This is sheer brilliance from Zadie Smith.
Across the way from our apartment—on Houston, I guess—there’s a new wall ad. The site is forty feet high, twenty feet wide. It changes once or twice a year. Whatever’s on that wall is my view: I look at it more than the sky or the new World Trade Center, more than the water towers, the passing cabs. It has a subliminal effect. Last semester it was a spot for high-end vodka, and while I wrangled children into their snowsuits, chock-full of domestic resentment, I’d find myself dreaming of cold martinis.
Before that came an ad so high-end I couldn’t tell what it was for. There was no text—or none that I could see—and the visual was of a yellow firebird set upon a background of hellish red. It seemed a gnomic message, deliberately placed to drive a sleepless woman mad. Once, staring at it with a newborn in my arms, I saw another mother, in the tower opposite, holding her baby. It was 4 AM. We stood there at our respective windows, separated by a hundred feet of expensive New York air.
The tower I live in is university accommodation; so is the tower opposite. The idea occurred that it was quite likely that the woman at the window also wrote books for a living, and, like me, was not writing anything right now. Maybe she was considering antidepressants. Maybe she was already on them. It was hard to tell. Certainly she had no way of viewing the ad in question, not without opening her window, jumping, and turning as she fell. I was her view. I was the ad for what she already had.
But that was all some time ago. Now the ad says: Find your beach. The bottle of beer—it’s an ad for beer—is very yellow and the background luxury-holiday-blue. It seems to me uniquely well placed, like a piece of commissioned public art in perfect sympathy with its urban site. The tone is pure Manhattan. Echoes can be found in the personal growth section of the bookstore (“Find your happy”), and in exercise classes (“Find your soul”), and in the therapist’s office (“Find your self”). I find it significant that there exists a more expansive, national version of this ad that runs in magazines, and on television.
Well, it’s happened again. It’s been another year since the last life-altering event that made me ponder aloud: “I wonder where I’ll be a year from now.” That “event” this time being the loss of a job. I can’t even wrap my head around how much has changed. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to process what a year can bring. You’d think after doing it twenty-three times, I wouldn’t be so shell shocked. But, alas, cue the soundtrack of Rent and leave me and my nostalgia be. Here are some things I’ve learned this year:
1) Having money in the bank is vital. I will never again not have a nest egg or outstanding credit card debt. I recently paid off all my credit cards and it was the most exhilarated I’ve felt in months.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I was always someone who felt like I could do things on my own. I never had a problem asking for help on smaller scale things but I came across a lot of things this year that were too big to battle by myself. Whether it’s needing to talk to a doctor or asking a mentor for job advice, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be weak sometimes. It’s okay to fall down and say, “I can’t get up alone.”
3) Getting your heart ripped out and stepped on has one silver lining: it is a great diet. Getting dumped was a fantastic catalyst for going to the gym and eating better (well, slightly better…). Twenty-two pounds lighter than last year and still workin’.
4) Throwing yourself into your job is so worth it. I lost my best friend this year and that was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. That said, having an awesome company to spend 40+ hours a week in made things seem not so grim. Yeah, my coworkers don’t understand all my quirks just yet but they’re great people and the more I get to know them, the happier I find myself in the mornings on my way in to the office.
5) You can only ever trust yourself. This is a big one and I feel like I’m really only writing this out to remind myself because I so frequently forget it. There’s really no certainty in any facet of life and knowing that makes things complicated. I’ve always been an open and honest person and this year has just strengthened my desire to keep being that person. Between jobs and friends and boyfriends, I’ve learned that there’s always something someone’s not telling you and there’s always things going on behind closed doors.
6) Family is more important than anything else. This needs no explanation.
7) Love yourself. Now I know what you’re thinking. I know this is one of those clichéd #basic white girl things that’s used in fitness videos and tampon commercials. But after spending a year on a roller coaster of emotions, I can safely say that when all is said and done, you just have you. And if you don’t love who you are, how can you expect someone else to? I lost who I was this year. I was lucky enough to have had a very privileged childhood to early adulthood. This year showed me the only first-hand adversity I’ve ever known. Like a cold bucket of water to the face, I’m finally aware of how harsh life is. So, as trite as it sounds, I’m working on finding me again.
8) You have to let things go. This is another one I’m writing more as a reminder than as a thing I’ve newly learned. I feel things on a massive scale and I hold on to them because I love being passionate. I’ve learned this year that you can’t let the things you can’t change get to you because they will eat you alive. As the hardest lesson I’ve learned this year, I’m still working on this but, hey, maybe next year I’ll be an expert.
Posted in Essays, Life, Writing
Tagged a year in the life, advice, awkward, corgi gifs, corgis, essays, exercise, family, gifs, harry potter, harry potter gifs, help, hermione, jenna hamilton gifs, keeping up with the kardashians, kim kardashian, kim kardashian gif, let it go, life, lion king, mad men, office gifs, real housewives, real housewives gif, rent, seasons of love, the office, things i learned, writing
We’ve all seen the movies, heard the songs, and read the novels romanticizing the “greatest city in the world.” New York City is the Big Apple, the City, the Melting Pot where lives from all over converge to create a bustling metropolis of wonder, excitement and success. And aren’t those components what make the grand cliche of New York? Isn’t that why everyone has grown to revere this place? Well, it’s not for me and I’m willing to bet it isn’t for a lot of you too.
I want to be in New York because it is a city of brilliance. The city is bursting with inimitable musicians and engineers and journalists and politicians who defy all preconceived notions of what it means to be “intelligent.” It doesn’t matter whether you’re an Ivy or community college graduate or perhaps even sans degree, this city measures your brains by your brawn. If you have the drive, the passion, and the savvy, this city doesn’t tell you “no.”
I want to be in New York because it’s a hub. It’s a short LIRR ride from my home on the south shore of Nassau County. Seeing mom and dad is as simple as checking a train schedule. There are four airports within an hour from midtown. There are trains and buses and taxis in a constant state of flux. You’re never stuck here. One might say that knowing there is a way out of the city at any given moment makes it a melancholy and transitory sort of place. Another might say that it’s the most inviting sort of place because there’s also always a way back in. How full is your glass?
I want to be in New York because it’s what I want. I love this city for the reasons that are trite and naive and arrogant. I love being a regular at that restaurant on MacDougal and reading in a park while some stranger dances the merengue for money in front of me. I love bar-hopping in the East Village and spending half my paycheck at happy hour. I love going on terrible dates that end in tears and my friends pick up the pieces with a raucous night of karaoke. I love being able to have a job doing what I love, even though I’m struggling to pay off my student loans.
Being an overly typical twenty-something starting her life in New York is what I want. It doesn’t matter whether you’re of the crowd who thinks this life that I want is banal or guileless. It doesn’t matter if you’re of the crowd who thinks this life is splendid or admirable. The ineffability of the city of New York is the same as the ineffability of my love for New York. So, maybe why I want to be in New York is best said by a fellow New Yorker: “I don’t have any reasons. I left them all behind. I’m in a New York state of mind.”
This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.
Posted in Essays, Life, Travel
Tagged billy joel, cliches, LIRR, manhattan, new york, new york city, The Big Apple, travel, writing
I can’t sleep because my heart is beating too loudly. The beats are steady and average but with every passing second, the cacophony as they open and close, open and close becomes consuming. There are no other sounds in the room and, in the silence, that organ beneath my ribs may as well be screaming as it works to keep me alive and breathing. And awake.
I can’t sleep because I have too many bills to pay. My paychecks are abysmal and they barely stretch to cover my credit cards, insurance, cell phone, loans, and expenses. I have a birthday present to buy, due dates are approaching, and what about food to feed myself? What about going out next weekend? Do I still owe him money? I hope I can pay him next week. Living paycheck to paycheck is terrible. One day I won’t have to. One day.
I can’t sleep because I’m agitated about work. I’m tossing and turning and with every movement, the inner recesses of my mind are swimming with unknowns. Is my job is secure? Do my coworkers like me? Am I doing well? Am I what they want? Am I exceeding expectations? Am I underwhelming? The more I sink into my thoughts, the harder it is to breathe. I beg sleep to come to take it all away, if only just temporarily. It doesn’t.
I can’t sleep because I want too many things. I want to have a place of my own. I want to have a life I’m proud of. I want to see my grandparents more. I want to travel. I want that dress from Anthropologie. I want to go to grad school. I want to pay off my loans. I want to not want everything.
I can’t sleep because I miss you. I miss the way you look when you wake up in the morning and how you play with my hair before we go to sleep. I miss drinking copious amounts of wine and telling each other how much we’re in love. I miss seeing you at the end of a bad day and feeling like everything is suddenly okay. I miss feeling the scratch of your beard on my cheek when you hug me tight. I can’t sleep when I know you’re not going to be next to me in the morning.
Posted in Essays, Life, Writing
Tagged awake, creative writing, friendships, insomnia, love, relationships, sleep, tired, writing
It’s been quite a bit of time since I last wrote on this thing, huh. What’s strange is that it is not for lack of things to say because, let’s be frank, anyone who has ever met me knows I’m never without words. If I’m being totally truthful, I can’t say I’ve been too busy – because I could’ve found time to write here and there. I will say, however, that I don’t think I wanted to hear or read what I would have written in those stolen moments.
nearly three months ago, my day-to-day has taken a complete one-eighty. Gone are the days when I trekked to and from Grand Central, the pages and pages of notes procured in dozens of lecture halls have been trashed, and the hard-earned, yet still imaginary, paystubs of interning have been bid adieu. Now, my Monday through Friday consists of working nine-to-six at a desk. My weekends are suddenly free game, my paychecks are suddenly gargantuan in comparison to what they once were (yet they seem to disappear just as quickly…), and if I stay awake past eleven pm, it’s considered a “late night.” What’s more is that my days feel like the crawl by but the weeks seem to race faster than light. I’ve blinked and my summer has all but disappeared, without so much as a good suntan to remember it by.
Posted in Essays, Life, Writing
Tagged boredom, boyfriend, creative nonfiction, creative writing, david v dartel, drawings, graduation, life, millennials, new york, new yorker, niki duffy, nyc, photography, twenty-something, writing