Monday, August 15, 2011

Wherein I Discover I'm Boring

I don't normally read New York-based magazines or newspapers (besides the Style section of the Times, and I read that online on Monday mornings), because I've never been there, I'm not familiar with the area, and I cannot lose the label "outsider" plastered on my forehead.  New York, to me, isn't like D.C.: besides the obvious, on a personal note, I would read the Washington Post daily because I knew the area.  I visited, I was a former resident, and it felt more like home than my physical address in Jacksonville.  I mean, things change (as we can all tell), but that's how it was for six years.

Just stick with me through this.  I'm trying to wade through a lot here, and if you give up now, you're gonna miss out.

Six years, you guys.  The better part of a decade, stretching from high school to post-college years.  All I wanted was to move back to D.C.  I would visit in the fall and spring and just want to smell the concrete and feel the wind whipping between the buildings.  I would step on the Metro and feel like I was a local, even though I was only in town for a weekend.  I thought, that's my answer!  That's what I need!  Everything will be better!

Why didn't I see that as my first mistake?

Sometimes my obsessions turn unhealthy, as this one did.  As soon as we crossed the Maryland state border, this fixation rotted in my palm.  Since moving here, I've had an endless string of drama, mostly internal but also concerning Nick: our flus, his unemployment, nonexistent college degrees, break-ins, two kidney infections, bank account overdrafts, armed robbery.  Not to mention the unreliable landlord (and even less reliable electricity and air conditioning) and our complete lack of friends or family close by, or even within short driving distance.  It's been eight months without sleep and with constant nausea.  Every week brings a new issue and a new breakdown.

After the armed robbery outside my apartment last week--the final straw in the recent outbreak of crime, we heard the woman screaming while making our dinner--I lost all sanity in regards to our living situation.  I had previously told my landlord we'd stay for 2012, as our lease ends on December 31.  I soon realized I couldn't live here, in a place that disregards safety to the point where I no longer am able to go to the grocery store by myself because two men with a shotgun are free to confront me at the car door.  I don't want to live like that.  We pay too much for me to resign myself to hermithood.

So we set out on the apartment hunt.  We have very specific requests: our budget is $1300 (and that's maximum--we currently pay $1250), we need at least 800 square feet, and we want free laundry on-site.  This is all what we currently have.  However, Washington, D.C's metro area had different ideas.  We've contacted five apartments since Saturday; all have come back as scams (if you Google "D.C. Craiglist scams," you'll see an example, though two of the apartments were also on Realtor and Zillow).  This is incredibly discouraging and disheartening.  I feel as if I'm not important enough to be safe in my neighborhood because I can't afford it.  Forget that we have good jobs and we pay taxes and we take care of ourselves; because we can't afford $2300 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, we deserve to be robbed as we carry in our groceries.

So naturally, my thoughts have drifted elsewhere.  But what if we moved here?  But what if we moved there? How much would it cost to go south about three hundred miles?  I've never been out west; why don't we see what's out there?  Nick is rooted and has trouble understanding why I ask "What if?" all the time.  It's in my blood to be discontent, to worry, to uproot at the soonest sign of a problem.  However, he also understands my very valid points: larger apartments or houses, half of what we're paying now, and we have the space for a dog (something he wants more than anything else in the world).  But until we can find him a job, we are stuck.  And we have no hope of finding our way out just yet.

Anyway, back to New York.  I came across this article on Jenna Lyons on Twitter.  I worked at J. Crew right after Mickey Drexel become the CEO, while the brand was shifting (we still had the flannel-lined chinos, but we were also carrying sequined cardigans and strapless tuxedo dresses).  I look back on that time with mixed feelings, because, while I had a lot of inner turmoil, I seriously have never dressed better in my entire life.  Forget that I was three sizes smaller and was also receiving some items at 80% off (not an exaggeration)--I looked awesome.  I'm starting to shop at J. Crew again, after years of avoiding it due to the bad management and bad personalities infiltrating the Jacksonville store, and I wonder just how a clothing company can make you feel like a better person.  I think, if I had the money (read: if I wasn't living here), I could buy that outfit  and that lipstick  and feel like the woman I'm supposed to be.  I should be confident and happy and optimistic.  And these clothes would do that, right?  They'd make me interesting, they'd give me friends, they'd pay my bills without ever taking money out of my teensy account.

Of course, this is a destructive way of thinking, but as I already said, I look to tangible items to make my happy: a new apartment, a new city, a new look.  And this article, with all its mentions of Jenna Lyons and her beautiful office with its expansive inspiration board (along with Anthropologie, Matchbook Magazine, Kate Spade ads and the women I pass on my way to work), makes me feel like an "if only" version of myself.  I'm not writing this to make myself feel better or to look for therapy, but I'm just wondering where it ends.  If we move and I have a charming little Cape Cod with enough space for those new J. Crew wool trousers (in fuschia, please), will I finally chill out?  Or will I scream at the dog when his muddy paws brush against them after running outside in the rain?  You know the answer as well as I do.

I don't think of myself as an interesting person; in fact, most of my personality lies in my hair, and that's a complete coincidence, because I surely didn't ask for it.  I don't go out on weekends and I don't ever have the time (or money, for that matter) to take a vacation.  So maybe that's why I rely on what's within reach to make me more interesting.  That sequined dress makes up for the fact that I have nightmares every night.  And that extra-wide baseboard?  Well, that's there to conceal all the dirty dishes waiting for me to take care of after we eat the dinner I cooked.

I'm within a month of my twenty-fourth birthday and life is not as I imagined.  First off, when I was a kid, I thought 24 was the perfect age to have a baby, so that's been a big change of plans--for the better, though, no complaints.  And I never thought I'd be living with someone and talking about marriage, or living in the suburbs, or just trying to make it through each day without wanting to throw my head against my desk repeatedly.  I thought that 24 would bring me charisma, talent, a big paycheck and a studio apartment.  I thought it would make me interesting, to repeat what I've already said.

However, I've come to find out I'm boring, and I don't know what to do about it.  If only I could afford that wool coat...


  1. Oh man. I felt exactly the same way when I turned 24. I was in a job I hated, my partner lived 5 hours away, and had moved back to my hometown with few friends. I cried every morning, and it was horrible. Things really did turn around for me in that year, though, and I hope the same thing happens for you.

    And, in the meantime, you absolutely deserve to feel safe, no matter what sort of rent you can afford. Not being able to run to the grocer by yourself or feel safe sitting down to eat dinner is unacceptable. Good luck in your search for a new place.

  2. Thanks, it really does feel better to know that someone went through this too. I went through this right after graduating college and thought I was over the angst, but it seems like any changes can bring about anxiety and worry.

    And thank you for your encouragement. The apartment outlook here is dismal, but I know if we're meant to stay here, we will. It's just difficult to not rush it along or not wish it was over with, just so I know where I'll be living at the end of the year.


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