It was Y2K when I first moved to New York City. Back then just saying the words “New York City” felt thrilling. One would think my life was also thrilling – but somehow it wasn’t. All I really did in New York City was go to work during the week and nurse a hangover during the weekend. Other than the scenery, and a minor change in wardrobe, I was leading the same life I had led in Chennai – which is where I was dwelling right before I moved to the Big Apple. To say that I had managed to lead a most boring life in a most NOT boring city would be understating the fact.
Not surprisingly I was oblivious to this. I was under the impression that having managed to cross the Atlantic AND get a good job on Madison Avenue, the advertising capital of the world (if you don’t agree watch Mad Men then we will argue) I had already done something wildly cool – and way above my batting average. What brought my sub-par life in to sharp focus was a conversation with my then-boyfriend-who-is-now-my-husband. One evening he sat me down and explained that he had a goal. He was going to run the New York City marathon in a few months and he would be training intensively for it. Then he asked me what I planned to do with my spare time. Isn’t there anything you want to do? Any classes you want to take? And here comes the kicker – This is New York, you can do anything.
This is New York, you can do anything.
The words seemed to echo a little. I sat there feeling ashamed and inadequate. He was right, I was literally wasting an opportunity, but what the hell did I want to do?
I always wanted to learn French. Or something. I mumbled. And of course I was mumbling because what I was saying was lies. I had the opportunity to learn both French and Hindi in school and I had frittered it away. The result, as my father loves to put it, is that I now speak three languages—Poor Quality Hindi and Poor Quality English and Rubbish Quality French. There was no chance I was actually going to sit down and try that on again but I had to say something—who did he think he was with his stupid goals? We left it at that but the seed of embarrassment had been planted and with it the seeds of self-awareness. I was living life the way I had seen it being lived. I may have changed continents but it didn’t seem to matter – I was the same.
But then I started to explore and thanks to a friend at work I went to my first musical – Les Miz – and even my first concert at Madison Square Gardens! Not to brag but it was Prince (RIP). Of course at first all I could think of was the amount of money I had spent on the ticket. Why was I wasting my hard earned cash to watch someone sing songs I already had loaded on to my MP3 player (this was a long time ago people!)? But by the end of the evening I understood. First of all watching Prince do splits on stage is indeed completely different from listening to the song on a CD, but more than that I came out of Madison Square Gardens feeling like I was part of the city in a way I hadn’t before.
A few weeks later I did something else I had never done – I watched my first Gay Pride parade march past me. A Pride parade – for those of you who have never attended one – is basically a supremely cool, incredibly fun, extremely attractive political rally. I had never considered the plight of the LGBTQIA community (back then it was just LGBT – how times have changed!), I had not been raised to even consider their rights, I had been raised to think there is only one way to love and live! My mind was irrevocably changed that day.
And then finally, after much trial and error, I found my thing. Thanks to a confident New York woman. I was standing in the lobby of a small theatre school. Maybe watching Les Miz and Prince had inspired me. As I was looking at the class listings to see what class a full-time account executive at an ad agency could possibly commit to a woman struck up a conversation with me. She told me there was a free comedy class being offered and that she was going. She then suggested I go with her. WIERDO! I didn’t even know her. Plus. I had to watch TV when I got home. I didn’t have time to do spontaneous comedy classes. But I went. I had started to embrace this mad, crazy city – it didn’t make sense to stop now.
I never saw that woman again but I signed up for 16 weeks of weekend classes to learn a form of comedy called “improv”.
Improvised comedy is a style of comedy that unlike stand-up requires you to work in groups. But the part that really appealed to me was you made stuff up as you went along, so no tedious learning of lines. The class was packed with people like myself who had full-time jobs and some even had kids! Yet here they were pursuing something more. Most of them knew they would never give up their day-jobs in favor of comedy but that didn’t matter.
What mattered was I realized why I love the world – because it is never, ever boring. No matter where on this planet you go the world will entertain you, your job is to be ready and willing to join in the fun. The world is never boring – although often we the people of the world can be!
#SayYesTotheWorld #Travel #Lufthansa