I’m thinking a lot about how stories we tell ourselves affect our paths. What we say are our strengths and weaknesses, gifts and shortcomings, triumphs and regrets. If we change our stories, we can change our minds. And if we change our minds, we change our hearts. And if we change our hearts, then we can change everything.
“Because once you hear the music, you can’t stand still.” ~Billy Crystal, 700 Sundays
Sometimes I’ll walk down the streets of New York City and literally feel the rhythm of the city in my heart. I used to think there was something wrong with me because I found it so hard, almost painful and impossible, to be still. Especially in New York. I just don’t sit well. I make myself sit for 18 minutes a day for my meditation, and then that’s really it. Now I know there was nothing wrong with me. I was just hearing the music of this place. And as Billy Crystal so wisely explains, once we hear that music, we can’t stand still. We have to move with it. And so I do. And I smile.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison
Look deeper. See what’s possible. Work like hell to make it a reality. Opportunity is not always bright, shiny, and finished with a bow. Many times, most times, it’s messy, chaotic, and murky. But look. Really look. Can your gifts and talents be of use, and if so could they create an environment that meets your standards? Don’t take yourself out of the equation just because it’s not perfect at this moment. It the potential is possible, go for it!
“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.
…Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.” ~E.B. White
Is there any more perfect description of New York and New Yorkers? I am solidly in this third group, someone who came to New York on a quest, who’s left several times, is back now, and is never leaving again. It took we a long time to learn to live with my passion for this place. That passion burned me up from the inside out several times. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to take a break, how to let my passion for this place fuel me and light me up rather than wear me down. It’s a process. Somedays I manage better than others, and I’ll say this: every day I get better and better at riding the wave here. And just when I think I can’t possibly love this city any more than I do, it does something magical that just makes me more passionate about working alongside other New Yorkers to make it a better place for all of us. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. This is home.
“I feel, almost physically, the gravitation of the books, the enveloping serenity of order, time magically desiccated and preserved.” ~Jorge Luis Borges
Have you ever felt drawn to a book? You couldn’t help but take it from the shelf and turn its pages, learning one more secret at a time. What was that book, and did it live up to your hopes for it when you first met?
For me that book was and always will be Alice in Wonderland. I fell down that rabbit hole many years ago, and I’ve never been quite the same since. That book started my fascination with stories and lives that are hidden from plain sight, deep underground, that you must be lucky enough to stumble into in order to know them. The adventure, the justice, and the bravery of that story has stuck with me all these years. Alice has become as real to me as anyone I know in the ordinary world. And for that, I’m so grateful.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
I so appreciate Casper ter Kuile reciting this quote on the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast. I’m using this quote in my meditation, watching my thoughts, words, actions, habits, and character. It’s all worth watching, considering, and acting on with purpose. Thank you, Casper, for this beautiful thought and reflection.
The next performance of my live storytelling show, New York City’s Secrets and Lies, at Caveat is now on sale and we have an all-ladies all-star cast! It will be on Monday, June 18th at 7pm. Tickets are now on sale for $12. Please share the link and I hope to see you there.
More details about the show:
Can you tell the difference between a secret and a lie? Five expert storytellers spin incredible tales about the secret pasts of NYC locations you walk by every day. All the stories are true except for one. If you can identify the lie, you’ll be in the running to win a pair of tickets to a secret NYC event.
-Teenagers live crazy lives. New York teenagers take crazy to a whole new level.
-There’s a manhole cover in Brooklyn that leads to an underground world if you’re daring enough to pick it up and climb down.
Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door
Hannah is a Brooklyn-based freelance editor, reporter, and 4th generation Brooklynite. She was previously the Editor in Chief of Brokelyn, a beat reporter in Bensonhurst, a staff writer at Brownstoner, and has had words and photography appear in Gothamist, Narratively, Curbed, Urban Omnibus, Atlas Obscura, The Huffington Post, and DNAinfo.
Sabrina is the project manager at HXMXN, a feminist creative agency in New York. She has helped everyone from up-and-coming lady writers to the United Nations tell their stories to the world. Sabrina moved to New York last year, but has always loved this godforsaken island. She dreams of dying a widow in one of those rent control apartment deaths where nobody finds you until the neighbors start to complain about the smell. Previously, Sabrina told bizarre stories as a stand-up comedian in Washington, D.C. As a native of Rochester, New York, she loves to argue with anyone who refers to White Plains as “upstate.”
Tija is a storyteller who most recently performed with the Moth at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, as well as the Apollo Theater in 2017. A native of Washington DC, she has also performed at DC’s Lincoln Theater among a variety of other venues and festivals, and received a competitive fellowship to perform longform work through Cultural DC. She also has two masters degrees (an MBA and an MPP) that have nothing to do with storytelling, but eh, it probably doesn’t hurt to know. When she’s not performing or working on a PowerPoint, she’s covered in dust because she bought a fixer-upper. Thanks for nothing, HGTV.
Cindy was raised in a Victorian bed and breakfast with twenty strangers-turned-friends sharing stories at the breakfast table each morning. She now dedicates her days to uncovering the secret histories of forgotten places through historic preservation and heritage work. She is the Founder and CEO of 5 Perry Street, leading the historic preservation of a beachside 1879 National Historic Landmark Victorian inn in Cape May, NJ. She is also restoring an 1868 landmark Jersey City building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which previously served as the residential quarters of a 19th century brewery.
In her legal practice, Cindy was named a Rising Star in 2015 by New York Law Journal, a recognition reserved for the region’s most promising lawyers 40 and under. She has guided emerging technology and financial services companies as General Counsel, advised international corporations and sovereign entities on capital raising and other strategic initiatives throughout the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Australia, and been an invited speaker for Columbia University and The Economist, among other industry events and panels. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in English and Political Science and holds a law degree from Columbia Law School and an MBA from Columbia Business School. Cindy serves on the board of Volunteers of Legal Service and splits her time between the streets of New York City and the beaches of Cape May, NJ.
Emerie announced at age five that her hobby was “thinking about lots of things.” It’s still true. She grew up in a hippie enclave just outside of Washington, DC, and has been happily settled in (and continually exploring) NYC since 2002. Emerie is a theatre director and creator of new performance work, focusing on site-responsive theatre, relationships between visual art and theatre, and solo performance. She has directed plays by Samuel Beckett, Stephen Belber, Sheila Callaghan, Joyce Carol Oates, Edwin Sanchez, Daniel MacIvor, and Len Jenkin, and has developed new work with contemporary playwrights including Anton Dudley, Davy Rothbart, Mfoniso Udofia, and Lally Katz.
Current projects in development include EXHIBIT, an immersive gallery tour play (developed in residency through New Georges, premiered at 3LD in June 2017), TRANSMISSION, a participatory performance sermon by Gwydion Suilebhan, and THIS IS LIKE THAT, a slide lecture play by Michael Sean Cirelli. Past credits as an actor include productions at Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth, Theater J, Rorschach Theatre, and Olney Theatre. Emerie is an NYU/Tisch graduate, and a New Georges Affiliated Artist. She also serves as Arts Curator for Warren Saint Marks Community Garden in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
In two weeks, I’m going to Dublin to do research for my second Emerson Page novel. As a gift to Ireland, I’m leaving silver charms with the quote, “She believed she could so she did”, and rose gold keys in all the different places I visit for people to find. I’ll tuck them away in museums, gardens, historic sites, bookstores, libraries, and pubs I visit in Dublin and on excursions I’m taking in Northern Ireland to Newgrange, Hill of Tara, Giant’s Causeway, Dark Hedges, the ruins of Dunluce Castle, and on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. I can’t wait to see who finds them. They are a perfect token of Emerson’s spirit. And after all she’s given me, I wanted to return the favor to the world. Happy hunting, Ireland!
It’s a terrible thing to have someone work with you under the guise of collaboration, smile, and then swoop in and take credit for your team’s work. That recently happened to me, and I was in the unfortunate position of being the only one to sound the alarm about it. Very often it’s a lonely path to be the truth, to call out poor behavior and misinformation. And, it has to be done. If we don’t stand against injustice, if we remain silent, we become complicit. For all of you who stand strong, raise your voice, and take action in the name of equity and equality, I see you, I hear you, and I’m with you. And I’ll continue to be with you until we all have equal opportunities.