Monthly Archives: February 2011

Three-Day Weekends Forever

I know I am not alone in wishing every now and then that I lived in Europe. The draws are endless. There’s the ability to travel from one country to another, easily and affordably, the picturesque countrysides and ancient villages we Americans usually only see in the movies, and let us not forget those mellifluous accents that make us swoon. Yes, these are enough to make some of us want to pack up and go right now. But what I am talking about is the holiday. This is not to say that in Europe they are not working hard. No. But with all those paid days off and the lovely long lunches (in parts of France at least), it is my opinion—and likely not mine alone—that they definitely have a leg up when it comes to achieving the work-life balance.

And sure, saying this makes me sound like a lazy, spoiled brat, who shows no gratitude at a time when, being that I’m employed, I am amongst the lucky ones, but gosh do I miss not working. I’ve acknowledged the obvious over and over—yes, that said situation would mean no steady paycheck and no health benefits. But it would also mean a clearer head…and motivation to be excellent even if collecting unemployment might have me feeling otherwise. These days I feel like I’m digging for motivation in rocky ground.

Ah but the three-day weekend. That’s where it happens.

Would it be so bad if these were regular? Shall not every weekend be three days long? Sure one might argue we would get comfortable with it too quickly and before long be wanting four. But I think not. Three days would be just perfect. In all sincerity, I plead: our current two are not enough. Factoring in the hours of a real-life, [at least] New York City work-week, adding commute time, prep time in the morning and at night getting ready for the next day, and then a decent night’s sleep, there is little/practically no time for self. It is simply not possible to fit it all in—the gym, a dinner with friends, running errands (both those out of need and those for pleasure), reading the paper, reading a book. Gosh never mind writing.

But with that extra day tacked on to Saturday/Sunday, we’re golden. This past long weekend—for which the positive effects on my being are slowly fading—consisted of Saturday fun, Sunday sleep (all day!) and Monday all for me, writing for 12 hours straight. How I wish I could boast such productivity more regularly. The way things are currently, sadly I don’t foresee this being a reality.

So I’ll gather the votes. Three-day weekends forever, yeah! You in?


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Surviving the Future With a Superhighway AND Trees!

Dear Mother Nature,

Just a note of thanks for the recent break in snow and icy rain.  The mounds of frozen slush have had a chance to melt and it appears the sanitation department was finally able to tend to the trash. Best of all, the wait is over—I have internet again. So if you must, go ahead, bring on the wintery mix. 

Yours Truly

Yes, if I could actually mail her a letter, it would read something like that. I’ve been living in my new apartment for a month-and-a half-now and only last week did I get online. Time Warner came three times in total, unsuccessful the first two, due once to the accumulation of snow, and the other, to the main line being frozen over.

Have you tried living without the internet for more than a long weekend? Take it from me, it is no pleasure. This, coming from one who as a young child, was afraid of ‘the future’. I know, it sounds crazy. Let me explain…

At seven, one of the first glimpses I had at what life might be like in the future was The Jetsons. Sure, they are a fun, space-age family with a robot and a flying car; in my memory my sisters loved it. I on the other hand, hated it. What I mentioned earlier as fear (for the future) was more like depression. Hands down, I just could not accept that the future meant we would be living in a world without trees!

Well as time went on and I began to understand more about life and the world we live in, thankfully I grew to like the idea of the future—the progress we had made and the progress that was still to come. Like, for example the internet.

I was a sophomore in high school when I first caught wind of the it—what we once referred to as ‘The Information Superhighway’. It was one day during lunch, at a time when my friends and I were would eat and then spend the rest of the break in the library to gossip or read until the bell would ring for class to begin again. (I remember this like it was yesterday.) I was sitting on an oversized ottoman near the magazines when I saw something odd, sort of futuristic looking on the cover of TIME. The title of this feature article was something about this never-heard-of-before Information Superhighway’. Two paragraphs in and my eyes were wide, my jaw was hanging to the floor. Whatever this ‘worldwide web’ was supposed to be, it was going to be awesome. Never did I think we’d find a way out of having to sift through encyclopedias and magazine articles by way of the old faithful Readers Guide to Periodical Literature to get a report done.  

Cut to present day when I am without the web for a month and I feel like Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away. The internet has become a basic need. It is modern life. When I was sixteen, it was the future. And today, it’s still the future. 

Thinking back on the President’s State of the Union Address a few weeks ago when he talked about ‘connecting every part of American to the digital age, about rural farmers being able to sell their goods across the world, and firefighters being able to download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device and a patient having face to face video chats with their doctor’ I was again wide-eyed. This time it was without the awe I had at sixteen when I first learned of the great superhighway. I know now of the possibilites. And instead of being afraid of the future like I was watching the Jetsons, I’m thrilled.

Just as long as we always have the trees.

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And I’m Done Being a Nomad! (for now anyway)

I am stunned thinking that come September, it will be six-and-a-half years! since I left New York and moved to France to teach English. I had lost my job, which was at the time, the love of my life, and as what seemed the only cure for my broken heart, I decided I would try living abroad. So I dusted off my French books and started seeing a tutor, broke my lease, drove my things to storage via 14-foot U-Haul and set forth.

Of course, the week before I was leaving, panic set in and I found myself sleepless, looking for a way out. But with the promise to the French Ministry of Education that I would be there for the job, the non-refundable transcontinental plane ticket in hand, and no longer any place to live in the city I’d been calling home for almost a decade, at that point I really had no choice.

So I went. I lived there for eight months in a small town that was nowhere near the style and sophistication of Paris but equally far from the romance of Hollywood’s cozy village in the Juliette Binoche-Johnny Depp film Chocolat. I made a meager wage that was a fraction of what I was accustomed to living on, but soon enough that didn’t matter. I had little French children lining up to kiss me hello and goodbye every day, baguettes and cheese were my diet, and all around me, life was playing out in French!

Had I known how fast eight months would go by I would have never gotten sad about leaving New York in the first place. Before I knew it I was back in the US with the great question of “What now?” looming over my head like a hot raincloud about to burst. I was the confused grown child at home again with mom and dad. I made the best of it. And then finally, the call came—the call I had been secretly wishing on stars for. My invitation back to New York.

That was February 2007. Now four years ago.

So I’ve been back in New York all this time. What’s crazy, is that since then, I’ve never had a real home. I’ve been living a nomad’s life. Because even though I thought being back in the city was what I really wanted, picking up to this wild existence again had me wondering for a long time if I really did want to stay.

In those 48 months, I haven’t had a place of my own, but I have become a pro at subletting. In those 48 months I’ve lived in five different places. To each, I brought a suitcase of clothes and a few shopping bags’ worth of what I considered necessities. I’ve adjusted to sleeping in foreign beds, (futons included); I’ve become well-acquainted with the prepared foods aisle of the grocery store for lack of my own kitchen or my own space in which to make a mess; and I’ve become ok simply living with less—with most of my possessions collecting dust in an attic in New Jersey. 

And I realized about a month ago that in a weird way I think I’ve been testing myself, to see how long I could go on living like this. Because sure, I’ve been without a real home of my own for all this time, but I’ve been doing just fine and on top of that free, without the responsibility, without the commitment. But then I remembered the things I’ve been missing, beyond the material possessions. A space of my own, to make my own, to make a mess of if I want, to clean the way I want, to have friends over to, to be home alone in. I realized that not having those things, which are in essence a different kind of freedom, I have not really been myself. And I’ve been missing me!

And I came to the conclusion that it was time to get that back. So like I did when I went to France, last month I got up and got to work. I searched and searched, made endless phone calls, said no at least a dozen times and finally, I found my place. Finally, a home sweet home. And the best part is, I feel like me again.