My life in the USABlog
Building a new life: The Beginnings
Coming to NYC, building a new life! Let’s start with the beginnings!
As mentioned before: Over the last several years I received many emails from people I know and strangers alike, telling me: You’ve got it good- you can talk! You have the perfect life! You live in NYC, you work full time as a model & dancer, you travel the world, you make good money, you are successful. Your life is perfect!
While all the things mentioned are actually correct, I am sure you have realized (those of you who have read my 2 previous blog posts at the latest:(click the link to read the posts)
second chance in life”
Why I decide to stay positive”
MY life is far away from perfect!! And that is ok!
It just creates an image of illusion that is not correct. I have to be honest, I tried to build and create this illusion. WHY? Because I thought if I don’t portrait a perfect life, people would consider me as a failure, a loser, someone “who did not make it” and so I built the illusion of perfection. (at least I tried)
While all facts mentioned are true, lot of other facts where simply left out, which distorts the whole truth.
I have heard that: Everything is possible, if you are willing to pay the price for it!
I consider that a lot of truth can be found in this little quote.
We can be fit, if we are willing to spend a lot of time in the gym and eating healthy. We can have a great relationship, if we are willing to spend time on building it and develop comprehension for us and our partner. We can be successful business wise if we spend each and every minute building a career. we can be the most flexible person we can be, if we spend time training and are dedicated to it.
Yes at the end we do need a portion of luck and “good timing” but a big part in my eyes is: are we willing to work for it, to get it?!
So when I came to NYC with 2 suitcases and nothing else (as mentioned before). And I mean LITERALLY nothing else: I had no phone, no laptop, no apartment, no friends, no family, no job, no connections, no money , simply NOTHING, NADA, NICHTS…..I knew I wouldn’t just show up and be famous. But I knew by waiting in my little room at home in Austria, things wouldn’t change. They wouldn’t lead me to where I wanted to be, what I wanted to become deep inside my soul!
I simply had to try it. My reason of doing things were always stimulated by the thought of: If I lie on my death bed and I think back at life: Do I really want to regret not having tried something, not have given it my all to make it work? I just couldn’t imagine to take the “easy road” and act against my inner feeling and passion, just to one day lie in bed wondering what if?
I wasn’t naive! I was well aware of the challenges, difficulties and changes of culture! But I simply HAD to do it. I owed it to myself.
And so I did it! I made a video applying for ballet schools in the USA (despite the fact that I had a successfully completed education and a degree in ballet and modern dance – I knew I needed a visa. And of course there is always something else to learn in dance!)
The video itself was already a reason to give up. Until then I have never done a video. (I was 19 or 20 at the time) Back in the days in Austria (yes I sound truly old 🙂 – things changed a lot since then!) I didn’t know how to cut a video what to do, how to film….and I already did want to give up trying to do the video. But I pulled through.
Eventually I found a friend of my mom who offered me help cutting the video, and I “used” my little sister (around 10 at the time) to film me (A HUGE THANK YOU FELICIA: Ich weiss es war nicht immer einfach mit mir, danke fuer deine Geduld und Hilfe) while doing required exercises and choreos again and again, until I was somehow content with it. She came with me to my ballet school that I was allowed to use, around 1 hour away from home (which in “Austria dimension” is a great distance to travel!) and we worked several Sundays all Sunday long on it (I had school Monday- Saturday incl ballet classes and rehearsals)
So challenge # 1 was concluded, and it was just the beginning of a series of challenges: Filling papers, finding the right one, explaining my intention, etc.
I heard back from 2 schools, with a positive response but both where too expensive to afford and I simply didn’t have the money (neither did my parents, with 5 other kids around) to pay for them.
In my mind I knew: I didn’t want a boyfriend, family nor the lack of money to stop me from “living my dream” so I thought there HAS to be another solution- and unconsciously and pro active I was looking for one!
I didn’t hear back from the other schools I did send my videos and applications to. So I decided to make one first and last trip to NYC by myself to “see what I can do” or at least “say good by to me dream”
Thankfully my parents paid for the flight (A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL YOUR LOVE AND BELIEVE IN ME) as a final gift so to speak…..and so I made my way to the USA in late summer of 2010! I flew there as a tourist, having in mind that I will still try all I can to somehow make it work.
I stayed at a hostel, having nearly no money to spare. All I ate was one bagel with deli cheese and tomatoes all day from west end market in Uptown Manhattan. 1) because my ED was still acting strong 2) I simply had no money for much more!
I found schools and auditioned for companies. I auditioned for a ballet company in Long Island for their nutcracker performance in December. I actually got the role but when it came to papers they refused to hire me after all because I had no valid working papers or visa at the time (and even with a student visa you are not allowed to work)
The first big hit!
Not being able to work despite getting accepted for a part was truly degrading! But I so-to-speak fell, straightened my little crown and got back up.
I was always wondering what happened to my other 2 school application, so I figured out where the 2 schools where located in Manhattan that I applied for (thanks to Internet cafes, back in the days 🙂 and went their.
I spoke to Claire at Steps on Broadway, a dance school offering all styles of dance from ballet to hip hop, as they offer international student visas (F-1) as well. I remember her name so strongly. The contact person for international students! She was super nice and when I asked about my application, that I was “just wondering what happened with my application since I have never heard back from anyone, not even with a denial/refusal notice.(is that how you call it in English?)
She asked me to wait for a second and she would look for my application. She came back around 10 minutes later, which felt like a lifetime long. During these minutes I was sweating, hoping and was devastated! I imagined my life as a dancer in that school, I thought about receiving a devastating answer, all of that and more in about 10 minutes. When she finally came back she held a white letter in her hand. “Did you get that one?” she asked. I responded that I have never got any answer what so ever, and that this was the reason why I am here- just to get an answer, to know why! And so Mrs. Claire handed me the letter. Not saying anything. I looked her deep in the eyes, trying to read her. Did she not say anything because she is about to crash my dreams, is there still a tiny little chance? All of my hope, all my dreams, everything: in this one little letter packed in a simply white envelope.
And I opened it: ……Congratulation you are accepted! is all I read!
I was shaken to my bones, I went weak in my knees and I quickly tried to collect myself, responding calmly ( at least that’s what I tried, not sure if it came across that way LOL)
“So what does that mean now?”
Claire explained that they sent the acceptance letter, surprised to never hear back from me, as they mentioned I could receive half a scholarship as well, due to my level and talent.
I asked her if the offer is still on. I will never forget what she said: She looked at her watch and responded: If you can start in 2 weeks, and get your student visa situation figured out until then, you are welcome to start here by October 4th!
I couldn’t believe what I have just heard. She went over the organization things, but I just heard half of the conversation. In my mind I did it, despite all odds I DID IT and with half of a scholarship I may even have a chance to make it happen.
I couldn’t call home to share my news, because , well I still had no phone nor anything else….
Short after, my flight back was scheduled.
To make it short: a trip that happened to say good bye to my dream with just a tiny bit of hope left, turned into the beginning of a new life, and a year full of challenges.(tbh many years full of challenges- let’s face it! 🙂
I came back home, my dad picked me up from the airport, and I shared my news , basically telling my parents: in about 2 weeks I will move to NYC. Your daughter- who causes constant headache to my poor parents is leaving, once again(I left for ballet boarding school at the age of 14, living on my own by the age of 15- more another time)
The problems and challenges started form there: When I first looked at apartment prices I thought it was a joke, but my dad jokingly said: well if you want to live next to Lady Gaga you have to pay the price!” Made sense! Therefore and because nobody would give me an apartment/room when I was trying to book it from overseas (the scam factor) I decided to stay in the hostel for 10 more days(then the money was gone for sure) and in these days I would need to figure out another solution. The housing suggested by the school was simply to expensive, in addition to pay for school and survival in NYC.
back in Austria:
I rushed to the embassy. Basically the last 2 weeks at home where filled of excitement for a new life, rushed by getting all papers, passport and all requirements on time, spending hours waiting in lines, booking flights (the last one my parents said they could afford)….and then about 2 days before my flight was scheduled ( it was a flight to NYC, with a 12 hrs overlay in Frankfurt airport….believe me to wait 12 hrs at the airport: ready for a new life, waiting for a new life, going through what you are ACTUALLY doing: nothing I would advice anyone to do 🙂
The day before my departure I realized in full what I was doing. Until then I was so worried and focused on getting everything done on time and making it work that I had no time to think too much what can go wrong. All I knew was: I want to make it work! But then everything was done, and my mind started again (therefore I was always called “wuermchen” by my former Ballet teacher, translated to “little worms”, as my teacher said you must have so many little worms in your brain – you think way to much!) and so I decided to let go – to give it the best I can – and if i fail, well at least I tried it and I can add it to all my crazy adventures during my short lived life so far (because, believe me- even before my time in the USA my life was far away from normal: more about it later 🙂
My big sister Berenice ( I don’t know what I would have done without her-once again) calmed me down, telling me the same: You did everything to make it work, now you just fly there and if you don’t like it you simply come back. Give it some time but you can come back whenever you want, how soon or not soon you decide to! It gave me inner peace, while knowing :Nothing can really happen, and to be honest nobody really believed I could make it, so there was actually no pressure, besides the one I put on myself because nobody believed it could work either way!
But because I have had a last safety net I also knew: that’s not me. I promised myself I wouldn’t return as a loser, a failure. No matter what I WILL MAKE IT WORK I have already felt the passion, the joy, the feeling of: this is were I belong to when I spent the few minutes at the new school; taking a ballet class afterwards (since it is also a public school people from “the outside” can take classes there as well)
And so the adventure of (back then) Viki in NYC started!!!…….
-TO BE CONTINUED-