May 18th, 2015

If I Can Make It Here




The last time I performed was in 2002. It was a small cabaret show on Restaurant Row in New York City with an audience containing some of those very same PCDSers who had shared my first childhood stage. After the show, a newer friend said to me, “I don’t think anyone could truly understand who you are until they’ve seen you on stage.”

I offered so many different reasons as to why I stopped singing, but I don’t think I ever uttered the simplest one: it hurt. That big voice had strained my vocal cords, I was living with chronic tonsillitis, I was almost always in pain, and I often got sick. I saw an ENT in 2002, and he told me I’d need surgery very soon. I put it off…..until 2014. (It was a simple procedure. But there were complications. I was in recovery for 2 months. I told a small handful of people.)

When the doctors confirmed what I already knew, that I was losing one of the most cherished things in my life, I did what any headstrong 20-something would do: I said I didn’t care.



For better or worse, I had found a new “stage.” At some point after high school, I started becoming more aware of aesthetics. I soaked up information about fashion, beauty, interior design, and, perhaps most crucially, retail. When I had trouble choosing a major in college, a close friend said, “Well, you’re really good at getting dressed.” I hated the notion that my only gift to the world was my ability to clothe myself, and it would be about 10 years before I realized this was both a compliment and a career option. I started working at the Anthropologie in Westport, CT in the late 90s and ultimately left Yale to work there full-time. I transferred to their 16th & 5th store in Manhattan, and, to a certain extent, the rest of that story is a fairly well-documented history.

5fit sessions

I also can’t tell my New York story without mentioning writing. One fall Sunday in 2002, I was enjoying a Magnolia cupcake and ventured to the used-book store (now a Book Marc) across the street. I bought a copy of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s More Now Again and decided that I, too, wanted to write my story. {I did. My friend Michael Troy had it bound for me, put it in a Barnes & Noble bag, and surprised me with it one day. That’s as far as the publishing of that particular manuscript ever went.}


I ultimately went back to Columbia to finish my degree in English, took a number of creative writing classes there, and began to develop a voice that is now becoming a signature. Oh, and then there was that little law school moment.


New York wasn’t just about training, though. The New York that I called home was a sigh of weirdo relief. It allowed me to embrace my creative rhythm. I wore what felt natural. I learned names like Marc Jacobs. I built displays in my apartment like the ones I coveted from store windows. I took photography classes and discovered my love of a dark room. I learned about the notion of linking a concept to a visual. I began using more than just my words or my voice to express myself, and I spent my time with other inspired 20-somethings who made it seem like we were running the city. I think that’s what the New York years were for me, a time when working unconventional hours or staying up all night on a project was as ordinary as throwing on a choker, a dark lip, and a chunky heel.

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So, today I nominate my New Yorkers: Josh Prim, Sally Franson, Colin Quigley, fully aware that you’re not going to do this but bringing you in anyway, because my New York wouldn’t have been my New York without you.

In terms of attaching photos, it gets harder as we get away from childhood, when parents or pros documented our lives, and before smartphones. So, these are some examples of a girl just becoming aware of her desire to play with color, fashion, interior design, and feats of strength involving hangers. And I threw in a photo from shortly after I woke up from surgery, because maybe this journey isn’t just about what we create but also about what we lose along the way and the sacrifices we make in order to keep creating.


And because the moment after waking up from surgery, I begged for a sketchpad, drafted 140 characters or less, hashtagged, and took a selfie.

Posted at 10:50 pm by rachel in: After Wonderland

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