Thank You For Your Service, Cleveland: Part 1


My friend Branden and I had just finished attending our new Monday rituals, Musical Mondays. Where we go to a bar and sing aloud to Broadway show tunes. That night, the lead actor in Kinky Boots was hosting the event, and it was so much fun. We were singing at the top of our lungs to “Defying Gravity” and “I Am Telling You…” and so many other great songs. Branden and I decided to roam around Times Square and goof around. Times Square is a nightmare during the day but turns magical in the middle of the night. Barely anyone is around, the lights are twinkling the skies, and you feel like the city is yours. I remember thinking that night, “my life is so awesome.” 

It’s been four years since I moved to Cleveland. Four years I never expected to happen to my life. But I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Here’s exactly how I ended up here, losing sight of who I was and my dream, and finding myself in an unexpected home. 

The night after hanging out with Branden, I headed home with the biggest smile on my face. I had just made great connections in the journalism world and finally felt like I was on the right path for my career. My friends were great; we were doing so many fun activities together and creating unforgettable memories. Just the weekend prior, Branden, Jared and I spent the entire morning at Brunch sipping bottomless mimosas until 2 pm and then twirled in Central Park while watching Jazz performers. (I also may have been seen trying to eat a burger from the ground to sober up and unsuccessful couldn’t make it happen, very David Hasselhoff of me.) But my living situation was a nightmare. I lived with extended family, and that evening we clashed very hard for a reason I’m not entirely sure of, but I was told that I could no longer live there that evening. Which meant I didn’t have a place to live. I was working part-time as a hostess at a trendy restaurant in the Lower East Side, working events on the weekend and freelance writing on the side, apparently not making enough to survive a living in New York City. 

I still had family in the Bronx, my elderly aunt, and uncle who were very accepting and took me in after I spent a night in Penn Station. They were more than happy to allow me to live with them until I got my foot on the ground but I didn’t want to be a burden on them. My choices were: to couch surf, live with my aunt and uncle or move to Cleveland and live with my sister.  I decided it was best to live with my sister in Cleveland. I was devastated. Everything I knew, loved, working towards, I had to leave it. And to a place, I didn’t even know where to spot on a map (NYC Public Schools taught me everything except for geography). 

I remember packing with my father and telling him I had finally hit rock bottom. My father who moved here from Trinidad and hustled to make a better life for himself, immediately told me I didn’t know what real rock bottom looked like. At the time, I understood his sentiment but also wanted him to enable my dramatic moment. But he was right; this was a smooth transition for me. Although I had one night where I didn’t have a place to sleep, I had family members who opened their doors for me and allowed me to stay with them. Not many people can say that have that.  

I moved to Cleveland. Immediately I became depressed. I stopped talking to my friends. I started to self-destruct which led me to lose both of my freelancing gigs that I had for over a year. I worked in hospitality in Downtown Cleveland and hated it. I couldn’t believe this is how my life turned out. I didn’t mesh well with my coworkers; their interests were not aligned with what I liked etc. I was starting to lose a sense of who I was. I didn’t fit into the Midwest lifestyle. Dare I say it was a culture shock. I did meet one person at my job, Ray, who enjoyed a lot of the same music I listened to that made working and living in Cleveland not so bad. 

I missed my old life. The fast pace living, the glamour, the late night girl talks, pizza, I missed it all.

I really just didn’t want to work in hospitality but I couldn’t find a job in communications. Scene Magazine said they didn’t pay freelancers and I wasn’t about that free labor life so I was stuck.

That summer I ended up falling in love with a coworker. It was so unexpected and not what I was used to, but it was exciting. I had previously dated guys who were younger than me; he was older. I liked the music/artsy guys, and he was a chef. I was in my first adult relationship, and it was nice to be with someone who genuinely cared for you as you do for them. We had our ups and downs, but for the most part, we were committed and created new memories with one another. We spent holidays with each other’s families; we took little weekend trips, we even adopted a dog together. After being together for three years, it seemed like we were on the path to settling down, marriage, living together, and kids. 

To be continued...