“I learned that hard work will be rewarded for having been hard work, but that some people will always be able to coast along on their money and connections. I worked really hard to get into the school I went to: I was admitted early decision and I graduated high school in only three years. I was very proud of myself, and still am, for my hard work. However, all throughout college and the internships I had in college, I met children of immense privilege — celebrities or wealthy people, lots of connections — who seemingly had things handed to them and had no awareness to how lucky that was. It was a learning experience for me to see how I had more character than the rich kids who paid for their cocaine with their parents’ money. I strongly believe that if I want something and I work really hard for it, I can make it happen. Yet it still took me a long time to not be super-bitter about nepotism/privilege and it’s still something I struggle with to this day.”—
After all, when faced with a trade-off between doing and buying, many people opt for the material good because “it will still be there” long after the experience would have been enjoyed. In one sense that’s correct: The material good lasts while the experience is fleeting. But psychologically it’s the reverse. We quickly adapt to the material good, but the experience endures in the memories we cherish, the stories we tell and the very sense of who we are.
Experiences are often also more satisfying because we tend to evaluate them on their own terms, not in comparison to what others have. Imagine that you’ve just bought a new computer and are psyched to discover what it can do. Then you hear that a pal just spent less money to buy a computer that has more memory, is faster, and has a longer warranty. How bummed would you be? (We’re guessing plenty.) Now imagine you’ve just come back from 10 days in Tuscany, only to learn that a neighbor spent less for a full two weeks there at a nicer villa. This wouldn’t be pleasant to hear either, but it’s likely you’d get over it quickly. After all, you’ve still got your memories, your photos and your time with loved ones — experiences you’d be unwilling to trade for your neighbor’s trip.
Well, I honestly did have lot of trouble finding work, including even waitressing, but so do lots of people. So needing work and money was only part of my reason for getting into it–the rest was, you know, my issues. It was easy–I just walked by one of those places one day and asked if they were hiring.
There was also a certain laziness involved on my part–I didn’t want to work long hours at a boring job. So I worked short hours at a weird job and had time to pursue other things, including a lot of internships. Whether it was worth the psychological toll it took is still up for debate, and I’m not, you know, recommending my route for anyone else. But that’s what I did, and my book is a story about what happened and what I saw and experienced there in an obscure line of work.
“Even if you love your job, odds are good that there’s some other thing you’d love to be doing as well – writing a novel, learning Italian, finally starting that “pictures of hamsters wearing scarves” Tumblr – that you just don’t have time for. But there are ways to work on your side project while still clocking in a full day at the office.”—
Another time, on the Ta-Dah tour, we were scheduled to play this festival in Germany. We were on before Kraftwerk, and we were not what the minimal house-heads wanted. Everything I said on stage went down like a lead balloon, and I got the feeling nobody understood what I was saying, so I started using the biggest words I could think of. At the end I said: “Thank you for your benign Teutonic countenance,” and I don’t think they got it. After gigs like that I tend to go backstage and beat an inanimate object with a shoe.
It’s one of those years where everyone is leaving. They’re getting married and moving to Connecticut, getting laid off and moving to L.A., getting tired of the rent and the air and the assholes and just moving anywhere else where you can get a three bedroom house for under a thousand dollars and there’s nothing within walking distance.
This is a place full of overachievers. Every publishing and media assistant making $24,000 a year was the president of their class, editor of the newspaper, the best writer in school and they knew it. This metropolis will flatten you, and you will like it.
But I don’t know if my friends are really friends, or if we’re all just people clinging to each other. Maybe in a year, or two, or ten they’ll go to Connecticut or L.A. like everyone else, leaving this life as quickly as they entered it. This place wears you out. It wrings you dry. And maybe we’re all orphans who find each other, oddly, and hang on for dear life. It’s not love, it’s desperation. It’s a warm home in the winter. When my mother asks when I’m moving home I tell her again that this is home, but neither of us believe it.
“Yes, there are women who walk around New York in five-inch stilettos. There are also people who like to have sex hanging from a ceiling with a ball gag in their mouth. This world is strange and mysterious. But New York is a walking city, a city of derring-do, and you don’t want to be limping behind.”—Here Is Everything I Learned in New York