Last Day. First Day – Overdue

Westside Highway @ Jersey City / Rt. 495 @ Manhattan
Westside Highway @ Jersey City / Rt. 495 @ Manhattan

It took N and I 2.5 hours to pack up one U-Haul cargo van in New York and only 11 minutes to unpack it in New Jersey. That’s the welcome difference between a driveway and big hallway to empty belongings out into and a narrow 5-story walk-up. For all the exercise I hadn’t received in January that may have made up for it. I’ll have to start actually working out now that I can’t call my apartment both my home and gym.

It’s official. I’m out. Gone, baby, gone.

So far, living with my “new roommates” has gone pretty smoothly. Everyone rests easy knowing this layover in the town I grew up in will be short and sweet. I’m actually looking forward to pulling my weight around here. My parent’s have both been on pretty successful low/no carb diets for a while, and I have agreed to have dinner waiting when they get home from work. I love to cook and having access to a big, open kitchen will be a fun experiment. Tonight, for some Super Bowl treats, I’m trying my hand at jalapeno shrimp poppers.

I hope they look like this
They should look like this

I’m hoping the time spent at home will be a little like city rehab. Even though I have successfully severed the city, it’s still in my system. Late nights, not enough exercise and water, over-indulgence of food, booze and men. Even my bank account took a beating this month. Everyone needs a break once and awhile, and mine is coming in the form of a countryside retreat while I figure things out.

As I stare out the window of a back bedroom I see a snowy field and think how easy it would be to get lost out here. Lose focus and let the months pass without ever concocting a plan. Without ever purchasing a plane ticket. Without following through. But that’s not me. I said I would move to New York City and I did. I said I would leave, and I have—not because it scared me off, but because the world is bigger than velvet ropes and skyscrapers and constant competition. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I aim to find out.

How am I so sure I won’t be sitting in this same seat a few months from now looking at a swimming pool instead of a white-covered terrain? Character. A long time ago my father’s best friend told me something I will never forget, Character is what you have when no one is looking.

No one is watching me. No bosses are staring over my shoulder. I’m not punching a time clock. I’m not on this journey for anyone but myself. I am a person of character and that is why I know for certain I will succeed whether I am in Austin or Australia. Like President F.D. Roosevelt once said, The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, the only thing I have to fear is getting in my own way. And I say to that possibility, to the unknown, to the risk and to the dares worth taking…Bring it.

Day 18 – The After Party

Truth
Truth

I’m cranky. I’m getting sick. I’m complaining. I’m tired of dealing with really stupid people. Here is a little bit of what I’m talking about:

  • Posted furniture on Craigslist, $60 for bar set with stools, no I’m not selling it to you for $20, even if you do follow that offer up by saying, not trying to lowball you. Yes, yes you are. Go away.
  • Guy wants my TV. Arrange time and date for pick up. Waiting for him to call. Waiting. Waiting. See he’s emailing me, email back 15 minutes later. He can’t get it anymore. He didn’t have my number. My number is my contact information in the posting he originally contacted. Stupid. Plain stupid.
  • The waitress who will be receiving all tips from the people at the party says she’s really hangover and can’t get her shit together. You carry beer from a bar to a patron and collect money. What “shit” are you trying to handle? (Also, as a person who has been a hostess, waitress and bartender, complaining to people giving you money to make them happy is probably the worst thing you can do.) Job fail.

Moving on… Yes, there are a lot of frustrating things about today. But the weekend was great, and I just keep thinking about it. So many friends came out, even in the cold, even in the snow, even if it wasn’t in their neighborhood. That meant the world to me, because no one owes me anything. And I’m sure those that missed it will be eternally regretful.

Last St. Elmo's Fire meet up, missing Maq
Last St. Elmo’s Fire meet up, missing Maq

It was a giant success and I couldn’t have done it without Mara. She also kicked in a surprise and had people fill out well-wishing cards. I read them last night. I am really touched by the words, advice and support that filled those cards. I am sure I will read and re-read them when I feel down, lonely or nervous about my decision to leave NY and start over again.

Another really amazing and heartfelt moment from the weekend came in the form of a wedding party invitation. In life, I imagine we are only lucky enough to have a handful of BEST FRIENDS. People who stick by us through thick and thin, people who would break or bail us out of jail. One of those people is my friend Sean. Sean’s one of the strongest and self-sufficient people I’ve ever met and when he asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

There’s nothing more I’d want to give someone than support and encouragement on one of the biggest days of their lives. We have a special friendship, and when he is happy, I am happy, even if the Men’s Warehouse will undoubtedly be confused when I show up for my fitting. Are there any ladies out there who have been a groomsman? I’d really like to know how you participated, what you wore, etc.

Sean and Cheesi do Manhattan
Sean and Chessi do Manhattan

I want to send a couple “shout outs” to some more special people in my life. Panda, Sauer, CJ, Maq, Andrea, Rob and Maria. It’s not about fitting people into the blog; it’s about those people fitting me into their lives. I wouldn’t change anything about them, except that I could pack them in a suitcase and we could all move together. Every day their love, creativity, humor and advice will be missed.

Last update: I thought the Austin agency was ruled out because I hadn’t heard from them. However, while writing this post, they emailed me that I am still in the running and I should hear next steps from them by Wednesday. It’s throwing a wrench in my “plan,” but an invited wrench indeed. Check in for updates….

Austin?
Austin?

Day 15 – Full on Pack-a-thon

Bye stuff :(
Bye stuff 😦

I’m gonna make this short and sweet because I am busy, busy busy! My once neatly organized and meticulously decorated apartment has become a total mess. Boxes, clothes, papers and questionable items litter every square inch.

I sold my coat rack yesterday so my jackets lay anywhere and everywhere. As I write this I’m sitting on 1970s, knee length, leather and fur thrift shop find I got two years ago while shopping with Rocks. I LOVE this coat. I never wear it, but I had to have it. When I wear it I feel like an Italian mobster’s girlfriend. It’s items like this one that I can’t bring myself to part with. I wonder if it would be overkill in San Diego with some cutoffs and 80s style knee-highs.

No anilmals were hurt in this century to make this BOSS coat
No animals were hurt in this century to make this BOSS coat

Today I have sold my iPhone 4s, my TV and my bar stools. Piece by piece this place will get emptier and emptier. After my TV is picked up Sunday night I’m not sure what I will stare at anymore, besides this computer of course. It’s cleansing. It’s also extremely hard to bargain for your property. I’ve spent all day on texts and emails negotiating. No, you cannot have the phone for $40 and get it delivered to your Bronx apartment—this isn’t Dominos and you don’t have a coupon.

I’m not a fashionista. I’ve always been more of a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl. Shoes. Shoes are my thing. I won’t spend more than $20 on a shirt, but I’ve had rent lower than a few pairs. My favorite “look” is some beat-up jeans, a slouchy shirt and some killer heels. For a look like this it can’t be 8 degrees. All week it has been miserably cold… frigid, and with a party tomorrow night I had no idea what to wear. This may be the last time I ever see some folks, gotta look fly.

So, I grabbed my very fashionable, unemployed copywriter friend who claims he can spend hours in JCrew and headed to H&M (January paychecks don’t last forever). Having a straight guy friend who likes to shop is amazing on so many levels. First, shuffling through lady clothes does not bother him. Second, if he says he’d bang me in it, it probably works (although he also said my tan, grandma bra wasn’t that bad either). $44 later I had a jumper, belt and world’s thickest tights, even though Mara says it will be the “warmest day of the week [28 degrees].”

Well, back to packing. Tomorrow is going to be an insanely fun day full of nostalgia, laughter and hopefully only joyful tears. By this time next week, I’ll be gone.

Day 14 – It’s Like Watching a Train Wreck

Let's get back on track, shall we?
Let’s get back on track, shall we?

I promised not to sugar coat anything. I’m going to be myself, not lie about what is going on in my life to save face. So here goes…

I almost set my living room on fire Wednesday night. Not on purpose! Everything is OK. Mom, don’t call me, I’m fine. I was watching TV, looking up airfares online and decided give myself some ambiance. I have a couple gorgeous smelling candles, but they are all about burnt out. I decided to finish off one of my faves, a gift given to me 2 years ago from an old girlfriend of mine. Sadly, I don’t see her much these days—unless I’m watching channel 1 news.

The explosion, a little cleaned up
The explosion, a little cleaned up

So, candles lit, alls well when I notice it’s not smelling so good anymore. I look up at my bookcase, where the candle is, and the whole fucking thing is on fire! The entire candle, which is housed in a glass vase and placed on a wood and glass jewelry box, It’s smoking and flaming and freaking me out! I’m not completely stupid, so I go to the kitchen and grab some oven mitts; I race back to the living room (I live in NYC, the distance from my kitchen to living room is like one long leap), and grab the engulfed candle. HOLY SHIT the oven mitts catch on fire, the glass vase cracks in half, and there is wax everywhere. I drop the entire ensemble into the kitchen sink and throw on the water. Glass, wax, flames spring alive and all over my counter and sink. The fire is out. No lives lost. Want an ironic end twist? That candle was a housewarming gift.

I’d love to say that in the last 48 hours that was the train wreck, but I haven’t gotten to last night. But before we go there let’s talk about IRAs and 401(k)s. I don’t know much about them, but my financial advisor, Evan, over at Ameriprise is always telling me to keep an eye on my contributions. I have participated in every 401(k) any employer has offered me. I think if I never stopped working until 70, I’d have like $40,000 to retire on. I don’t get it. I really am not financially savvy, so he does my bidding. He’s aggressive and when the numbers are low on my statements, he manages to pull them back up, so I just let him work. He says there will be more than 40k, I’m not too sure. My plan of marrying rich better work out.

Anyways, I need to rollover my Vanguard account (from my former employer) to Ameriprise. When I send Evan the info and numbers, he’s like where’s the employer match? Dude, no idea. Seriously. I haven’t looked at this since 2011 when I signed up. Do they even match? One would think. Did I do something wrong? Seems that way. So, I gotta follow up… another item on the to-do list. If only I paid attention to this stuff while I worked there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Now, go check your 401(k) and don’t be me.

OK, so last night (face to table). I’m walking to my new favorite bar, to hang with my new favorite bartender friend and my UES wing-woman, Dona. I’m listening to The Mamas and the Papas California Dreaming.  It’s cold as hell, and the song warmed my heart. “All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey, out here for a walk on a winter’s day… California dreaming on such a winter’s day,” seriously perfect lyrics for the moment and soundtrack to my life. I have a great feeling about the night. Well, what I should have been listening to is a song that would go more like, don’t get drunk because you’re going to commit emotional suicide.

Closing time, Dona & I
Closing time, Dona & I

All’s well, until about 2am. Nothing good ever happens after 2am, btw… just go home! It hits me like a train and I become wrecked. I’m leaving. I’m leaving a place I’ve called home for years. I’ve made friends and enemies, I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve broken hearts, I searched high and low for the perfect sconces for the perfect lighting in my bedroom. I’ve made this place MY place. And I’m giving it all up and my poor, poor new bartender friend, who has known me for about 3 seconds, is like, fuck, this girl is drunk and emotional. He was kind about it, but I knew he was like, fuck, this sucks. (Side note: when I told See-Jay, fellow unemployed copywriter friend about this, he said, “I hate when girls cry right before we hook up.” That’s a direct quote.)

I’m pretty sure I ran home, crying. I made it to bed, and the evidence in my kitchen suggests I ate string cheese before calling it a night. Mara is throwing me a going away party on Saturday night, I may not drink. I can’t go out like that (lies, all lies).

In happier news, my stuff is listed on Craigslist finally because I made a big decision. I don’t care how awesome the NJ agency is, and I hope one day they give me a chance, but I can’t stay in the Northeast. West coast, here I come!

The Golden State
The Golden State

Day 12 – File Riot

Snap shot of my day: Cake, Gasparilla, Packing
Snap shot of my day: Cake, Gasparilla, Packing

To make up for my irresponsibility yesterday, I did so much responsible stuff today. I confirmed dentist and doctors appointments, called my insurance company for prices and coverage and checked my HSA. I have 10 days until I lose my benefits and I’m not going out without spending a little of the money I’ve already paid into it. Plus, out of all the things I want to keep throughout my life, my teeth are up there.

It snowed like hell today too, I decided to stay in and start packing. I collect Christmas ornaments of the cities I visit. One of these days I’m gonna get a Christmas tree to put them on, but anyways, I packed those first. I packed up some books I can’t get rid of, photographs, journals and trinkets. They all fit in three small parent-donated boxes.

I also went through this file box I’ve had since college. From my summer semester in Spain to course materials at SVA and freelance timesheets dated back to 2010, it was time for a file cleanse. It’s like a juice cleanse but I ate red velvet cake throughout the whole thing.

I found a picture of an old friend and I at the Gasparilla festival in Tampa, Florida, the year I went to University of Tampa (2002-2003). He’s married now. Works in finance. I’m still wandering around, with that same look of wonder and excitement on my face. Times they do change—people do not.

After hours of ditching files and organizing my life, I decided to head out into the snow to a bar. I know the bartender, Ray, and they have free wifi. I’m talking nonsense with him and “Boom” (he tells me he answers phones here at Luke’s) says he’s interested in our conversation that involves, a blog, sex life and crying. What he thinks we’re talking about sounds far more interesting than it actually is. He asks me if I’m a call girl.

I’ve gone from advertising copywriter to call girl in 12 days. I feel like Fantine in Les Miserables. Not really, she was an actual prostitute, I’m just a girl in a bar late afternoon, sitting alone, drinking vodka and taping away on my keyboard.

I forgive “Boom” for asking me if I beat men for money and he says he could get me a job on the west coast. And another beautiful friendship is developed here in Manhattan while holding down a couple of bar stools.

 

Day 9 – Love and Family

Going on Year 3
Going on Year 3

A casual night out at a friendly Astoria bar, our MO if you will. That’s how we met and that’s how we’ll say our last goodbyes. Over the course of our courtship, Jameson has brought us together and torn us apart.

N has introduced me to The Saw Doctors (great music, check them out) and what it means to really love someone. This post is a little tribute to that relationship I guess. One thing I’ve certainly learned is that you can’t be with someone until you’re ok with being with yourself. That thought definitely transpires into this project.

I’m not running from anything. That’s not why I’m leaving. Technically, I’m looking for something… I’m not sure what but I’m pretty sure it’s not love. I have love. I used to think man met woman, they fell in love, argued over where to live, got married, had kids, hated kids, loved older-aged kids, died.

That’s not how we’ve been. We do it our own way, and it’s a little backward and it may not make sense to outsiders, but whether or not we “make it” isn’t measurable up to this point. It’s what happens after this. We’re not gonna play the long-distance game. No one wins in that game. The motions of the universe brought us together, and it will do what it wants between now and…forever. I don’t believe in fate though, I believe in coffee, kindness and keeping it simple.

N may have played an integral role in the last 3 years, but he has nothing to do with the next chapter in my life. Sorry, N, but at 35 years old, I think he’s still searching for what he wants to. This will be good for both of us.

Anyways, you know what’s great? Looking back on all the fun and fiascos you’ve shared with your friends, and tonight I plan on doing that with a couple girlfriends. A little Spanish tapas dinner action, followed by some rump shakin’ in some basement club. Girls’ nights out are always a blast. Shameless flirting, gossiping and those late nights are always followed by drinks for breakfast, known to New Yorker’s everywhere as brunch.

Nowadays, those late nights are also followed by the worst pain in my knees, lower back and feet. It’s funny that as you age the more money you have to spend to go out, but you just wanna couch it because even though 30 may be the new 20, your joints do not give a fuck.

And now, I’m going to meet my little brother (who is actually almost 24, not so little). We haven’t always been the best of friends, but we’re working on that. I’m attributing that openness to this project of redefining what I find most important in my life. Family is tops. It takes a lot to heal deep and painful wounds, but it’s worth it. This life is all about stepping outside your comfort zone, is it not?

Day 7 – With a Little Help From My Friends

Best friends minus that random bride lady
Best friends minus that random bride lady

I can’t help but to notice that there are so many awesome songs about friendship. From the Beatles to Queen and then the crew from Saved by the Bell had their hit single, Friends Forever. Friendship is just everywhere and it’s awesome.

I happen to have a group of friends that makes the Friends cast look lame. We do a lot of the same things, but except coffee it’s alcohol and except trips to Las Vegas and London it’s a free beach house near the cape (thanks mom and dad!).

I am one lucky lady to know a group like this. We actually have a name given to us by a creative director at our old agency, St. Elmo’s Fire. Yes, it’s also the name of an 80s movie where for some reason this group of 20-somethings can’t get their shit together… ah, now I get it.

Anyways, since I met this group in 2011, we’ve done everything together. And I mean some of us have really done everything (wink, wink). We also fight, and with 4 copywriters and 3 art directors, and occasionally an account guy known as Snowflake, there is never a lack of opinion or personality. Have you ever been out-witted by a sharp-tongued copywriter, that shit stings. One such person is my dear, dear friend, Mara.

This girl is a firecracker. I’ve never met anyone like her. If I were into “that”, I’d totally buy her dinner more often. She’s a marathon runner, she’ll go to the gym in -4 degree weather, she’s working on a book, she’s the only writer at the #15 fastest growing agency, she’s just fucking rad. But above all, she’s a sick friend. She is the type that will bail you out of jail, come to your apartment which is wicked far from the subway just to help you pick out a date outfit and take time out of her busy life to help you get through [another] break up. I’m also seeing her in about 45 minutes because she’s letting me use her office to take a video interview. (Remember that shitty internet connection?)

The Penrose has great lighting
The Penrose has great lighting

I have another friend I couldn’t get through living in NYC without. Rocks. I mentioned him once before. Fun Fact about Rocks, he turns 31 tomorrow. Last night we went out to a bar we like, The Penrose. They have a killer scotch and whisky collection, just ask my hangover.

Rewind…I met Rocks through a friend of a friend. After DJ left me without a place to live in 2011, I basically begged to live in his 3-bedroom apartment in Astoria. He lived with a male comedian who wasn’t around much and as soon as he said yes he became my new best friend.

I moved in April 2011. He watched me struggle through the breakup, helped me find my pain in the bottom of bottles, helped me back up again when I thought I could stand on my own but couldn’t. This stranger, who owed me nothing, was my brother. Still is.

Rocks is also unlucky in love. He’s either too sweet or too NYC. What does that mean? When he’s into a girl he’s always there for her, nicest guy in the world and some girls can take that for granted. When he’s playing the field, he’s a total douche. I’ve never been on the receiving end of one of his lines, but they work. I’ve seen it. One time I was headed to the kitchen for a midnight glass of water. The lights were off, and coincidentally he was coming in. But before he entered, a woozy-looking Russian girl stopped dead in her tracks. She starred at me. She then said, “Are you a ghost?” I’m not kidding. That happened and those are the types of girls he was “becoming friendly with.”

But, Rocks isn’t really that guy. He’s 31 now. He’s mature and successful and I’m glad we are besties. Rocks is also the reason I met N. But that story is for another day.

 

 

Day 1 – Transitional Transcendence

Coffee, pj's, starting my blog
Coffee, pj’s, starting my blog

Ah, the sweet smell of severance. It’s sort of like the smell of success if you’re ready for it. While many do not have the opportunity to prepare for the moment HR calls your desk and asks you to, stop in for a quick chat, I was one of the lucky ones. Perhaps I should start from the beginning…

I’ve been a professional Copywriter since 2007. My first job was in Morristown, New Jersey, and all I wanted to do was get into New York City. The big time. Bright lights, late nights, Mr. Right. Clearly, I was raised on episodes of Sex and the City.

In 2008, I got my big break. I packed up my belongings and got my first job and first apartment in the Upper West Side. I did what most young, broke kids do and found two roommates on Craigslist. We lived in that small, dirty, three-room apartment for two years.

Jump to 2014. Today, January 10, to be exact. I live alone in the Upper East Side, and while it’s relaxing and awesome to have a one-bedroom all to myself, it’s expensive and the building is far from public transportation. Not to mention the lack of HOT water and a loud, old heating system. My living situation is mediocre at best. And until yesterday, I worked in a failing, mediocre ad agency. Overall, at 29-years-old, my life felt mediocre.

So why am I so happy? In December 2013, right before I left for Christmas in San Diego and New Year’s in Maui, I didn’t renew my lease. I put my costly trip on my Citibank Thank You Card, my last months rent in the mail, and took off. I had made the ultimate, life-changing decision to end my affair with New York City.

I have no idea where my life is going to take me. Right now I have 20 days until I need to vacate my apartment. That’s 20 days to paint over the accent walls, sell or box up my belongings, find another place to live and say goodbye to the 250 square feet I have called home for two years.

So, where to next? Here are my current options:

  • Stay in NYC and look for a new job (insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result)
  • Move to Maui and live in my cousin’s spare room, working odd jobs and learning to surf. Not to mention possibly meeting up with the beautiful man I shared a New Year’s Eve kiss with
  • Move to San Diego and live at my brother’s house, looking for full time work, helping my sister-in-law with my cutie-wootie niece and enjoying the spring-like weather
  • Move to Austin, Texas. During a recent trip to Austin, I feel in love with the city. The casual, open community, the laid-back but smart locals, it all just seemed to fit.
  • Lastly, I can move back to New Jersey with my parents a-la The Lifeguard and “find myself.” This is NOT an actual option in their minds. Although the in-ground pool in the summer would make for some fantastic lunch breaks

So, here I go. Into the great wide open, as Tom Petty would say. Follow me on my journey, armed only with my wit, guts and the desire to sever my ties to the city. I am looking for a better way to live, and 29 feels like the perfect age to stop being mediocre, doing mediocre and feeling mediocre, and to start living.

Where do you think I should go?