The Burrower, Part II

office space screenshot

To read Part I, click here

You discover a solution that saves you from the cockroaches: the Chair-Bed. Making the Chair-Bed is so blatantly easy you wonder, Why did it take ten months to reach this solution? To construct the Chair-Bed, you take four arm-less chairs and line them in a row. The back of the first chair serves as your headboard while the backs of the middle two chairs act as a barrier so you don’t roll over onto the floor in the middle of the night. Sure, it can feel like sleeping in an open casket. But the Chair-Bed is situated between your brightly decorated desk and a row of tall file cabinets which provide the perfect amount of freedom and secrecy you so desire. With your sleeping bag, travel-sized pillow and airplane blankets, you now have a bedroom that can be assembled in less than five minutes and stored away in your bottom desk drawer.

THE BATHROOM

You have patience. You have lived in foreign villages without water and have hiked days in the same clothes, so you know you can go weeks without showering. You have no qualms about not having a private bathroom. You quickly learn though that one of the benefits to squatting at a University is that there is no shortage of public restrooms or showers.

At first you use the restroom close to the Storage Room and it proves to be small, inconvenient and embarrassing. Brushing your teeth in the only sink in the bathroom adds to the desperation aesthetic. You find the pool in the subbasement and you know that where there is a pool there is a shower. The shower room is a small space with broken yellow tiles. Its overhead lights give it a dismal mustard-yellow glow. The smell of chlorine is strong and it makes you feel as if maybe you’re on a vacation in a hotel desperately trying to re-live its glory days. You shower on Fridays as a treat to yourself, and your change in attitude, and appearance, is noticed by many in the office. When somebody asks how your morning is going you reply with an enthusiastic “I showered today,” as if it should warrant a trophy. On days when you don’t shower you resort to your endless supply of wet-wipes for a quick “Military Shower,” as your father once dubbed it.

Because you feel like you’re a perpetual camper you believe that you have to look and live like a perpetual camper. You’re worried that if you take too many showers or follow a set routine you’ll raise suspicion.

When you take your once-a-week showers you’re worried that the swim team will notice a trend and ask some questions about your presence. You know nothing about swim teams and you try to remember to later Google how many members are usually on a swim team. You count the number of shower stalls and make sure that the two numbers do not correspond. You wouldn’t want to take somebody else’s shower stall by accident. You consider using the pool in the mornings so you can feel comfortable about actually utilizing the shower stalls, but you quickly discover that early mornings are when the pool hosts swimming lessons for six-year-olds. You now feel really uncomfortable about showering in the shower room. If anybody would raise questions, it would be the parent of a six-year-old. You decide you never liked showering anyway.

You wander the hallways. This is your form of exercise. Because you now live and work here you rarely have to leave the campus. Sometimes you go three days without ever taking a step outside in the real world. You begin to imagine that perhaps you are on a Space Station. Early mornings and late evenings the hallways are empty. The escalators halt their infinite rounds and white-noise hums. The classrooms are dark and abandoned. You sneak out of Room C to sit and listen to the silence. The change from overcrowded, let-me-through, restrooms and hallways to absolute silence is swift. There are moments where you cry to yourself in the bathroom stall, the one to the far left. You search for the moments where you can have a moment to breathe, alone, when you’re not putting up a charade, but when you do achieve that solitude you crave human contact. There’s something unsettling about living in a place that looks like an apocalypse has just happened. And then, like church bells, you hear the keys from a janitor jingle to the rhythm of his sweeping and you feel centered and okay and rush back to Room C before anybody catches you.

But your early morning/night time wandering isn’t fruitless. In your exploration you’ve discovered the mecca of all shower rooms. This shower room reminds you of a surgery room in a hospital. The tiles are porcelain white, the shower curtains are white, and the overhead lights are so very bright white. You can’t be tired or gloomy in a place so bright. The water pressure is straight-up the best that you have ever experienced in all of New York City. It pounds on your back and massages your scalp. Have you not been showering because you’re frightened of water? You spend forty minutes appreciatively motionless in the steamy heat.

You realize that because you happen to live in an unconventional place it shouldn’t mean that you can’t take care of yourself. You can store a bathroom in your bag and transport it with you to the shower room in under ten minutes. And so your routine begins. With your duffel bag full of travel sized soaps, shampoos, towels, blow-dryer, you’re ready to shower whenever you please. You no longer sacrifice your comfort in fear of what it may appear to be to someone else.

Like the cockroaches, you’re trying to survive. You both are secret night scavengers and you have grown to live amongst your cohabitants in peace. There are times where you’re the first person to enter the bathroom. The motion detector lights turn on and you can hear the scattering of cockroaches but they no longer make you cry. Some days you even hold the door for them to exit.

THE KITCHEN

Your diet in the beginning is terrible. The Meta-Office only has a microwave and a mini-fridge so your cuisine options are limited. It’s hard to find real good food on a budget in your current neighborhood. You once ate ramen noodles for a week but then you developed severe chest pains before falling asleep. You don’t often shop at the University’s cafeteria because their prices are on-par with other local boutique delis, but when you do make a visit you slip up and call it the kitchen, like, “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.”

Some mornings after you shower, you treat yourself to an egg and cheese on a roll and a black coffee from the Egg Guy on the corner of the street. Some days you aren’t in the mood for your “usual” but you enjoy going outside and having the Egg Guy know what your order is before you have a chance to speak. The Fruit Guy next to the Egg Guy knows to give you a handful of persimmons, which reminds you of the time when you lived near the Black Sea. On some fundamental level this routine is crucial. They only know three details about you: persimmons, egg and cheese, and black coffee. That’s enough for you to feel like you haven’t disappeared.

The Meta-Office occasionally has catered lunches. There are moments when you’re still in Room C when the Meta-Office employees are getting ready to go home. When they enter Room C to ask if you’re planning on working late, you tell them, “Don’t worry about all those sandwiches and salad out there. I’ll clean it up.”

You can now eat free for a week. There are times when you return to the Meta-Office after it has closed to see that another catered lunch was held and most of the food has been thrown away. You’re not embarrassed to admit that you’ve gone rummaging through the trash to salvage wraps, salad, and cake. The trash is clean and the food is only a few hours old. How could you live with yourself if you allowed perfectly good meals to go to waste? You believe that there is still a difference between you and the other people who may go dumpster diving. But where is the difference?

After a year has passed, you finally discover the key that unlocks the right hand drawer of your desk. Options that never existed for you before now open up. You can go shopping for bread or peanut butter or anything (!) and store it all without anybody suspecting. You step it up and keep a collection of spices, mainly cumin and coriander, and you purchase your very own fruit bowl. A kitchen simply isn’t complete without one for persimmons and bananas.

With a hot-plate — along with your compact camping-style pot and pan — you can now fry and boil mostly anything. With your collection of Tupperware you now have a week’s worth of home-cooked meals. It’s astounding how an entire kitchen can fit underneath an office desk.

THE LIVING ROOM

The only person you entertain is a co-worker who is privy to your secret. Some nights you stay up late drinking wine and share dinner. When it’s time for your guest to leave, you walk him to the door, like a good host, because after 7:00 p.m. this isn’t a place of employment anymore, but your home. You exchange thank yous, you’re welcomes, good-nights and see you tomorrows, and lock the door as he departs.

There are short and tall file cabinets in Room C that haven’t been touched or organized in years. Since the employees in the office are part-timers nobody has the time nor wants to have the time to utilize or organize the cabinets. You spend a few nights sifting through years of outdated documents and VHS tapes. You’re able to consolidate all of the material onto one shelf of the tall black file cabinet and this frees up the bottom three shelves. This is now where you store your clothes and shoes. You keep the items you use often like pajamas, socks, scarves and underwear in a cardboard box along the windowsill beside your travel guitar to make it easier to retrieve during working hours. After you realize the cockroaches like to sleep by the windowsill though it becomes unsustainable.

It only takes nine months for you to wise up to the simple solution of plastic containers. You measure the amount of space you have between your desk and the windowsill and the length of your file cabinet-turned-closet. With over a dozen containers of varying sizes you now have your shoes, underwear, pants, shirts, socks, organized and filed away. Looking at your corner space in Room C, one would have no idea that an entire closet of winter and summer clothes were hidden in the file cabinet, that an entire kitchen sat in a tote box underneath the desk, that a bedroom was inside a desk drawer, or that a bathroom lay in a container along the windowsill. It would appear that you were just a very busy and organized worker, obsessed with tote boxes.

You’re a go-getter. This is your home and when something breaks you fix it, or at least you provide a solution. When one of the Styrofoam ceiling tiles above your desk falls apart creating a frigid air draft right on top of you, you tack white-lined paper over the hole. When one of the overhead light panels above your desk quits working, and the University refuses to fix it for over seven months, you get a desk lamp, a lava lamp, candles, and even more Christmas lights so you won’t ever have to work in the dark again.

THE YARD 

It’s New York City so there is no yard. But there is Central Park. You spend warm spring days walking out into your gigantic yard in your pajamas to enjoy a cup of coffee on top of your favorite boulder. You make a monthly list of accomplishments to mentally help keep you afloat. You feel uncomfortable at first walking past the snooty very well-dressed New Yorkers but who ever heard of enjoying a cup of early-morning coffee in your yard dressed in confining clothes? You are wearing your pajamas. You walk to your yard in your slippers with the cup of coffee from Egg Man and watch your neighbors from on top of your boulder.

THE RETURN

The home on Long Island takes over fourteen months to rebuild. What was once your home does not feel like home anymore. You’re a guest when you go to visit your old stomping grounds. Your home, your town, your family, all feels displaced within your life. You’re in a cycle of “Re”: rebuilding, reconnecting, and returning. The marriage between your uncle and aunt has been strained since the storm and conversations of moving to start over somewhere new are repeated. What was a place of convenience has disappeared and you find yourself missing Room C. You miss the midnight quietude, the smell of sweet lilac air fresheners, and the sound of desks being moved at 3:00 a.m. by insomniac janitors. You miss your new home. You realize now that you have made a home for yourself.

You live in your office and it is no longer a necessity. It is a choice and it is no longer a secret.

 

Crystal Vagnier is an MFA candidate at the City College of New York, where her collection of travel short stories won the The David Dortort Prize in Non-Fiction and The Henry Roth Memorial Scholarship. You may follow her conversations at @CrystalJVagnier.

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60 Comments / Post A Comment

bgprincipessa (#699)

I am trying so hard not to be judgmental. But. This is… not a viable solution. Showering once a week for a span of time? And the eating section does not sound like actual meals and nutrients all the time.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@bgprincipessa It’s almost pornographic in both slavering detail and romanticizing this choice. I don’t know what to say about any of it.

Julie (#5,374)

@aetataureate @bgprincipessa I was trying to sum up my feelings on these posts, but the two of you did it for me.

@aetataureate @bgprincipessa I think you are coming to it with too little empathy. She describes her experience as she felt it. It’s not an editorial on the glories of office living. I liked it.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Josh Michtom@facebook Josh, what am I supposed to empathize with? That’s a peculiar accusation to make.

@bgprincipessa You’re correct that living like that probably couldn’t last very long…and it didn’t but I eventually wised up and started living my life like a normal person…only it happened to be where I worked (where the shower stalls, once found, were plentiful). :)

NoName (#3,509)

Chair-bed! I used to do this during long layovers in Asian airports. Thanks for writing this, I really enjoyed it.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

I just don’t understand

were they not paying you?

pengu1n (#4,391)

I find this series fascinating in a morbid way, but I just do not understand it at all.

milena (#3,288)

I don’t really understand why someone would want to live like this. I know NYC is very expensive and sometimes crippling, but… scavenging for food in the trash? Showering once a week? Is not spending money that important that you’re willing to do away with hygiene? This just reminds me of a woman (also in NYC) on Extreme Cheapskates who wore clothes with roles and only used 1 square of TP when wiping. It’s one thing to save money and be judicious, but this is mental instability territory.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@milena I’d really like to know if there’s a concrete amount of savings attached to it. It really isn’t . . . a financial story? And she isn’t really poor, either, just acting that way? Confusing.

ETA: The coda in yesterday’s section about it being the “principle” of the thing kinda sums it up I think

milena (#3,288)

@milena that should read “clothes with holes” and not “clothes with roles”

sea ermine (#122)

@aetataureate well given that in the last article it seemed like she used all the extra money for traveling I would guess that there is a good chance she’s not saving any money by eating out of the trash. I hope there are more parts to this series, to see what she’s doing now.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@sea ermine The only part of this I will defend is the “eating out of the trash” — picking leftover office lunches back up after they’ve been placed in the garbage can isn’t QUITE eating out of the trash IMO, even though it totally 100% is that.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Lily Rowan I mean . . . Listen, has anyone else seen the Sex and the City where Miranda has to pour dishsoap on some cake in the trash so she won’t still pick it out and eat it? Or also that one Seinfeld. I relate to these situations.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@aetataureate I’m just saying.

ESPECIALLY in a work office that doesn’t have garbage sitting in the trash cans.

sea ermine (#122)

@Lily Rowan Oh yeah, definitely and I actually do that all the time (free food!). I realize just because I refer it to myself as eating out of the trash doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have a potentially critical connotation when used the way I used it, and I should have reread my comment before posting.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@sea ermine Oh lord, don’t worry about that — I am cringing at myself for defending any part of this, and just hoping that regular office workers know exactly what I mean and why it’s OK.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Lily Rowan I’m currently trying to figure out how to pilfer a half roll of toilet paper, so.

peutetre (#2,641)

In addition to totally confusing me, this series made me sad in a sense. The level of subterfuge and mental energy expended on ‘hiding’ (literally and mentally) was overwhelming. I realize the focus is on the ‘how’ and not the rest of her life, but the fleeting mention of one coworker being the only one who knows made me wonder where the author’s friends were, if she ever loosened her strict eating-out-of-the-trash diet to go out, if the three-days-in-the-office-without-leaving was ever interrupted to walk around the park, etc. It just seemed really lonely.

NoName (#3,509)

@peutetre There is no way her whole office didn’t know. Where I work, we don’t sit very close to each other and someone with over a dozen storage bins in their work area who is only showering once a week and looks “like a perpetual camper” would not go unnoticed for too long, much less over a year.

annev17 (#4,822)

@NoName Right? There’s no way they weren’t all onto this.

jalmondale (#6,721)

While I agree it’s not sustainable, it does seem like this would save the author upwards of 10k a year in rent, which is a pretty big chunk of change. Also, having done something similar (for a much shorter period of time, and unofficially encouraged by my employer, so less subterfuge), it’s fun in a weird way – I felt like a kid camping in the living room in a bedsheet tent, repurposing and colonizing a space not intended for that use. Or maybe that it’s so clearly *not* sustainable, and your 20′s (I assume the author is young-ish?) are one of the few times as an adult that you can just do something like this.

mochi (#585)

i agree. all the traveling i could do with that money!

honey cowl (#1,510)

You guys. This is fiction. It HAS to be fiction!

bgprincipessa (#699)

@honey cowl I’ve been wondering this, too! But the author won prizes for nonfiction stories…

@bgprincipessa I edited it. It’s not fiction. (Unless I’ve been BAMBOOZLED.)

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Ester Bloom “A Million Little Pieces (of Food From the Garbage)”

honey cowl (#1,510)

@aetataureate A++++++

madrassoup (#929)

It’s hard to tell if there is some huge, unacknowledged debt lingering in the background (and to which all the author’s money goes, at the expense of food etc), or whether this is just self-denial gone haywire. Because I would think that an employed person saving money on rent would be free to eat better than a street urchin.

I love travel. I really do. But I don’t love it at the expense of stability in my day-to-day life. In fact I feel like too much self-denial for the sake of travel puts too much pressure on the experience itself, because now it has to “be worth it” to make up for all the sacrifice and asceticism. So I’m really trying but failing to understand the motivation to live like this, especially when, as folks above have noted, the author seems devoted to the “principle” of the thing above all else. Basically I’m totally mesmerized by this series, and kind of sad that this is the end of it, because so many other questions remain.

milena (#3,288)

I also enjoy how the author is reading the comments and then tweeting in response, but not really engaging with commenters.

Crystal, if your response to our response is “you just don’t get what being poor is,” why don’t you come over and explain? Very little in this series has pointed at you being poor and living like this because you have no choice… It comes off like you have choices and your choice is still to live this way so that you can funnel your money into traveling. And if that is the truth, then calling yourself “poor” makes a mockery of people who are actually *poor* and would resort to what you did because they had no other choice.

NoName (#3,509)

@milena I did not get the impression that this was a freely-made choice (like the guy living in the dumpster in NY), but what she was doing to survive on a very small paycheck in NYC when her primary residence with relatives was destroyed. I read her statement in the previous installment to be, “even if I could afford rent, $1K per month is too expensive for what little you get from it, when a similar sum could fund a lot of other, more desirable things (e.g. travel)” It sounded like the types of things I used to say to myself when I couldn’t afford basic things (“I don’t need to buy new clothes – I don’t want to support the clothing industry and their human-rights violations”).

milena (#3,288)

@NoName So I was on board with “you gotta do what you gotta do” during the period where her family lost their home, but once the home was rebuilt, she still chose to squat and that is strange. I know commuting sucks, but to me, that was an extreme decision.

I also lived in NYC for a while (and moved away because it wasn’t financially sustainable, surprise, surprise) and I know rents are cray but you can find rooms to rent for less than $1K/month in parts of the city. I too have friends who are broke grad students and it is a struggle to live in the city, but I know it can be done without resorting to squatting. That is why I have a hard time believing that this is 100% due to circumstances.

honey cowl (#1,510)

@milena Wow. Thank you for alerting me to this! I feel famous, she tweeted my direct quote! #sofancy

honey cowl (#1,510)

@honey cowl I don’t really understand how the author tweets that we clearly do not understand what it is like to be poor; and yet she says vacations should be a minimum of 2.5 months. I throw up my hands.

NoName (#3,509)

@honey cowl Based on her twitter feed, she seems kind of eccentric. I am not super-keen on the idea of someone squatting in an office if they don’t strictly have to. It doesn’t seem fair to the people who work there/clean/own the building.

honey cowl (#1,510)

@NoName I mean, girl, you do you… but also, if you’re going to engage with ANY commenters ANYWHERE on the internet, why not here? Why tweet about how trolly we are? There is so much great conversation that happens in the comments section of this here website!

Lily Rowan (#70)

@NoName Based on this whole thing, she is totally eccentric!

aetataureate (#1,310)

@honey cowl Have we reached a point where critique is trolling? Real question. I’m certainly no troll? None of y’all are either? I love the comments on this site.

@honey cowl To be fair I didn’t use the word vacation correctly- usually when I go somewhere other than ‘here’ it’s long-term because I’m living or working there- mostly farm or ESL work, so that’s what I meant by that particular tweet in that if you’re going to go somewhere make sure it’s a long time so you can really get to know the place. @noname eventually the folks who did work/clean there never minded. Some enjoyed my presence because I could help out with their tasks or have late night/morning conversations with them. I would never intentionally try to make someone’s job or life harder because I wanted to get ahead in some way. I realize I could have expressed that differently in the piece. But alas…

I also didn’t mean to offend anybody. I really enjoyed the comments. I’ve never had comments before! And when I asked friends on how to approach this they suggested to stay away but obviously I wanted to engage. For the record I never commented on how trolly any of you are (but you’re not- I find this all to be intelligent people commenting with questions, etc)- that was a comrade that used the word publicly after I sent her a private message asking how to approach all this without stirring up controversy.

Honestly, thank you. My eccentricity adores it. :)

NoName (#3,509)

@Crystal Joy@facebook Thanks for coming by and filling in some gaps. I really do get the appeal of this sort of living – some of my best times were when I was living with the bare minimum. It’s very freeing.

aetataureate (#1,310)

(See the bottom of the page for an actual troll)

Damn, this is great stuff.

Minus the very last part (“The Return”), this is like a real-life JG Ballard novel, seriously. I imagine that in part 3, you encounter people in neighboring office buildings who also live in their offices / basements / stairwells, and you all decide never to leave your office buildings and then you start forming a community and you challenge a charismatic and virile psychatrist for the leadership of your office-living tribe and well, you know how Ballard was, you can fill in the rest.

NoName (#3,509)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose I totally agree about the Ballard comparison.

garli (#4,150)

I had two different grad students living in my lab but we had a much, much nicer set up than this author and it wasn’t even a secret, there were two pull out couches in the back. Also a full kitchen and multiple showers.

One of them later was my housemate. He used all the money he saved to open a business that he sold at 35 and retired for life. He maybe was onto something there.

All other details aside I need the mental space of not living where I work to feel ready to do my job.

potatopotato (#5,255)

Maybe she really was super short on money, so she felt like rather than spending ALL of her money on Needs, she could cut out one Need and feel like she still had room for a Want or two, sometimes? Being poor sucks, so maybe that was her way of living with it, of altering the terms of her poordom? In my tightest days, I found little ways to prove to myself that I wasn’t destitute, that I could still afford little luxuries, that I hadn’t sunk to the point where every single dime went to necessities.

I’d love to hear from the author.

Hey all. It wasn’t my intention to distance myself from you. I was interested to see what folks had to say before I chimed in. If anything, this helps me to see where certain things weren’t totally explained. It can be hard to write about something close to you and assume all the facts have been explained when it’s actually still muddled in your brain.

It’s not fiction. Nobody has been bamboozled. I am very grateful that you took the time to read it and found it enticing in some way, whether it was positive or not. Surely a lot has been left out due to space constraints. This may be more suitable as a much longer piece since more questions always arise whenever I’m approached about this (or I need to practice being more concise!).

What’s not really mentioned here is that I’ve been traveling and living in off-beat places off/on for over 13 years now. I am in my late 20′s and I do a lot of backpacking/camping. So a lot of these qualities like finding different ways to shower or to cook a meal don’t really bother me but I can see how it may be strange if you’re not used to it. I also do a lot of house-sitting so it never seemed cost-effective to spend money on a place when I spend a lot of my time in a lot of different places. This was my way of making the in-between time work. When I’ve talked to friends of mine who knew of my new living arrangements they would often say as well how it was not sustainable, and maybe I’m stubborn, but I felt determined to make it work for me, mostly because it needed to work because my options were severely limited due to the high cost of NYC and debt. We all have our own breaking points and personal levels of comfort- I was genuinely surprised by my own and even more surprised by how I was able to work through it and find a new level of comfort.

I can see how it is lonely. It was at times- at the beginning, when I believed that I was doing something wrong which lead to being nervous. My goal was to show how I made different spaces work- each piece separately from beginning to awareness/acceptance- like bathroom, bedroom, etc. At the beginning I was scared and most likely a little mentally unbalanced but I worked through that by finding solutions. Looking back I enjoyed that process of realizing that there were no limitations. I did look for apartments, stayed with friends, tried to do things by the book or took suggestions from others on how to live and none of them worked. In fact they seemed to make things more difficult and always more expensive and I honestly couldn’t afford it. I really enjoyed embracing the very short commute after being a commuter from LI for over a decade. This did save me a lot of money that I was able to use for other things. The way I saw it was instead of putting money towards rent for a place that would be a 2 hour commute (because, face it, that’s what I could afford)that I would never be in I could use that money for things I couldn’t allow myself to purchase before- like better food, the gym, travel. The job paid but not enough to live off on. The benefits(like free graduate school) scored highly on the list but doing that meant I couldn’t find a higher paying job with more hours. A bit complicated, I know. It was a sacrifice but it felt worth it in the long run.

The set-up was actually private as offices go (save for the occasional janitor or cockroaches). I do shower more often now and have a better diet- that came along with being more comfortable in my surroundings. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one doing the same thing there.

The benefits of having your own place are definitely high up there, I can’t argue that- but there are benefits to living like this once you work through some of the limitations. It really depends on what your needs are. Towards the end it wasn’t as strong of a necessity as the cleanup from Sandy took off but by that time I was used to the new life I created. Less commute, a few more extra dollars, the ability to get more work (personal/professional) done…it was a struggle but it finally seemed like a positive experience that I was very grateful for.

mochi (#585)

@Crystal Joy@facebook I loved your story and I’m looking forward to hearing more.
I grew up very poor and as an adult I’m still kind of just scraping by. I’ve had to be absolutely ruthless with certain comforts that many would view as necessities in order to save for my big dream. Many of these sacrifices are easier for me than they might be for others though, because I didn’t have much growing up. I’m used to it and it’s made me tough.
It takes a special kind of tunnel vision and stubbornness to say fuck you to a life that is telling you that there is no way you can afford or deserve the Big Thing that you want. Sometimes there is just no way that you will ever, ever get what you want if you’re not willing to use some really weird shortcuts.

@mochi Thank you! I read somewhere once that the way you feel financially is set by the time you’re 12. So if you grew up really poor but then became a gazillionaire it would be really hard to live like a lavish Queen because those habits of scrapping by are ingrained into you. Personally, I’m still struggling with that…but I guess I have to because I’m not a gazillionaire! But I’m on the same page with you about what is a necessity. I’ve found that sometimes the “comforting” things make me more uneasy! It definitely makes it easier to strip down to what is really the bare minimum. It’s different for all of us. I just realized that mine wasn’t akin to what many others were telling me what it had to be. It was refreshing. I bet all of you could do it too if you really wanted to or needed to.

mochi (#585)

@Crystal Joy@facebook UGH while I’m terrified that anything from my life at twelve would set the bar for any aspect of my current life, that really does makes sense. Maybe that’s part of why I love traveling so much to, now that I think of it. Not just the beauty and magic, but the bumps in the road, the needing to make due when things get rough. It brings out the fighter in me, and that can be exciting, to realize that you have this hidden ability to get things done when all the odds are against you. That could harken back to the Old Hungry Times :)
I hope so… I’m still saving. Maybe someday I will write about it for Billfold and then everyone can freak out about all of the strange things I had to do to get there.
If you haven’t already I think you should try pitching your story to travel sites too. Anyway I hope there’s a part III. Would like to hear more about your travels.

@mochi :) thank you! Yeah, I’m still new to all this. A lot of the travel stories are still in my head. I was always embarrassed by the trailer I grew up in but now as an adult there’s some sort of charm to it…or at least this idea of growing up in a mobile (it never moved) home and now living a mobile life. It’s a full circle type of thing in a way. The struggle is hard (this is just one of many strange paths I needed to take!) but I do like being more pleasantly pleased than disappointed and I have found that I can achieve that when I have less (or is that the 12 year old in me). But YEAH, I Should get over this and start pitching more. AND YOU! GO! Is there a place you’re particularly eager to go explore?

mochi (#585)

@Crystal Joy@facebook DUDE I lived in a trailer too (for a hot second when I was really little ). One of those 60s silver bullet ones. No heat or working parts, real classy :p.
Everywhere, with a need that’s almost painful. Edinburgh and Amsterdam have been on my mind lately, Eastern Europe especially Poland, then Southeast Asia especially Vietnam and Cambodia. I think I’d also like to go to Nepal. Mostly though, I just want to start wandering, and see where it takes me.
Nearer to home, would like to see more of Canada (Quebec city, Newfoundland, Vancouver) and in the US, Appalachia.
I’m getting closer. I still have about 1.5-2 more years of saving ahead of me. Not lots of revenue coming in, so it’s been brutal at times. I’m working hard and sticking to my budget(mostly) but still hoping I can find a few shortcuts that will help this happen sooner.
Are you working on a book?

@mochi Your trailer sort of sounds like a trailer I wouldn’t mind living in now…mine growing up wasn’t as, dare I say, fancy (?!). Having that itch to wander can be deliciously terrible! How does one see it all without going into debt or dying first! Nepal is high on my list- most mountainous places are. I spent some time in the Balkans/E.E. and it was really lovely and inexpensive. Georgia is a bit way off but my heart resides there and really recommend it. I am dying to take a road trip through Canada. I can stare at a map and get lost visually in how massive it is! In my experience I have found that it is a lot easier than we want to believe- to go from place to place and to hack it out somewhere else. I often wondered if I would have been able to make more of my time here in New York if I wasn’t from New York. I’m too close to it. My goal before enrolling into graduate school was to return to America, see what happens in a year, if nothing bites then buy a one way ticket somewhere and just see what happens. It worked before and I knew it could work again. Most times I never knew where I would be heading or staying for the night but it never stopped me from making new friends or finding a job. I believe that if you are open things will come. It sounds a little hokey and new agey but what can I say- it worked for me and that was years of feeling stuck and not “privileged” enough to be able to travel. But it also depends on how you like to travel. Either way you can do it. You could probably get away with doing it now. But surely it will happen when it’s suppose to. Being afraid is good but don’t let it stop you from ever taking that first step!

I have some ideas for a book- I just need to sit down and freaking write it. We shall see!

mochi (#585)

@Crystal Joy@facebook Yeah I’d LOVE to do a huge Canada road trip, too. I’ve only been to Montreal, which I love, but there’s so much more to see.
Thank you for the encouragement :) :).
If you wrote a memoir that was also tiny bit “how-to”(kind of like the tone of this post?) I bet it would be amazing. I’d buy the hell out of that book, at least.

@mochi I find that I incessantly need to be encouraging to others so I can believe it also. Fake it till you make it type of thinking, eh? Thank you for your equally as encouraging support. It really is lovely. I best go out there and make something of myself!

mochi (#585)

@Crystal Joy@facebook Yeah I’ve finally learned to seek out hope instead of indulging the voice that tells me I can’t. It adds up. I “reprogram” myself from the language of negativity and limitation of my childhood with my writing and my Pinterest dreams. & someday is getting closer.
Just watched an episode of an Idiot Abroad and laugh-cried my way through it. Laughed at his ignorance, and cried because that’s what I kind of desperately want to be doing. I know that show is problematic for many but all I could think about was… wild yearning. “That’s where I should be”.
In all seriousness the comments on this post seems like a very good sign to me–shows that the piece has sparked readers curiosity. Your approach and experiences are strange in a very good way. I’ll be looking out for your name.
PS my alias for twitter/gmail/standard online screen name is very similar to your FB name. Love those weird coincidences.
Good luck in all that you do
xo

magic-timmy (#7,038)

Wow! So many yuppies and squares in this comment thread.

Your reaction to this piece is a perfect test of whether you have “middle class values”. I feel the same way about the film Trash Humpers; particularly the hobo soliloquy. Do you relate to the hobo? Or do you relate to the people who are content to live in suburban ranch homes?

In the same way that these people cannnot comprehend Crystal’s choices, I cannot comprehend their confusion and disgust. Eating trash is logical and fun. I am convinced that it is good for your immune system as well. Living rent-free is living the dream.

Crystal: you are awesome and rare and special. Keep living an adventurous life.

@magic-timmy I can’t live any other way. Thank you.

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