Chase the Wind

In my last post I alluded to the fact that I’ll be embarking on a journey into elective homelessness in the not too distant future. This is mostly true. At the end of August I gave up the lease on my NYC apartment, where I’d been living (happily?) for the past six years.

At the same time, I took my experiment with minimalism to the next level by selling or donating roughly seventy-five percent of my belongings. I no longer own anything that doesn’t fit in my car. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I feel like I’ve lost a hundred pounds in the past few weeks. There are still several things that I didn’t get around to selling before I had to be out of my apartment, but my parents have graciously allowed me to store those things in their basement for the time being. (I promise it won’t be too long!)

I also quit my job. I gave my one-month notice a couple of weeks ago and my last day is September 26th. While, in many respects, I feel like I won the job lottery when I got this gig, it’s definitely time for me to leave. And though I’ll miss certain aspects of having a day job (namely the regular paycheck and killer health insurance plan), I’m really excited by the prospect of not being a day-dwelling office monkey anymore.

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What I am going to do with all of my newfound free time, you ask?

Well, I’m going to drive across the country. Not just across, all around. I want to see America. I’ve lived in the northeast my entire life and I’ve wanted to take a road trip like this since before I could legally drive. I figure, with any luck, I’ll never be this single or childless again, so it seems the perfect time to go.

I know some might think me irresponsible for quitting a good job, particularly in this economy. But, as I explained to my family, while my day job provides financial security, it also robs me of my energy and my ability to live as a creative person. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who are able to have both a job and a creative career, but unfortunately, I don’t seem to be one of them. For me, staying at a job that leaves me feeling empty at the end of the day just so I can make enough money to be able to afford an expensive apartment in a city I’m only living in so I can keep working at the job I don’t want… That’s irresponsible.

For the past eight months or so I’ve been building up my savings little by little. In June I implemented super strict austerity measures which, when combined with the added income from selling my stuff and the fact that I’ve been living debt-free since 2006, has allowed me to set aside a nice little chunk of change.

But wait, aren’t you an opera singer? Don’t you have to be in New York to do that?

To that I say there are plenty of singers who don’t live in New York. I’m quite sure my voice will still work wherever I choose to live. I don’t particularly care that I’m leaving at the start of the NYC audition season, either. Audition season will still be there next year. Besides, I might try to arrange a few in-house auditions during my travels, though that is not the goal of my trip.

What is my goal?

Simply put, I don’t have one. No, that’s not true. I just don’t have an easily measurable one. My goal is to edit my life. To turn down the background noise in the hope that I’ll be able to hear what my heart has to say. To stay open to new opportunities as they present themselves and live in the moment, rather than getting mired in the past, or too worried about the future.

There are still so many things that I aspire to do and be, but for once in my life I want to focus on the journey rather than the destination. As I tend to be the sort of person for whom things are black and white as opposed to gray, I’m taking that sentiment literally. I have no final destination in mind and no set time limit in which to find one.

That said I’m not just going to drive around aimlessly until the money runs out. There will be a bit of that, sure. But I’ve got a whole host of amazing friends and family all over the country that have invited me to stay with them, and I fully intend to take advantage of all offers, picking up temporary, part time work whenever I can. I’ve also got a few singing gigs lined up which helps.

Basically, I’m going to chase the wind for a while. If you’ve read Patrick Rothfuss, then you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, then you should. Yes, I’m talking to you, Nate.

Despite the uncertainty of my immediate future, I’ve never been more sure of a decision in my life. I’ve received so many little signs from the universe telling me that I’m doing the right thing. For instance, the day I officially decided to give up my apartment, my job and my stuff I was re-reading one of my all time favorite books and I came across this passage…

“No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection.”

–   Patrick Rothfuss (The Wise Man’s Fear)

I sure hope he’s right.

Much love,

Sarah

Dress For Success

Sometimes my life is a sitcom.

Take Friday for instance.

Fridays are generally good days at the office because my boss doesn’t work on Fridays so I have the place to myself and, consequently, I can wear whatever I want. Seriously. Whatever I want. As such, I have, on occasion, taken ‘casual Fridays’ to the extreme.

This particular Friday was the perfect storm of laundry day, summer seasonal clothes change over (that brief period between summer and fall when I forget about all the clothes I own and I don’t trust that it will be warm enough to go without a sweater anymore), and a general sense of not-giving-a-shit-ness.

So this is what I wore to the office, where I work as an executive/personal assistant for an attorney…

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Kindly note the bleach stain, the wood stain stain, and the holes in both my jeans and shirt. Here’s a close-up for you…

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On account of one too many tangos with the snooze button, I was also gloriously, disgustingly unwashed. I know. I can hardly contain my own classiness.

I rolled in to work right on time and found a package on my desk containing a lovely, though broken, pearl bracelet belonging to my boss’ daughter, with instructions to take it over to Tiffany’s (which is right around the corner from my office) to have it repaired.

I don’t know about you, but up to this point, I’ve never had occasion to shop at Tiffany’s. Let me tell you – it’s an experience.

First, there’s a strapping young gentleman in a suit and Tiffany blue tie stationed outside the front doors welcoming you to the store.

Then there’s another strapping gentleman waiting just inside the door to welcome you again, I guess.

Then there’s a third blue tie clad dude (don’t worry, he was also wearing pants) standing in the middle of the store. I’m not sure what his official job title is. He was just posted up in the middle of the store looking both charming and intimidating.

I’m pretty sure all of these men are actually well-dressed security guards, and I have no doubt that underneath the tailored suits and powder blue ties, they’re all tatted up, battle scarred ex-Navy Seals and Army Rangers. At least that’s how I like to think of them.

Then there are the hordes of other employees. Conservatively dressed salespersons wearing sheath dresses and pants suits were positioned behind sparkling glass display cases, while manager types wandered from counter to counter, some carrying clipboards.

It felt a bit like being at a casino, the way the managers were prowling around the salespeople like a pit boss hovering over the dealers at craps table. Except at Tiffany’s there was no smoking, or prostitutes and they were peddling jewelry rather than broken dreams.

But I digress.

At the back of the store, I was greeted yet again by a petite woman in a navy blue suit stationed in front of the elevators. I asked her what floor I needed to go to for repairs. She informed me it was the sixth.

Once inside the elevator, I was met with yet another helpful employee; whose sole job was to push the elevator buttons for the wealthy patrons. Fortunately, it was early in the day and there weren’t any wealthy customers in sight. It was just me and a bunch of Asian tourists who didn’t speak enough English to understand the elevator operator when she asked them what floor they wanted, so she helpfully stopped at every floor until they found one they liked.

They got off at the third floor – sterling silver jewelry.

Alone in the elevator with the button-pusher, I felt distinctly out of place. The plush carpeting, soft music and sparkling, well, everything, really set off the shabbiness of my attire. Mostly I was hoping she didn’t notice the way my flip-flops seemed to echo as I exited the elevator and stepped in to the near silence of the practically deserted sixth floor.

Thwack-thwack.

Thwack-thwack. 

Thwack-thwack.

I thwacked my way over to a large wooden desk where I had to check in with the… I guess I’ll call her the concierge. She asked for my name and I was momentarily stymied. I didn’t know if I should give her my name, my boss’s name, or her daughter’s name. For reasons unknown, I was completely (and irrationally) convinced that they were going to think I had stolen the bracelet.

In the end I gave her my name in case they asked for identification later.

The concierge instructed me to have a seat in the waiting area, but not before a butler – a straight-up butler in a tuxedo – offered me a drink. I was tempted to ask for champagne, but as it was ten o’clock in the morning, I was dressed like a homeless person, and sweating profusely by this point, I thought better of it. Instead, I gestured vaguely to the plastic water bottle sticking out of my purse and said that I was good.

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[Why can’t the waiting area at the DMV be this nice?]

As I was the only person in the room, I didn’t have to wait long.

Another woman wearing a Tiffany blue neckerchief called me over to one of the many alcoves built into the walls. It was kind of like a bank teller window, except for classy. Each alcove was made of highly polished wood and peppered with a plethora of richly upholstered armchairs.

I sat down, grateful that from her vantage point, none of the holes or stains on my clothing was visible. I took out the bracelet and handful of loose pearls that had already fallen off the broken string and emptied them into a shallow velvet covered tray.

Blue neckerchief proceeded to ask a lot of questions for which I was thoroughly unprepared to answer:

BN: When did you purchase it?

Me: It was a gift.

BN: How long have you owned it?

Me: A couple of years I think? I don’t really remember.

BN: How often do you wear it?

ME: Um…not very. I work in an office and it gets in the way when I type. I wouldn’t want it to get scratched.

She proclaimed that the pearls were in excellent condition, and continued with her lengthy examination of the bracelet. She looked at each individual pearl through the jewelry equivalent of a microscope, checked the little gold Tiffany tag for authenticity, and counted each pearl. Twice.

Then she asked for my hand and wrapped the remains of the bracelet around my wrist, asking if I liked the fit. I said that I was sure it would be fine. Thankfully, my boss’s daughter and I have a similar build and I was hopeful that the repaired bracelet would still fit her.

I signed several forms, agreeing to pay their exorbitant (per pearl) price to restring the bracelet and made my way through the waiting area. Both the concierge and the butler wished me a pleasant day as I passed. I smiled and did the same.

To their credit, all of the employees treated me with the utmost politeness. Any perceived awkwardness was one hundred percent in my head.

I was relieved to be back on the elevator though. This time there was an older gentleman manning the buttons. The elevator was packed full of tourists who were also dressed casually. They weren’t on my level of grunginess, but they made me feel marginally better.

The elevator stopped on the second floor for an attractive young couple that had obviously been perusing the engagement rings. Once on the elevator, they huddled close together, each putting a hand in the other’s back pocket. I was at once revolted and seething with jealousy.

My job done, I decided to wander around a bit and check out some of the displays. I took a few covert pics with my phone. There were tourists everywhere taking all kinds of pictures, but I tried to keep it discreet, partly out of a sense of pride for being a New Yorker who wanted to look unimpressed by everything, and partly because I kind of wanted them to think I was casing the joint, if only to have the opportunity to get tackled by one of the hot security greeters.

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Even I couldn’t pretend to unimpressed by this though…

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Admittedly, it’s not the greatest photo, but I wasn’t about to stand there all day trying to get a good shot, lest I be mistaken for a tourist. Because honestly, I’d rather be mistaken for a homeless person.

I guess that saying about dressing for the job you want rather than the job you have is true, because I absolutely don’t want to be an assistant anymore. Apparently, I want to be a homeless gypsy. Which is convenient, because that’s exactly what I’m going to be at the end of the month.

More on that later.

Stay weird, everyone!

S