Written by: Kelsey Hughen
Dropping my bags onto the floor, the heaviness felt as though I could physically hold it in my hands. I looked around my pastel-colored childhood bedroom and cringed.
I had just moved back home to Austin, Texas after graduating from college, without an inkling of a job and my first serious relationship having come to a tumultuous end the week of graduation. Not exactly how I’d pictured it all unfolding. The next few months were a bit of a blur. I got a job relatively quickly, working at a beautiful resort in Austin. I was even asked to do regular gigs, singing and playing my own original songs, at the resort’s on-property restaurant. Even with these cool opportunities in front of me, my heart was still so fractured.
A few months later I found myself more restless than ever. That’s when I decided to take a trip.
“Where should I go?” I asked myself as I surfed the interwebs for ideas. And then I saw it. Sara Bareilles, my favorite singer-songwriter and someone who has inspired my own music and writing since high school, was going to be performing at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
I booked the concert ticket and then the plane ticket.
In July, 2014 I took what I called my “Freedom Trip!” A week by myself in New York City, a place I had been in love with since a family vacation there at the age of 16. Even then, I knew I would someday end up back in that city, but I couldn’t, in my wildest imaginings, have predicted the way New York City would change the entire trajectory of my life.
During that “Freedom Trip,” I felt happier than I had in a long time. I felt bold and uninhibited and, most importantly, I felt like myself again.
One morning I sat at a table outside of a West Village coffee shop, sipping an americano, pen scribbling in my journal, reflecting on the incredible trip thus far, when I felt something heavy on my foot. I looked down and saw a very rotund English Bulldog sitting atop my sneaker. His name was George. His owner, Sydney, and I struck up a conversation. Turns out she was from Texas as well! After about 20 minutes of chatting, she said, “Well, I don’t know if you’re looking for a place to stay for the month of August, but I’m looking for someone to take care of George while I’m away on business.”
It’s fascinating, the moments in life when we are presented with something so profoundly right. I knew at that moment… things were about to change!
I came back to NYC in August, 2014 and stayed for the entire month, “walking” George (it was more of a slow shuffle), exploring and frolicking around the city and meeting some pretty amazing people. Once the month ended I knew with every fiber of my being that New York was where I was supposed to be. Sydney asked me to continue George-care, letting me stay in her gorgeous West Village apartment. I left my job in Austin, packed up a few more things and made the move!
Fast “foreword” to today… I am still living in this crazy city! Sweet Georgie passed away last year, but Sydney and I continue to be life-long friends. I live on the Upper East Side now, have had just about every job imaginable, and have kept my connections with the friends I made in that initial month, while continually expanding this new-found community. I met an incredible group of Irish musicians, two of whom, have become my music partners. Johnny Cuomo (guitarist and singer-songwriter) and Leah Rankin (cellist) and I are now in an indie-folk-pop-singer-songwriter group called Hugh & Me. We are regulars at a music venue where I used to dream of one day performing - Rockwood Music Hall!
Johnny and I released our first Hugh & Me single in April called “Welcome Home” in which I wrote about my NYC journey. And last week we released the Foreword Films “Welcome Home” music video!!!
My “New York story” has been a series of choices: the choice to take the initial “Freedom Trip,” the choice to move for a bulldog and the choice to stay. None of these things could have been possible, however, without the inspiring people I’ve met along the way and the unbelievable experiences, gifts and magic this city has presented.
I now continue the journey and keep on #movingforeword!