The past few months have really been a whirlwind for me. Not long after I was done with my audit busy season, I found out I was going to the Times Square New York office for a short ten week secondment – something that had been on my goals at Ernst & Young ever since I started as a trainee just over six years ago. I’ve lived in New York before as an exchange student and I loved it; and now having lived there for ten weeks as a working professional, I love it even more. Not because of the work, but because of how absolutely amazing the city is.
Coming back to Sydney after spending months is New York is always such a bittersweet thing for me. It’s so hard for me to describe the dichotomy of the person I become when I’m there and the person I am away from it all. Life in New York just seems more vivid and more real; sometimes I drift through the days here in a grey haze and nothing registers. Even with the ridiculous working hours (ridiculous because they really aren’t necessary), when I leave work at 10 or 11 PM, it still feels so early because your evening plans start at midnight. Leaving work at 6:30 PM in Sydney – early as that is – still feels incredibly late. It’s dark, everything is closed and I’ve got a horridly long commute home. Most of my waking hours – except for a few cherished moments on the weekends and some times after dinner during the week – kind of feel like this intellectually interesting puzzle which is both surreal and meaningless.
Anyway. The reason things have been so quiet here (apart from the usual refrain of work, etc) is I’ve been planning a trip to NYC (surprise, surprise) to study at Tisch over the summer (northern hemisphere summer). I’ve wanted this so badly for so long – pretty much ever since I found out more courses like the Musical Theatre Writing Workshop focusing on the three different components of musical theatre writing are offered over the summer session. While EY is reasonably accommodating as far as large employers go, the full two year Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at Tisch has never been a realistic option.
Summer school, however, was totally within reach, after all the scrimping and saving, and begging to get time off work. And as soon as I knew I could afford it, I spent – goodness only knows how many – hours talking to managers and partners and clients, rearranging my portfolio and the timing of my jobs so it could all happen. My time off has been booked in for months and months in advance. All the paperwork had been done. While I was in NYC for work, I’d done my homework and gotten internships at theatre companies lined up.
Originally I had enrolled in three courses – plus internship time – which was probably a little too ambitious to begin with (classes from 1 through 7 PM, Monday to Thursday for four weeks, plus additional classwork and other stuff on top? Bring it on! Yeah…I never learn). So when I got the first email, I actually breathed a little sigh of relief:
Just over a week ago, after finalising all my visa paperwork and getting the visa appointment scheduled, I got this:
Yesterday, at 6:12 AM, I was sitting here, shivering in the pre-dawn winter freeze, about to walk out the door to catch the bus so I could make my visa appointment at 8 AM in the city, and I get this:
Too good to be true. I am not paying ~$3k in flight and visa costs and 1 month off work to study 1 subject. Thanks, common sense and economics. I think a lifetime’s worth of careful planning – with said planning paying off – has spoiled me. There’s only been once other instance in my life where perfect planning did not get me what I wanted. I remember being immediately and totally devastated. At the moment, I feel – numb. At least I think I feel numb. That’s when you don’t feel anything, right?
I’m not sure the full impact has really sunk in – I think I’m still in shock. Maybe it’ll start to hit once I start emailing my friends in NYC to let them know I have to cancel on the plans we’d been making (like all the restaurants we didn’t get to try the last time around, the events we wanted to go to or trips we were gonna take), or my cousin who has also booked in leave to fly down to NYC from Canada so we can hang out for the second time in the fifteen odd years we’ve been apart since we were kids.
Or you know, we could go with the “I’ve-grown-as-a-person-and-learned-to-be-mature-and-resilient” and I’m dealing with this in a rational manner. I kind of like that idea more anyway, but my gut is telling me that I’m in denial.
I haven’t decided what I’m going to do. Everything at work has been scheduled with absolute precision so that I can finish everything by the end of June – since I’d wanted to fly in just in time to experience the crazy American-ness of the Fourth of July. It seems pointless now to take four weeks of leave, but I can’t think with all the noise going on. I feel like I need some time off just to meditate on what I’m going to do.
Maybe for once in my life I should do the irrational thing – caution be damned – and go anyway, just for the hell of it and see where I end up. You only live life once, right? It’s moments like this that I wish I could just let go of the constant analysis, weighing of pros and cons, drawing up budgets, logic, planning – all of it! – and just do what every single atom of my soul wants and run off to New York with nothing but $100 in my pocket, my laptop, keyboard and some clothes and live the life of a starving artist. Right up to the point where my inner cynic pulls a reality check on me.
Sometimes I really hate being the sensible and mature person. It feels like I end up with more work and having less fun. Usually some level of my mind understand that being sensible and mature pays its own dividends in the long-term, but this is not one of those moments.
This is an I am meant to be going to New York to study musical theatre in TWO WEEKS for a whole month where I don’t have to deal with numbers and accounting standards and audit methodology and being an intelligent automaton ticking off checklists and can actually go and do something creative but everything – EVERYTHING – I have worked for over the past year has just…collapsed…and there isn’t ANYTHING I can do about it moment.
This post has been really hard to write, in part because my thoughts are going everywhere and I have no idea how to structure this mess into anything cohesive; and in part because some of it I don’t really want to think about. I keep hoping that somehow when I go to sleep that I’ll find out I’ve really been having some sort of weird extended waking nightmare and this hasn’t happened; but even though it’s two in the morning now, I don’t – can’t – sleep because, well, that would make the next day come faster and facts are always harder to deny during the day, and the fact remains that I am not going to go back to New York for the summer.
A big thing I had really hoped for this July was to get clarity on what it is I want to do with my music – whether it’s something I can really look at pursuing as a viable career or whether it’s something that I have talent but no genius for. “Talent isn’t genius” and I’m so scared of finding out what the answer is that I half wonder if I don’t subconsciously make myself work stupid hours so I have all these excuses as to why I’m not trying hard to find out the answer here, that I have to push myself to go all the way to New York to find it (or maybe it’s just that I really, really love the city).
But now I think my thoughts are pretty much going in circles and I can’t really say anything else that I haven’t already said. I guess I should start the process of telling everyone that I’m not actually coming and try to get some sleep. Work and its deadlines make allowances for no one. Sometimes I wish I had less work ethic/scruples and more willfulness/self-interest; then for a penny I’d throw my arms up in protest and call in “sick” tomorrow…yet despite all of this, I’m still going to be at work by 8:30 AM.
C’est la vie.