Down the Rabbit-Hole

I feel a bit like Alice sometimes, and New York City might as well be Wonderland. There are quite a few Mad Hatters (just take a stroll through Penn Station after midnight); a good many rabbits always rushing to get to a very important date (especially down on Wall Street); the occasional Queen of Hearts, power-hungry and self-important but with deep-seated insecurities and always quick to shout, “Off with their heads!” at the first sign of trouble; a bevy of Cheshire Cats, hypnotic with their shining, dentist-whitened grins; dozens of Mad Tea Parties on any given night of the week (particularly in the Meatpacking District); and now and then a wise, hookah-smoking caterpillar, ready and willing to dispense sage advice (only $10 for a palm reading, $20 for tarot).

I jumped down the rabbit-hole of my own accord, chasing after that furry white creature wearing a waistcoat and carrying a watch. However I, unlike Alice, had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into. Even so, when I emerged from the long tunnel after drinking from the vial marked “DRINK ME” and finishing every last bite of the cake marked “EAT ME”, I was taken aback by the new world that surrounded me. To be clear, this is what usually happens when you enter a new life and embark upon a new adventure; it’s every bit what you expected, and at the same time, every bit what you hadn’t expected.

I’ve been creating a life in this fantastic, terrifying, beautiful, ugly, amazing, gluttonous, perfect, downright foolhardy city for almost two years. I have to admit I haven’t loved every minute of it (it can be hard to find your footing here sometimes), but it is the 100% honest-to-God truth that there is nowhere else I would rather be. My life here has taken so many twists and turns (and not always good ones) that I can no longer even see the point where I started. But it’s a blessing to be in a place where I can dream, be inspired, cross paths with the most incredible people, face fears head-on daily, fall down, get up, get lost, and keep going. And if I happen to wander onto a dead-end street, or while walking down Seventh Avenue realize I’m going the wrong way and have to coolly change direction and pretend I did it on purpose, well, that’s okay too.

It’s amazing what you open yourself up to when you follow your heart and boldly go in the direction of your dreams, your most lofty ambitions and desires. I’m learning that there is really nothing too difficult, nothing too impossible, nothing that can’t be done. (“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’ “) There are quite a few things in my life now that, two years ago, I would have believed to be impossible. There are so many exciting happenings in the world of Jessy Tomsko that I can’t wait to share in the coming weeks and months, believe you me (!), but for now to avoid speaking too soon, suffice it to say that “impossible” things don’t seem so impossible anymore. Patience, however, is key, and it’s a virtue I’m constantly nurturing and hope to one day actually possess. Happiness NOW is the most important thing, no matter what your life looks like, because without choosing to be happy now, we’ll never get anywhere and we’ll never be as joyful as our spirits intend to be.

So here I am, walking in Wonderland the best way I know how. If I shrink to only ten inches high, or grow taller than Robert Wadlow (just Google him), I’m still going to keep on walking this path. (” ‘-so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ added Alice as an explanation. ‘Oh you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat. ‘If you only walk long enough.’ “) We’re all walking some sort of path, but are we enjoying our journey? Are we noticing the greenery, the talking Dormouse, the painted red roses in the Queen’s croquet-ground? It’s more likely that we are too busy planning out where we’re headed next, what we’re doing later, choosing which reality we think is the best one for us, thinking we know exactly who we are and who we will be.

Am I the same person I was last year? Yesterday? An hour ago? “I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”

The rabbit-hole does indeed seem to go on forever.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Words and Music by Jessy Tomsko

I was recently organizing my apartment. Getting rid of clutter, old receipts, junk mail, unoccupied shoe boxes, and such, when I came across a few poems of mine. Some of the first poems I ever wrote and was so proud of that I took the time to type them up on my dad’s old Zeos computer somewhere around 1993 or 1994. As I read over this miniature collection of “Jessy Tomsko’s Early Works”, I couldn’t help but laugh as I remembered how my nine-year-old heart had swelled with pride at the completion of these little stanzas, thinking that surely I had created masterpieces akin to Mozart or Emily Dickinson (I was a Dickinson fan at a young age – just another reason why so many of my classmates thought I was a geek).

What I’m trying to say is that I have always been searching for ways to express myself, for as long as I can remember. Those methods of expression were most often found in music: singing mainly, but also in playing the piano, taking dance lessons, and even studying the violin for a while. I also found some creative outlets in acting, painting, and drawing (even if I was terrible; God bless my mom and dad for hanging my art on the fridge anyway). But when I discovered the sheer beauty of words, I had unearthed a brand new medium – I began scribbling feverishly in journals and diaries equipped with little brass locks to keep my innermost thoughts out of my sister’s grasp (some of which I still own but somewhere along the line misplaced the keys….oops); writing plays I would coerce the neighborhood kids to act out with me on our quiet suburban jungle gyms; penning short story after story in the grand hopes that they would someday become a 500-page novel, my own personal Atlas Shrugged.

When I was seventeen, I found one of my uncle’s acoustic guitars under a bed in my grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh. A dusty old Sigma in a case with a retro bright green plush interior – very 60’s, very Austin Powers, very cool, and seemed a likely candidate for storing, in decades past, something else in addition to picks and strings….. Anyway, I decided then and there that I just had to have it, even though I had never so much as held a guitar in my life. There was just something about its being left in the dark for so many years, its secret potential hidden in those strings, its probable sadness at being mislaid, forgotten. It HAD to make music again, and I was determined to be the one to do it. Here it was! Like a long-lost friend I hadn’t even known I was missing. Here was the answer; at last, the vehicle for my pent-up thoughts, musings, griefs, ponderings, loves, losses. Everything in me would enter the world through this lonely little instrument that would accompany me on my journey. We would help each other.

Fast forward one year, and I had done what I set out to do: I wrote my first song. Then I promptly forgot it, no doubt because my perfectionist personality deemed it mediocre at best. But it was a start! I have never been one to get discouraged, and I kept trying, kept writing, kept searching for inspiration (which, incidentally, is there in every breath, every whisper, every time you set foot outside your door), and now, nine years later (ok, do the math, how old am I??) I’ve amassed quite a collection of original songs. Sometimes they are a long time coming and require re-write upon re-write, and other times they pour out of me like water off a cliff, finished nearly as quickly as they began. The point of this petite histoire is that you never know when and where you will find your vehicle, your medium, the thing that makes you jump up and yell, “Yes! THIS is what I cannot live without!” For me, when I had found the words and the music and put them together, I was completely hooked.

So as I finished organizing my desk drawers and under-bed boxes, I folded up the old poems and put them back where I found them. How silly they seem now, how inconsequential, the work of a child, when at the time I wrote them they were extraordinary, super-human even! It makes me wonder if in twenty years or so I will look back on what I’m writing now and think “Well that’s nice. Cute. Good try.” Maybe. Maybe not.

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