six months, why I’m leaving New York City to teach dance to Hawaiian kids, I was very honest.

I told Miss Seatree, the owner of the studio, that my soul is bruised. And while I’m here in Hawaii, caring for myself and recovering from all the beatings that I voluntarily took with a half smile on my face since 2006, why not pass on the love that I still have for the hobby that I once loved so very much?

She said, “Okay, Miss Amanda. Welcome home.”

So where does this land me in the whole scheme of loving two places at once?

Well. My people, my family, my friends, are in New York City and Pennsylvania. From Washington Heights, to Williamsburg, to Astoria, to New Jersey, to Philadelphia, my nearest and dearest are living in a place that is thousands of miles away from me. But if those people were here, in Hawaii with me, I don’t know that I would miss New York City, or the east coast, so very much.

Which made me realize that it’s okay for me to break up with it for awhile.

Because it’s not the city, or the place, that I miss so much. It’s the loving people who have literally carried me through life with compassion and light and humor since the day I was born.

And to spend a winter in the sunshine – in the ocean – on a paddleboard, instead of trudging through the darkness to the Equity building in my rainboots held together by duct tape because I spent my money on new headshots instead of Hunter boots, is the healthiest thing for me to do right now.

I have never made any decisions in my life based on health. I don’t even know what that means.

But I think I’m getting the hang of it. Because coming to Hawaii was the first step for me in making healthy decisions.

Staying in Hawaii, is the second step.

If home is where the heart is, then I believe I will always have two homes. My heart lies with my sisters, Melissa and Brooke, on a picnic blanket near the softball fields in Central Park with paper cups of wine. My heart lies with my soulmate, Joshua, in the Washington Square diner in the third booth from the entrance. My heart lies with my best friend, Bronson, on his red couch in Washington Heights in front of a Golden Girls marathon. My heart lies with my brother from another mother, Justin, in his Cornell Medical School dorm room. My heart lies with my friends who attend my tap dance classes, and with my audition buddies, and with all of my co-workers from bars and gyms and restaurants gone by. My heart lies with my mom and my dad, in Pennsylvania, at the Railroad House, before visiting my aunt, uncle, and grandparents for some Yeungling and shooting the shit.

But my heart also lies in a deep love of dance, performance, and freedom. And here in Hawaii, where the sun shines every single day, and I can go hiking, biking, and swimming every single day, and I can wake up with the sun just because my body wakes up with the sun without an alarm every single day, I get to dance, perform, and live freely every single day.

And my heart is soaring. My heart is healing. I am literally, as my friend Beth put it before I left NYC, YOLOing, every single day.

So how, can I turn down the opportunity to YOLO every single day on an island that has the cleanest air in the world, to go back to a relationship with New York City that still has me on edge? Although my nearest and dearest are there, so is all of the root of my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder.

When it comes down to it…is it all New York’s fault? Is it all the performance industry’s fault?

No man. It isn’t. Nothing in this world happens TO us. We are treated, in this life, the way we allow ourselves to be treated. Things happen FOR us. I believe that everything that happened to me in New York City – from Stallion breaking my heart, to the rejection of the biz, to the financial distress of living in a metropolis – happened FOR me. To get me to this point, where I am about to give some little Hawaiian babies some real, city girl attitude and passion for 5, 6, 7, 8-ing.

Would I go back and change my relationship? Eh. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

It is what it is. And now I’m aloha-ing all up on the internet and spreading the love and I really don’t think it should have happened any differently.

So, like I did with all my other exes from past relationships, I am taking this moment to forgive New York City. And I will suck it up, and quote something I read on Gawker the other week that at first I totally looked at in dismay. However, now I will be really honest with y’all and tell you that for now, and I truly mean FOR NOW, not forever, in regards to NYC, “I love her, but I had to leave her.”

For the first time since moving here on August 1st, I cried listening to Sara Bareilles’ song Manhattan. I cried listening to it every day before I departed the city but since I’ve been here, living on the jungle side where we could watch the sunrise but not the sunset, and there isn’t much beach to be had, I haven’t felt an emotional connection to it.

It wasn’t until last night, when I journaled on the balcony of the apartment I’m staying in in Kona, on the other side of the island, where I’ll be moving to teach, when I was watching the sunset and planning out my day today to go paddleboarding, that the lyrics brought tears to my eyes once more.

 

Sara says:

“You can have Manhattan, I’ll settle for the beach.

Sunsets facing westward and sand beneath my feet.

I’ll wish this away, just missing the days, when I was one half of two.

You can have Manhattan, cuz I can’t have you.”

 

I was one half of a person for so many years. And for the longest time, it felt like I couldn’t have what I wanted. The whole, Broadway thing. But.

Now, as I sit here with my 100% Kona coffee blend and my apple-banana smoothie that the love of my life, Johnny, made for me this morning, while I was catching up with Joshua on the phone despite a six hour time difference, I am a whole person again. And I might not be able to have what I thought I was gonna have. Broadway might not be my final destination. A penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side bought with my earnings from starring in the revival of The Will Rogers Follies as Betty Blake might not be my final destination.

But I sure feel like this, this right here – my outline for my new dance studio syllabus to my right and my Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen to my left – is part of an ongoing journey that might take me to a new destination. It’s just so not about the destination anymore. It’s about the fucking journey y’all.

And at 26, I sure don’t mind letting go of the idea of my “final destination” in order to enjoy this moment, right now. I have so many years ahead of me to figure the rest out.

I just want to say this.

John Mayer has a song called A Face To Call Home. All of you, my friends and family on the east coast, you are my face to call home. And as I spend time here, finding new faces to call home in Kona, Hawaii, I feel like I’m not leaving any family behind – I’m just making it bigger. And I could not be happier, to have so many places, to call home.

Next Week’s Posting:

Roar

17 Replies to “Leaving Show Business in Manhattan to Recover in Hawaii”

  1. This is amazing!! Almost as amazing as you are, and brave! I was trodding through these same feelings several months ago, and a friend of mine sent me a quote that goes as follows –
    “at any given moment you have the power to say: this is NOT how the story is going to end”.
    find your story, sugar, it looks like you’re well on your way, and we’ll all be here, cheering you on and completely supporting you. I love you. Mon

    1. Monica. and Melba. my guardian angels. thank you so much for your love. i appreciate you both so much and seriously, i am so thankful for your humor and encouragement. i love you both so much. LET’S MAKE OUR OWN STORIES!!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow Amanda! There are no words for this one… You already know what my heart wishes for you. When some one touches your life there is never goodbye attached to it. I love you

  3. Miss Amanda. You are, indeed, an old soul. You have reached a level of understanding that many, no, most in the business will never allow themselves to reach, especially at such a young age. I adore, and envy you.
    Perhaps you should consider writing a book?

  4. Reading your blog is getting me through my emotional ups and downs while being pregnant. This blog in particular helped put to bed some of my regrets about never going to NYC to try and make it. You are inspirational. Love.

  5. WOW thank you for this. I watched your incredible Roar video and had to come check out your blog and am so glad I did. This post really hit home for me. Like you, I lived and loved in NYC for the last 5 years and was forced to move back home to Florida after being unemployed for 2 months. I felt like I was kind of kicked to the curb by my beloved city whom I had invested so much time and energy in. I came home dragging my feet, but it has been a much needed year to reset my soul and refocus my priorities. Being on the beach and near the water is incredibly healing, and getting away from the madness of the city and stresses that come with it (financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually… you understand) is really important. I love NYC so much and miss it and my amazing friends everyday, but I realized that NYC is not going anywhere. And now I know that when I go back, I will be in a much better place than when I was up there getting lost in the daily grind! I think you made the right move, take your time, heal yourself, get some inspiration, work on your craft, spread the love and come back and take NYC by storm! Or who knows, life might take you elsewhere =)

  6. This. I just made a huge life decision to give up on my five year old dreams of being a famous actress in order to pursue something that I have passion for and doesn’t hurt my soul. When you become an adult and see what your dreams are really about, the good and bad, all of its many colors, it can be quite a disillusion. I’ve gone through a grieving process, but I know I’m going after something that will make me feel full. Theatre will always be there if I want to come back. It’s a much braver thing to follow what makes you happy. You are a beautiful soul. Keep following your light 🙂

  7. Finally, a blog worth reading and a message worth sharing. The “never give up” mentality that runs rampant in our society is nothing short of toxic when the cost is personal health, happiness and joy. I can very much relate to your story. I was also attached to an outcome without realizing how unhappy it was making me. The stress aged me, my relationships suffered, and my ability to feel joy became more and more difficult. And probably the worst thing of all is that my need to accomplish a goal, along with my ‘commitment curse’, as I call it, drowned out my inner voice…the voice that wanted me to get curious and ask myself if I was getting what I needed and wanted. If what I was doing was actually bringing me peace, joy and happiness or was it doing the opposite? That is what I regret most of all. Now, I’m doing my best to listen to my inner voice. And what she is saying right now is that she needs to rest. She needs to end the insanity that has gone along with trying to ‘make things happen’. She needs the relentless pushing to ‘get things done’, to stop. And mostly, she needs me to reevaluate my definition of success. And what it’s looking like is that being successful means I feel more joy, peace and happiness than stressed, anxious and depressed. It means I’m enriched by the things I’m doing and the people I’m surrounding myself with, not depleted by those things. Yeah…success and what it means is beginning to look a lot different to me these days. It’s beginning to look pretty amazing. Again, what a great blog! Thank you.

  8. oh…and your video was awesome by the way. It was very inspirational. It made me think how incredible it would be if all women were as confident as you. You’re an amazing dancer and even though I’m straight, I thought it was very hot! 🙂

  9. “Life is what happens to you on the way to your career.” I don’t know who said it but have lived the reality. NY boy, found his way to Hawaii in his late twenties still consider it home even though I have been on the mainland most of the last 30 years. Manhattan is just a memory with no emotional ties anymore but Hawaiian slack key brings a tear every time. Headed back there after one more good adventure. Success is not the destination, it’s being at peace with yourself during the journey. Hawaii can give you that.

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