New York City, particularly Manhattan and Greenwich village, is a place famous and beloved for its role as the promised land of artists, writers, and musicians across contemporary space and time. With its truly incomparable legacy of creativity, maybe you’re wondering why I, an artist, writer, musician, and general drifter removed myself from its ecosystem. Well, inquisitive one, I sometimes find myself wondering the same thing. With my time at NYU Tisch having come to a close in May of 2017, I was faced with a tough decision between staying in NYC and moving back to my beloved Cleveland. As much as I wanted to convince myself that the two were equally weighted in my heart, especially because I had been a playwriting major, the right decision about where to move became crystal clear and surprisingly simply. Here are my top five reasons for my return to Believeland (in no particular order).
So it’s obvious that land value in NYC is absurd, but more importantly to me, the kind of life you can live on a less than $30k yearly salary (because you know that’s the life I’m rocking) is almost unthinkably superior. On top of that, all the other bougie, millennial-targeting things that Manhattan and Brooklyn boast (cafes, clubs…even avocado things) are WILDLY more accessible financially. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, 900 dollars a month gets you a bedroom. In Cleveland, 900 dollars a month gets you an entire two-bedroom apartment.
I’m not sure when it became an unspeakable “want” for creative people to want to be near their family, but to be honest, that was a big component for me. Maybe I’m just lucky in that I’m close with my parents, cousins, grandparents, etc., but I was sick of feeling like I was isolating myself from my family for the sake of being perceived as a “serious artist.” I’m pretty sure I can go to trivia night at On Tap in Stow-Kent and still have a happy creative inner life.
3. People actually give a shit about your work
A huge element that would haunt and stress me while in New York was the sheer oversaturation of creative work being created and the rat race of getting it in front of people. Let me be clear, I am in no way disparaging the work ethic of those who are motivated by the intensity of the city, but the theatrical scene of Cleveland (for example, the intensive new play development program at the Cleveland Public Theatre) is hungry for new writers constantly and provides the tools necessary to get your start. And honestly, you don’t need to pay the New York rent to apply to NYC-based programs.
One thing I’ve noticed with Clevelanders (that I’ve known both for a little and a lot of time) is the sheer amount of earnestness with which they move about in the world. Maybe it’s just the small-town mentality of Ohioans, but compared to New Yorkers (for whom ironic detachedness is all too often a neutral state), Clevelanders can feel like fairytale characters. I guess for some people that could be off-putting, but I’m starting to realize I might just be cut from that same hyper-earnest cloth. The kindness of Clevelanders is a huge draw for me.
5. It’s home.
I remember listening to an interview with a writer who was explaining her love for her unconventional ranch home out west. Having a bi-coastal career, it didn’t necessarily make sense for her to live there, but she described how whenever she steps off a homebound flight she takes in a deep breath of that big-sky-country-air and feels home in her bones. That’s how I feel about Cleveland. In all my written work at NYU Tisch, Cleveland was always at the center as its setting. I often felt like life only felt real when I was back at home, drinking a Christmas Ale with those who have known me the longest. I’m a sucker for the This Is Cleveland branding. I’m a sucker for Cavaliers hype videos. They truly make me happy, and while choosing happiness is sometimes scary, I’m proud to be a Cleveland born, Cleveland based artist.