There’s the idea of what we are. The brand we put out there. Mine’s trash millennial bleeding heart hobbit. It’s strangely specific. It works for me. But we suffer under the weight of the ideal we put out there. Sometimes it feels like an armor, and it’s okay to want to feel safe.
Sometimes that armor keeps us from being vulnerable. Keeps us from collapse, yes, but also keeps us from the glorious recovery after being razed to the ground.
So I’m going to butterfly my chest open and share some shit with you. I’ve spent the past two weeks embarrassed, ashamed, sad, anxious, more scared and tired and sell-my-organs broke than I have ever been.
Here we go.
Before we begin, I need to grab a box of tissues as my nose is a-running. My mom used to tell me, “if your nose is running and your feet are smelling you might be upside down!”, which to this day I still find hysterical. Ask me my favorite joke sometime, it’s in the same vein.
Massachusetts really took the wind out of my sails. Which is funny because New England and sailing culture, but topical because it really did. I came back to New York with my head low—excited to have left that place, but feeling like a failure. Leaving didn’t it fit the idea I carried of Mia Vera, intrepid millennial dirtbag, delivering feels and flatulence to you!
Finding a place was hard. Because I was scared and uncomfortable, I spent a lot of money at a time when it was impractical. This pattern of spending money when scared and uncomfortable has always been a precarious part of me. (Blame it on growing up as a babysitting tycoon and my father’s deep fear that I’m suffering so he gives me money I really don’t deserve. Couple this with my mom’s very practical cutting me off, forcing me headlong into monetary adulthood that I’m still navigating). This time, it wasn’t just impractical, but dangerous.
I found a place to stay for free. Thank you, Carli. I am infinitely grateful to have a roof over my head.
I went back to 4+20 and worked. I was rattled, unsettled, letting the disappointment eat at me until I was like an oreo with all the filling licked out—just a sad sugar cookie with no substance only strange people want. That’s right, I’m calling you all strange people.
The money I earned my first week back went to my cellphone bill, a small fund for personal documents I’m recollecting because I foolishly lost them all in my moving out of the apartment, and groceries. And the commute between Jersey City and Brooklyn. I needed the job, but I did not predict the commute being as costly and scary as it is (more on this in a moment).
Money’s running low, all the while I’m trying to still be a fun, active person. Money’s this weird, all-important but not important but very important thing we’re so loathe to talk about. It’s crippling and enabling and really just strange green sheets of paper we bust ass for. I go out with friends, telling myself one drink won’t hurt my bottom line and I’ll still be fine. Getting back to JC from Brooklyn any time after 10:30 is nearly impossible. My body’s growing exhausted, heightened by the dwindling cash. It becomes a cycle, if I take the wrong train, that’s 2.75 less I have, and if I spend the money on a taxi because the lightrail doesn’t run to Tonnelle after x-time can I afford a taxi, and if I take the taxi, I’ll have to wait to eat until I’m at work, and will anyone notice how hungry and cold I am? I didn’t pack enough warm clothes, and my shirts I bought in July are full of holes. I’m embarrassed and scared, can people tell I’m fallling apart?
My GM in Cincinnati told me I could come back and work whenever. Yet when I email, he doesn’t respond. I grow fearful. The commute is eating away at my cash, and I’m afraid to touch the $132 in my savings because what-if, what-if, what-if. Then I start getting sick. My body weakened, a head cold develops. In conjunction with this, I have an allergic reaction to the long haired cat I’m sitting. This has happened before.
None of this is anyone’s fault. I’m too ashamed to tell people I can’t afford to go out, so I continue to spend. I buy a few new shirts from a thrift shop because I need them. But I still feel guilty about parting with the cash. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you look and feel a certain way. I spend my Market money on some toiletries that I need, as well as some makeup, because putting on eyeliner makes me feel less scared about the nights I consider sleeping on the PATH.
Sell my organs poor. I’ve never been here before.
I cry every night I get home. One, out of gratitude that I made it home, and two out of panick. I wonder if I’ll have the energy and money to get to work the next day. The vegetables rot in the fridge because I’m hardly home enough to cook them, and when I am home, I have to sleep.
Things got dark very very quickly. My immediate situation required so much presence I couldn’t take the time to be shocked. Immediacy trumped retrospection.
Couple this with the dissolution of a friendship. Someone I’ve loved and cared for for nearly five years pushes me past my limits and I remove them from my life. I don’t think most people are inherently bad (you have your Trumps, your H H Holmes, of course), but we chose certain behaviors again and again until they become habits. That’s what this friend did. I miss them every day since, but I know I did the right thing. You can love someone, and not grant them access to your life.
Now I’m emotionally spent.
This is no one’s fault. Here I am, an idiot covered in cat hair, alone and afraid.
I don’t think it’s about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. I think it’s about recognizing when someone’s offering their hand.
During these two weeks, an incredible thing happened without me realizing. The cook from the BBQ joint next to 4+20 brings me lunch everyday. Two friends buy dinner without a word. The bar near the JC apartment buys my drinks every time. Wordlessly these kind men with girlfriends and without agenda, let me read and drink beer in their dimly lit bar and never ask why I’m there. I jump the PATH rail as often as possible, and the old ladies watching always give me a smile. A co-worker I barely know tells me publicly crying on the train is a rite of passage in New York. She also tells me most of your 20’s is realizing the people you’ve loved for years are shitty. Her words hold me. Another co-worker greets me with a real hug, then says “that was a really good, I needed that.” I smile and say, “you’re welcome”, wondering if she knows how close to tears I am because no one has touched me in a month.
Yesterday, I call my mom and cry in front of the statue of a Franciscan monk on the corner of 4th and 9th. I tell her I might need to come home. I tell her I’ve never been more scared, tired, and vulnerable. I tell her that no one asks how I am, and I wonder if I’ve faked well-being enough, or if people simply haven’t the time.
This is no one’s fault.
My mom tells me to write this post, that I have nothing to be ashamed of, and that this is the best and fastest way to learn about money. I know in her words, in the words she doesn’t say, in the gentle way she asks if I’ve paid my cellphone bill, that she will catch me, I just haven’t fallen far enough yet.
My mother grew up castrating pigs and milking cows. Her definition of how far is tough, working class, and honest.
A crazy thing happens. On this same day, a co-worker offers her home for me to sleep in the rest of the week. No cats. My GM emails me back. I’m already on the schedule. My birth certificate comes in. I get paid tomorrow. A letter comes from my best friend, and her happiness spills off the pages and into me. I go to a Rebecca Solnit talk about public space and women and travel and freedom and sit next to a friend who later buys me dinner and asks repeatedly if I’m okay. I’m worried and vulnerable, but I am seen and who am I to ask someone to look away?
Today I have a fever and can’t leave the house. But I can make it. I call my dad and tell him I’m not coming home. I’m learning. I cancel my weekend plans and promise to store up money. At the eleventh hour, Fate provides. I can continue to travel, just when I was about to give up.
I can continue. Luckily, humbly, gratefully, shockingly, this little idiot covered in cat hair will make it. Some lesson is learned. Several I think.
It’s hard to write when you’re afraid you won’t get home each night. It’s hard to worry if you’re gaining weight and breaking out when you don’t know where your next meal will come from.
The next few things on here will be about hobbits, for Posey, about friendships dissolving, about men projecting on women, and who knows what else. But I had to get this out of the way. I hid my sick, scared self from you. The reason was shame. I was not in integrity with myself, because shame is bullshit and fuck shame. I resent letting it lord over me these past few weeks.
I’m so damn lucky to know you all.
I love you. I miss you. I hope to see you soon.