The nomadic life has always appealed to me. This is probably why working in international development was the only logical choice, as it never occurred to me to do anything else. The countries and people change along with the programs, travel and field experience being the only currency worth boasting about.
I moved to London with high ambitions and ended up staying for almost four years, ceaseless travelling all the while. When I finally left, I spent a year living out of one weather-beaten suitcase. I travelled across Europe and into Africa, frequently jolting back to New York and London between trips. Once settled in New York for grad school, and eventually for another year of freelancing, the restlessness continued. Two years and six apartments later (from some seriously dodgy rentals in the East Village to sublets from South Slope to Crown Heights), I settled in Bushwick, worn out and searching manically for something stable.
Then the unthinkable occurred. I turned 30 and went to work on Wall Street. The words “cliché” and “irony” haven’t seemed to suffice so far. Finding myself in the private sector, let alone Wall Street, was an utter shock. Finding Wall Street to be less of a hell than development often is was equally as shocking. The feeling of being permanently trapped inside a stock photo, however, is priceless.
So far, the almost three months into full-time employment have erased almost all previous memories of the struggle of freelance life. It’s as if the months spent in constant dread of running out of assignments, and the constant reevaluating of goals and purpose, happened distantly to someone else.
However, the days are not without an immense sense of gratitude. Despite some doubt-inducing days, the work is steady, and compared to development, the hours are the stuff of fiction. Being adept at scraping by for so long on a freelancer’s wages, current compensation always leaves me with more than I know what to do with at the end of each month.
Along with a steady salary comes the steady working hours. This was less easy to come to terms with. Not an early riser and accustomed to doing most of my work overnight, the daily toil of the 10-6 weighed heavily. A good deal of creative strategy was summoned to make the most out of the after-office hours. As a result, life outside of work has reached a sort of balance. It’s almost as if this life has been newly formed and is trying, rather optimistically, to find its own two feet. Patiently, I’m building a foundation for the one thing I’ve always lacked: routine.
The thought of routine, which usually stifles me, has on the contrary brought an element of much needed maturity into my schedule. Unintuitive as it is for me, achieving it has taken many false starts. Slow progress and frequent positive affirmations have been key to not flinging myself off the proverbial wagon again.
The routine so far has taken on the form of gentle domesticity. If not fully so, then a great deal more, than what I’ve experienced up until this point. I took over the lease on my Bushwick apartment, which triggered a frenzy of domestic activity. A whole year in one apartment. What a feat! So I moved into the inordinately sunny bedroom facing the park along Starr Street. I perched myself authoritatively at the top of the railroad apartment, nestled away from the other rooms off the kitchen.
As the head administrator of this new space, I plunged dutifully and enthusiastically into the work at hand: furnishing nooks and crannies, replenishing cupboards with new mugs and plates, and dispersing art and fresh flowers onto every conceivable surface. In sum, I racked up a ridiculous bill with all the perceived “essentials” that a newly employed, distinctly not homeless 30-something might need.
In other words, it dawned on me that I had accidentally stumbled upon a normal life, and I was more than keen to play along.
The mad rush of energy to make this Bushwick walk-up a home consumed several weeks, but eventually the desired effect was achieved. I was quickly enamored by the flood of sunlight in the mornings and the rare, green views. My books, previously kept as adornments in other people’s hallways, now had a home of their own (a pale wood bookshelf that I assembled myself, I might add). The curtains were hung, the vases arranged, and the green of the potted plants and succulents popped perfectly against the red exposed brick in all the rooms. $21 spent on each miniature candle seemed like a reasonable price to pay to lighten up a space of one’s own.
Having spent all my life until this point not giving a toss about interiors, or exteriors for that matter, I can barely understand this newfound interest in tapestries. But home is now so cozy that I sometimes just want to stay in bed, tucked between throw pillows, gazing out the window at the weaving treetops of Maria Hernandez Park.
Are the days gone when I’d spend four nights a week marauding around the East Village until early morning, five drinks in, dancing with people I probably had only known for the better part of a week? The farewell to a freelancer’s schedule is bittersweet and the late nights out have since halved. The state of the permanent hangover has given way to more nights in: coming home and putting the kettle on, streaming Radio 1, rolling my eyes at myself as I contemplate the practicality of meal prepping.
Some nights instead have been devoted to the newfound goal of “Developing a Yoga Practice”, a goal allotted to you immediately upon arrival in Bushwick. After an overindulgent dinner, I’ll guiltily stumble the few steps over to my studio for a Lunar Vinyasa, followed by a piping hot shower. What a life of contentment, ease and serenity!
And then at times it occurs to me that I’m only ever just playing at this grown-up game. On nights like these, I pack up my things and hightail it over to the nearest dive bar as a matter of urgency.