Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ancillary causes

Like most people, I spent most of college broke. For the first three years I spent any extra money I had on clothing. Not beer. Not food. Not drugs. Clothing. And it made me happy enough. (We've all got our vices.) I didn't really have discretionary income until senior year, which probably not coincidentally was the first year I gained weight in college.

Weighty issues aside I remember being so excited about my senior year. I was finally living in a cool apartment. I had a little bit of money to spare. I was getting ready to launch a fabulous career in journalism and/or the music industry (ba-dum-chick!). Every door seemed to be opening. My life seemed well in order.

So it was a shock what a disaster 2003-04 was. That year I also joined a sorority. It was something I'd wanted to do but didn't have the money for until 2003. But for some reason I got a major friend backlash about the whole thing -- they said it wasn't like me and that I changed. Maybe I did change, it's hard for me to say objectively even looking back now. I do remember feeling pretty lonely and commiserating that while one side of my life (the financials) seemed relatively in order, the other side (the social) had fallen into disarray. Much of my life felt out of control.

It helped spur me back East and eventually the move into NYC. That was a good thing. I had to make some difficult decisions. They say you're still forming who you are in your 20s and I re-examined my personality a bit. It felt weird doing it -- I literally evaluated my type of attitude and the way I reacted in situations. For a year or two I focused on consciously changing myself to be what I thought was more socially acceptable. While my social side slowly recovered to a semi-respectable state my financial side a-tumbled. Rent-poor became a term I got all too familiar with. Now an adult I had a serious conversation with myself that went something like, "Self, do you agree to become rent-poor if it means you're in a good neighborhood close to friends and happy?" "Yes, self, I agree." "Terrific, now stop talking to yourself, it's weird."

I think 2007 was probably the best year in terms of financial/social balance since college. In 2008 my financials started turning for the better and oddly enough, my social scale begin to tip downward once again. And now here I am in 2009 with the best pay I've ever made, rent-poor once again but loving where I live and yet goddammit I am fucking up the social stuff. In some ways it's worse because I feel like I am making the effort and yet the efforts are not yielding the results I want. I want to improve myself yet I'm not sure the concessions and changes I'm making are doing it. People must see through it? I'm not sure.

New York City is a tough, tough city to be social in when you don't know anyone. Even harder when you are still building yourself. At least that has been my experience. We are in so many ways a city of loners, a city where everyone is goal-oriented and driven towards their own personal goal. We often forget to step aside and see each other. I plead guilty on this as much as anyone. So if my failure comes from trying to please others and forgetting to please myself I don't mind taking a step back to become myself again. The issue is I've forgotten the right mix. I know small bits and pieces but the passive ingredient I introduced into my personality has overwritten some of harder pieces. It's an everyday battle to find the right balance. I am laughing as I write this because it sounds self-involved and silly. I must have missed this lesson when I was 4 -- how to make friends and influence people. Or maybe I just like crashing into walls. Repeatedly.

Poor T. He's crashing on my couch for 3 days in the middle of this existential breakdown. The guy just wanted to see the Financial District again for a few days. Ha, he had no idea what he was in for. He has suggested I make "Tubthumping" my personal anthem. It's a start.


On a much lighter note, I made T watch "The Bachelorette" with me last nite. During the show I was telling him that I would totally do that show. Much to his chagrin. He came from the logical side saying that the people on the show were there for all the wrong reasons. I came from the modern romantic side saying it would be way easier to find one guy out of a group of 25. (Romantic, right?) Then came the previews for the rest of the season where we already see that poor Jillian finds out that some of the guys were just playing the game rather than actually trying to love her (!), that some were just fame manwhores (!!) and that some maybe left girlfriends back home (!!!).

I turned to T and said I would never, ever do the show. He patted me on the head. Lesson learned.

1 comment:

Ondine said...

I love reading your blog - insight into the mind of a New Yorker is so interesting. I lived there for just a short period last year, and what I did love is that compared to back home in London, people talk to each other so much more. I'm sure it's equally easy to be lonely in both cities, but I just love the way New Yorkers talk so much.