Just yesterday, I met two interesting people who I felt were truly courageous in their pursuit of their dreams.
I met the first one when I left a Midtown office building. This black woman with a London accent complimented me on my outfit. “Love the shoes,” she said with enthusiasm, “love the modern fit of your suit, love the leather envelope, I love it all!”
I smiled and said, “Well thank you so much! That’s so kind of you to say!”
“This man knows style,” she declared to her shorter and older friend.
When we got onto the elevator, I could think of nothing to say save for complimenting her on her clothes as well. “Your clothes are great too!” I said. “The studs, they’re very commanding.” She was dressed in all black, in a leather jacket with large diamond studs outlining her shoulders and arms. It surely wasn’t my cup of tea, but a good compliment deserves one in return.
“Thanks, I designed it myself! I designed the bag too.” She displayed the black leather bag and propped it up on her thigh.
“Wow, that’s fascinating,” I said. To move the conversation to a more genuine place, I asked her, “How did you get into designing?”
I forget what her reply was because the two other people she was with started talking across me, and I got distracted. So I asked her, “Where are you originally from?”
“London,” she replied.
“I’ve always wanted to go,” I admitted. “To Savile Row, for the suits.”
“Oh you’d love it there,” she said with relish.
Her friend chuckled. He asked me, “Are you married?” I told him that I wasn’t. “You two should exchange phone numbers,” he suggested. “You look so cute talking about suits and style together.” Good try, Mr Wingman. I had my heart set on someone else.
I chuckled and shrugged bashfully. Thankfully, the elevator had let us out into the lobby, and we went our separate ways. The last thing I heard her say was, “And the next stop…,” and she said it like an unstoppable woman with a mission.
It struck me that they were clearly chasing their dreams of becoming a designer of clothes. They emanated the energy of youthful free spirits. I admired her because she had the courage to live life. There I was, leaving with a new job under my belt, knowing full well that I wouldn’t have the guts to chase what I truly wanted to: to write.
EARLIER, I had met another woman who had the courage to live life. Dressed in heather grey sweats, the blonde woman with grey eyes sat on her loudspeaker in the Lexington Ave-53rd Street subway station. I was waiting for the train to go to an important meeting when I heard her. I would’ve left when the first train arrived, but she sang a song to the tune of an oldies song that I recognized. That’s when I decided to stick around for a few more songs. She announced that her CD was five dollars, and that she’d appreciate tips for photos. After I heard her singing a cover of ‘Crimson and Clover’, I decided it was worth the money to give her a shot. I walked up to her and tipped her ten dollars to support the kind of music I liked.
“Hey, thanks man,” she said. The way she spoke reminded me of a hippie from some movie I’d seen before. “You want a CD?” she asked me.
“Definitely,” I replied. She handed me a plastic sleeve with a disc and little square of paper in it that had her artist information on it. Later, I would learn that I was talking with the lovely Neysa Malone. “I’ve been looking for places with oldies music,” I said to her.
“No, yeah man, I hear you, it’s great music.”
“It’s hard to find nowadays.”
We chatted some more, and she confided in me that it was tough to make money here. “You know, I used to go to West 4, and I could make like a hundred bucks. I’m not even getting like twenty bucks right now, man.” I asked her where she usually shows up, and she listed a number of subway stations. Sensing my interest, she said, “Hey man, you know, I’m doing a show later this month. I’m doing a few covers of the oldies. Just Facebook me, I’ll let you know where and when.”
She too has the courage to live life. She put herself out there and scraped together a small living using the gift that she was given.
In contrast, I do not feel that I have such courage. Though I have my writerly aspirations, the harsh reality of finding the resources to raise a family threatens to crush my dreams of becoming a published author. The time has come in my life when I can no longer be the wastrel writer: I must make a decently-sized steady salary if I am to raise a family. I cannot pursue those heady dreams anymore. At the age of twenty-seven, it is time that I strive to make headway in a steady career with clear pathways for advancement.
Such is the typical artists’ dilemma: do you take the artists’ road and wrap your starving body with what clothes you can scrounge up, or do you take the square’s road and put on a suit to go to work every day? It takes courage and enormous faith in oneself to see one’s creative aspirations through to completion. The thought of being a single forty-year-old failed writer terrifies me. Yet, the thought of wasting the talent that I was born with—something that has been affirmed by so many of the teachers in my life—is equally terrifying. I have come to that juncture in my life where I must ask myself: do I have the courage to live life?