Another night out in New York City
I just had dental surgery yesterday, so I couldn't eat or drink anything, but I wanted to dress up and go out... so I did.
It felt glamorous and exciting, as it's supposed to feel. This is why we go out, right? This is how these fancy schmancy places remain open! I also figured this was my chance to ask some "real" adults what it's like working the white-collar life. How they get by, why they get by, and what it will be like for me.
There weren't many mixed or varied responses. Most were brief and empty, involving the joys of alcohol making it all worthwhile. Many answers were just, "I don't know why or how, but I fell into it and just kept doing it."
Finally, one woman who was slightly less drunk, or perhaps more drunk, gave me a more detailed response. She told me, to paraphrase but not weaken her lengthy response, that we all start out starry-eyed. We come out of high school or college or postgraduate and we have this idea that we're going to be special. That something great will be thrust upon us because we did our time, we worked hard, we spent our parents money. Now we will make it worth their time and our time. We all plan to be millionaires.
Then, reality hits. But, that's okay! There's no shame in living the 9-5 life in a nice blouse for 'okay' money and not living our dreams. Because we're told that we need to pay the bills and we need to start somewhere. We're told that it will open doors and eventually lead us to what we really want. Because of this, our eyes and hearts remain starry, our passion and fiery drive pushes us forward through the tough times. The times we want to give up, we don't. The times we want to run away, we can't. Everyone has these moments, she tells me. Everyone feels downtrodden and useless and hopeless. Not always, but often. Life just does that, but we get through it because we have hope that it will turn around and be worth it. We each tell ourselves (and others reinforce the idea) that things will work out. If we just apply ourselves and push ourselves into the things we don't want to do, we will eventually be able to do all the things we do want to do. Everything happens eventually!
You're in your 20s with this attitude, then your 30s... then your 40s. Then, you find that you're in your 50s and you don't have time to think about being special or worry about being "more" or "better". You're just trying to maintain a lifestyle that's like everyone else's lifestyle. You're surviving. Around your mid-30s, you also discover that alcohol convinces you that it will be okay. She says to me, "You will notice that there are many bars in this area. This area where the cool, wealthy people work and live. I live over here and I've been to every bar. My expensive home doesn't make the job worth it, the alcohol does."
She told me that she drinks to get by, that her friends and bosses and co-workers all drink because there is no other way they would survive otherwise. Her first drink was at 32 years old. Her first well-paying job, her first meaningful relationship, her first look into the rest of her life, all after turning 30.
Today, she wishes she hadn't settled, she shares this information with the growing group of listeners. But she knows she can't turn back now. So, she'll work, smile, nod, then die. That's her plan. Her friends smile and nod. One man listening in smiles and nods. It felt like the room turned to smile and nod at this woman's life. To agree and acknowledge the same path they followed.
This is when I wondered if this is what lies ahead for me. I don't particularly enjoy drinking alcohol and I don't plan to work mindlessly and resentfully for the rest of my life, what other choices do I get? It's like they say, if everyone is always telling you the same thing and everyone agrees with that same thing, maybe they're right...?
Perhaps I won't smile and nod or drink and die. Maybe I'll grow to love the mundane life that everyone leads. It seems so odd to me, that with all the things happening in the world, how are so many people doing those things and still feeling empty inside? I suppose there's that whole existential reasoning thing that keeps us awake at night. That whole recognition that it's all without purpose, all goodness is fleeting and all badness is stuck to us for life. As humans, we cherish the bad, so it is only human to constantly come to that realization that a single moment of joy is worth savouring, but impossible to hold onto.
Is the best option, then, to just embrace the bizarre nature of humans, humanity, and existence? To accept the inevitable emptiness and meaningless, but go on anyway because death is supposedly selfish and the unknown is too scary to bear? Should I maintain my ignorant and naive optimism despite warnings? Only to then cower and cringe at those moments when I must face the open window?
What now stands out to me about last night was that in this lavish, beautiful rooftop bar overflowing with $20 cocktails, at some point, they opened the windows. It was surprisingly cold for such an otherwise toasty day. The chilly breeze was relentless, no matter where you stood. This is how I ended up amidst the crowds at this packed funeral of hopes and dreams, because no amount of high-quality makeup or exploding champagne could protect us from the changing weather. I suppose there is a reason they call it the 'little black dress'. These women have their safe, funereal wear to go out and mourn their fantasies, whilst men hang themselves with tightly wound silk around their necks. Constant reminders that it's only Thursday, which leads to another early morning at the office, so they can go out on Friday night and drink more. To return Saturday and maybe even Sunday, only to begin it all again on Monday.
Then they can joke about their fears and tears and hatred of Mondays with their co-workers whose red eyes and heavy eyelids reveal their shameful truths. But this weight spills into Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. They'll wisely lecture others that life is too short and it's moving too fast, so we must enjoy! That is, enjoy two days of the week, two days of alcohol, two days of questioning one's will to live, and put up with another 5 days of self-doubt and self-loathing. Life continuing forward without affirmation or approval.
I hope to never turn quite so bitter and jaded as these white-collar drunkards. My blind optimism and ongoing need to pick myself up and lift my own spirits is what has always been my guiding light. But no one plans to fall to their knees and get beaten up by the world, do they? No one decides that the best life is one lived with regrets and a stock of anger and tears ready to expel at any moment.
Some get mad, some go mad, and some just live for the sake of living. I don't know if these are the only options, but they seem to be the popular choices.
On my way home, a man in his 30s invites me to have a drink with his friends. I asked what they're doing and he responds, "I dunno. Just hanging out, drinking too much for a Thursday, and complaining about work...."
I declined his offer. Enough of that for one evening, thank you.