Your Best Interests

What do you actually do when you’re unemployed, in a very expensive city? We’re going to add that this is a new city, in our brains, even though that’s getting to be a bit of a stretch. Well, you look for jobs. But the rest of the time, what do you do?

This is what you have: You have about four friends within a 30-mile radius, and you don’t want to lean on them too hard. You have something like homesickness, only that’s not quite it, because what you’re really missing is the end of an era. You have a distinct lack of disposable income, but you continue to like very nice things. You have a resume you’re not too worried about, since you’re awfully busy worrying about all of the other resumes. (There is only so much worry, you know.) And you have an ex you’ve been repeatedly failing to forget about — even though you’re going to try harder today.

So what do you do, here? (Since you’ve already located the nearest bakery, we can skip that one.)

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There are things you should do, instead of sitting glumly on a park bench. (It’s okay to start off that way — just don’t stay there for too long. Better to keep moving, when you’re sad.)

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1. Make something. I’m going to make this curried chicken sauté tonight — because light coconut milk was only ingredient I had to go out and buy. I’m excited about this coconut milk because it cost less than a dollar, and because I’ll get to use my new, bottom-of-the-line can opener. (Insert exclamation points here!) I’ll let you know how I do.

2. Listen to something. I like Pandora, particularly when I’m showering with the door wide open. You can do these things when you live alone. Plus, your bathroom doesn’t have any kind of ventilation, and you can’t actually close the door — even when you want to. I also like podcasts, especially when I’m cooking and trying to resist the urge to impatient-eat.

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When I want to feel like I have more friends, I listen to Joy the Baker. When I want to feel wittier, I listen to Spilled Milk. When I want to feel linked to the world outside of my hovel, I listen to NPR.

3. Read something. Go to the public library — the chances are that at least one book there will speak to you. Or if changing out of your workout clothes is more than you’re up for today, take a look around online. I like The Everygirl, because she thinks we are just now becoming who we will be. I like BuzzFeed, because I am a product of my generation. I like My Name is Yeh, because she is contagiously happy, and because she is always making what I want to make. And I like A Cup of Jo, because she writes about things that matter. (She also, incidentally, just posted my dream job.)

4. Go on a friend date. Several of them! Say yes to every single person who reaches out. If you have to, re-arrange your schedule to make it work. You can afford a $2 café au lait, and you want what everyone else wants: connection.

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Go get coffee with someone who knew you when you were six, and hasn’t seen you since. Go with someone who knows your friend of a friend, kinda sorta, and would like to know you. Go with someone you would know by sight, but only just barely. Go with someone you really wished you’d been friends with in college. Go with someone you interned with but never really had the chance to get to know. Go with someone you always thought was kind of cute. Go!

5. Go on a ‘real’ date. And then go on another, with someone else, when that one fizzles at the door.

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You might not be ready, and that’s okay. No one is allowed to get on your case so long as you are perfectly honest (and very kind). Your only job is to keep trying to pry yourself back open. And when you turn the light off and go to sleep with nothing but cookie crumbs, you’re allowed to think someday. Allow yourself that little luxury. 

(You could also ask someone on a date. Woah…I know. I haven’t ever done it, but I have so much respect for people who have. I, personally, would rather make you brownies and leave them on your front step with a note I drafted three times. If that sounds good to you, and if you would rather carry 13 bags of groceries before making a second trip, please give me a call.)

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6. Make a list of places you’d like to go. I’m thinking within that 30-mile radius we talked about before. I’m trying desperately hard to keep home off of my list.

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I want to go to Strand, because I am a bookworm, and also to McNally Jackson. That looks like a good place for me. And they have a café!

I want to go back to Chelsea Market, because Anthropologie is my happy place. But also because it makes me irrationally happy to look at little pyramids of spice. Every spice, ever!

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I want to go to Eataly, because I dream in pasta and olive oil. I also want to revisit Murray’s Cheese, because if we’re going to have Italian tomorrow night, we might as well do it right.

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Three more: If I ever get another job and/or happen to hit the lottery, we’re going to go to Dovetail, Blue Hill Farm, and Gramercy Tavern — my treat.

I suppose I should ask for your help thinking of more non-food places? To tip the scales, so to speak. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

7. Pick a project. My entire apartment could use some home improvement, but I’m thinking specifically about the blank wall above my bed. It’s pretty big — about half the size of a Ping-Pong table. I keep eyeing the decorative paper at Paper Source, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and under-enthused. Do you know how that is?

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8. Let your family prop you up. I don’t mean financially, necessarily. I mean emotionally. You’re sending all of these resumes and covers letters out into the ether, and you’re feeling the opposite of connected. There might be a long road ahead. A long and winding road.

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Listen to your family when they tell you how much they love you anyway, when they echo what your strengths are, and when they remind you how far you’ve come. Listen to them when they tell you to take advantage of where you are. Listen to them when they encourage you to focus on learning as much as you can — about yourself, about what you want, about what you need, about what you might like to do. Pay attention.

Actually, we can widen this up a bit — pay attention to anyone who has your best interests at heart. If you’re really lucky, there will be more people than you ever would have guessed.

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