By Melissa Francis
By the time I left for college, I had already lived a whole lifetime, and exhausted a full career. I had grown up in front of the camera, selling cheeseburgers for McDonald’s and Barbie’s for Mattel. I was orphaned in a tragic wagon accident and then adopted by Michael Landon on Little House on Prairie, and then orphaned again and not adopted on another NBC show that lasted only one season. I was eighteen, and I was spent.
I packed my bags for Harvard and threw any leftover scripts in the recycling bin. When I graduated, I moved around small markets as a news reporter and anchor, but I was never truly home until I settled in New York - the only city where you can become a native. By definition, that shouldn’t be possible. You’re either born somewhere or you’re not. You can’t control that. But that’s what makes New York unique. It can be in your bones at birth and you don’t even know it.
Like the first time I got shoved on the subway.
“Move your skinny ass out of my way!” a woman a full head taller and significantly bulkier than me said as she smacked me with her shopping bags.
I took a stagger step back to regain my balance. She was in the right of course - I hadn’t allowed enough room for her to exit before I tried to cram myself in the already overstuffed train car. But I was hardly offended. First of all, in my universe, “skinny” is a compliment. Plus she had spoken her mind and moved on. I’m sure I was forgotten before she even hit the street. This is a town where you air your grievances, even use your shopping bags to make your point, and keep going on your way. No hard feelings. How refreshing. I can embrace that kind of honesty.
And like a lot of New Yorkers, I came to the city weighed down by a ton of baggage. I have finally opened up those weighty bags in Diary of Stage Mother’s Daughter, the story of the family I was born into, which came to a shocking, explosive end. The kind of end that would make anyone move a few thousand miles away and start over. Turns out, New York is the ideal place to do that. A painful history just makes you that much tougher and grittier – maybe even lends a little street cred. Here, I can build myself into whatever I want to be. Like so many of my neighbors, being clever, ambitious, determined, and strong carries you a long way.
I’ve reinvented myself. I’m a FOX Business Network anchor, an author, a wife and a mother. And, who knows, I may have to reinvent myself again someday. But I love my career, I love my family, and I thank New York City for being the backdrop that has made and continues to make that possible – heckling, flailing shopping bags, and all. •