“It’s New York,” they say shrugging when someone bumps into you. “Oh, well.”
They say that too when someone elbows you sharply in the stomach and you lose your breath for a second. Or when you miss the train right as you catch your breath. Or when someone steals your spot in the movie line or at the grocery store.
But when you’re having a bad day, nobody uses the excuse. Nobody says, “Well, of course you’re bound to have a bad day or two now and then … it IS New York after all!”
New Yorkers are many things: harworking, persistent, smart. But for all their greatness, one trait many also share is unhappiness. The danger? They don’t acknowledge it. They just live with it. Or rather, distract themselves from it. They drink, they smoke, get high off dissing each other. Then they shrug again, and they move on.
Of course, not everyone in New York is like that. But I do believe that unhappiness is one of the reasons for all these addictions that are so much more prevalent in this city than others.
Well, today I was that New Yorker. Not the addicted on, thank goodness, but the unhappy one. I spent most of my week unhappy, and today I reached my limit. I had a bunch of housework to do, some work work too and then some other random minor things. The to-do list seemed endless, and I didn’t want to deal with it. So I didn’t; I walked out of the house instead, leaving the keys to distraction (money, phone) behind. I walked for an hour and a half, quickly at first as if I had somewhere to be.
The plan was to get some air around the block and be back in five minutes. But something changed as I walked down the streets of my tree-lined block and watched people sitting back at coffee shops and taverns on this beautiful, lazy Sunday afternoon. I slowed down too, clearing my head. And then I started from scratch, delving into my “problems” in my head as I walked.
And slowly I came upon a bigger problem: I rarely ever stop to celebrate my accomplishments.
I’ve been stressing about an important decision I have to make at work soon, and this decision is something I’ve come to all on my own. My boss doesn’t even know it yet, but it’s a great plan that will improve two departments at once. But in thinking and planning and trying to figure out whether I’m on the right path, I forgot that I’m on a really good path. All I could see was instability, wavering and a possibly grave mistake. It’s also a lot of what I’ve seen, and struggled with, for a year now.
But then I thought things out. And the thing is, there’s no reason to fret. Because whether I take route A or route B, I’m still gonna be on the wonderful path I’ve been lucky enough to have made it on. And then I realized: When did I ever stop to high-five myself for getting this job … or a year later, for getting a huge promotion … when did I treat myself to something nice or say “Good job, girl … I am SO proud of you.”
Sadly, never. When I got the job, I wondered if I’d oversold myself and whether they’d be disappointed. I said to myself, “Now you’ll have to work doubly hard to impress them.” So I did … and that’s how I got my promotion. But once I got the promotion, I said to myself, “Is bossman really happy with my work, or is he only giving me more money and a new title so I’ll get off his back and not ask for more?” And then I spent the next few months feeling guilty ….
What?! Why? That doesn’t even make sense!!
Which is what makes it even more beautiful when I realized … and I saw how wonderfully splendid I’ve done so for, and then I laughed. How silly, at this rate, I thought, nothing will ever be great in my eyes … I could be a millionaire and I’d call myself greedy. Or I could be the president of the United States, and then I’d tell myself, “Sorry, you got here by accident. You can’t do it.”
I kept walking after my realization, realizing that my current dilemma at work is a good problem to have. And then a roadblock was lifted, and I saw something I had missed all this time, something concrete about where I am right now — a huge opportunity. I saw my luck, lying ahead waiting to be seized.
So I kept walking and made a new house rule: a half-hour walk every night to clear my head and mull the day’s events over. And when I got home, I cracked open a bottle of wine I’d been saving for special occasions and poured myself a glass.