ICYMI: I’m crowdsourcing motivation to write my book, since it’s already been three years since I’ve gone through much of the life and the things. I’ll be “releasing” a chapter a week, and taking loads of feedback – because, well, everyone needs an editor. Or hundreds – whatever works.
Here’s Chapter 1, if you watch to catch up. Below is Chapter 2. All the comments and all the shares welcome.
(Once again, all rights reserved by me. Don’t be a dick. Especially to an intellectual property lawyer.)
“Hey babe, I’m home!”
I looked up from my computer absentmindedly. “Hi, how was your day?”
Jack smiled and walked over to drop a kiss on top of my head.
“It was good,” he said as he pulled off his sneakers. “It was really busy. The plans for the new place are really starting to get going!” He plunked his computer bag down on the couch next to me and walked back towards the kitchen.
Jack was in the middle of opening his second vegan restaurant with his business partner and had been spending long days at the space doing things like designing menus and tasting recipes.
“That’s great. Do you want to tell me about it? It looks like it is a hot one out there, as well. Holly and I weren’t out for very long today.”
Holly was our rescue lab mix (and, I might add, the light of our lives – yes, we were those people), and since we had only adopted her a few months before our wedding, she was still getting used to being a big city pup.
“Yeah, the train was miserable, and since it’s above ground out here, waiting on the platform isn’t even a nice reprieve.”
We lived in Astoria, Queens, on the very last stop on the N train. Jack had bought the apartment with his best friend long before we knew each other. His friend, Roland, had gotten married and moved out years ago and Jack had kept the place. So for now, we lived in it. All the way out here, though, so far from Manhattan, the train stopped above ground, so waiting out there could be excruciating in the New York summer heat. I had never lived in the boroughs before we got married, but I tried not to be a Manhattan snob about it, reminding myself that if I was fortunate enough to live in Manhattan through undergrad and law school, it was only as a result of my very generous parents, and not as a result of any hard work on my park, unlike how Jack got gotten his place.
“That’s a bummer,” I mumbled and look back down at my computer.
“What’s on your mind, monkey?”
I looked up when Jack used his pet name for me. “What do you mean?”
He laughed and then smiled, with his gorgeous blue eyes making me remember again just how handsome my husband was. “I can see you’re distracted, monkey. Working on something big?”
“Oh, yeah, prepping for the interview. I think the managing editor is one of those media types who has his head up his own ass, so I’m doing some research on him.”
“Right! I forgot you had the interview tomorrow. What time is it?”
“It’s at 3. I was thinking about asking them if they could do it earlier, since, as you know, my brain stops working after about 10 a.m., but apparently the aforementioned media type asshole is some big shot that can’t be bothered to stroll into the office until after he’s done making his morning news show appearances. Then he wants time. So 3 it is.”
Jack smiled. He was well aware of when my brain worked and when it didn’t. It had been a somewhat contentious point between us since we moved in together: he was, by nature, a night owl, preferring to stay up late into the moon’s reign playing video games or hanging out with Holly. I was the exact opposite: although I wasn’t working at the time, I still preferred to be in bed by about 10 and up before the sun came up, feeling like I had wasted the day if I woke up after 6 a.m. Then, coffee and a workout. Despite the conventional marriage wisdom of going to bed together as a couple, this wouldn’t necessarily have been a huge deal if we hadn’t lived in New York City: tiny apartment, no space, and destined to keep each other awake at the hours we both wished to be sleeping.
It also might not have been a huge deal if our marriage wasn’t struggling already in other ways, but I couldn’t think about that right now.
“Well, you’ll have the morning to prep and do some research on the company. And then maybe the early afternoon to nap.” He grinned, then turned serious. “I read a few of their articles online earlier and they seemed legit.”
I silently prayed to a god I didn’t believe in that Jack was right. I had been out of work for months. After my graduation from NYU Law, I had landed a job at a small firm doing intellectual property (which is what I geared my course work towards). It seemed like a dream job: small firm, learning a lot, in the practice area that I wanted. Unfortunately, like many other things in life, that was one that I seriously miscalculated.
If you’ve never known a new, young lawyer, you’ve never really had the opportunity to see what depths of despair the human spirit can get to, while simultaneously being clothed, fed and generally fortunate. As soon as I started working at the firm, I knew I would hate it. My boss was what can only be described as, well, a lunatic. And a mean one at that. Some days, he would send emails and say things that made clear that he thought I was the best first-year associate he ever had. Other days, he’d send me and the other partner, who was supposedly his equal, emails calling us “idiotic” for picking the wrong color of paint for the new office walls. He was an unstable, unhappy man, and it was difficult to work under him.
When I tried to ask other young attorneys and friends whether this is how it was supposed to be, I was greeted with the universal response of, “I think so.” Maybe my boss was a bit more vitriolic than others, but either way, most people I talked to didn’t think new young attorneys were supposed to like their job for the first year, or five, or ten, or fifteen. Even a few older attorneys that I knew agreed that it wasn’t the type of career that made you happy early on. Or really, ever. The general consensus seemed to be that at first it was terrible and the only real thing that made you happy later on was the money. Almost every other new law graduate I knew was already miserable as well but had decided to stick it out because they worked on so hard and so long on this degree and they all had student loan debts to pay.
One Tuesday morning, I woke up and felt like I would do anything to get out of going to work. I wasn’t sure why. I had made it through Monday at the firm and was counting down four days until the weekend. And I should have been in a better mood: the day before, I had been offered a not-inconsequential raise, and I was thinking about whether I wanted to reject it. It sounds strange, I know, but I was miserable. It was going to be hard to say no to that much money. So truthfully, I wasn’t planning to, but I was wracked with worry about whether I was going to be able to work in a career that I hated for the rest of my life.
It turns out I needn’t have worried: the decision was made for me. That day, nearly as soon as I got to work, I received another one of my boss’ emails, calling me names, implying I was an idiot and assuring me I didn’t know how to do my job. It was hard to let my self-esteem get dented because this was the man who, just a day ago, had called me the best young attorney he had ever worked with right before he offered me the raise. No, I definitely wasn’t upset, I was just angry. Before my boss got in the office, I went to speak to the other partner about the name-calling that went on at the firm, to make it clear that I simply couldn’t accept it anymore. This wasn’t the first time I had spoken up, however. I had always replied to the numerous emails with my own strong voice, defending myself and making clear that his language, tone and overall attitude were unduly vitriolic and demeaning. This day, however, when I went to speak to the other partner, I wasn’t sure where it would lead. I got my answer when he said to me, “That’s just how he is.” I knew beforehand that he and most other people that interacted regularly with my boss just accepted him as an unstable jerk, but I couldn’t believe that he would idly stand by when my boss was hurtling degrading insults at not just me, but at us both.
I was done. So, I did the thing that most young lawyers don’t do: I left.
Although I was in tears on my way home, I was still exhilarated. I had called Jack when I got the email and he assured me that he didn’t want me working there one more minute, either, and he would be supportive of anything I wanted. I was happy to have his support and even happier that I had said no to money and yes to making myself happier. Hell, I did what everyone dreams about doing: I left the job I hated instead of staying there to suffer. I considered myself lucky. I knew that this was only possible because I had the financial support of Jack, who just wanted me to be happy, and that there weren’t many other people in my fortunate position. Still though, I dreamed of it being a great, romantic adventure of self-discovery where I would learn what I truly love to do. I saw myself growing and changing and having new adventures, and making a great life for myself.
Here’s what happened in the first week. I went on three different interviews to different law firms and I didn’t get any job offers. Then the reality hit: had I made a terrible mistake? I was so new in the field and at least I had a steady income and was gaining experience before. Isn’t this why most young attorneys stayed? To build themselves up?
Although it didn’t help my despair much at the time, I had friends and family to lift me up in my moments of self-doubt. It was the right decision, they said, because you had the guts to leave a stable career that you hated. Now, you just have to find yourself. And another job.
And what I found was that I hated finding myself.
Either way, it didn’t much matter because what I had done couldn’t be undone. After several months of fruitless job searching, I had been given an opportunity to write a few blogs (for free, of course) for a really big, really popular online newspaper. Because of that chance, I soon found myself with an interview at not a law firm, but at the paper. I thought I might be happier as a writer, and luckily, I had a husband who was willing to support me in any endeavor that might make me happy
“Earth to my monkey…”
Oh, right, what had Jack just been asking me? Who knew, something about the articles, I think.
“It does seem like a cool company,” I started. “Their expectation for their writers is about eight articles per day. That feels like I would have to be a serious machine, pumping out a little more than an article per hour, if I wanted to take lunch. I’m not sure I can do it.”
Jack strolled back towards the couch and sat down. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed the top of my head.
“You can do it, monkey. You’re the only person I know that sets out to just finish something and ends up doing it better than people that have been doing it for years, whatever it is. Don’t let yourself get psyched out.”
I knew he was right, but his words rang a bit hollow at that moment. All I had ever done was go to school to learn, then go to school to be a lawyer, then be a lawyer. This was a whole new area: journalism, newspapers, headlines, SEO, online discussion groups, media…I knew nothing about this world and was just hoping I wouldn’t make a fool of myself.
He was also right, though, that it didn’t take me long to pick things up and then get bored. I wasn’t sure when the last time I felt truly challenged by anything was, so I found myself bouncing around a lot.
“By the way, do you want to go out for dinner in a bit?” he asked. “We’ll have a pre-celebratory meal, since I know you are going to get the job!”
“Oh!” I hopped up. “I meant to set a timer like an hour ago, I was going to make you this new vegan pot pie I read about today.”
Jack smiled his gorgeous smile again. “That’s okay, I didn’t marry you for your cooking skills.”
He was right about that. I didn’t have any. I also hated cooking with the burning fire of a thousand suns. But since I had been out of work, I had been trying to experiment with being a grown-up and learning how to make food for myself (and my always-hungry husband did not mind trying my usually-awful creations).
“No, no. If you aren’t totally starved, I think it only takes like 45 minutes from start to finish.”
“If you really want to, that sounds great, monkey. Do I have time to play a round?”
I wasn’t sure exactly what video game he was talking about, since I hadn’t been keeping up with his latest obsession very well (focused, after all, on finding a job), so I didn’t know how long a round would be. Still, it didn’t really matter. I’d need time and focus to “cook.”
“Sure, if I finish cooking before the round is over, I’ll just set it to warm up.”
“Thanks, babe.” I turned to head towards the kitchen and he began getting his game set up.
As I walked into the kitchen, I thought about how adorable and sweet he could be, and also about how wrong we were for each other.
We had been married for a few months by that point and in some ways, he was the model husband. As mentioned, he was happy to support me on whatever career path I might want to go down: emotionally and financially. I felt it was rare to have someone so willing to do that. And he also tried really hard. We had been going to couples’ therapy and he took it seriously and wanted to work on the relationship. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the goodness ended. In almost every other way, we didn’t get along. He was always late and disorganized, I was Type A; he placed great importance on friends and external relationships, to the detriment of our marriage, I wanted us to be the center of our world; he was a workaholic, I would have preferred a breezy beach life selling cocktails somewhere in South America; he was a distancer and liked to hole up for hours before communicating with me, I was a talker.
I also knew that many of the problems were my fault. We generally weren’t a good match, that was true, but I was also constantly finding myself feeling suffocated in our relationship, and instead of openly talking to him about it, I just pushed him into petty arguments, trying, I think, to send our marriage to an early demise.
It hadn’t exactly been a disaster for the first few months of our marriage, but it had been damn near close. Our general pattern had been going through days like today, where there wasn’t much going on and we could just enjoy each other’s company, to wild swings to the other side, where we couldn’t agree on any big decisions about how to be in our relationship. We’d sometimes fight for weeks.
Coupled with the fact that I didn’t have a job and was nine years younger than my supposed beloved, and going through the aforementioned period of horrific “self-discovery” – the stress just kept building.
It was one of the worst times in my life because, let’s be honest: self-discovery is a bitch. It’s not fun. It’s not some passionate, romantic thing we go through and then come out the other side a better person. It actually sucks. The worst part about self-discovery is that it often doesn’t last just a day or a week or even a month; there are periods of your life where discovering yourself can take the better part of a decade. That was happening to me at a particularly godforsaken time: my twenties.
Once when I was around 15, I was watching an episode of Oprah about aging, where she said something to the effect of “The twenties are awful.” What? I thought. The twenties? Awful? How could that be? The twenties are when you are really on your own for the first time, done with school, living life. In my twenties, I was going to be in New York City or Los Angeles, energetic and successful, a hot young lawyer working at a big firm and taking on the world. I wasn’t going to be attached to anyone just yet: I would have an abundance of friends and go out to eat at Manhattan or Hollywood hot spots and have glasses of white wine in outdoor bars in the summer. I would go to the gym every day and run outside in the Spring. I would hang out with other lawyers, but also artists and musicians and be deeply imbedded in the big city social scene. The twenties were going to be great!
Oprah, clearly, had no idea what she was talking about. My life was going to be a blur of happiness and frenzied activity, a la Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, the later, straight-hair years.
Intriguingly, what I failed to take into account in this entire calculus is that Carrie Bradshaw was in her thirties. Carrie, along with her friends, paid their dues in their twenties, and like most other intelligent, mature women, felt bad for women in their twenties. There’s actually an episode of the show entitled “Twenty-Something Girls vs. Thirty-Something Women.” It sounds like a war because it is a war. It’s a war that women in their thirties win every-time. It sounds great to be young and cute in your twenties, but in all reality, the twenties are a freaking mess. In the episode, Carrie meets a twenty-something year old virgin, attends a twenty-something party where the cool thing to do is throw up drunk and fall over face-first, and eventually meets the new twenty-something fiancé of her life’s desire, Mr. Big. According to Carrie, not only do the twenties suck immensely but it seems that the whole time you’re in your twenties, you’re an asshole.
The twenties are actually really terrible for a slew of reasons and unfortunately, I was still suffering through the them. And I had added to the disaster be being married and unemployed. After leaving my job, the first thing I did was immediately set off to “find myself,” as people told me I should. After I abandoned the idea of being a perfectly put-together latter-day Carrie Bradshaw, I imagined that finding myself would look much like Elizabeth Gilbert’s development tale in her memoir, Eat Pray Love. I would travel the world by myself, spend weeks at a time making friends, learn a new language and find inner peace. Yes, that would be my destiny.
I secretly believe that this is the dream of every confused twenty-something out there.
Of course, none of it happened that way, because in your twenties, you’re basically an idiot. The thing about Elizabeth Gilbert, just like Carrie Bradshaw and company was that she was in her thirties at the time of her romantically life-changing breakdown. Elizabeth Gilbert had already made enough money (not possible in your twenties) to support her journey of self-discovery. Even better for her, she ate a lot, prayed a lot, loved a lot and then made millions of dollars on her book and subsequent movie deal. I don’t imagine most life crisis moments end up in such splendor. Certainly not in your twenties.
Remember Natasha from Sex and the City? She married Mr. Big when she was twenty-five, much to the chagrin of Carrie. We all thought she was perfect and awesome and beautiful and tall and we hated her. But then, what ended up being her fate? Carrie had an affair with her husband and while trying to chase after her, Natasha fell down the stairs and broke her tooth. Her TOOTH. Then, Big, the ever-elusive Big who we all lusted after along with Carrie, divorced her.
All I had learned so far about the twenties was that the most important rule was to minimize potential damage. In twenties speak this meant don’t eat too much, drink too much, quit too much, have sex too much, or just about anything too much. The second most important rule was to find at least one thing that made me happy and cling to it like it was your lifeline. I hadn’t found that one yet.
I looked down at my now almost-burn pot pie filling and managed to flick the stove off and move the pot just in time. This is why I couldn’t be trusted to cook. I couldn’t focus on anything external to my own twisted thoughts for longer than 60 seconds. Twenties-asshole syndrome, maybe. I opened the lid so it wouldn’t continue cooking and walked over to the couch, where my puppy was happily watching her dad shoot stuff on our big screen TV and chewing on a toy.
I sat down next to Jack wordlessly. I guess he had managed to kill whatever he was trying to because he looked up almost as soon as I had made myself comfortable.
“Is dinner ready?” he asked. “I’m starved.”
“Yep, just took the filing off the stove. And the crust is baked already.”
“Great, let’s go eat!”
Five minutes later, we were sitting on our couch with bowls in our laps talking about what we wanted to do for the evening.
“I can do my interview prep tomorrow, while you’re at work in the morning, or later tonight. I’d rather spend the time with you when I can.”
“Ok, let’s watch a movie. Something scary?”
I smiled. “Always.” Horror movies were my favorite, and although it was a genre Jack hadn’t gotten into until he met me, he was now a steadfast horror fan, too. Whenever we had time, we often Apple TV’d our way through some mind-bending horror flick.
“This looks good.” Jack had already pulled up the iTunes app on our Apple TV. “The Crazies?”
“Sounds good, let’s do it.”
He got up to shut off the lights and grab a blanket. He walked back to the couch, sat down, and tucked the blanket in around us. He picked up his bowl and looked at me. “Ready?”
“Yup!” I said happily.
He clicked play and the movie images filled up the screen, so at that moment, I could momentarily forget about our marriage, being jobless, my interview tomorrow and just spend some time watching Hollywood’s latest nightmare piece.