When I was a toddler, I was so bored with my parents that I demanded to my mom “I want friends!”. She immediately enrolled me into daycare. My first summer in Long Island was just like that, except my mom nor my partner could enroll me in daycare. You cannot rely solely on one person for all your needs but I could tell that my lack of friends was putting a lot of pressure on my partner. And while I relied on him for constant company, I was also relying on him to keep me happy and entertained. When he wasn’t around, I was completely alone.
During those times of being alone, I was slipping into anger and resentment, self pity, lack of self care and brief moments of giving up. I could feel myself becoming a different person and it terrified me. For those who don’t know (or realize this) about me, I have a serious problem with being in control. Since I cannot control everything, I try to control myself especially my feelings. But I cannot control this.
For the first time since I was a toddler, I was alone and I had to face myself. Without a job or school, I had no sense of identity. Who the fuck has a life crisis at 29? Well, it’s a post-grad crisis and nobody warned me about it.
Hunting the rare job opportunity
To help force myself out of the pit I was slowly digging, I would leave the house for as long as possible. Each day, I would go to a coffee shop in the downtown area to apply for jobs. Any busy place with a good view and equally good coffee, is a great place to drown your thoughts under a sea of coffeehouse murmurs. I would put everything I had into every cover letter, hoping this would be the one.
As more job rejections (or the lack thereof) came in, the harder I was on myself. Reading rejection after rejection, filled my mind with doubts. Did I work hard enough in grad school? Could I have had more jobs or more unpaid internships? I am good enough? I was also feeling immense pressure to be successful. So many of my fellow graduates had jobs lined up and I didn’t which made me feel like a complete failure.
Even though Long Island has the most beautiful summers, my self-esteem quickly dragged me to dark and cold places. And my one part time job wasn’t paying me much to cover the moving expenses, rent, and bills, and on top of that $5.00 coffee every day. So I had to get creative to pull myself out of my own head.
Fighting the fatigue
Since I started graduate school in 2015, I’ve been going at 100 miles per hour balancing class and work. All of my attention and energy went into school and jobs and after I moved everything stopped. There was no slowing down, it all just stopped. I suddenly didn’t have to focus on reading or writing a paper and I didn’t need to go to bed early after a 12-hour day. I went from 100 mph to 0 and it shook me to my core.
I found a nice trail that reminded me of Upstate NY. The trail is far enough away from the main roads, so it’s mostly quiet. During the summer, walking on the trail was the only experience of the day that was worth getting out of bed for. The trail leads to a man-made lake surrounded by trees hiding the suburban homes. In the summer, I would usually sit at a bench and enjoy the soft breeze off the lake.
After my trail walks, I would cook and listen to podcasts. Now that I had all this free time, I could cook again! We have an Instant Pot, so it’s more prepping and dumping everything in one pot! Nonetheless, I forgot how much I enjoy cooking. I love prepping to perfection while I chat with a friend or parent and then dumping it all in one pot to cook for 30 minutes while I watch tv.
With the weather cooling off in the Fall and the loss of daylight in the Winter, I had to change my summer routine. Once again, I had to force myself to put myself out into the community. I had to fill my free time with something called “hobbies”. I went to college right after high school where I stopped all hobbies and went into full school mode. When I had free time, it was usually spend with friends, booze, and a lot of sleep. However, when you move to a new town with no friends, cannot afford booze, and you realize sleeping is not a hobby, you do not have hobbies. What you have, instead, is an issue of a lot of free time and nothing to fill it with (a year long cabin fear, if you will).
When I realized my grad school hobbies where in fact ways to let of steam and not healthy outside of the college life, I thought back to things I enjoyed ten years ago before I was even in college. As I recall, I liked art, music, and reading. So ten years of catching up on hobbies I did! I got a library card (free books = happiness), took a community art class, and picked up playing guitar again. I totally suck at playing guitar and drawing but holy hell I love it! It’s been 10 years since I have done either of those things. So over the summer, I learned to be patient with myself, to take my time, and be kind to myself. I also learned that it was okay to not be perfect or even good at something that made you happy.
On top of all of the mess of emotions and transitions I’ve been dealing with since May, I am also living in my own personal hell- suburbia. Long Island is one giant suburb of the City (except the small pockets of farms and wineries in the North and South forks). The parkways were designed by Robert Moses (a racist jerk off) with low bridges to keep the buses from the City away from the suburbs. I won’t bore you with a history lesson of how Moses created a giant suburb, so here is a New York Times article.
My entire teenage years were spent in a suburb full of the typical teenage nobody-understands-me attitude, loud anti-capitalist music, and long walks around the mall. I quickly reverted to my teenage years in Long Island. I found a radio station that plays “alternative” music and one Green Day song every hour. Usually, my partner and I have a relaxing drive to discover new places and explore the landscape. It was our way of wandering around. But driving in Long Island is a nightmare. There is nothing relaxing about driving in Long Island.
While I have more money and freedom to discover the good qualities of the Island like the State Parks, wineries and breweries, and the beach, I find myself taking the LIRR to the City every weekend. In the City I can walk for miles, wander without any worries. And there is always something to do in the City beyond shopping!
I have my good days and bad days. At first, I had more bad days than good. And for now, it’s becoming more good days. I am enjoying my public library part time job and becoming more confident in my ability as a professional. And while I am still applying for jobs almost every day, the more interviews (or emails of acknowledgement) I get, the closer I feel to the coveted full time job.
I started a blog. Which is weird because I don’t like talking about my feelings or personal stuff. My close friend had to tell me to be more honest about what’s going on because she knows how bad I am at that. What I dislike more, is lying. I am on this hard journey in a hard world that doesn’t give two shits about me. I cannot survive alone. So I started a blog, at first to explore cocktails and books and to be more honest with friends, family, and myself.
I also want to exercise my creative muscles by writing, creating drinks, and reading. One of my favorite movie quotes is from Vanilla Sky (the movie is only worth watching for the clever lines), “Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour.” I think we all have our own “sours” but we don’t like to share those experiences with others. For some people, they want to keep up the image that everything is great and other people may just want to forget. I’m fucking tired of both.
I know the sour of the roller coast of emotions when applying to jobs and then getting rejections. And I know the sour of being alone after moving. But I also know how to find the sweet. Find the sweet in the little things like the warm ray of sunshine in the mornings before you start your shitty day. Find the sweet in the small compliments people give you (small things count!). And find the sweet in yourself, even if that sweet is surviving another day or being kind to yourself.