Just the Way It Is

A week from Friday, my current apartment’s lease is up. Two weeks later, my new apartment is ready for a proper move-in. In that span, I also will attend two weddings, close two months of magazines, organize two volunteer projects for children’s literacy, write around 21 blog posts, submit two revised freelancing pitches for national publications, collect two paychecks and a tax return, start to pair up a buddy system I created, and well, hopefully have drinks and adventures with those I love the most. If I’m lucky, I’ll get in at least four runs a week, too.

Oh my.

Everything I own, which is way more than I thought it was, is in piles of boxes, bags, and suitcases scattered across my studio, and all that remains unpacked is my planned attire for tomorrow, a bag of popcorn I’m counting as dinner tonight, a few dishes, and my bedding. For the next weeks, I’ll be living out of a suitcase while figuring out how to schedule a mattress delivery and deciding if I’ll buy a new dresser from Ikea or scope out Craigslist. Considering if took me nearly a month to commit to a comforter and sheets, I should probably start researching yesterday.

All of these changes and stress, both emotionally and physically, have not only caused an unexpected breakout at quite the unfortunate time, but I’ve found myself irritable and cranky, and overall, just exhausted. With a million worries circulating my mind, I haven’t been sleeping well and I wake up continuously to scribble a new task on my ever-growing to-do list by the light of my cell phone. For a few days now, I’ve been complaining to my friends, family, Mr. P, and really anyone who will listen to my so-called troubles. I don’t have enough this, too much of that, too little fun, too much work, too little help, too much going on to manage.

And in the middle of singing my woe-is-me song to a friend who’s been in the city far longer than I have , she interrupted and asked, “Linds, I love you – really. But do you really think you’re the first person to move apartments at an inconvenient time? This won’t be your last move and really, it may be your easiest.”

Touché , E, Touché .

While my blog is about me and can come off as self-absorbed, I promise I’m not. This is a space to spew and discuss, and while I’ve never considered myself the crème de la crème of New York women – in my weeks of transitions and in thinking of the ones to come, I’ve forgotten that this is just how the city is.  Just how being a 20-something is. It is, just how it is.

People unpack and then vacate their apartments – hence why they are apartments to start with. We rent until the lease ceases and then we find another place to call home (unless we stumble across rent-controlled, then we stay put forevermore). Landlords expect cash-flow to change, they raise prices and lower them, give deals to those who are good tenants, and if we’re tenacious enough, we may find a no-fee broker to help us get through the dirty work of the search. Up until we get married or decide we don’t need a ring to have a mortgage, we will continue to be in the cycle of the move: experiencing the freshness of a new space with a clean slate, and remembering fondly or in remorse of the address we used to claim.

And as fate would have it, my friend M from college will be taking over my apartment on May 1. Just as I did, she’s moving sans job but with bountiful determination. We’re in similar industries and an entry-level salary fits the price tag of this place, plus it comes with a glowing recommendation from me. Or maybe it’s appeal is that it allows her kitten to can come along on her new journey, too. While packing up my things, I continue to think of her and remember how I felt in those days before I made my big move. I felt a lot like how I do now – uncertain and a little frightened, but more ready than fearful. This change of ten blocks isn’t as huge of a leap as hundreds of miles like moving from North Carolina was, yet any scenery development can be worrisome.

And while I’m not her and I can’t speak for her feelings, I know what those shoes feel like before New York breaks them in. As every dreamer and overachiever does, she’ll find her footing and she’ll land on solid ground, while crashing-and-burning a few times along the way. If the ideal position doesn’t open up, she’ll hostess or be a temp until her career path leads her where she is moving to the city to follow. It won’t be easy and she will probably doubt herself a dozen or so times, but in the end, it will all make sense and it will all be worth it.

To remind her to take it day-by-day and to not let a tired spirit get in her way, I’ve hidden some notes here-and-there and I’m passing down a gift that was given to me that’s kept me going when my going got tough. And though I may not always listen to my own advice or the cautions of others, getting caught up thinking I’m the only Manhattan nomad –  I will pass along something else, written carefully and with love on an index card for M to see:

“It is just the way New York is. But really, you wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Baby, Talk is(n’t) Cheap

Some become uncomfortable when others talk religion. Or politics. Or the birds-and-the-bees. These conversations rarely make me lose my train of thought and though others may not agree, I don’t sway my opinion to match what’s considered acceptable by whoever’s standards I’m discussing such topics with.

However, while money talks louder than sex, I’d much rather review every sexual encounter I’ve ever had than talk about cash flow.

For whatever reason, finances freak me the [insert foul word] the out. I come from a family that never struggled to make ends meet and my parents managed our assets smartly and strategically, giving me mostly anything I wanted – minus the pony in the backyard when I was six, but who remembers that? I’ve always been taught to value the dollar and that it is something that comes with hard work. Applying that mentality from the get-go, I started my own baby-sitting “business” at 13, after taking classes at the Red Cross for CPR and childcare, and my dad printed business cards for me, un-cleverly titled, “Lindsay’s Baby-Sitting.”

At 15, off the books and under the table, I earned an hourly wage at a privately owned hotel as a maid. My first day on the job, the head maid escorted me around the premises and I shadowed her cleaning skills and how to tuck the corners of the bedspread carefully. However, when we pulled off the sheets in the first room to discover whipped cream and strawberries, my virginal-self was a bit distracted during the rest of her lessons. Come to find out, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing I discovered at that job.

During high school and college, I worked at grocery and retail stores, restaurants, and daycares. On the side, I freelanced articles for next-to-nothing pay and for eight months, I wrote a weekly column for $10 a pop about worldly issues affecting local teens. I started a non-profit and I became a marketing machine of what I considered my greatest potential – my words. I was using MySpace to network before social networking was ever a topic of discussion. And through all of these odd jobs and while I developed an entrepreneurial spirit, I never stopped worrying about my mini un-wealth. It wasn’t – and maybe still isn’t – something I feel at ease talking about and while I believe in the freedom of speech, for me, that’s a talk that isn’t cheap.

To combat my woes, I’ve always been a saver and never one to really accept financial favors from anyone. After a certain age, it would churn my stomach to ask my parents for cash and I felt a sense of guilt that they were supporting me during school, while so many of my friends were already independent of their families. Men have often paid for my dinners and I almost always allow them to, but once I’m in a relationship, I feel more of a need to go 50/50. Mr. Possibility‘s bonus is more than my annual salary and while he can afford to cover me for every outing we take, I always make an effort to add in my literal two cents frequently. Because I’ve placed my savings where I can keep track of them, I know where I can spend money and where I can’t.

Even so, for years and even at points to this day, I’ve lost sleep stressing if I was making the right decisions with my income. Am I saving enough? Should I start investing? Am I getting the best deal? Do I really need that or can it wait? Have I gone out for drinks too often this week? Should I not get coffee this morning? Should I book that ticket or can I afford it?

And who the hell thought I was capable of maintaining my own financial stability when my idea of managing my money is logging onto BankofAmerica.com?

It took until I was truly on my own, without any financial support from mom and dad, paying my own bills and student loans, having only my name on a lease, and depending only on myself to eat, drink, and be merrily-with-money, that I started to relax. Within the first three weeks of moving many moons ago, I bought a plane ticket, transitioned myself into a new apartment where I had to fork over $1,600 for a deposit and first month’s rent, plus fed myself, and bought an unlimited Metro. I watched the stockpile of money I had been building for over six years quickly disassemble and realized that money was meant to be spent, not continuously counted and admired. I had not gone into banking because I couldn’t stand the thought of it – I had picked a career that no one pursues for the monetary pay-off, but almost all are satisfied with the print-out.

If the last few years attest to anything, it is that much of what we consider permanent is not as sturdy as we view it. Stocks and companies crash, bailouts aren’t always the best choice, and the lap of luxury we’d all like to lay in may never be an actual option. Their is no secret remedy to dismissing the fear of losing it all because no matter how much we make, how much we spend, or how much we save – there is no guarantee that what have today will be there tomorrow. Though I find myself mature with my finances and for the most part, I always make smart decisions – I’ve discovered the key to managing money is learning that to get, you have to give. Not just in charitable donations (as you should) but by enjoying your life instead of preparing for what could come or what may be inevitable.

I’m not to the point of frivilous spending or unplanned trips to exotic places, but if I want that Kate Spade bag or a pair of shoes half-off at Bloomingdales, I remember I’ve worked this hard and treating myself won’t destroy my accounts. Even so, if you ask me about it, I’ll won’t reveal my purchase. I’m just not one to spend and tell.