here’s to you, 2018

I’m pretty sure I’m getting this “end of the year” post in literally under the wire (it’s still 2018 in America for a few more hours, oKAY), though as I write, I’m thinking of something I read this morning in the weekly Smarter Living digest emails I get from the New York Times — a question about why we seem to set goals/re-set around this time or feel a need to, and an answer:

“It’s an arbitrary resetting date. From a practical sense, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s kind of silly, but I think any time that gives us a convenient excuse to re-evaluate where we are in life is great.”

In some sense, I feel a little cliche at how strongly I take to the fact that January 1 has to be a “new start.” I relish in it, I feel excited by the chance to put a new foot forward — new goals, new ideals, new attitudes. But in another sense, I’m glad that I have such a strong will and desire to re-set. I always get reflective at the end of the year, and this year, I seem to be more reflective than usual.

It was a good year. In fact, 2018 was a really good year, a better year than a lot of years in recent memory. For the entire year, I was employed full-time, a first since I lost my job in 2016 and was stuck between freelancing and job searching. I was (mostly) healthy, mental health stuff aside, but nothing was as bad as it’s been in previous years. I got married and I wrote and sold my first book, which I get to see published in April! I made new friends and created a new found family that I adore and that I am so grateful for. I saw a lot of friends who I don’t usually get to see thanks to vacations and life events, and each time I hugged them, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have people who care about me so much. On the whole, I’m hesitant to be too self-congratulatory, but I like to think that I ended the year stronger, happier, and a little more confident. Dungeons and Dragons gave me amazing strength in so many ways, from friendships to my career, my friends were my rock, I worked in my dream job even if there were things about it that sometimes drove me insane (no job is perfect, and mine certainly isn’t)…heck, I finished an entire manuscript! (And copyedits. Trust me, until you’re an author, don’t underestimate how big of a deal it is to get through copyedits. Even though I loved my copyeditor.)

So 2018 was really great, but then…something happened. And it wasn’t a bad thing. It was just that in the last 2-3 weeks of the year, I faltered. My roadblock hit. Best laid plans went off the map, and while I know that’s partially my fault for being so cocksure about a future that was never set in stone, I also don’t know any other way to think. A lot of things in my life have happened because I wanted them and went after them and I’m not saying I’m lucky (though luck has certainly played a role in everything, I won’t lie) but I did work hard. I put in the effort to study, network, connect, write. I wanted a professional degree in journalism, and I got into the best graduate program in the country. I wanted to work at EW and I got the coveted internship right out of school. I wanted to work at EW NOT as an intern and it took awhile, but I eventually got to do it. I wanted to work at Marvel, and again, it took awhile, but I eventually got to do it. For most of my life, I’ve I latched onto the things I knew I wanted and knew I was passionate about and said “I’m going to make this happen.” And…I made them happen. So when I decided I knew exactly what I wanted for my next big step, it was only logical that I felt things should naturally work out. After all, I was already on a path that seemed like everything was meant to be.

I know that’s a bad way of thinking. You can’t control life — if you had asked me years ago, I would have never told you that I’d leave New York to go to Chicago, work at two of my dream jobs, or marry at 36 instead of 30 like I always planned. There are things I want for myself next year — a house, a baby — that I know I can’t pin on a job or a career or a dream, and who knows how those things (if they happen) will intersect and affect where the path of my life curves. Logically, I know that, but because I was too caught up in my own confidence, I went from knowing exactly what made me happy, knowing exactly what I wanted for myself and my future, to feeling completely lost and upended thanks to something out of my control.

And that was hard.

I spent a lot of days leading up to the end of 2018 looking at inspirational/self-help books, searching different websites, getting off social media to distance myself from too much noise, and searching for some sort of sign. I so badly wanted someone to come tell me that it would be okay — that this is what you were meant to do and this is how you’re going to get it, and don’t worry, everything will work out. I told some of my close friends what I was going through and I knew they weren’t going to magically fix anything for me, but I wanted them to, because I didn’t want to do it alone. I didn’t think I knew how to do it without help.

And that’s partly true. I’m a firm believer in that we don’t get anywhere in life without supportive, real people we can lean on, people who push us when we feel like we can’t move forward and motivate us to be better. I know I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t have a support system and I don’t intend on losing that. But as we move into 2019, I’m realizing that I need to also take steps for myself.

I need to make the decisions that make me happy, even if they’re hard.

I need to take care of myself the best way I can, even if that means making changes.

I need to have the conversations that move my life forward, even if I’m scared of where they might end up.

I might not know how it do it on my own, but hell, if I fail, at least I’ve failed trying, right? (Also, let 2019 be the year I push myself to fail, because failing is actually good. You’d think I would’ve learned that with over a year of job searching and rejections and close calls, but apparently, I still get hung up on being scared of it.)

A colleague posted recently about how she doesn’t do resolutions because she can’t keep them, but she does do tangible goals. She takes things she wants to accomplish for herself and gives them monthly deadlines, breaking them up into things she can accomplish in smaller doses, one by one. And even though Passion Planner has tried to instill that in me and I’ve tried to write out certain monthly goals, I’ve never been able to make myself follow through. Maybe I was never doing it correctly. Maybe I was using it the wrong way, making my goals too big and too lofty and then putting my planner away and only looking at it and reminding myself of things when I needed to. But so many of the goals I make for myself are overwhelming; there are big goals and small goals and goals I could accomplish in a day and goals I could accomplish in six months. And so, on January 1st, once I wake up and actually get myself into a headspace where I feel like I can concentrate, I’m going to write down a list of everything I want in 2019. And then I’m going to write down what I want to accomplish for this month. And the next one. And then next one.

And I’m going to do that while hoping that sometimes, when you stop looking, the answers appear right in front of you and come at the time they’re supposed to.

Here’s to 2019.

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some thoughts on living, dying, and telling your story

A work friend died suddenly over the weekend.

The strangest part about these kind of things happening is that before we got the news on Monday, I don’t know if I would’ve even thought to call her a friend. We were friendly, she was someone who I knew of and followed on Tumblr for years, who knew my mutual friends. (Fandom is strange like that.) About a year ago, she ended up getting a job in my company. I laughed at the time at the randomness of someone else from “the fandom world” joining me in this professional space of work (I don’t know, I feel like it’s special little club – like, you can be IN fandom but there’s a difference between the Tumblr/AO3/vids fandom and just reading fic. People know you. Or you know people.)

We worked together, but we really didn’t see each other that often. She worked for the video team, my job is in publishing. She moved to a different floor a few months ago with her department and I was barely up there except to visit other coworkers every once in awhile. But we emailed regularly because of some comic book videos that we produced, and I was often in contact with her throughout the day, depending on schedules. We saw each other at work social events when we went out for happy hours and it was at the first one she attended, back in March, where (a few drinks in) I finally just blurted out that even though she didn’t know me, I had actually known her for awhile thanks to mutual friends. Then we bonded over X-Files.

The last time I saw her was a week ago; we did a small Women of Marvel photoshoot with the new Marvel Vans and spent about 20 minutes of our work day outside goofing around and taking random pictures outside of the office.

It feels silly to write this, because we weren’t really close. I’ve been seeing tributes and grief online from people who were close to her, and it feels like I don’t have a right to be sad about losing someone I didn’t know very well. But she was also more than a name in an email at work; she wasn’t just another person, she was a person. And I can’t remember the last time I knew someone who died so young, so close to my age, and who I knew. There have been people in my life who have passed away unexpectedly, but I had lost touch with them or I knew them vaguely through a friend – realizing they were gone was sad, but it didn’t shake me. Losing grandparents is hard, and there’s been a lot of that in mine and my fiancé’s life, but even if it was unexpected, they were older. That, to me, seems to make a little more sense than the fact that a 32 year old is working on SDCC video feeds one day and is gone the next day.

Maybe I’m just more sensitive than usual due to my mental state. I’ve got a lot of stress going on in my head, coupled with the ever-present feeling of “will I ever be enough?” I’m thinking a lot about my future and my birthday is in two weeks; my birthday is ALWAYS the time of year when I get more depressed than usual because even if I try not to, I can’t help but focus on my age and where I am in life compared to other people. I hate getting older. I hate that age is a number I care about. But suddenly, something like this happens – and you start to think. You think about that trip you’re not taking because you really can’t afford it, or that friend you’re not seeing because you’re too tired to go out and you’ve been out every night this week, or that best friend who you know is having a hard time but you don’t text often because, well, you KNOW they’re not doing well but life is busy and you’re in different states. And suddenly, things that are stressful or worrisome of freaking you out don’t seem that important anymore.

Like the fact you have 3 credit cards at balances that are too high for you to pay down ever.

Or the knowledge of being in student loan hell until you’re about 90, if that.

Or that lingering raincloud of overdue rent hanging above your head, even if your fiancé never asks you for it because he doesn’t want to upset you.

Or the fact that you have 9 dollars to your name in your checking account until your next payday.

When I was in my 20’s, I had the opportunity and time and (kind of) had the money (it wasn’t the best and most responsible decision, but oh well) to travel all over the U.S. with my best friend to go see a favorite band. We’d book flights that had us visiting cities for 48 hours, rent cars to drive from one state to the next to save money, sleep on the street, and spend way too much money on tolls and fast food. It’s easy for me to regret some of that experience because I did a lot of it at the expense of a relationship I still regret giving up, even though I believe that was less about how I spent my time and more the influence of who I spent it with. But it’s still an experience I had, that I’ll never have again, for various reasons. It’s easy to get caught up in “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” when it comes to how I spent my time, but that year was a celebration of ME, of life, of something I’ll never get again and that’s special, no matter how you look at it.

I think a lot about Hamilton – who lives, who dies, who tells your story? It can be cliché, but then things like this happen and you really do wonder – who will tell your story? Who will people remember you as? What will they say about you? What have you brought to the lives of your friends and family that make you loved and appreciated? Did you live your life to the fullest? Did you have that glass of wine because, fuck it, it’s nice out and you want a nice lunch outside? Did you splurge on that new dress you wanted because it made you feel amazing? Did you look at your bank account and shrug and book a flight that you know you probably shouldn’t have paid money for but who cares, because you get to see your friends?

There’s a lot that could be said about dying young and loss and grief and the shock of losing someone you actually knew. And I don’t know what to say about it all except that maybe Hamilton is right. You don’t know when your time is up. So you should never throw away your shot.

And I’m sure as hell not.

i’m gonna spend my time this way

The last time I sat down to write, I was adjusting to going back to a full-time job, working 50+ hour weeks, and generally struggling with a balance between knowing I had to take work for financial reasons while also wondering if no permanent bites on my dream career outside of freelance for over a year were a sign that maybe I wasn’t meant to do what I so desperately wanted to do.

When I took this particular job back in March, I gave myself the following reasons and reminders:

  • I knew it would be a temporary position (even if I found out I loved writing about finance, I didn’t want to do it for a career)
  • I knew I was taking it mostly for money and insurance (I had been unemployed for a year and needed to get back on my feet)

This place was a hard fit for me, but I did learn about myself. I learned I don’t like the start-up world and the general culture that it employs. I learned that I can’t work with certain types of people and managers. I learned that no matter how much money you make, there are things you need to make you happy — you need to love the work you’re doing, or at the very least, you need to like the environment and the people who you spend all hours of your day with. I knew I didn’t like what I was doing, but I was boxed into a hole of sorts, in that I couldn’t and didn’t want to leave until I had something else under my belt. And making that happen, enough to justify leaving a job that paid me a lot of money, was something that for a long time, felt out of my control. Something that I couldn’t do.

So when I walked out of the office, I felt relief: relief at not having to go into an office where I didn’t like anything, relief at not worrying if I was going to be cornered with unrealistic expectations and scolding that would cause me to be angry and upset. After I left, I went to lunch and drinks at my favorite regular bar in Manhattan with two of my best friends. We ended up talking/venting until late in the night. I couldn’t stop my internal alarm clock from waking me up early the next morning, but I took the time to be lazy, moving slowly to get the day started. I caught up on all the television I’d been neglecting on my DVR, and didn’t get out of my pajamas until my lunch and errand date in Manhattan. I cleaned the bedroom and bathroom and re-did my entire closet, I organized a lot of files and I did the dishes. I enjoyed having the time ease back into having some sort of feeling of control, mentally and physically.

I spent part of this weekend with a good friend and enjoyed the freedom of not having to worry about putting my personal energy somewhere that takes up so much mental space. I slept in, went running for the first time in forever, took walks outside, and worked on some personal projects. I spent time with my boyfriend without being depressive and bitchy. I healed myself by remembering what it felt to look to the future with more clarity, understanding, and optimism, thanks to new projects and new opportunities — some of which I hope to be able to be more open about here, very soon.

There’s a lot that I’m not sure about, but I do know one thing — I’m where I’m supposed to be. It’s just taken me a little longer than necessary to get there.

adjustment and change

I’ve written before that I’m not a fan of change. It has nothing to do with whatever the change is, and it can be as simple as my favorite bagel and coffee place closing down or my usual salon shuttering, but I just don’t like change. Adjustment is hard for me, and I’m someone whose anxiety gets worse when I feel out of control, or when things happen that I can’t control.

In the past week and a half, I interviewed, accepted, and started a new full-time job. While I’m obviously ecstatic to be employed after almost a year of freelance and part-time work (hooray, health insurance!) the timing was the worst thing that could have happened to me, mentally. I accepted my job on Friday, two hours after interviewing, and was asked to start Monday morning. I had a schedule during my freelance time (at least, I tried to have a schedule) for this exact purpose — so when I did have to get back in the game, no matter when it was, I wasn’t always sleeping until 12pm or lazying around. But no matter how you slice it, transitioning from a laid-back lifestyle to 50 hour work weeks, constant social interaction, and commuting, is hard. Not to mention that this job, while wonderful, requires a lot of mental concentration. It’s a field I’m not entirely familiar with, and a job that’s out of my realm professionally. It relies both on me being my own boss and on me being the driver of a lot of different routes. It’s an open office environment — something not new to me, but in previous environments, I felt like I could at least have things around my desk that made it a comfortable place to work and not just a boring table. There’s no one that really treats their desk as a personal space here, despite the fact that lots of people work late hours, and so it feels strange to me to mark my territory by bringing in pictures and books and small cute toys. And because the company only has a handful of people, it’s also the type of place that focuses on a lot of extroversion (daily group lunches and dinners, frequent meetings and check-ins). All of which, combined with my quick hiring, took a toll. Adjustment and change are a bitch.

I spent the first week of work being frustrated, tired, and anxious. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t used to getting up at 6am and not returning home until 8pm, sometimes not until 9pm if I was prepared to go home but got pulled into a group dinner. Every time I complained about things, I felt even more guilty, because who was I to complain about getting a great opportunity and well-paying job with a lot of growth (even if it wasn’t in the field I wanted to be in) when all I talked about for almost a year was being depressed because I couldn’t move my life forward since I was broke? Couple all of this with the fact that my book writing is finally taking off, and I freaked out over having to suddenly figure out how to manage my time in a way I didn’t think I had to worry about for awhile.

Yes, I know I’m not a special snowflake when it comes to having these worries. Oh boy, do I know. Lots of people have full-time jobs, kids, health issues, and they manage to get things done. But I know what makes me spiral out of control, and I accept it, I guess.

I’m slowly getting better, and taking full-on control of my passion planner to help me organize and get my head straight again. I’m trying to take solace in small things that I can control, like settling into a morning commute routine — having time for coffee and Tumblr and maybe some writing, watching the news, knowing that I have to get up by 6:10 if I want to shower, but that as long as I make it to the subway to get the train that rolls in exactly at 7:30, I can get to work on time. I made an effort to find a favorite small independent coffee shop — something that’s hard to do if you work in an area like midtown where everything is so commercial, but there are loopholes. I brought in my Hamilton coffee mug and my small Star Wars box, despite the fact that there are universal kitchen mugs and I have no need for anything decorative. It’s minimal, but it helps, for now.

I’m also attempting to stabilize myself in bigger ways. As soon as my health insurance kicks in, I’m going to go back to my doctor and re-evaluate and change my meds, which is something I’ve been needing to do for awhile. I’m going to start going to therapy regularly again, now that I can afford it. (And boy, do I need it.) And once I start getting a paycheck and have a comfortable cushion where I can breathe easier about my finances, I’m going to set up a small rewards system for getting through the week, putting it in my planner to hold myself to it — a massage, or maybe ordering delivery and splurging on the good places, or buying that book that I really wanted, or getting a new phone case, or having a happy hour fancy drink or expensive beer at a bar. Even just writing some of this out gives me a sense of calm, knowing that I’m consciously taking control of my stress and anxiety.

Things will improve. Change will, eventually, be good and lead to other good things. But for now, I’m just trying to get through the day.

nothing lasts forever

There is no easy way for anyone to break the news that you’re being let go from your job, especially when it’s your dream job. And especially when you had things planned that you were excited to work on. And people you worked with who you genuinely liked. And a job that, aside from a dream job, was pretty damn prominent in the industry.

But, that was what I dealt with last week when my boss messaged me privately and asked to see me. Given that another coworker in a position similar to mine was let go a few days before, I had already been fighting the feelings of anxiety and worry, but I was trying to be hopeful things would work out. As my coworker said, however, real life isn’t television. And so instead of getting angry and trying to prove your point and burning a building down, when you’re handed an unexpected twist that guts you, all you can do is accept it: smile, nod, be professional and mature. Afterwards, it’s totally acceptable to go outside and stand in a hallway, or go to the bathroom and cry hysterically out of shock, fear and anxiety. (Which I absolutely did. And then I took my Xanax. And then I had two wonderful, amazing friends who dropped everything to take me out for drinks and food when I told them what happened. I am so grateful.)

Life is funny. Life is strange. I’ve had a pretty interesting trajectory when it come to jobs. I fought long and hard after college to find a job in a city I desperately wanted to live in. My second job was a legitimate disaster, but when I got fired, I miraculously was handed my third job, and what would become a stable, wonderful environment for five years. Even when I gave it up to go to grad school, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choose my career with the intent to work at the company I’m currently at. It was a huge gamble, and a huge risk, and it was a huge stroke of luck, but that happened, too. When I was stressing out over whether or not the current round of firings would hit me, my best friend logically told me that I couldn’t sit around in fear, and then that even if something does happen, things will be okay. Because I always come out on the other side.

Which I guess is is the truth. It absolutely, positively sucks. Since last week, I’ve had a few conversations with coworkers, people who I admire and who have been mentors to me in this company and business, and they’ve all said the same thing: you’ll be fine. It sucks. The way it happened sucks. But this might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. You can do something better. You can work someplace that appreciates your skills. You can start fresh. You can cut your ties and do something great.

Even during the worst of my stint in unemployment, in between leaving my internship and getting my current job — when I sunk to the lowest point I’ve ever been, mentally — things did turn around. It jut took awhile. I’ve had a lot of people ask how I’m dealing with this news, considering how abruptly I was kicked out, and considering what I’m dealing with personally right now in terms of moving and preparing to start a new chapter of things. (My poor therapist…I felt terrible when I walked into her office, on a Friday afternoon no less, and announced that I was let go. She was shocked.) And I guess I’d say I’m handling this better than I thought I would, all things considered. Make no mistake, I’m freaking out about things like how I’m going to pay rent or buy food or even pay for therapy now that I have no salary. There’s an immense amount of guilt I feel with all of this happening literally days before my boyfriend and I move in together for the first time, knowing that all of a sudden, he’s shouldering the burden of our financials. But when I think back to how I was over a year ago, and how much of a mess I was, and how I barely got out of bed for days on end, there’s a difference this time around. Maybe it’s because I’m not alone. Maybe it’s because I have people behind me, amazing friends and support from the industry. Maybe it’s the fact that because I’m moving in with my boyfriend and moving to a new place, I feel like at least something is stable. I wrote an entry about moving awhile ago, where I talked about how part of the reason I felt anxious about moving was because unlike other times I’ve moved or uprooted myself, there’s been something that’s made me feel like I’m closing a chapter on a certain part of my life. With this move, I was going to (at the time) have the same job, the same commute, the same friends. It felt like I was making a scary move I wasn’t prepared for, and I like comfort and familiarity and avoidance, all thing that I have right now in my little tiny apartment in the sky. (As my mom likes to call it.)

And now, days before I move, my job is ending. I’ll leave work on my last day, the moving truck will come the next day, and the next day I’ll wake up in a new apartment and start a new chapter of my life. Maybe this is the way it was supposed to be all along, and things just had to happen at the right time. I’m trying to think of things positively: I was initially worried about having the time to unpack, adjust, even write. I may not have a set job, but now, at least for a little while, I’ll have the time to do that. Maybe it’ll make the whole process easier on my psyche.

Most people know that among the few superheroes I consider my favorites, Hawkeye ranks near the top. There’s a reason why I identify with someone who is constantly beat down by both life and work, who is ordinary and sometimes thinks he’s not meant to be where he is in life. But he’s there because he loves what he does and he knows he has to be good at it. And so you keep going, because it’s what you signed up for. You keep going, even when things beyond your control are trying to pin you down — like aliens.

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You can’t control life, and nothing lasts forever. All you can do is step forward, take a breath, and trust someone will catch you when you fall.

how do you measure a year in the life?

I am very, very lucky to not only have a job that I love, but a job that allows me to have some SUPER cool opportunities. I truly don’t take for granted the things I’ve been able to do and experience and the “perks” that come from being in this industry, from interviews to meet & greets to parties to anything in between. But sometimes, there are things that happen that rank higher than the rest for specific reasons, and not even because they’re the culmination of professional lofty goals (you know, like the “dream big” goals I have of one day interviewing my favorite A-listers and Avengers. Or sitting in Scarlett Johansson’s trailer. One day.)

Last Friday, I spent the day covering the first ever BroadwayCon with my co-worker. Our main assignments were to cover the Hamilton panel (which was amazing) and the 20th anniversary Rent panel, which included about half of the original cast members as well as the original choreographer, Jon Larson’s sister, and some of the original creative team. About halfway through the Rent panel, I received an email from the PR person I was working with saying they had a request that someone at our company wanted to interview the cast, and they could definitely make it happen, and were we interested?

Full disclosure: this moment almost didn’t happen. I had been out all day writing and reporting, and these cons, even when you’re not working them, take a lot out of you. So when you’re actually working, and putting all that excitement and mental energy towards making sure that you’re not screwing up hastily written quotes while being under pressure and taking pictures and live-tweeting…it’s a lot. By the time I got the email, at 8:30 at night, I had been around and working since early morning. And honestly, my brain was already in the mindset of craving relaxation, so all I wanted to do was go home and sit on Tumblr and de-stress — not stay around until 10pm for what might be five minutes of face time. (To be fair, this was also when I thought I was coming back the next day, which didn’t end up happening because of the blizzard.) I know it sounds superficial and first world problem-ish, but it’s the nature of a job that seems so perfect on the outside. For every awesome magazine cover story and video and set visit that someone sees, there’s tons and tons of personal time that goes into putting it out there, especially when you’re trying to balance all your other job responsibilities and things like transcribing, writing, researching. And since all of it is time sensitive, and it’s very easy to get caught up and just feel like you want a break, and lose sight of what’s considered “cool” and what’s considered overextending yourself. So you understand why I was a little “eh” despite the situation.

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The actual panel, which was amazingly touching and reflective.

I am so, so glad I decided to go for it.

Let’s back up a second, because I need to at least attempt to accurately describe what Rent means to me, the effect it had on me, the influence it had on me, the path of my life that it helped shape. Beyond my 100+ show count over 6-7 years (yes, my anal retentive self kept spreadsheets of all the casts that I saw and the dates, so I do know how many times I’ve seen it), Rent provided me with most of my best friends, some of whom I’ve now known for over 10 years (and who I’ve attended or been in weddings of, and gone to babies’ first birthdays of.) It was because of Rent I visited New York in the first place, falling in love with the city after I realized I could travel on my own freshman year of college without telling my parents. I was always afraid to be more independent — I acted out in quieter ways — and Rent helped me become independent and self-sufficient at the right time. Rent gave me an opening on my resume, thanks to the cast member I befriended who became a close friend, who in turn let me start a website for her that included self-teaching my brain HTML. While most people discovered their early twenties through college parties and by doing things that really, really shouldn’t be disclosed here, I discovered that all of that stuff through traveling to NYC once or twice a month, by going to birthday parties and gigs of cast members where, hey, no one cared that you were underage! (Or, uh, that you were being given drugs afterwards.) Going to see Rent, then going out with the friends I had made through that show to bars that no longer exist, and sometimes making bad decisions but ultimately living and having fun.

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An early photo from 2002, before the walls got entirely filled with graffiti and it became all scaffolding.

That green theatre, on that block that was dumpy and barely built up before it became the glitzy stretch of 41st Street it is today, became my home in so many ways. The lottery boys became some of my good friends who I would see outside of the show; more importantly, they were guys that beyond their tough Bronx exterior would have been there to take care of me if I ever needed help. The house staff became familiar and, sure, you can sneak in during the second act to see a swing’s Maureen, we won’t tell. There was a reason why, when I lucked out enough to attend the final Broadway performance with literally every friend I had made over the years, I cried my eyes out — because I wasn’t just losing a show that had helped me find myself. I was losing a second home. (Literally. That theatre would never be the same.)

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Somewhere, my signature is in there…

 

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Final performance bows in 2008. Let’s not talk about my tears.

So, given all that, you can imagine how surreal it felt when I arrived at the autograph room where I was to be conducting my interview, where I was then was brought to the front row of chairs and instructed to essentially sit in front of an entire panel of people who were responsible for being a part something that changed my life. I was then told I had at least ten minutes to talk to them. Just me, and only me. I’m kind of glad I was too overtired and exhausted to really let myself realize what this opportunity was, because if I had prepared for it more, I probably would’ve psyched myself out completely.

To say that those ten minutes were some of the most insane moments of my life would be an understatement. I thought it would be more overwhelming, but it was one of the easiest interview experiences ever. And when I was listening to the recording so I could transcribe it for my story, I was taken aback at how genuine each response was, how emotionally charged each story was, how amazingly grateful these people felt about their experience. It seems silly sometimes, to say that a show or a musical or an actor changed your life. But when you see things like this, from the other side of the spectrum, you realize that you’re not alone (ha — see what I did there?) You see that sometimes, people who create the art that means so much to you are just as grateful and blown away by what it’s brought them in life, the same way that you are. I think I babbled (correction: I know I babbled) about what it meant for me to sit in front of all of them and talk to them about this, but every word of it was true. I wouldn’t be here today in my profession, let alone in New York, if it wasn’t for Rent.

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It was 11pm at night and I’m in my Hamilton shirt. Oh, and my boots had broken. And I don’t care – life goal accomplished. (Can you tell by my face?)

It’s funny to me sometimes that most of the perks I’ve gotten through this job are things I never would have thought I’d get, given the industry. I’ve had more opportunities in theatre than in any other medium that I cover — I went to an opening night AND an afterparty, I covered the Tony Awards, I interviewed decently well known theatre people. All the thing that Young!Me would’ve absolutely DREAMED of doing one day, but it wasn’t anything I ever expected to do, not in the same way I would hope, “well, maybe I’ll go on a TV/movie set visit, maybe I’ll interview [insert actor’s name here], maybe I’ll go a screening or a premiere.” Maybe that’s the point — maybe if you just take life as it comes at you and try not to expect everything, you get handed your dreams in the most surreal way.

If someone had told 18-year-old Andrea, who at that time was sitting in a college dorm room with her roommate watching bootleg video tapes of Rent performances from 1996 and 1997, that, “hey, maybe in another 15 years or so, you’re going to have a chance to meet these people who you’re currently wishing you had a chance to see,” she would have laughed. A lot. But life comes full circle in the most insane ways, and sometimes you just have to take a step back and think about where you are, and where you started. And forget regret.