After graduating with a super useful baccalaureate degree in Advertising from Penn State’s College of Communications, I pulled a Violet from Coyote Ugly and moved to Manhattan with money saved up from slinging greasy food to sad drunks. I figured it was the closest city geographically within driving distance to my hometown, where my dog lives, that offered a melting pot of culture and creativity. I wanted to make sure I was in the position to hop on a bus if need be and head home for German Shepherd hugs. So just like the juke box heroine, I followed both the trust fund kids and my big dreams to the city of artistic reinvention to become someone important.
I felt compelled to make this move; I was destined to be a revered writer, only not for LeAnn Rimes’ songs. I was actually more of a Patsy Cline kind of gal myself. I was probably one of only a handful of third graders, at least in the Northern States, who regularly belted out classic 50s hits from Live at the Opry. “Walkin’ After Midnight” was a timeless favorite, even though I couldn’t relate at the time as I was routinely in bed by 9pm and my worst heartbreak was burying my deceased best friend, Chelsea, in a soap container casket under a bush in the backyard. She was such a sweet hamster. The controversial manner in which she passed still troubles me today. Let’s just say exhaust pipes can be lethal and with that I will leave you in suspense until someone pays me to write an exposé on the humanity behind assisted suicide for suffering hamsters.
Country music and dead rodents aside, in September 2010 I decided that I was going to relocate to the city and be discovered. I was confident that I’d triple as a Mad Men caliber ad copywriter, New York Times novelist AND an award-winning comedic screen writer for my hit TV show of which I had diplomatically hand selected myself to be cast as the leading lady. None of those goals were anywhere close to being accomplished. Quite the opposite, in fact. I mostly just juggled multiple low-paying jobs, none of which were creative in nature nor used my college degree, but all of which were degrading and unbelievably frustrating. It made me wonder if the Hollywood film industry was grossly inaccurate.
I started to doubt the credibility of Violet’s character instantly gaining fame by singing and dancing on a bar counter. I mean, not once did anyone ever come into Hooters and give us a record deal for our sophisticated a cappella performances. We were so musically talented that we even synced our singing with instrumental clapping during our rendition of the sexually insinuated, “Hot Dog Song.” It was a camazing.
Yet all we got out of it in return were some wrinkled up dolla bills as gratuitous compensation for all the shaking and bouncing that occurred in conjunction with our melodic collaborations. No, there was no fast track to superstardom for the promising young ladies of Happy Valley. Instead we laboriously worked sleazy double shifts for a hundred bucks (if we were lucky) to earn enough income so that we could move to NYC and repeat the process. And by “we,” I mostly just mean me. After all, there is no “we” in Chandra the Greatest Author of Our Generation Who Know One Has Ever Heard Of And Whose Writing Has Not Earned Her a Penny.
My skepticism was justified after visiting the alleged Coyote Ugly setting once I was situated in my new city life. Upon entering the small, dark, deserted, grimy dive bar, it dawned on me that the most probable element of the entire film was when Violet’s apartment was robbed. I won’t even begin to detail the plethora of embellishments portrayed in the Sex and the City series, because while it once served as a fun and quirky quotable source of vapid entertainment for all New York wannabes such as myself, not one episode of that show is remotely plausible either. Well, except maybe the part where Carrie found herself in debt from depending on a writer’s salary and almost got evicted. And also when she stepped in dog shit on the streets of Paris.
The first thing I did upon resettling in NYC, after cramming all my belongings into my teeny tiny Thumbelina-sized Upper East Side bedroom that is, was set out on foot to explore my new stomping grounds. This directly led to the second thing, getting lost in East Harlem. Both of these activities resulted in a terrible sinus infection from breathing in all the toxic pollution and everyone’s abrasive energy around me who seemed to have woken up every day with the intentions of power walking between places and scowling at the universe. It was then I realized that I’d fit right in! I just needed to somehow prove my pre-conditioned worthiness to the native New Yorkers.
To do this I took to the internet, paying particularly close attention to a list owned by Craig, and various other human-exploitation service sites posed as job boards. I was under the impression that I could just email someone to explain that I was a great writer and they’d believe me without tangible evidence. Similar to how well-connected kin easily receive art and entertainment gigs solely for having a famous surname, I thought since I’d been told by college professors and peers that my writing was clever, I possessed a golden ticket. I was kind of hoping they would just take my word for it and offer me a book deal with a generous cash advance, also like celebrity offspring. My work was relatively decent and I had a lot to say, having inhabited the planet for twenty-three whole years, all of which took place in two small towns in the state of Pennsylvania.
I did eventually come to accept that Tina Fey was not willing to join literary forces with me so ended up working in bars and picking up random side jobs while trying to individually break into the writing world. Just me and a million or so other artists and dreamers with the exact same idea, all thinking our journeys are unique. This is a process which includes a lot of rejection, drinking, crying, sleeping around and listening to songs with any mention of New York on repeat. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing back then, which is funny because six years later and I’m just as clueless. However, even after meeting relentless opposition, I still believe that the world was and is waiting for my harrowing story of survival brought forth from my incredibly average upbringing.
A year into my Big Crapple adventure, I got a corporate job in digital marketing, where I was efficiently going to climb the ranks and work my way up to a creative director position in charge of prominent brands. That didn’t happen either. Basically, nothing happened the way I had envisioned. Instead, I was just broke, stressed and incessantly lost. I quickly learned that NYC is a wonderful place designed for two very different types of people, either the exceptionally wealthy or the hopelessly naive who think that sharing a dumpy $3k apartment with three roommates and a family of mice is a steal. I’m sure it goes without saying to which group I belonged.
But I didn’t care, because I was a New Yorker! A New Yorker who excelled in being lost, wasting money and telling anyone within earshot, “I’m a New Yorker!” As the rap moguls say, if you can fake it here you fake it anywhere! This was fun and all for awhile, but after four years of being a “New Yorker” and not getting any closer to figuring out my purpose, it became pretty apparent that the only thing I was succeeding at was failure. I knew then that it was high time for me to go overseas where I could find a fresh batch of people who weren’t aware that I was a New Yorker and in need of a daily reminder.