Tag Archives: life

Slowing Down

6 Mar


It’s true when people say New York changes you. It’s not necessarily a bad thing either. I used to be a pushover, passive, shy. Those qualities don’t thrive in this city. I’ve learned to be more straightforward, to fight for what I need/want, and to be way more outgoing.

Some of the changes are not so good, though. It’s dog-eat-dog here in a lot of ways. I miss the laid-back, friendly attitude of the West coast where people tend to co-habitate as opposed to claw over one another. It’s a lot about survival, as Jay-Z put it, “City is a pity, half of ya’ll won’t make it.” It’s tough living here, but worth it if you can do it.

I spent this last year being fairly poor. I took a substantial pay cut to become a technician as I was in “training,” only recently has this been lifted to the point where I’m  making good money once again. But I had to survive one of the world’s most expensive cities on a low salary, somehow, someway. I took lots of little jobs, in-house nail trims, cat sitting, shave-downs. I went on lots of dates mostly for the free meal (I know I’m going to hell.) When I had to mail a letter, I stole postage from the clinic. I made food laaaast. If a client bought us sandwiches. I’d cut mine into thirds and eat it for lunch three days in a row. How do I stay so slender? The old-fashioned way, by being poor. I clock into work 15 minutes early, take only a 15 minute lunch break, which adds 1/2 an hour of pay to each day. All the little things accumulate.

Things are a lot better now, and during these times, I luckily only had to dip into my savings once or twice. And I still have a bunch of lucrative side jobs that give me extra cash. One thing I do is at-home nail trims for pets for $20. Easy money and clients are more than happy to pay it to avoid the stress of taking their animals to the vet.

Today I went to do a nail trim on a cat I had never met before. I ran into work 30 minutes early to grab the clippers and go to the apartment. It was a 5th floor walk-up, and a little old lady was all smiles at the door. She welcomed me in and kept calling me Cindy even though I tried to correct her. I met her adorable cat Freddy who seemed to like me. She held him while I did the nail trim. I checked the clock and saw that I could get back to work in time to clock in 15 minutes early.

Then the lady started talking to me, offering me something to drink or eat, wanting me to play with the cat. I started getting annoyed, looking at the time, thinking about how I was losing money the longer I stayed there.

Then I had to stop. I had to pause a moment and realize I was being a true New York asshole, selfish and greedy. What is 15 minutes out of my day? How much do I really need that money? So I accepted the red Solo cup filled to the brim with orange juice and watched “Live with Kelly and Michael” for a bit. The lady was so sweet, and she quietly started telling me how she is going through a divorce and feels alone and is having hip surgery. She wiped a tear from her eye as she told me, “I’m just so happy Freddy let you trim his nails. You’re an angel.”

I laughed and told her I didn’t mind, anytime. Of all the things I could have done with those 15 minutes of my day, nothing could have been more important than that. Of all the things I do with my time, drinking orange juice and watching a morning talk show is the simplest, laziest, but to her, it was important. To me, it was important.

A lot of mornings I watch my fellow commuters shove onto the subways, elbowing each other, knocking one another over. If the train is like that, I always just stand back and wait for the next one. They come practically every 2 minutes, and the next train is always less crowded.  I think to myself, “Is that extra 2 minutes truly important to these people?” Well, call me hypocrite, because that 15 minutes this morning where I could have clocked in early was likewise inferior to becoming one little old lady’s nail-trimming angel.

Plus she slipped me an extra 5 saying, “Because Freddy thinks you’re pretty.”

27 Before 27: Lie Down and Listen to an Album…

28 Dec

rolling-stones-let-it-bleedIn my 27th year of life, I’m attempting to do 27 new things. Full list here.

Let me start by saying that this was a weird one to put on the list. I think what happened was that I was compiling my 26 before 26 list and absolutely couldn’t come up with a 26th thing. So I threw this on there. Have I never lied down and listened to an album? I don’t know. I remember some tumultuous teenage days lying on the floor of my bedroom soaking in Velvet Underground.

This idea came up, because I’m not a big album person. I’ve been told by people that this is a sin to music, that I’m not appreciating an artist’s full composition. I can’t help it. I don’t want to sit through songs I don’t like, that’s what the forward button was invented for!

I’ve also found very few albums in my life where I really enjoyed the whole thing, didn’t want to skip any huge chunks. They always take me by surprise, and I end up falling completely in love. “Blonde on Blonde” by Bob Dylan. “Live from Folsom Prison” by Johnny Cash. “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. “Doolittle” by the Pixies. I’m struggling to come up with more. Those are the ones that captured months of my life, and I was happy to have them. Now I have a new one. “Let it Bleed” by the Rolling Stones.

About a week ago, I began reading Keith Richards memoirs, “Life.” Oh man, it is awesome, and I cannot recommend it more. Not the most poetic writing of our time, but it’s fascinating. His theories on life and music, the fact that he wrote “Satisfaction” in his sleep, amazing. The first chapter is about being arrested for possession in some Southern state. I was laughing out loud on the subway. I’m not one to read and laugh out loud.

Anyways, it got me in the mood for the Rolling Stones, not to mention that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” came on my ipod at a necessary moment in time about a week ago, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat since. If I have to cross this thing off, I’d like to write about this album.

I thought about how to do it. Stretched out on my bed late at night with a glass of whiskey on the nightstand, maybe I’d listen to it at a friend’s apartment who has a record player. But I ended up listening to it on a bus back to Philly on Christmas Night.

I figured the time was right, and I wanted to do it, so I unshuffled my ipod and put the album on while staring out the window as the beautiful New Jersey landscape rolled by.

I’m not a music reviewer, and I am nowhere near an expert, but damn that’s a lovely album. “Gimme Shelter” pumps you up, “Love in Vain” makes you feel pure, beautiful heartbreak, then “Country Honk” brings back the good times. Perhaps this album is just my aesthetic right now. A little bluesy, a little folksy, but a little harder edged. Then to end the album on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”….I don’t even know what to say, it feels like therapy. It’s all I’ve been listening to, the album that is, on repeat. I might go lie down and do it right now.

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”

The Balance

9 Nov









I’ve been feeling down lately. It’s a multitude of things, but mainly it’s the omnipresent 20-something oh-my-God-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life blues. It’s not knowing if I want to stay in New York, but also not knowing where I want to go. It’s daydreaming at work of flying to Paris, living in Montmarte, and taking real good care of a box of window flowers. It’s all nonsense, but it still gets me down.

The problem is when I’m feeling down, I feel so low to the ground, there’s no farther down to go. I’ve always thrown my full weight into sadness. I always think of a stanza from “Elegy for Jane,” one of my favorite Theodore Roethke poems,

“Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,
Even a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw,
Stirring the clearest water.”

That’s exactly how I feel when I’m down. To get into English major nerdery, Jane takes the action of casting herself down. She does it to herself. Yet that adjective “clearest” indicates that there’s nothing mentally wrong with her. It almost seems contemplative.

Anyways, when I’m down, I like to read blogs about how to be happy, how to cheer yourself up, how to become one of those shiny women who seem to have it together. I study Buddhism. I try so hard to find ways to be more complacent, to be at peace, to wake up every morning smiling, and return to bed at night satisfied. But don’t we all strive for happiness in one way or another? Aren’t we all in one way or another trying to become happier? I’m just more type A and obsessed with it.

Then I came across this amazing post about how to survive a personal apocalypse. I was already well aware of the whole “This too shall pass” mantra. The thing where you tell yourself that struggles will eventually subside and that happiness will happen again. But what struck me is how she mentioned that sadness will come again too. That when you’re happy, you have to accept that one day, you won’t be. It sounds so pessimistic, but to me it’s peaceful.

There’s no way to be happy all the time, and it’s not healthy to strive for that. It’s all part of the balance. It’s why I love rain so much. Rainy days have their own feel, and their own sense of quiet life. When the rain clears, and it’s sunny again, we all appreciate it more, we all feel more thankful. But without the rain, the sunny days get mundane. I’ve lived in Nevada, and I’ve experienced that phenomenon first hand. So the sad days are like that as well. They make the happy days brighter.

So in sadness, I often think how it will be over, and I will be happy soon enough. But I think in happy days, I should live with knowing that I will one day be sad, angry, frustrated. It’s all okay. It seems so simple, but it struck me as something truly important to know.