Yesterday I Googled programs for teaching English in France, having finally decided I wanted to throw whatever sense of security I have left to the wind. Then I saw that application which required multiple letters of recommendation, test scores, proof of vaccinations, etc. was due in three days. Four years ago I would have gone ahead and applied anyways, asked for an extension, begged for last minute letters of recommendations. But the person I am today decided that such singled minded impulsiveness, which might even border on a sense of entitlement, was not the way to go. The person I am toady decided that something life changing could wait another year. It was the practical choice.
I’m not sure it was the right choice.
I rarely truly want anything. Last winter there was a Kate Spade purse that I just had to have and a certain purple pair of Chloe sunglasses but in general, nothing really sparks my interest since I moved to New York. I’ve had no interest, not to mention passion, in any of the jobs I’ve worked since moving here. I was ambivalent about my MFA program and my romantic relationships alike. I don’t feel that sense of possibility inside myself anymore. Nothing feels kinetic.
Since moving to New York, I often find myself feeling like an extra in someone else’s life. My life feels passive. I do work for other people in order to get paid. I try to be the person they would like me to be. In my relationships, I spend time with someone else’s family, someone else’s friends. I smile and nod and try to be nice—and, more importantly, I try to be happy. I spend a lot of time wondering why I can’t be happy, why being included in someone else’s life is not enough for me. But all I can come up with is that it isn’t mine. I haven’t seen my own family in a year and half. Most of my friends live a plane ride away. Too much of my life is for other people. I’m not happy because I’m not doing enough things that make me happy.
I’m not being self pitying. Or at least I’m trying not to be. I think it is necessary to be aware of one’s situation. Sure, maybe I could have tried harder to make more new friends in New York. Maybe I should have fought my natural urge to be antisocial and go out and mingle with fellow students when I had the chance. Maybe I could learn to budget better and buy a plane ticket home. And maybe I should remember that this was what I wanted. I wanted to move to New York. I knew I didn’t know anyone and that I’m too introverted for most social situations so making friends would be difficult. I knew I wouldn’t like any of the office jobs I took, but I knew I needed the money and that I didn’t want to stand behind a cash register in a retail store all day. I knew I didn’t really want an MFA; I just didn’t know what else to do.
Every choice I’ve made since coming to New York was because I didn’t know what else to do. Maybe that’s how most people live or maybe I’m alone in this mess. That’s one more thing I don’t know. But I wouldn’t call any of my choices mistakes. There are only choices and what happens next. And what I’ve learned is how quickly it can all spiral into a life you didn’t want. I used to wonder how complacency happens. I get it now. I read Revolutionary Road when I was a freshman in college and I wondered how the main male character could willingly do a mindless office job. In the book, he told everyone that he did it so that he could let his mind focus on more interesting, more important, more artful things but privately he admitted to himself that he liked shutting off his brain for eight hours a day. I understand that too now.
It’s terrifyingly easy to let life just happen to you because it feels like the practical thing to do. You have responsibilities, rent, bills, commitments. When you’re bored you go to dinner or a movie or a bar. And if you’re me, you wonder why some part of you is still bored. But boredom itself is easy, passive. Changing your life is hard. Caring about something is hard. Being invested in yourself is hard. I didn’t think so back when I was in undergrad and every possibility I desired felt like it was only ever a semester away, but making things happen for yourself is hard.
I went on over fifty job interviews this summer. All jobs I didn’t want. And I eventually got one. And someone congratulated me. I wasn’t proud. I’m not even sure I was relieved. I was employed, which is no small thing. My choice of employment was a product of not knowing what else to do. I still don’t know for sure. I know I was happiest when I was living and studying in France. I know I elate in translating and conjugating verbs. I think maybe I should find a way to live abroad again. I’m not sure, but I made the choice not to choose yesterday so now I have a year to figure it out. And now that’s what I’m choosing to do.