I got yelled at.
I’d been back in New York for good, or at least as long as “for good” can be guaranteed by someone who moves a lot, for barely 20 minutes.
And I got yelled at.
Technically it was Franco who got yelled at because he’d been the one driving.
But I’d been the one who had said, YES! Drive over that spikey thing that could potentially damage our rental car in plain sight of the rental-car people just before we return our rental car because YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, NAMSAYN?
We hovered over the spikey thing for a second – I kid you not, a second – when the man driving the bus in front of us got out of the bus, noting our confusion, and said, ever so tenderly:
IT FUCKING SAYS “ENTRANCE.” WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO GO GO.
What a dick, I thought.
I was home.
The most valuable thing I learned in grad school is good work has to be true.
It’s something everyone knows to be true and believes they seek, but ridiculously hard to do.
Too often we’re too dazzled by bells and whistles and pretty things to recognize that what’s below the surface is nothing.
That we would have found the real shit, the more interesting shit, a couple of layers below that surface had we just dug a little deeper and racked our brains a little harder.
Like writing, it can’t be taught.
We can be guided to it. We can look at past truths and deconstruct them. We can ooh and ahh. But because each piece of work requires its own truth, whatever we learn from the past can’t always be applied to the present.
But what makes it really hard, what keeps us from striving for it, isn’t that it’s this nebulous thing only a genius can come up with.
It’s because no one really demands it.
Sometimes it takes too long and requires a lot of what looks like sitting around doing nothing when what you’re really doing is turning your thoughts over and over in your head until they form something cohesive that resembles an idea.
It’s hard because it’s much easier to stop before we find it. We can get by with much less.
So, why seek it at all?
Because it’s the only thing that fulfills. Not money, not reward, not external validation.
For a writer, it’s what sustains after writing hundreds of shitty lines, spending weeks on a project only to throw it away, and releasing a beloved something to an empty room.
You pat yourself on the back.
Think it’s a piece of shit.
And start over.
I’m drawn to truth.
I like exposing truths and making people uncomfortable. Or delighted. Or surprised. Or sad. Or whatever.
It’s why I’m drawn to New York.
It’s a place where you can find the most beautiful things – theater, art, food – and no one shies away from the struggle that makes them possible.
People are open about it. They talk about the hustle. The rent. The shit pay.
They not just talk about it, they live it.
It’s the kind of mentality that others might see as cynical, rude and unpleasant. To me, it’s the kind of mentality that breeds optimists.
It acknowledges life can at once be brutal and ugly as well as beautiful and great.
It comes from a place of truth, and it binds us.
In New York City, it happens every day.
It’s when the richest and the poorest stand next to each other on the train and think: I’ve got to make it to the end of today.