My friends are leaving New York City by the truckload. Some by choice and some because financially they had no choice. And I get it. This city can chew you up, spit you out, and then look at you like you’re the crazy one for wanting to be treated better. New York City is a crotchety old man.
Though like so many crotchety old men, it is an incredible teacher and good lord has it taught me. I grew up in the dirt of rural America (to this day there is a tractor crossing sign across from my childhood home) but I came of age in New York City. This great gorgeous place changed me and changed my life for the better. I showed me what matters. On these streets I figured out what matters to me and why. It gave me passion and heart and confidence. It gave me and put me through fire (literally and figuratively) but I emerged from the other side polished and transformed in ways I never imagined. New York City showed me what was possible by showing me my potential and daring me to take it.
Like so many of my friends, I am beginning to hear the exit music, or at least the exit music to this New York chapter of my life. And let’s be clear, I want to stay in New York. I fiercely love this city and its people and myself among them. There’s a part of me that will always be Christa in New York. Always. But, as life has shown me so many times before, what I want and what I need are often two very different things. And what I need now, in this moment, may be a change of scene. At least for a little while. At least for right now. Even Joan Didion, a towering figure in the literary world who famously penned her essay “Goodbye to All That” when she left New York for LA, eventually found her way back to Gotham. But she did need to take that journey. She needed to go away to come home again.
There’s a lot of New York in New York, and it may be time for more of us to spread our New York-ness to other places that need inspiration and courage to follow a less traveled, less conventional path. This world can’t stay on its current path of self-destruction and quiet desperation. We have to carve a better way forward.
New York doesn’t need another writer like me, but plenty of other places do. Friends, there’s a lot of blank canvas out there, a lot of stories that need telling, and they’re not coming to us. We have to go to them. We have to get out on the road, discover them, and then get it all down as faithfully and as honestly as we can.
If you’re a writer, or someone who likes to hang around with writers and other creatives, then New York City isn’t your only option to call home. Heck, it’s not even your best option. I recently found two lists (backed up by plenty of data) of cities in the U.S. that are great for writers and New York City isn’t anywhere on them:
This one lists: St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Orlando, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco.
Another lists: Chicago, Charleston, Austin, Bellingham, Asheville, Washington, D.C., St. Paul, Seattle, Great Barrington, New Orleans, Miami, both Portlands, Ann Arbor, Savannah, Pittsburgh, Jersey City, Iowa City, Portsmouth, and Cambridge.
I have no idea (yet) if any of these cities are right for me. Maybe you don’t either. What they do reveal is that we have options. We always have options. Now, it’s about choices.
Sometimes the universe tests your commitment before it decides to back you. It’ll bet on you only after you bet on yourself.
I had just finished a call with my friend, Sheldon, about my decision to carve my own career path when an email popped into my inbox. The startup that offered me a job that I declined emailed me with a new offer that is exactly the role I asked for during the interview process. After I turned down the previous offer, I made the decision to build my own dreams rather build someone else’s. This offer tested my resolve. Without batting an eye, I thanked the startup and told them about my choice to double down on my own ideas and projects. The gut always knows and for the first time, I listened to it unequivocally.
Clarity about our own abilities and the value of our time radically simplifies our decision process. I know the road ahead of me will be rocky. There will be bumps, bangs, and bruises, and I will learn from every single one of them. I’ll be stronger, braver, and more capable for taking this path. I know that my future is safest in my own two hands. Yours is, too. Believe it. Your time is finite; your potential isn’t. Bet on you.
“What should I do now?” It’s a daunting question. There are so many options; so many different paths I want to explore. I’m struggling to balance my curiosity and focus. This idea has helped: just add good things one at a time. And while you’re at it remove bad things one at a time. Suddenly, life just got a lot more fun and a lot less scary. What good thing will you add to your life today?
Of course you have doubts. You second-guess yourself. You wonder about the intentions of others. You question your abilities and your choices. You are human, and you are a person of integrity who reflects, considers, and maintains curiosity. You always want to improve upon what you’ve already done. Doubt is going to be there. Work through it and learn. But please, don’t turn back. Don’t give up now. You’ve come too far and worked too hard to throw it all away. Modify, pivot, adjust, change, but don’t quit. Keep going. Doubt is like the rain. It’s necessary and healthy to question ourselves and others, but it doesn’t prevent the sun from having its chance to shine. It’s a cycle. Act accordingly.
“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” ~ Marcel Proust
Many people serve as teachers, mentors, and advisors throughout our lives. We are inspired by the journeys of others. We follow opportunities as we discover them and if we don’t find the opportunities we want, we make them. In the end, the journey is ours to take. Others can support us and encourage us along the way, though we have to follow the path on our own two feet. Ultimately the choices are yours. You are the only one who can live your life. Choose wisely, and from your own heart.
I saw this picture on a door at Starbucks as I was on my way to teach my yoga class. I had spent the entire morning thinking about my future since every area of my life is completely up in the air. I took these 5 words on my local Starbucks door as a sign.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next but I do know this: it will be wonderful and I’m going to say yes. I’ve put an insanely large amount of trust in the universe at this juncture. Whoever it wants me to meet. Wherever it wants me to go. Whatever it wants me to do. When the opportunity knocks, I’m going to throw the door open and rush to meet it. My answer is yes.
Ever feel done? Really done with a situation that’s been somewhat bearable for a while and now feels so heavy you have to let it go? I hit that wall Tuesday morning with a few of my consulting projects.
And in the midst of that realization there were so many incredible things happening—the amazing rehearsal process of Sing After Storms with our incredibly talented team and friends pouring in support through every possible avenue. I could feel transformation start to make its way into my life, the way water begins to carve its path through stone, the way plants begin to overtake manmade structures when left to their own devices. It feels like progress, however slow and uncomfortable it may be. I could sense a serious make-over of my entire life taking root right at the center of my heart.
Life is so incredibly short. As my friend, Alex, recently said to me, “I’m going to wake up and be 70. That’s how fast life’s going.” She’s totally right. Time is flying. My energy and creativity have to be channelled into what lights me up, not what tears me down. That’s all we really have time to do.
I’ve often regretted holding on. I’ve never regretted letting go of anything. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of letting go – of expectations, bad habits (great and small), insecurities, and stuffy routines. The release itself isn’t scary; it’s the anticipation of the release that can scare us into inaction. I don’t have any magic formula to get through that phase. We need a Nike attitude about it – just do it. Decide. Choose. Let go. Change. Act.
I’ve been talking to a lot of friends about big life changes. Moving, relationships, jobs, creative projects. It’s too easy to say, “I’ll get to that later.” Later never arrives. If you have something you really want to do, something you want to try, take the plunge. Give it a whirl. Grab the opportunity. There’s no good reason to put off anything you really want to do. You deserve the very best shot at exactly the life you want. I support anyone and everyone willing to take any kind of chance. Go for it!
On a recent episode of How I Met Your Mother, one of the characters feels lost and unsure what to do with her life. She got some powerful advice from a stranger: “What’s the one thing you want to do with your life? Now let everything you do be in service of that.”
This is a question I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately. What’s your one contribution, the one thing you really want to point to and say, “I did that. That’s why I was here.” Don’t make any considerations other than what you want. This isn’t about what you can do, but what you want to do. Got your answer?
Mine is to create content in many forms that inspires people to live exactly the lives they want to live. I want to be known as someone who did that for every person who crosses my path in some way.