When I followed the dreams I had of living and working in New York City and moved from the Midwest to the Big Apple, I envisioned a fast-paced, schedule-packed, artistic haven in the concrete jungle. My goals have always been to act, sing, and write here. So that is what I do, and this is where I am. It’s the perfect place for a dreamer like me.
My transition was rather smooth because I’d been planning and preparing since I was a child. And what I thought would be the hardest part for me proved true — missing my family.
I was teary-eyed as I hugged my dad and grandma goodbye on the streets of Midtown Manhattan. We were standing outside the high-rise building that housed my college dorm. After I watched the car disappear into city traffic, I went up to my suite and lay in my bed and cried silently – staring at the photos of family and friends I had displayed around the room. I was starting to understand that living in a big city can be incredibly lonely despite the fact you’re surrounded by millions of people. Back home, I had my family, friends, community activities, and a parish I really liked. Those are the things that always recharged my batteries and gave me the strength to keep pursuing my ambitions. I figured if I could find a spiritual community in the city as well, it would help me to have a piece of home with me at all times.
It can be daunting to find a new community for your faith when you move to a new place. And life in a big city is challenging and competitive, which sometimes puts living here at odds with the idea that a positive mind and perseverance can help you charge forward and accomplish anything. After spending some time getting to know people and adjusting to my neighborhood, I found a Catholic parish I connected with and a small women’s prayer group that has turned out to be a foundation of my spiritual life. There wasn’t a bulletin board listing or a casting call for the group, although that would’ve been super convenient. I found it through my best friend/roommate and was invited to join the startup prayer group that just happens to meet in my apartment building. (Easiest commute ever.)
The group meets once a month on Monday nights for a few hours. It’s a safe space to talk about what’s going on in your life. You’re free to say anything that’s on your mind: Your loved ones are having health issues. You’re struggling to pay your bills. You’re up for a promotion. We lift each other up, pray for one another, and vent about life struggles without judgment. It’s a comforting and encouraging community. We laugh a lot, and sometimes that’s all you need to take your mind off whatever you may be stressed about or overwhelmed with. This group of women helps me stay positive, which is what I need the most when I come up against the challenge of rushing to endless auditions while at the same time working a variety of jobs to pay the bills.
Even when we aren’t meeting in person, our small group is still present. If something comes up and you feel like you can’t wait until the next meeting, you don’t have to hold it inside. We have a group text, so we can talk even when it’s not a day we meet. Sometimes we just send each other good vibes, wish each other happy holidays, or share any unexpected situations that happen, like getting sick and going to the doctor. During the month, we communicate any prayer requests, like when an audition or performance pops up. It is profoundly reassuring to know that people truly mean it when they say they’re praying for you.
I know that for me, being part of a nurturing spiritual community will lead to good things. It’s like having my own encouraging GPS system in my car on the road to my ultimate destination. It gives me reassurance that I’m going in the right direction, that if I get lost I can be rerouted, and that someone is always there to listen and help me through any bumps in the road.
I’ve come to realize that there is no perfect religion or prayer practice. So I don’t ever have to worry if I’m doing faith “the right way” or not. We all have different spiritual needs to fulfill. For me, a small group of women in a monthly prayer group is helping meet my needs and support me as I pursue my dreams.