New York City, one story at a time. Now a show on FB Watch:
“I’m just beginning art school. I’m trying to find my own voice and style. I’m doing it in a Frankenstein sort of way. I’m borrowing ideas and techniques from other artists, and then I try to change them a little. It’s hard to create something new because it feels like everything has been done before. It was easier in high school. I was just starting out so it was impossible to disappoint myself. But now I have some training and I feel pressure to make something good. It seems like my work needs to have a certain quality or it’s not worth the effort. It’s hard to get back to ‘anything goes.’”
“I have pretty bad social anxiety. But I decided that I was going to be more outgoing when I went to college. So I joined the Facebook group for incoming freshmen, and I sent a generic ‘hey’ to everyone. Almost everyone gave me a generic ‘hey’ back, but he kept responding. Then he added me on Snapchat. He started sending me selfies and I responded with pictures of my living room. He wanted to FaceTime, but I hate seeing my own face in the corner so we just talked on the phone instead. When school finally started, we went out together with a group of people. We didn’t make much eye contact but we did stand next to each other the entire time. A month later we were in class and I was making fun of him for not using soap when he washes his hands. And he said: ‘If I use soap, will you date me?’ And I said ‘yes.’ So here we are.”
“After graduating I worked as an industrial engineer. I spent five years designing presses for all kinds of factories. But it got too predictable. I was spending eight hours in front of a computer every day. It wasn’t enough for me. My mind was always somewhere else. Engineering has never just been a job for me. It’s what makes me feel alive. It has to be something I struggle with. If I find the answer too easily, it has no value for me. So I went back to school and got my PhD in biomechanics, and now I’m doing research in exoskeletons. My lows are now lower. I never feel smart enough. I’m constantly discovering people who are doing similar or better work. But my highs are also higher. Because every time I discover a solution, it feels like I’m bringing the future closer."
“I’m from a small town in the mountains of northern Georgia. We’re famous for apples. I moved here a week ago to try to be an actor. Right now I’m applying for waiter positions. I’ve got a little crypto currency and $5,000 saved from working at the carwash, so I figure I can make it for at least a year. I did have one major role back in Georgia. It was the guy’s first film. I had a big death scene where a ghost blew some powder on my face and melted it off. I’m really just taking all the jobs I can get right now so I can build a reel. It’s mostly unpaid stuff. I booked a music video for Sunday that I found on Facebook. Don’t ask me the artist or genre. All it said was: ‘Have to be comfortable being painted.’ Whatever that means.”
“When I went to college, I thought about joining one of those Asian student organizations. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go ‘all in’ on being Asian. I had to ask myself how integral it was to my identity. I’ve never been very traditional. I grew up in a white town on Long Island. If I described myself in three adjectives, ‘Asian’ wouldn’t be one of them. But on the other hand, the world is going to see race anyway. I view myself as Chinese, but Asian is the first thing people see. So if it’s how everyone sees you, should you see yourself the same way?”
“When I’m home, nobody will talk to me. It’s like I am dead. I don’t like quiet because then I have nothing. So I ride the train into the city. Compared to home, the city is like heaven. There are a million people you can ask for help. There are people to help you up the stairs. And there are so many smells. I love the smell of food. Right now I’m trying to memorize my way to Carnegie Hall. I like to go to theaters and museums where my mind can be nourished. Sometimes I can hear tourists talking about the exhibits. Sometimes I hear college students talking to each other and it makes me feel younger. It makes me feel like I’m still alive in this world.”
“We’ve been married for almost twenty years. We have two children. But he suffers from depression and self-medicates with alcohol. He’ll quit drinking for stretches at a time, but he keeps falling back into it. So I have to support our family on a single income. And I’m just so tired of keeping him uplifted all the time. I don’t feel emotionally supported. There’s no physical intimacy. But I can’t bring myself to leave. He’s a great dad when he’s sober. And I know that our family might be the only thing holding him together. But I can’t help but wonder: ‘Am I missing out on an amazing relationship?’ Especially when I feel tempted at a work party. I just miss that feeling of connection. But my husband hasn’t crossed any red lines. He hasn’t hit me. He hasn’t cheated. If I found out he cheated, it would be so easy. And it’s gotten to the point where I almost hope he would.”
“Five years ago I had a bout with breast cancer. I didn’t catch it very early. I had to get chemo, radiation, and a mastectomy. I’d never felt so tired in my entire life, but it didn’t just throw me off physically. It made me really, really sad. I lost all my enthusiasm. I lost my positivity. Before it happened, I had so many dreams. I had been thinking of starting a business. Or maybe writing stories again. It seemed like I could accomplish anything if only I did the things that I was supposed to do. But all that disappeared after the cancer. I got much more self-conscious. I started thinking: ‘If bad things can happen at any time—why even bother?’ So I’ve been in a bit of a rut these last few years. I’ve been floating along as an office manager. But I recently lost that job, and I’m thinking this might be my chance to go after my dreams again. I’d love to work with young folks. I’d love to write books and stories for children. And I know it sounds crazy, but I really want to open a bookshop.”
“I came to New York when I was twenty years old. At night I’d sleep at the YMCA, and during the day I’d go around to all the fashion houses and show them my portfolio. I was so shy that I could barely muster up the courage. I’d stand outside for thirty minutes before I even walked in the door. But somehow I got a job as an illustrator for Oleg Cassini. He was a major designer in the movies. I’d been working there for six months when he asked me to sketch a collection of five dresses. They were just rough outlines to show where the seaming would be. He never told me what they were for. Then a few weeks later I was riding on a train, and I saw my sketches in the newspaper. They were for Jackie Kennedy to wear in the White House.”
“I’m producing a podcast right now and I keep coming home pissed off. I dread getting emails from my collaborators. I get angry every time they disagree with my approach. It’s just that I want to feel proud of what I create. I want everything that I make to be a reflection of myself. And that’s impossible when you’re working with collaborators. So I have to get better at separating myself from my work. Every project doesn’t need to represent me as a human. The reality is that the podcast is bigger than me. There’s a lot of money involved. There’s a lot of people involved. And for some reason I’m the only one that’s pissed off. If I keep saying that the problem is everyone else, and one by one they’re saying the problem is me—then it’s probably me.”
“My daughter is always asking me to play with her Barbie dolls. I try to tell her that I’m just going to watch but she starts begging me. So I try to do the man stuff. You know… fix the roof, move the furniture, maybe wash the Barbie car.”
“Annie had a tantrum because our magazine had a Fun Zone with puzzles and I did all the puzzles. So she started stomping around but Mommy got sick of it so Annie went to time out in our room and turned out all the lights. I tried to go inside but she kicked her boots at me. I waited for ten minutes and then I went in quickly and asked her to help me on a puzzle where you had to find all the differences. And that made her happy again because Annie loves puzzles."