A former coworker invited me to work from her office in the Empire State Building today. If you told my childhood self this, he probably would think I'd made it. It's cool and all, working in the same building where my dad used to work twenty something odd years ago and where Percy Jackson visited Mount Olympus, but the reality of working there is not so glamorous. I had to wake up at dawn in order to arrive before my early morning meetings. Growing up has sucked a lot of the fun out of life.
That being said, I had a lovely day enjoying the perks of a typical big tech company office, but I was so sleepy I was fighting to keep the lights on in my head all day. Sleep deprivation is seriously inhibiting my performance at work: coworkers will talk to me and I'll give them my undivided attention but not be able to process the meaning of their words. Even if I do, I forget whatever they said within minutes anyway.
I stepped out of the office in mid-morning to renew my Chinese visa. The consulate general probably has the highest concentration of frustration per capita I've ever seen; the DMV doesn't even come close. In my hour there I heard heated discussions about missing documents and other mistakes with applications. Since cell phones were prohibited inside the consulate, I passed the time by
eavesdropping listening to squabbling visitors and trying to cultivate empathy. It was an eye-opening exercise. I too struggled immensely with the awful English and user interface on the online visa application portal. On the other hand, the consulate workers probably played no part in that and were just trying to stay calm amidst a flood of frustrated, impatient visitors. It wasn't difficult to see why everyone was frustrated, and I did my best to be as polite as I could to everyone I interacted with.
My mom compiled a perfect visa application for me; not a single portion was missing or out of place. While other applicants left out required documents or filled out the wrong application entirely, I didn't even have to answer a single clarifying question about mine. I found myself marveling at my mom's quiet competence; in spite of her broken English and technological illiteracy, she still manages to excel in every task that's asked of her. I admire her tenacity, diligence, and wisdom immensely, and the older I get the more I try to emulate her in that regard.
I had dinner with two college friends at PALPAL (128 Madison Ave #1FL, New York, NY 10016). The food was good, and the company even better—I laughed so much I knew even in the moment that I would look back on that night in the dim, firelit restaurant with fondness. (we will miss this when it ends...)
Dinner also made me feel a bit bittersweet, though, because even though my friend is in town for weeks it's nigh impossible to schedule time for us to all spend time together. Now that we're all independent adults (or at least cosplaying one, in my case), there are so many strings tying us to different obligations like work and friends and family. There's not a single slot all three of us are free the next week, between business travel, wedding plans, and vacations. I know working around all this will only get more difficult as we age, and it makes me cherish the stolen moments we do manage to get.
After we left dinner, we rambled around aimlessly in search of a place to sit and chat. It's hard to find somewhere to exist in NYC without spending money, especially at night when many public places like parks or squares close. You can go to a bar, but it'll cost you—everyone wants a piece (or two or more) of your wallet. We ended up at the Moynihan Train Hall of all places, standing in the middle of the cavernous grand atrium after taking advantage of the public restrooms and lingering for as long as we could before needing to go our separate ways.
In the half-hour commute home on the L, I reflected on my almost-two weeks in New York. I've made so many good memories and hugged more loved ones than I would in months at home, but I'm slowly starting to see that being in New York and having more things to do forces me to answer difficult questions about what I want to do with my time (and in turn, who I want to be). I romantically believe you can be whoever you want in New York, but with that power comes the responsibility of making some very difficult decisions.
My friends were explaining to me the other day that New Yorkers are perpetually in 'situationships' because they're afraid of commitment with so many other options out there. Maybe the curse of New York is that there's always the allure of that something else out there, preventing you from enjoying what you have right now. In the same way, I'm questioning how I spend my long-anticipated time in the city—sure, I'm having fun, but should I be spending more time working on myself? Meeting new people? Taking more classes? Eating out less? How will I ever know when I've found the right balance?
P.S. Can you tell I wrote this in the office while at work? I write so much better when I'm not supposed to be writing, and I have no idea why. Writing in my apartment after work is like squeezing water out of a rock, but the moment I'm in my office during a workday words flow out of me faster than I can type them.
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yourstiramisu 🐌 proton dot me