Give Thanks to the Creative Fire

In hopeless romance, I e-mailed my partner this quote more than two years ago: “The artist’s life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him—on the one hand, the common longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life, and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire. There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.

After coming to our first performance of “November 21st” in Washington Square Park last week, she (I suspect out of hopeless romance as well!) returned the quote back to me as a congratulatory gesture. I had completely forgotten that I had ever sent it to her to begin with; it was 2 years ago! But I find it remarkable that the sentiment of a quote I was thinking about 2 years ago quite perfectly encapsulates my intention with The Grace Period Blog and our performance of “November 21st

Although, upon re-considering it’s fair to say that I have always lived with and through an artistic passion/security conflict. I have made countless sacrifices, some that are nearly impossible to not regret. Yet, I don’t. On the contrary, I will be thankful for the creative fire that keeps me afloat and guides my most important life-decisions. I made peace with myself many many years ago in accepting that this is the only way life will go for me.

I’m thankful for…

My health, my wealth of supportive and love family and friends

Art that reminds you’re alive and powerful

Art that reminds you to not give up

Art that reminds you you’re not alone and that “the fight” is worth it on levels that are inconceivable

OUR Art that made the end of the grace period an empowered day instead of an inundation of fear.

Cheers to the creative fire that we have shared and will propel us forward!

Photos from The Grace Period Blog’s “November 21st” on 11/21/13:

1466159_10201112223352241_1357692047_n1477691_624220920970919_862582421_n

Thankfully,

Monday 🙂

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A Way Out

This is a continuation of last week’s post. The scene takes place 2 months earlier:

 

Amy, on the phone with Sallie Mae rep.

 

Amy: I know I’m late on my payments, yes, three payments behind. But I just got out of the hospital and I left my appendix with the surgeon.

 

Rep: If we don’t receive a payment from you in the next two weeks, you’re going to default on your loans. According to your account, you’ve already consolidated them once before. If you default again you’re no longer eligible for rehabilitation.

 

Amy: So, I go into bankruptcy?

 

Rep: No, student loans cannot be discharged into bankruptcy, unless a court decides it will impose undue hardship on you and your dependents.

 

Amy: I don’t have any kids, if that’s what you mean by dependents.  And I’m already homeless, nearly 200 grand in the hole and no job. Doesn’t that count as undue hardship? 

 

Rep: You’ve backed yourself into a corner, I’m afraid and your options are limited. I’m afraid consolidating your loans works as a one time get out of jail free card. So you’re left with only a few options.

 

Amy: but I’ve paid you as often as I can! When I had a job I was on income based repayment. And then you garnished my wages! And look, I just got out of the hospital, can’t we put me back on deferment until I’m fully recovered?

 

Rep: Defaulting once bars you from forbearance. Since your credit is at the point where no one would hire you or allow you to sign a lease, I would recommend getting a case worker to work on a personal level with you to reestablish your finances. We have them available at Sallie Mae.

 

Amy: And how much do you charge for a case worker?

 

Rep: For those in your situation, the cost of their assistance is free.  We want to help you get out of debt and give you back freedom in your life.

 

Amy: Sure. How do I get a case worker?

 

Rep: Let me put you on hold for one moment, and I’ll connect you to our next available case worker, Stella Gibran will be right with you.

 

Amy: thanks.

 

Stella: Hello, this is Stella, how may I assist you today?

Amy: Did your parents like Tennessee Williams or something?

 

Stella: Actually Streetcar is their favorite play. And Mr. Williams was a family friend.

 

Amy: You’re joking.

 

Stella: Not at all, I had chills when Brando screamed my name on stage.

 

Amy: wow. I, um, I have a lot, I owe.. I wish I was you.

 

Stella: Okay Amelia, let’s get down to business. You owe exactly 147, 800. Let’s discuss your options of taking care of this.

 

Amy: Okay, are there other options than becoming a stripper? Or winning the lottery?

 

Stella: Of course, we would never want our clients to resort to measures of desperation. Bad things happen and debt is a huge responsibility that must be attended to regularly if you want it to eventually go away. Let’s talk finances for a moment. How much do you spend on coffee in one week?

 

Amy: (considering her starbucks in hand) Um maybe $40. It’s kind of my life blood.

 

Stella: How much do you spend on rent?

 

Amy: Well I’m staying on my sister’s couch. I’ve been there for the past 6 months.

 

Stella: Where was your last place of employment?

 

Amy: I was tutoring non-English speaking kids in a rough neighborhood and moonlighting as a waitress.

 

Stella: I see here that you have 2 credit cards overdue on payments and hospital bills amounting to another 4,000.  Do you have health insurance?

 

Amy: No. I’m hearing that I’m generally fucked.

 

Stella: I wouldn’t say generally, I’d say definitely.

 

Amy: excuse me?

 

Stella: Fortunately, you qualify for a special repayment program we have at Sallie Mae. It’s an internship within the company. Similar to a work study program you might find in a university.

 

Amy: I am? What exactly does that entail? 

Stella: You have a place of residency within our company and while you work off your student loan debt, you take financial help classes to help yourself and others get out of difficult situations like the one you’ve found yourself in.

 

Amy: Are you saying I have to pay room and board to work for Sallie Mae and take math classes?

 

Stella: No, No dear. Room and board is provided for you while you’re working for us. There are different categories of job placement ranging from office work to manual labor, we can find something perfect for you to make use of the skills you already have. 

 

Amy: How long does this work study program last?

 

Stella: Until you pay off your debt. Which in your case, I would calculate to be around 3 years. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to live debt free. I offer this to you because otherwise you could be paying off loans into your retirement with a traditional repayment plan.

 

Amy: Did you say three years? How is that possible?

 

Stella: Sallie Mae will absorb the interest on your loans and you only have to pay the principle balance. Working inside Sallie Mae this way enables your time and money to go farther than it ever could.  Would you like me to send you the paperwork to look over?

 

Amy: Um sure. How have I never heard of this kind of repayment plan before.

 

Stella: This is a very exclusive program Amelia. We only offer it to those borrowers who have found themselves in a desperate situation but have the credentials to work hard to turn their situation around. Please understand that your exceptional education qualifies you for this program. 

 

Amy: That’s ironic in the worst way.

 

Stella: Look at it as an opportunity to start over. Your credit will be restored and you’ll walk away debt free, finally able to pursue your passions in life.

 

Amy: I need some time to think about this. It sounds like a great program and all, but I don’t know if I can pack up my life and join a company I have some strong ethical objects to.

 

Stella:  Take all the time you need. At Sallie Mae, our goal is to help finance your education with the best possible options. I’ll call you back tomorrow to discuss any questions you have about the application. In the meantime, Amelia, please know that your next scheduled minimum payment of $325 is due four days from now. Thank you for calling Sallie Mae, have a good day. (she hangs up)

 

Amy: Stella? Stella?! Stella!! Oh for fuck’s sake.   

 

 

What would you do?

-Tuesday

Until the numbers turn around

Until the numbers turn around

I will not be able to
I can’t
Until the numbers turn around
there is nothing I can afford
write it down
get it
now
forget how you’ve lived
forget
forget
you can’t afford to live in any way
until the numbers turn around
you’ve lost your right to eat
to dress
to freedom
until the numbers turn around
until the numbers turn around
write it down
again
again
again
until you understand
that you cannot afford any life
until the numbers
turn
around

SUNDAY

 

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The Not-So-Evident Process to Studying in the United States

The

not-­‐so

Evident

Process

to

Studying

in

the

United

States

How

to

study

in

the

U.S.?

1. Choose

school,

apply

and

get

accepted.

2. Finance

your

studies

a. Grants:

Best

option,

you

don’t

have

to

pay

back.

b. Work-

study

funds.

c. Loans:

you

can

take

either

a

Federal

student

loan

or

a

loans

from

private

institutions.

The

advantage

of

the

former

is

that

it

offers

better

interest

rates

and

income-­‐based

repayment

plans.

i. Federal

Student

Loans:

– Direct

Loans:

The

lender

is

the

U.S.

Department

of

Education.

There

are

4

types:

Subsidized

(for

students

that

demonstrate

financial

need),

Unsubsidized,

PLUS,

Consolidation.

– Federal

Perkins

Loan

Program:

For

students

with

exceptional

financial

need,

the

school

is

the

lender.

3. Once

you

choose

the

type

of

loan

you

will

be

using,

the

loan

is

assigned

to

a

loan

servicer

by

the

U.S.

Department

of

Education

after

the

amount

is

disbursed

(paid

out).

The

loan

has

been

disbursed

when

your

school

transfers

your

loan

money

to

your

school

account,

gives

money

to

you

directly,

or

a

combination

of

both.

It

is

usually

disbursed

in

at

least

two

payments;

your

loan

servicer

will

contact

you

after

the

first

payment

is

made.

A

loan

servicer

is

a

company

that

handles

the

billing

and

other

services

on

your

federal

student

loan.

The

following

are

the

loan

servicers

that

manage

federally

held

loans

made

through

the

William

D.

Ford

Federal

Direct

Loan

(Direct

Loan)

Program

and

the

Federal

Family

Education

Loan

(FFEL)

Program.

Assignation

of

loans

to

these

servicers

depends

on

how

they

are

evaluated.

Aspire

Resources

Inc.

CornerStone

COSTEP

Direct

Loan

Servicing

Center

(ACS)

Department

of

Education

Student

Loan

Servicing

Center

(ACS)

EDGEucation

Loans

EdManage

ESA/Edfinancial

FedLoan

Servicing

(PHEAA)

Granite

State

GSMR

Great

Lakes

Educational

Loan

Services,

Inc.

KSA

Servicing

MOHELA

Nelnet

OSLA

Servicing

Sallie

Mae

VSAC

Federal

Loans

Getting

a

Federal

Student

Loan

1. Fill

out

and

submit

the

Free

Application

for

Federal

Student

Aid

(FAFSA)

before

the

deadline

set

by

your

school

(federal

and

state

deadlines

might

differ

so

check

out

for

that!)

2. The

sort

of

financial

aid

that

is

offered

to

you

depends

on

the

school

you

are

attending,

among

other

things.

There

are

three

types

of

loans:

a. PERKINS

LOANS

Perkins

Loans

are

available

through

schools

for

students

in

need.

The

US

Government

loans

money

to

the

school,

which

passes

it

on

to

select

borrowers.

Perkins

Loans

are

unique

because

of

their

low

interest

rate.

These

loans

are

available

for

students

that

are

any

of

the

following:

full-­‐time,

part-­‐time

graduate,

or

undergraduate.

You

must

be

either:

a

US

citizen,

a

permanent

resident,

or

have

another

special

status.

The

hardest

part

about

getting

a

Perkins

Loan

is

that

you

must

demonstrate

financial

need

relative

to

other

students.

Apply

early

if

you’re

hoping

for

a

Perkins

Loan.

The

maximum

loan

depends

on

your

status.

Undergraduate

students

may

get

up

to

$4000

annually

and

$20000

over

their

undergraduate

lifetime.

Graduate

students

have

a

$6000

annual

limit

and

$40000

lifetime

limit.

Borrowers

who

use

Perkins

Loans

may

enjoy:

• No

credit

check

needed

• Flexible

repayment

options

(including

consolidation)

• No

prepayment

penalty

• A

fixed

5%

interest

rate

• Interest

is

subsidized

while

you’re

in

school

b. STAFFORD

LOANS

Stafford

Loans

are

easy

to

qualify

for.

These

loans

are

available

for

students

that

are

any

of

the

following:

full-­‐time,

part-­‐time,

graduate,

or

undergraduate.

You

must

be

a

US

citizen,

national,

permanent

resident,

or

have

other

special

status.

In

addition,

you

must

be

enrolled

at

least

half

time

at

an

eligible

institution.

After

filling

out

a

FAFSA

application

you

have

to

choose

a

lender.

The

maximum

loan

depends

on

your

status

and

can

range

from

$2625

to

$18500.

Ask

your

Financial

Aid

office

for

details.

In

general

“independent”

(or

self-­‐supporting)

students

and

graduate

students

can

borrow

the

most.

Borrowers

who

use

Stafford

Loans

may

enjoy:

• No

credit

check

needed

• Flexible

repayment

options

(including

consolidation)

• No

prepayment

penalty

• Loan

forgiveness

is

available

in

limited

circumstances

If

you’ll

use

a

Stafford

Loan,

be

aware

of

the

following:

• You

pay

a

fee

(but

it

may

be

covered

by

your

lender)

• You

must

repay

the

loan

• Loans

issued

after

July

2006

have

a

fixed

6.8%

APR

• Interest

may

be

subsidized

if

you

can

demonstrate

need

• Interest

may

be

capitalized

(added

to

the

initial

principal

amount

of

the

loan)

if

you

decide

not

to

pay

while

in

school

c. PLUS

LOANS

PLUS

loans

are

unique

because

you

can

get

really

large

loans

depending

on

your

costs

of

attendance.

PLUS

Loans

are

available

to

students

who

are

all

of

the

following:

dependent

students,

part-­‐time

or

more,

undergraduate.

However,

the

application

is

filled

out

by

parents

and

they

are

the

ones

that

get

the

loan.

You

must

be

a

US

citizen,

national,

permanent

resident,

or

have

other

special

status.

The

maximum

loan

depends

on

your

cost

of

attendance

and

any

resources

you

get.

You

can’t

borrow

more

than

it

costs

for

school,

but

you

can

include

a

variety

of

costs

when

calculating

cost

of

attendance

including

books,

supplies,

and

more.

Note

that

the

amount

you

can

borrow

is

reduced

if

the

student

receives

resources

such

as

scholarships.

Borrowers

who

use

PLUS

Loans

may

enjoy:

• Higher

loan

amounts

after

other

loans

are

exhausted

• Flexible

repayment

options

(including

consolidation)

• No

prepayment

penalty

If

you’ll

use

a

PLUS

Loan,

be

aware

of

the

following:

• Parents

must

pass

a

credit

check

• You

may

pay

a

fee

of

up

to

4%

• You

must

repay

the

loan

• Loans

issued

after

July

2006

have

a

fixed

8.5%

APR

• Interest

will

not

be

subsidized

• Repayment

begins

60

days

after

the

loan

is

made

no

grace

period

Loan

Payment:

You

must

repay

your

loans

even

if

you

don’t

complete

your

education,

can’t

find

a

job

related

to

your

program

of

study,

or

are

unhappy

with

the

education

you

paid

for

with

your

loan.

However,

certain

circumstances

might

lead

to

your

loans

being

forgiven,

canceled,

or

discharged.

1. If

you

are

able

to

pay

you

do

so

at

the

interest

rate

fixed

by

Congress

(while

interest

rates

on

new

federal

student

loans

are

set

at

6.8

percent

and

7.9

percent,

the

rate

on

Stafford

loans

was

set

at

3.4

percent

until

July

1st,

when

they

doubled

to

6.8

percent.)

2. If

you

are

unable

to

pay

you

can:

a. Deferment:

you

take

a

break

from

payments

for

a

little

while.

Several

events

may

qualify

you

for

a

deferment.

While

your

loan

is

in

deferment,

you

may

still

be

charged

interest.

For

subsidized

loans,

the

interest

will

most

likely

not

accrue.

However,

unsubsidized

loans

will

continue

to

have

interest

charged

against

them.

Some

of

the

most

common

deferments

are

listed

below:

• Unemployment

deferments

• In-­‐school

deferments

• Military

deferments

• Career

related

deferments

b. Loan

consolidation:

Student

loan

consolidation

is

the

act

of

putting

various

(or

even

one)

loans

into

a

new

package.

You

get

some

special

benefits,

and

you

can

structure

the

loan

the

way

you

want.

The

main

reasons

to

consider

student

loan

consolidation

are:

• Potential

for

lower

monthly

payments

• Fixed

interest

rate

• Only

write

one

check

for

various

loans

• Potentially

flexible

payments

during

hard

times

c. Forgiveness,

cancelation,

or

discharge

assigned

to

a????

Some

facts:

The

Office

of

Federal

Student

Aid

processes

roughly

14

million

financial

aid

applications

a

year

and

disburses

about

$80

billion

in

financial

aid.

Resources

come

from

the

Federal

Government

and

are

distributed

among

schools

that

then

distribute

the

resources

they

have

according

to

their

own

terms

and

conditions.

More

Questions?

What

is

the

FAFSA

application?

An

application

that

can

be

filled

out

online

or

on

paper

(the

online

format

is

encouraged

in

terms

of

speed

and

error

checking)

that

is

used

to

determine

the

dollar

amount

you

or

your

family

will

be

expected

to

contribute

towards

college.

All

federal

grant

and

loan

awards

are

determined

by

the

FAFSA,

and

nearly

all

colleges

use

the

FAFSA

as

the

basis

for

their

own

financial

aid

awards.

The

FAFSA

is

managed

by

the

Office

of

Federal

Student

Aid,

part

of

the

Department

of

Higher

Education.

The

FAFSA

requires

information

in

five

categories:

• Information

about

the

student

• Information

about

the

student’s

dependency

status

• Information

about

the

student’s

parents

• Information

about

the

student’s

finances

• A

list

of

the

schools

that

should

receive

the

results

of

the

FAFSA

What

do

I

need

to

fill

out

the

FAFSA

application?

• Your

most

recent

income

tax

return

(or

your

parents’

return

if

you

are

a

dependent)

• Your

current

bank

statements

• Your

current

investment

records

(if

any)

• Records

of

any

untaxed

income

you

may

have

received

• Your

Driver’s

License

(if

you

have

one)

• Your

Social

Security

Number

• If

you

are

not

a

U.S.

citizen:

your

alien

registration

or

permanent

resident

card

Resources

General

Information:

http://studentaid.ed.gov/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/student-­‐debt/

http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm

http://banking.about.com/od/loans/a/studentloans.htm

Repayment

plans

and

options:

-­‐ Income

based

repayment:

http://1.usa.gov/1bIO1yw

-­‐ Pay

as

you

earn:

http://1.usa.gov/194F7V0

Debt

forgiveness:

-­‐ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/27/student-­‐loan-­‐forgiveness-­‐

guide_n_4002065.html?utm_hp_ref=student-­‐debt

-­‐ Public

service

loan

forgiveness:

http://1.usa.gov/18sELJS

-­‐ Teacher

loan

forgiveness

program:

http://1.usa.gov/1bITqWq

Guidance

and

debt

advice:

-­‐ Consumer

Financial

Protection

Bureau’s

guide:

http://1.usa.gov/1as4UK8

-­‐ American

Student

Assistance’s

guide:

http://bit.ly/15xGpNs

News:

-­‐ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/10/college-­‐degrees-­‐best-­‐value_n_3414643.html?utm_hp_ref=student-­‐debt

-­‐ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/student-­‐debt-­‐impact_n_3983321.html?utm_hp_ref=student-­‐debt

-­‐ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/17/elizabeth-­‐warren-­‐student-­‐loan_n_3612384.html?utm_hp_ref=student-­‐debt

 

FRIDAY

Stop Complaining and Start Building

Prompted by David Byrne’s rather scathing indictment of New York City for driving out all its artistic heart with rising costs of living and shrinking humanist sensibilities, and Patti Smith’s equally blunt advice to artists to “find a new city,” the New York Times hosted a Room for Debate article entitled “The Cost of Being an Artist.”

The article, which featured short passages by six artist types, seemed to be aimed at striking a balance, or at least comforting people to think things aren’t so bad. Yes, the city doesn’t support their artists like it should, but everyone now has day jobs, so it’s OK. One voice, Miki Navazio, was once a jazz guitarist and composer, and is now a lawyer, which he says is much easier. The others are all either moderately successful artists (a playwright, a filmmaker) or artists with pretty comfortable day jobs that relate to their field (an arts administrator at a company who works for funding for artists, and writer at Policymic). At any rate, no one is starving. I mean, someone knew them well enough to put them in this article, right? Are they the best people to ask about the real state of the struggling artist?

The overwhelming sentiment was that it’s hard to be an artist, but it’s in our blood, so we do it anyway. Paddy Johnson’s quote is perfect: “Asking whether it’s too expensive to pursue the arts is a little like asking whether it’s too expensive to read or write. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t stop.” I don’t necessarily disagree with her on this. However, a common problem I find is that we all romanticize artists and their struggles.  By saying that artists have no choice but to be an artist diminishes the work, the struggle, the training, and the fact that not everyone can do this extremely challenging job. And romanticizing it can easily lead to the trap of thinking that artists love their life so much that they will do this art, what seems to flow out of their bodies with ease, for free. They like it so much, right? If it’s so natural to them, it’s not hard right?

Ms. Johnson does go on, however, to make a point that I want to plaster on every graffitied construction site I see: “These efforts [of the artist] in effect subsidize every other industry in the city by making it a more interesting and desirable place to visit and live, so maybe it’s time we spent a little more time figuring out how to support artists.” YES! Juri Koll also points to this issue when he says, “Compared to other countries, such as Ireland and Denmark, where there are tax-free grants or direct subsidies with special tax benefits, the United States lags far behind in its treatment of artists.” These are some great points, and productive ones at that. This is something constructive to work toward. But the question remains, how?

And now I finally get to what I’m trying to get at. We all complain. We talk about how the city does nothing to support us, and we reference other cities that do support their artists. And then we stay here, continuing the fight. We don’t want to take Patti Smith’s and David Byrne’s advice to find new cities. Patti Smith and David Byrne had New York City, and we won’t rest until we have it too. This is where the artistic community breeds new ideas and finds daily inspiration. This is where we’ve already been building our lives. And so I find that I’m actually more on the side of the artists with day jobs than the established artists telling us to move. For better or for worse. And I’m well aware that it might be for worse.

But let’s stop complaining and start doing. Pointing out New York City’s flaws might be one step, but it’s not the only step. The next step is to work toward finding a solution to the ever-worsening problem. Let’s build that community, and find a way to stay in this city we all love.

My Last Post: A New York State of Mind

I looked at my loan calculations yesterday.  I was hit by that wave of anxiety, that panic.  I thought, “What the hell have I done. I’m so stupid. I just ruined my life!”  And then I took a breath…

I thought about Walt Whitman’s demand, “Give me the streets of Manhattan”. I thought about how beautiful NY will look when it snows.  I thought about pretty coats, and good coffee, and how sometimes when I walk in the city the wind blows through my hair in the right direction and I feel like I’m gliding.  I thought about having a glass of wine on a fire escape, and ice-skating in Central Park, and movie night with my apartment mates, my friends, my rock. I thought about  how happy I am every morning when I wake up and see my girlfriend next to me and how lucky we are to wake up together in this beautiful city!

Am I a hopeless Romantic? Yes. Am I financially screwed? Absolutely. Am I happy? Yes, more than I can say.

 For the last time,

 Saturday

Peace or Happiness

“cautiously, I allowed
myself to feel good
at times.
I found moments of
peace in cheap
rooms
just staring at the
knobs of some
dresser
or listening to the
rain in the
dark.
the less i needed
the better i
felt.”

-Charles Bukowski, Let it Enfold You

Unlike the other writers of this blog, thus far I have not been facing my post-graduate struggles from a New York City apartment. Due to a lack of money – and my sister’s wedding, now past – I’ve been at home, where, in retrospect, perhaps I should have been luxuriating in the feeling of a rent-free existence, where the roof over my head was provided free of charge and out of love. The only price I had to pay by living at home was the feeling of stagnation, of missed opportunities, of the impossibility of moving my life forward. That felt quite an expensive price tag to me. No, I wasn’t dishing out a couple hundred dollars a month just to have somewhere to stay, but I felt awful, hopeless, bored, restless. What I wasn’t paying for in money I was paying for in unhappiness.

So when the opportunity presented itself, accompanied by some inspiring words, I gratefully took the chance to get my life moving again, to make the switch back to paying in good old fashioned money for the chance at some happiness. I had some money saved up, enough to take an apartment for a month while I searched for something more permanent, both a job and a roof over my head. I’m guaranteed only three and a half weeks in this city. I have to make the most of it, and figure out what I need the least.

I am not known to be an efficient packer, not even for vacations. I always throw in at least one too many pair of jeans, a few extra shirts that I won’t even touch, and overestimate how many different pairs of shoes I will need. Packing for a short stay, fitting it all in bags that could be carried with me on a bus, was a challenge as huge as my luggage space was small. Do I really think I’ll wear that? Can I do without those boots? How much can I squeeze into this duffel bag without the zipper breaking? Is my luggage overweight? Be honest – do I really think I’ll wear that?

A friend told me there was something “cinematic” about me going off, at almost the spur of the moment, with just what I could carry. I guess there is. And people will tell you that there’s also something cinematic, romantic, bohemian, about a starving artist living off what she can, who doesn’t know where her next paycheck or meal will come from, who lives from month to month trying to find a roof to put over her head and then figure out how she’s going to pay for that roof. I admit I was (am?) one of those people who think there is something oddly romantic about letting yourself live in less-than-ideal conditions, with shady landlords and streets that might make you grasp your pepper spray a little harder on the walk home at night, as you struggle for your art but then ultimately triumph, so that you can have a success story and look back on it and think with pride on how far you’ve come. So it’s times like this – when I hesitate to put more money on my metro card, when I justify skipping meals and stretching my wardrobe as far as I can, when I truly don’t know where I’ll be living next month, or when I’m deciding how much I’m willing to sacrifice to stay here – this is when I have to remind myself that this is the “cinematic” artist’s life that I set up for myself, no matter how hard it might be. I can fight it. I can complain about the struggles, or worry, or despair, or regret my decisions and second-guess what’s already been done, I can beat myself up over it, be a priss and insist on an apartment in perfect condition, in the perfect neighborhood with the perfect rent and a perfect landlord, an apartment without bowed walls and crumbling plaster on the ceilings, without scuffed hardwood floors or awkward layouts, a place that’s new and safe and spacious and cheap, when the reality is you can really only pick two of those options (and sometimes only one). I can do all that, insist upon having everything right now, and be miserable if I don’t get it, when I’m really supposed to be happy about moving forward. Or I can sit in this room with its old, crumbling walls and mismatched furniture and drafty windows, and I can find peace in knowing that, glamorous or not, I am living the life I imagined for myself. I’ve set this challenge up for myself, and I’m going to take it on. No matter what kind of curve balls New York throws at me, I’m going to keep playing. And in the meantime, I will sit here and try to find peace in the little things. I may not exactly have happiness, not yet, not the way I dreamed it, but I can have peace. For now, that’s enough.

“Either peace or happiness,
let it enfold you.”

Peacefully,

Thursday