Here are some scenes from my rich inner fantasy life. The paint is buckling on the walls of my living room. It is because there is certainly mold, or water damage, or ancient knob and tube wiring, causing it to distort. The floorboards in my apartment are possibly original, but could be stripped and sanded. I should dust the chandelier that hangs precariously in my living room, but I should check to make sure it’s right for the time and era of my home before I put in the work. The wall that separates my kitchen and bedroom is surely unnecessary and most likely not load bearing; I will take it down to the studs. I will punch through the sheetrock and the plaster with a sledgehammer, and create a flowing sanctum of peace. There will be clean linens and the trim will shine. I will do this all and stay under my budget. I have been watching a lot of HGTV.
I find few things as frustrating as dealing with customer service representatives. Generally, I consider myself a patient person. Slow waitstaff and inefficient baristas are only a mild irritant, like seasonal allergies or when my cat knocks over a full glass of water off my bedside table. I’m effusively polite with those in the service industry, because I remember what it was like to serve demanding customers who want both soy milk and half and half in their iced coffees. I tip well, I smile. But, when it comes to customer service representatives, generally, I’m a giant asshole.
The first week of 2015, I decided to KonMarie my life. The concept of spring cleaning never made much sense to me. Spring brings flowers, allergies, sunny weather and a sun that doesn’t really set until at least 7 p.m. Spring is made for being enjoyed outdoors with the sun on your shoulders, not in your musty apartment, marveling at moths and finding new and inventive ways to store the scarves you stress-knit or the sweaters you bought when you were sick of everything else. It was decidedly winter out—cold, blustery, with traces of snow still on the ground. I decided that the new year was the best time.
My sisters and I decided to go to Miami one night, sitting in my living room while watching “Property Brothers” and arguing over whose turn it was to get up and get the chips from the kitchen. We had never been on a trip together, alone, and it was the only time that we had the funds to do so. The excuse was Shaina’s birthday, but really, after the ceaseless cold, the thought of sitting on a beach with the sun on our faces was too much to resist.
My accountant works in an office building next to the 23rd Street PATH rail station in Chelsea, on the fifth floor of a shared office space, staffed by a very polite receptionist. There is a TV playing NY1 in the waiting area. His office is a bit too warm, but comfortable, and there is a shelf of family photos watching over our proceedings. While he rifles through my papers, stuffed hastily in a yellow file folder I found at the office, he asks, very politely, if he can turn on the news.
I have only lived alone once, and it was not by choice. When I was a senior in college, my boyfriend broke up with me over the phone from San Diego, saddling me with a lovely studio apartment with an eat-in kitchen, lots of sun, and a rent payment that I couldn’t really afford. I paid my rent using a loan that I am still most likely paying off, and spent a lot of that long winter marooned on my bed eating frozen grapes and watching the Food Network, since I refused to cancel the expensive cable. I lived there for the whole year, alone, but was too sulky to appreciate what I had.
Work is work. We do it because we need to make money, to pay bills, to have a roof over our heads. We do it to imbue our life with a tiny bit of meaning. It’s the thing that makes it so that we can do the stuff we really like, like yoga classes and coffee with friends and fitful bursts of shopping on windy Saturdays. It is energy expended in order for money to be made. The very word sounds trying. The hard consonant is a closed fist. “I can’t meet you for apple cider and donuts,” you say, “because I have to work.” There are sympathetic sighs; a tacit understanding. The discussion is closed.
In high school, school spirit seemed like a nebulous concept; an easy way to rope kids into building floats for homecoming and planning pep rallies after school instead of smoking pot in the hills behind the building. It was clear to me that high school was merely one stop on the chugging train that is the rest of my life, and so to place so much blind faith into an institution felt wrong.
I have been lucky enough to work in jobs where I am given paid time off, but I usually don’t take it. The big chunk of free time hanging over my head makes me nervous, as if I’ll spend it incorrectly, or I won’t have the maximum amount of fun and relaxation that I should for something as exciting and generous as free time off.