I never wanted to move to New York City.
That’s 100% true. I am an actor and I never wanted to live in New York.
I started acting when I was in middle school and from that point on, I just knew I wanted to be an actor. I loved storytelling from a very young age, so when I was 17, I auditioned for college acting programs all across the country, avoiding two places: California and New York.
I was scared, quite frankly. Moving to NYC at 18 felt overwhelming; I felt young and unprepared. So right from the start of my acting career, I was like, New York is a no-go, thank you, goodbye.
I ended up going to Missouri for my undergrad degree and then in a wildly brave move, went to Glasgow, Scotland to do my graduate degree.
I loved Scotland. I would move back there in an instant. But while in Scotland, I realized that it would be harder than I had initially thought to be a working actor in the UK as a United States citizen. Not impossible, but harder, and I was faced with my decision: if I couldn’t stay in the UK, where in the States did I want to move to?
I begrudgingly chose New York City. And as one does, I fell in love with her.
I loved the energy, the constant pulse of something always happening. I loved seeing theatre in warehouses and bars and basements. I loved that everything was open all the time. I loved the diverse food options, I loved being able to go to a Broadway show on any given Tuesday. I loved to see TV shows filming on my street. I loved that I found a community of people that became dear friends. I really loved New York once I gave it a chance. I loved that even though it was exhausting and I got seasonal depression every winter, I could call myself a working New York City actor.
Enter March 2020.
It’s almost indescribable, the grief I felt watching my industry shut down, but I will try to put words to it. Almost instantly as the city battered down its hatches, theatres shut their doors, film production stopped, and actors found themselves not only unemployed but with very very few options to get a new job in their industry. As a creative, to be faced with the unknown of ‘when will I perform again’ was pretty familiar, but the larger question of ‘when is our industry coming back’ was a different level of loss and fear.
I realized at that time that I had wound up my identity and my professions very closely. It was hard for me to see who ‘Rachel’ was outside of my acting career. I had been acting consistently since age eight and, for the first time in my life, was faced with the question: what if I can’t act? What if it takes years for me to get back onstage? What if this can no longer be the way I identify in the world anymore? What then?
I spent about 1.5 years taking a good hard look at my internalized beliefs about worth, identity, and what it meant to have a career as an actor and creative. It was in 2020 that I started working with an empowerment coach, Nikol Rogers, and during that time, she supported me immensely as I sorted through different avenues of creativity and learned how to integrate everything I loved into my professional life; not just performing, but yoga & meditation, nervous system regulation techniques, teaching, and writing as well.
I saw both myself and New York City change drastically throughout those years, and in the fall of 2021, I was faced with another big question:
Did I want to live in New York City anymore?
My gut reaction answer was no, and holy shit did that scare the poop outta me. Surprising, considering I never wanted to end up here in the first place, eh?
But under the surface, it was not so surprising at all. Because for years and years I heard and told myself these stories:
“The place to be for an actor is NYC or LA.”
“I have to be in a major market to be successful.”
“If I leave NYC, I’ve failed as an actor.”
“The most talented people live in NYC or LA. If I’m not there, I’m not as talented.”
Any of those sound familiar?
Even though I had always been scared to live in NYC or LA, I had internalized these beliefs over time, and the prospect of leaving brought them bubbling to the surface.
I remember a session I had with Nikol in early 2022, when these thoughts were front and center. My boyfriend and I had discussed leaving the city and were planning a trip to decide where we might want to end up. Nikol was one of the first people I told about our potential move and I shared all the fear and stories that were coming up around leaving. She brought me back to my needs and asked what I needed from a new home, a new environment. As we talked more and more about what I needed and what that might look and feel like, I could feel the fear easing.
I realized that these stories in my head weren’t true. I could be an actor and creative anywhere I went because that’s just who I am. There is no city that makes a successful actor, and I could define success for myself. What was true for me now was the fact that New York City wasn’t meeting my needs anymore. My mental health was poor. I felt overstimulated and dis-regulated. I wasn’t happy. I needed to make a change, but I was scared.
Nikol reminded me that it is a loving act to honor my needs. I could acknowledge NYC for meeting my needs until it couldn’t anymore, until I changed and had different needs for my environment and my life. Reframing the move as an act of total self-love reassured me and grounded me in the truth that change is constant. My needs and desires and passions will continue to change throughout my life. It is my duty to honor the fear and old beliefs that come up in periods of transition, and also to love and trust myself enough to take aligned action despite them.
That list of needs for my new space that Nikol and I brainstormed became the basis for a two-week-long trip across the country. It gave me the confidence to go into each city we visited open and curious, and after that trip, my boyfriend and I were confident in choosing our new home: Denver, Colorado.
Now, instead of fear and self-doubt, I am filled with excitement for this next chapter. I am confident in my ability to create the life I dream of by listening to my needs and honoring them, and I trust that I don’t need to control my artistic path. It will unfold exactly as it is supposed to.