An ode to 8 years in NYC
I didn’t expect to be emotional. The entire process once I had decided to leave was surprisingly numb. I was focused, knew what I had to do. I packed (or mostly threw things out) with very little emotional attachment and felt eager to get to Texas already!
When I left, however, it all cracked open. I hugged my housemates in Rockaway Beach goodbye and almost instantaneously as I got into my car, tears began to stream down my face. The past SEVEN YEARS of my life have been rooted in NYC. The memories began to flash through my mind like a reel. I could see the good, the bad, the frustration, the strength, the heartache, the gifts and the growth. I realized I wouldn’t be in a car with my dog Oakley OR my cat Cowboy (aka: the two furry angels with which God graced my life) getting ready to drive south if it weren’t for the ole streets of NYC bringing them into my world.
When I first moved up to New York City, I was 19 years old. I had made the bold decision to leave my fun college experience at the University of Alabama because I wanted all day everyday dance curriculum and a taste of the “real world”. I felt frustrated by the usual-ness of college; the four year lay-out, the small town, the fun frat parties, the happy people, the weekly football… it was all too comfortable and I think having an idea of what the next four years would look like felt scary to me. It was a tough choice to leave because I felt so so close to the friends I’d made and sorority I had joined (yuzzz that’s right. I WAS A SORORITY GIRL FOR A HOT SECOND. A-O-PI 4 LYFE) but I had to face my deepest desire which, I guess, was the excitement of the unknown. I yearned for the adventure of a big city, the dirty, the gritty and to feel the fever in me everyday that comes with chasing a dream seemingly against all odds. I was 18 and full of fire. I wanted the heat of NEW YORK CITY coursing through my veins.
When I was in 7th Grade (12 yrs old) I auditioned for my first talent show. It had been a dream of mine as I grew up watching my sister…One day I wanted to be there. IN THE BIG AUDITORIUM. THE GRAND EXPOSE. THE M.I.D.D.L.E. S.C.H.O.O.L. S.T.A.G.E.!!!!!!!!!!!!! So once I got to the 7th grade, I had to figure out what I could audition with. At the time I didn’t have any sufficient talents: couldn’t sing, had only just begun recreational dance class, I was mediocre at piano & really had only been in a couple of plays. So my talent would be: CHARISMA. One of my best friends and I decided that we would make a killer lip sync routine. So naturally, we picked one of our favorite songs “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (these were the days that ‘Remember the Titans’ was my all time favorite movie) and let that inspire the bit. She dressed up as the girl, laden in go-go boots and a thick headband and I put on my best bell bottoms and afro wig to be the guy. Our act began off stage. The intro of the song began to play and with the first words, “Listen Baby” I emphatically slid onto stage in my 70s get up and pleaded my love to my off-stage counter part who then made her grand entrance upon the female vocal entry into the song. We had a choreographed, simple, step-touch type of routine that not only guaranteed us a spot in the talent show, but later as “cool girls” (or at least noticed girls) at school for our enigmatic performance. (A special thank you to our encouraging drama teacher, Barry Yandell, for thinking outside of the box and believing in our seemingly talent-less talent show act.)
This experience, I feel, sprung me into a pattern of risk. From there on out I would consistently try out for sporting teams, cheer squads, school musicals and dance companies that I was far under equipped to make but somehow with my confidence and my charisma it would typically work out. I had lots of rejection but my confidence as a kid was insane (like, I legit wish I could get a pep talk from her now) so it wouldn’t take me too long to bounce back. When I began dancing in a competition company, I was so far behind. I was 14 years old. That’s right, A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL. ABOUT TO LEARN TO DRIVE. And I was dancing with 9 and 10 year olds. I remember the humiliation but I could see the goal so strongly and was far too compelled to dance to let the age difference get the best of me. I’m not sure what compels a kid to do what they do, or why I believed I HAD to do all the things that I did… but I did and the uncomfortable and exciting experiences just continued to line up with the world as my oyster, my medium rare steak, my chocolate pie and it was all mine for the taking.
Fast-forward to 19 year old Lorena. I had a notion to leave college and that’s what I did. I left my comfortable world and thrust myself into the big bad crusty city of hopes, dreams, live theater, rusty subway cars and horrific smells. In retrospect, there were so many hilarious growing pains in that first year but at the time it felt brutal. My very first apartment move, I did with my sister and boyfriend via the PUBLIC BUS (7 trips in total). I also sold a couple of lamps on craigslist to a full grown man who showed up to my apartment wearing roller-skates. The remaining few hairs on his practically bald head were twisted with gel into devil horns and he invited me to a concert featuring his band, who sang songs “against the government”. (I didn’t go). (Wish I had tbh).
I’ve lived in 8 different apartments, had over 20 different roommates, worked actually more jobs than I can even count on my fingers and toes twice, had countless experiences that no one really thinks would happen beyond a Seinfeld episode, learned to surf, cry in public, dance in public, fall asleep in public and most importantly, meet incredible people (in and out of public) that have full on struck me in the feelers forever.
One of my favorite speeches comes from Steve Jobs. It is the commencement he gave the Stanford university class of 2005. I would write out the entire thing because it is so damn good (I highly recommend watching it) but I will spare you and put the part that most pertains to my point. Steve says, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to Heaven, don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be. Because death is the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you…But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but, it’s quite true. Your time is limited so DON’T WASTE IT living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
So many people have asked me why I chose to leave New York (“just as summer is starting!?”) and actually can not comprehend why I would want to be back at my parents (tho they’re legit the best). A lot of my life has been like this. I have shifted a lot (damn this millennial blood of mine!). I’ve received countless criticisms from family, close friends and even past boyfriends for living my life the way that I have. Out of the box, avant-guard, with fun as my motivator and intuition as my guide. I know that no one sees what I see and no one can quite feel and comprehend the notions that I so strongly feel in my gut.
I do not know, know, knoooowwwww (okurrrr) the future. I can only hope and have faith that one day I will look back and see how it all makes sense. What I do know, for sure, is that there has been a pattern of risk. In fact, many seasons of risk in my life that lead to a lot of face palms but ultimately a feeling of reward. All of my risky, scary, butterfly-filled and blind choices have given me the deepest understandings of myself, the world and my place in it. They give me the gift of being present. So, I do not know where the risks lead other than the “reward” that is the humbling and uncomfortably exciting feeling of being truly alive.
I’ve just finished an album that I poured the last 8 months of my heart and soul into. I hope to continue to pour my heart, soul, and spirit into all that comes along with it. When I chose to quit the whole professional dance trajectory to pursue music 5 years ago, I stepped into a season of risk. Now, to uproot from NYC and come down to Texas full time is just another step along that risky path. To cut my overhead and pour all of my resources into bringing this album, music videos, and full on Lorena Leigh artistic expression of a party to life. The notion to move came on quick, was unrelenting and it feels right. I prayed about it, meditated through it and drank with it till I woke up Saturday before last and knew moving’s what I had to do. And that’s what I’m looking for. The strong notions. The daring choices. The open ended answers and to be a part of the reward; the full, overwhelming and pounding heart of life that I feel with every step that I take.
I’m running through seasons of risk for the lifetime of rewards.
Love to all my peeps. Thank you for reading.