I turned 30 exactly one month ago to the day. While I felt the usual frustrations with turning a year older, I was trying not to succumb to the feelings of “what does 30 really mean?” In other words, I told myself that I wasn’t going to ruminate about marriage, kids, and the whole concept of a future any more than I had at 29, 25 or 21.
When I first moved back to N.Y. from Charleston in 2005, I told myself that it was a temporary stop, a layover, if you will. After being back a year, I created a new master plan for myself. I would go back to school and get my Master’s degree to teach English. While I certainly wouldn’t make the money teaching elsewhere that I would teaching here (no, I’m not referring to the City schools), a teaching degree would be versatile. I wouldn’t get stuck in New York.
I actually declared a major in education my freshman year of college. By the time I finished my lackluster freshman year, I had vaguely switched over to journalism, unsure of what I really wanted. I dug myself a hole, selecting a degree that all but guaranteed I would have to live near a major city to find a job – N.Y., Chicago or Los Angeles. Going back to teach would allow me to go west, move back to Charleston … the opportunities seemed endless as long as a position was available.
Fortunately but unfortunately, I gave up the idea of pursuing teaching when my current job came my way, offering money and opportunity. At the time, the plan was to “give New York a fair shot” and then consider transferring to Los Angeles within the organization. Last year when I renewed my lease, I told myself that would be my last year in New York. I was ready to go to California to pursue the life I had always dreamed of, this July.
Over the past six months, I temporarily sidelined my plan to move cross-country. I felt like the current state of the economy made it an irresponsible time to make sweeping changes. After all, I could still move out west in another year. While I wasn’t happy pushing my dream aside, I felt like I was making a responsible choice for my future.
I planned to move closer to the City this July when my lease was up. After all, I generally spend a portion of all seven days in the City – commuting was no longer worth the headache. I started looking and found (by N.Y. standards) a dream apartment. The apartment boasted amenities atypical of N.Y-area rentals – central air, a washer/dryer and even better, it was brand new. I was content to pay a broker fee, even at a time when everyone insists I should be getting more for my money. For a moment, I felt okay with my decision to stay in New York.
Then, in typical New York fashion, I inexplicably lost the apartment before I even got to sign the lease or pay the deposit, due to a shady broker. All at once, it reminded me how difficult and unreasonable things are here, such as finding housing. Not only do we pay exorbitant rents that are completely not in line with our salaries, we also accept the idea that we will not have air conditioning, more than one closet or a dishwasher for that price. Why should I pay a fee equivalent to one month’s rent to a broker when I find an apartment on Craigslist?
Losing the apartment unearthed a wave of emotions, mostly reminding me how much I didn’t want to be here. After all, it hardly seems worth it to get so little for so much work and money when I don’t even want to live here in the first place. It reminded me that, at 30, I’m not getting more opportunities – I’m getting fewer. Honestly, it feels like a waste of time to be practical and stay somewhere that I don’t want to be because I am “thinking of my future.” Really, what am I thinking about? How much I don’t want to spend another year here, let alone the rest of my life. Every year that I spend here makes it seem less and less likely that I’ll ever leave.
Unfortunately, bad thoughts snowball. You start off feeling negative about one thing in your life and it brings to the surface everything that isn’t going how you hoped it would. Before you know it, you’re having one of those days where everything sucks.
“Woke up today, to everything grey
And all that I saw, just kept goin’ on and on
Sweep all the pieces under the bed
Close all the curtains and cover my head
And what you wish for won’t come true
You aren’t surprised, love, are you”
– “What You Wish For”