I moved to New York for a lot of different reasons. But at the end of the day, the ultimate goal was probably because I wanted to be happy. I thought that I might be able to find a version of happiness in New York City.
It took a year. But here it is.
New York broke me. No other way to put it. When I moved up here, I failed. I was terrified of finding out that I wasn’t special. And so I gave into that fear. I didn’t go out. I didn’t go to mics. I hated on everything that was up here. I hated on the other comics up here.
I wanted to transcend the fear of failure. I failed.
I’m working on a full, War-and-Peace-length review of my first year here. But here’s the short version:
Stage 1: January, 2011 - July, 2011: Lived in New York. Scared. Didn’t get out much.
Stage 2: July, 2011 - August, 2011: Home in Pittsburgh, dealing with family issues.
Stage 3: September, 2011 - October, 2011: Home in Pittsburgh, hiding from New York City, hiding from the chance that I’d go back and fail again. Dreading coming back. Terrified.
Stage 4: November, 2011: Came back. Started fighting. Struggled, but fought. Started to get out of my own way.
Stage 5: December, 2011: Got the hell out of my way. Started working my ass off. Started being the best comic I could possibly be - and stopped worrying about whether or not that would be good enough for anybody else. There were a lot of reasons for this, but a conversation with a friend was the symbolic start of this phase. As I’m looking back, that quick conversation, on the way to get a slice of $1 pizza, was a hugely significant moment in the past year of my life. And quite possibly in my next ten.
So those were basically the 5 stages of my first year in New York. Which brings us to stage 6, I suppose: January 2012.
I went home to Pittsburgh for Christmas, and I stayed through New Years. I’ve been back in New York for about 10 days now, and it’s roughly 180 degrees different than it was when I moved up here almost exactly one year ago.
I guess the basic difference is that I’m pursuing my best self. Maybe I won’t be anything up here. Maybe I’m just some comedy-nerd that’s obsessed with the talent and heart of guys like Louis C.K. and Patrice O’Neal. Maybe I’m not destined to be mentioned in the same breath as them, and Pryor and Carlin - let alone historical minds, like Socrates or Plato.
Maybe not. But I don’t care. I don’t care about any of that. I don’t care if the other comics here respect what I’m doing. I don’t care if I’m considered one of the “up-and-coming guys” up here. I don’t care if there’s some “buzz” around me right now.
Here’s what I care about: Am I able to explain all the crazy things that I’m experiencing to the rest of this world?
Here’s what drinking alcohol is like: It feels like I’m pouring lots of tiny jocks into my mouth, and then they go up to my brain and beat up all the nerds that are in there.
That’s a sensation I felt this week. The sensation of being drunk. And I wanted to explain to the world what that felt like. I wanted to be able to put my experience - my existence - into words that other people understand.
I never drank in high school or college, so I’m just experiencing that sensation now. If that makes me lame, I’m fine with that.
I ended a long-term relationship a few months ago with an incredible human being. We ended it, in part, because I’d fallen out of love with her. I don’t understand why. If that makes me a terrible person, then I’m okay with that. It’s not about getting anyone to like me. I don’t need you to think I’m cool. But I want - desperately, I want - for you to understand.
That’s all I’m worried about right now. None of the bullshit. Just trying to connect. Trying to make you realize that we are, in fact, connected.
And that, for me, is happiness. Pursuing connection.
I’m happier now than I’ve ever been before. Here’s at least part of why: I don’t care about the bullshit, in New York. There’s so much more temptation here, as far as things that distract you from that ultimate goal - connecting. TV, the best clubs in the world, the feeling of being envied by everyone else who came here thinking they’d be making you jealous.
The temptations here are greater than they were when I was doing stand-up in college in Ohio, when I was coming up in DC, or when I was establishing myself in Austin. The ceiling for what could happen here is so much higher - and so to be able to look in the mirror, and know that not even the greatest temptations are distracting me from listening to myself...Jesus Christ, what a feeling. What peace I have, in this moment.
Understand: If I never get a TV credit in my life, if I never record an album I’m proud of in my life, if I never get into one New York club in the next ten years here - moving here was worth it. Because of what these past ten days have been. I am not 100 percent of what I can be. But I am 100 percent of what I am right now. I am 100 percent of myself right now.
Sorry if that doesn’t make sense to you. It makes sense to me.
I am happy. Because I am trying my best. That’s why I moved here. To find the version of myself that was trying his hardest.
For the past two weeks at least - here I am.