Welcome to / Here is / I'm in New York

“Suppose nothing happens to you. Suppose you lived out your whole life and nothing happens you never meet anybody you never become anything and finally you die in one of those New York deaths which nobody notices for two weeks until the smell drifts into the hallway.”

This is the voice I keep hearing in my head. Harry / Billy C on repeat, goading me that it's entirely possible that nothing will happen to me in New York, where I have finally arrived after many moons of planning. It's not as if this anxiety is a surprise. I knew I'd feel this way; or at least something along these lines, when I arrived in New York, I never saw it as a solution to my problems, rather that my problems were past the point of needing to be solved, that my life was on such a pointless course that solving the problems would solve, in effect, nothing, and thus I may as well go somewhere and gain a new set of problems, and where better to go to gain problems than New York, home of the 99 most famous problems. 

Thus far, (only a week and a half so don't quote me on this) it has not been as hard as I expected it to be. I probably sound both naive and like a jerk saying that, but I mean it in a different way – the logistical things about moving to New York have proven themselves to be easier to solve than the mental logistics of what it means to actually be attempting to, as they say, follow one's dreams. People mostly talked about A. how expensive everything would be, B. how hard it was to get an apartment, and C. how hard it would be to get a job without New York serving experience. 

As for A, there are some perks to moving to the most expensive city in America from the fourth / twelfth / whatever most expensive city, all the lists are different, but San Diego is definitely up there. Thus far, prices have been relatively similar, and I no longer have to take Lyfts ever so that cuts out a huge expense. Also, can't forget the whole being single / having few friends / no kids / no pets perks of my financial situation. 

Maybe it will be hard to get another apartment, but I got this first sublet very easily. I thought to myself, hm, I bet people who have a weird sublet length will be more willing to have someone who is moving to the city. And then I found a six week sublet. And then I emailed them and then we talked on Skype and then it was mine.

As for jobs, it's not like I'm going to be working at Per Se or Les Halles, but plenty of places have been happy to interview me (I've actually turned down some interviews) despite my lack of 'New York Experience' and two of them have offered me jobs, so I'm actually more anxious about picking a job than about getting one. Again, they aren't the dreams (pour one out for Hash House) but I'm happy that someone is just willing to pay me and that my amazing interview skills haven't worn off in the past year. 

So it's strange that even though I seem to have the three main concerns on lock, I'm still very anxious and overwhelmed. I guess part of the anxiety does have to do with the jobs, with picking jobs and knowing if I'm making the right decision (historically a challenge for me) but still different than what I expected. What else is the anxiety and overwhelmation about?

Back to my opener – this fear that even if I do everything right, get a job and an apartment and feed myself, and not go into obscene amounts of credit card debt, I still won't meet anyone or do anything exciting and that living here will be just a carbon copy of living anywhere else, that I won't write anything or meet any writers or find any artistic companions or get involved in the arts or generally do anything that I came here to do. No adventures, no accomplishments, no interesting conversations. And that would be worse, in some way, than not having those things in San Diego or wherever else I could have lived, because in that case I could write these things off as not existing in any given city, but here in New York I know they exist I just don't know if I'm going to find the access points to tap into them myself. 

I guess it makes sense then why I'm more anxious about that than I am about logistics, because the internet is very helpful for logistics. Pretty much everything one would worry about logistically can be worked toward through Craigslist. Like you can make progress within an hour on Craigslist towards jobs and housing, and even if you don't find them for a few weeks, you still know you have this consistent option.

But there is no Craigslist for finding adventures, or artistic companions, or intellectual stimulation. There is no Craigslist for a fascinating life. Sending out a resume, even if you get no response, seems like a step in the right direction. I don't know what the steps in the directions are to the above amorphous qualities. And even when I try, I don't know if they're going down a path, or down no path, or possibly worse, going down a stupid path. I have no idea. And then, how do you know if the logistic choices you're making to facilitate a living are cutting off choices in the other areas? They probably always are at some level, for those of us without magic benefactors, but there's no way to know which things that you're cutting off are mistakes and which are necessary.

One thing I'm grateful for is that I haven't given much / any thought to anything that happened in San Diego, re: regrets or sadness. I mean I miss my coworkers from Hash House, and I miss Desmond (may he rest in peace) and I'm sure that eventually I'll miss the sun, but I don't have any lingering preoccupations or the sense that I left anything before it's time. It's almost as if the answer to every question there was just to let it go. I already was missing the person that I'll miss, being across the country is actually simpler. In terms of the people I saw on a regular basis, well, all the people I love are already spread out across the fucking country. Like when I lived in San Diego I had x friends and I missed y, a, b, c, and d friends and e and f family. Now I am closer to b friends, e family, far away from x, still far away from y, a, and c, but that will be my life forever after Redlands. I'm sure that everyone I love will never be in the same place again, so I'll always be missing some and having others. Plus, I always hang out by myself anyway. 

anxiety ; the further problem

I've been trying recently to find a therapist in San Diego, by which I mean I have been saying I'm trying while in reality not looking at all and just knowing that as each day goes by I am aiding and abetting my anxiety rearing its head at ever more inopportune moments.

The main reason I have been so not at all doing the looking for a therapist is because my therapist back in Madison was just literally the best one and probably one of the best people in the world. I wonder if it's breaking some kind of reverse doctor/patient confidentiality to say his name here. Meh. I guess I'll avoid it for his sake. It's just really hard to look for a therapist when I know that it will be pretty much impossible to find one like Dr. Franzen (get the joke, because Jonathan Franzen is my emotional life spirit guide) and that even accepting that as an inevitability, I then have to remember that all the other therapists I've seen I've either mildly disliked or downright hated or almost worse, seen as just such a boring human entity of nothingness.

I'm not going to go through and list the flaws of every therapist I've seen aside from Dr. Franzen but they can probably boil down into the same trait that I find most deplorable in the average person I meet on the street, which is being simple. I'm not going to explain this in any depth whatsoever because if you understand what I mean you already know how horrible I am, and if you don't know you're better off not knowing and keeping the illusion that I'm a good person.

It's not that I think that everyone has to be difficult and/or complicated. I just don't want to associate on a more than friendly level with anyone who isn't. I think it's at the same time too boring and too challenging. It's boring because, well. And it's not challenging in the fun way, it's challenging in the way where it takes too much damn effort for me to have to explain every single thing I say and/or do and how it relates to my greater life and personality.

And now imagine therapy, where you're talking to this person who is supposed to be helping you understand yourself, so you're telling them everything you already know about yourself and how it relates, and they try and explain it back to you in ways that you seriously wish were true because they would have made your whole life from age 7 until present (24) a heck of a lot easier, but you know they aren't true because or else you might have been able to go to traditional college instead of absurdist alternative school or ever been in a serious relationship or been able to major in something semi acceptable that would have gotten you a career path job and your main talent wouldn't be something that is pretty much synonymous with neurotic – because no matter what anyone says, nobody chooses these things if they have another choice. If I could have taken those simple paths I would have. Being complex certainly has an aura, but at the end of the day nobody would actually pick that aura over how much easier it is to relate to the world the same way normal people do, because it is hard, and it's not something you would do if it wasn't inherently who you are.

And I know that many therapists are not simple, and that given the perseverance I could certainly find one who, even if he or she is not Dr. Franzen, might suit my needs, but it's kind of like dating. If it's just fucking tiring to think of going to dinner with so many idiots, imagine my exhaustion at thinking about spending money to speak to them.

Then there's also the factor that my successes in therapy in the past haven't even fallen on the traditional scale of how a therapist helps you. I've never been on medication and don't exactly want to be, because I strongly suspect that the processes my brain goes through in formulating endless anxiety are the same ones that give me creativity and alas I am not willing to stamp down my creativity for my sanity. But even more than that, Dr. Franzen never exactly analyzed my personality, and although I do think that would be interesting, I think that the biggest takeaways I got from him are more helpful to the way I operate in the long run. But they won't sound that way when I list them. Actually I don't remember most of them.

  1. Him calling me out on some of the absurd bullshit that I have been known to pull:

  • “It's fine, Dr. Franzen, I'm not going to worry about [X] anymore, because I know that even if one day our fine friendship did progress somewhere else, I'd always be thinking about if there was like some other perfect person/soulmate out there.”

  • “That's [some nicer word for bullshit] Becca, you can't do that. You can't just decide how you'd feel in a future situation and escape from doing things because of it. You just can't. You have to live it out.”

  • Him teaching me the 'shrug,' where when people like me spiral out all the ways everything in your life could go wrong or all the possible scenarios, a practice inherent to my anxiety, he says that sometimes you just have to shrug.

  1. Accepting that all of our thoughts are just thoughts and they have little to no bearing on reality and to not be the thought police on ourselves.

  2. Being a generally sane and calming presence who made me feel okay about life and my role in it.

  3. More things that I can't remember because then I got old and moved to California and it was stupid.

(Sry about that horrible list format, I fully blame Squarespace because it was FINE in OpenOffice)

Basically what I'm trying to communicate here is this guy let me just kind of talk to him about my shit and gave me advice that felt real and relevant to my life. I know that is probably the goal of all therapists, but now I'm just imagining everyone who said they were majoring in Psychology at Redlands sitting across from me in a therapists office, and crying. Because icky and boring and simple.

But I know I need to do it, because today as I was eating two different cheeses and beet chips and the only kind of salsa I can ingest from a jar, because every other one is inferior, I realized that I haven't made a meal for myself in over a month. We can certainly blame a lot of this on the fact that I work in a restaurant where I not only eat all day but also spend far too much time around the preparation of food, but that has not stopped me in the past almost-year I've been a server from eating everything in sight.

I can't cook or eat because I'm anxious. Food literally seems unappetizing. I thought it was pregnancy for a little while, which although not entirely unrelated, turned out not to be the case. I still force myself to eat things of substance to fill my stomach, or I go out to eat because even my anxiety cannot overtake my desire for aesthetically pleasing food and the joys of eating in a restaurant, or I stand at the counter and rotate between cheese / salsa / sauerkraut / dip / etc until I feel that I'm full enough to last me until I'm back at the restaurant, but none of these things are the same as actually cooking meals or even just making a sandwich.

Why am I so anxious, you may ask? Well, various theoretical reasons, but it all boils down to the fact that pretty much all parts of my life are very uncertain right now, and uncertainty is the well from which my particular brand of anxiety springs. Most people just accept this and assume that things are going well and then are sad when they do not, but alas I am not most humans. I instead analyze every way in which things could be going wrong at any given moment and come up with every negative scenario until I've driven myself to a panic attack / crying / sleep / etc etc.

I guess I'm just very sensitive to other people / jobs / home situations. And I've been fucked over by them enough to have a laundry list of horrible things they could say to me, and it's come out of the blue enough times that I'm prone to suspect that even when things are hunky dorey, they are secretly plotting all the ways in which they hate me.

This is no good! I know! And all my friends tell me this when I do the coping mechanism that my anxiety manifests in, which is seeking reassurance from other people, and since I'm obviously too anxious to seek reassurance from the people / jobs / situations I'm anxious about, I seek it from my friends and family, which beyond the obvious flaws of annoying your loved ones by boring them with every tiny detail of your interactions with a person / job / etc is also feeding directly back into the disorder.

And seriously, I already know all this. I've read all the books. I know that to stop the anxiety you have to stop engaging in the behaviors that you engage in when you get a negative thought, which include the aforementioned seeking reassurance from friends and family as well as reading articles on the internet about whatever issue one is having.

But then it leads back to the thing that even if you stop being anxious, you still have to deal with the fact that you're trying to grow up and become an adult and know how to act when interacting with other adults, and anxiety or not you don't know how. You don't know what the right thing to do is with the person. You don't know what is okay or not okay with the job or the potential friends at the job. You don't know when the housemates are annoyed at you or when they're just being people. You don't know anything and that is literally the breeding ground for the anxiety.

And here we are back at Dr. Franzen. Because everything I know about my specific anxiety disorder I pretty much got from books/the internet. He taught me a lot more about interacting with the world in a way that acknowledges how different I am but also helps me be normal enough to have functional relationships with other people/institutions/the world. Which is precisely what I am struggling with right now.

How do I find one of those again?