Rachel's Write of Way

Chinese New Year, You Will Not Prohibit Me From Shopping!

Posted on: February 21, 2010

Ah, a lazy Sunday morning with nothing to do. I. love. It. That’s an incredible perk of my big girl life . . . I work hard Monday through Friday and take evenings and weekends to chill out and relax. It’s great! I’ve been reading A LOT . . . on my hour commute on the subway every morning and evening, then when I get home and on weekends too. I’ve determined that, being in publishing, I am never going to starve for reading material . . . ever. Every time I turn around someone is shoving a book at me or naming a title they just read that they recommend. Plus, at work there’s both a “take cart,” on which employees can put anything they want to get rid of (but 99% of what ends up there is books) and a “take shelf,” on which the two monthly shipments of Harlequin books go and it’s a free for all! Then there’s the fact that I can order any Harlequin books . . . that have ever been published by the company . . . for free.

Oh yeah. I found the right job.

Besides reading, the other major activity that’s taken up my after work time lately has been apartment hunting. I’m looking to move from Queens to Brooklyn. The apartment where I’m at now was great for a starter apartment, and when I first moved here I had to grab something quick without taking much time to look around and explore options, but it’s teeny tiny; I feel trapped a lot in my room because there’s no living room or anything. Also, the neighborhood isn’t the nicest, and I never run across other young professionals like myself, so I’ve had a hard time meeting people. And finally, I’d like to be a little closer to work. I don’t mind the commute because I read, but the subways do get on my nerves—especially on Friday, when for some reason every resident of NYC and their brother decided they were going to take the 7 train into Manhattan at exactly the time I need to go to work. I literally couldn’t even push my way onto the express train and had to wait for a local, which takes longer. The afternoon was just as bad. I don’t mind my commute, but I do mind when I’m packed in so tight that I can’t even turn my head without being in someone’s face. As desperate as I am for human contact/interaction here sometimes, smelling the breath of the stranger next to me isn’t the human interaction I had in mind, thank you very much.

So I’m moving to Brooklyn with two friends from my internship and another girl whom I was put in touch with through a mutual friend. I think a four-bedroom place will be great because we’ll have more space, and rent will be cheaper. We’ve been scouring Craigslist for places and making appointments to look. We went to look at one after work last week, but the guy never showed up. We waited for two hours and were really annoyed. So far, I’ve learned that apartment hunting is stressful and a long, tedious process, but I need to remember to be patient because I don’t want to rush into this living situation, which I hope is going to last for awhile. I’m not too eager to go through all this again anytime soon!

Sometimes I get frustrated when I think about how I could be living at home and saving my paycheck rather than “throwing it away” on rent, groceries, subway pass, utilities, everything else I pay for here. And sometimes all the time I’m annoyed with public transportation. I really, really took living in a suburb for 22 years for granted. Yesterday I wanted to go shopping at Kohl’s for some nice, professional work clothes. I looked up the closest Kohl’s, which is six miles away, but it took me over an hour and a half to get there. I have to take the train to the last stop in Queens then switch to a bus.

Well, when I got off the subway in Flushing, this huge Chinese neighborhood of Queens where the stores and signs are all completely in Asian characters—I discovered that I had the gall to attempt to go shopping on the Chinese New Year. There was a huge parade and more Asian people than I imagine you’d see in the heart of Beijing. Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea. Thanks to the parade, the buses around there weren’t running, so I had to find the next bus stop. I attempted to ask several people; I even went into a Starbucks, but no one understood English. I just started walking and wandered around for close to a half hour before I found it—then waited another twenty minutes or so for a bus. So I finally got to Kohl’s but not without a hearty dose of rigmarole. And I couldn’t help but thinking that, were I living at home, if I decided I wanted to go to Kohl’s, all I would have to do is jump in the car and drive ten minutes. So simple.

If I could have pictured myself doing all this even just a year ago—decoding subway and bus maps, budgeting all my big-girl expenses, crashing Chinese festivities—I would have laughed at myself. Said, yeah right Rachel, no way can you do this. I never saw this all going down, even after I decided to move to New York. See, I have a hard time seeing the big picture behind something. I’ve always been this way. I rush into things, get very emotionally invested in things very quickly, and I can’t think beyond the short term. I can’t help it. I never like to think about the downsides of any situation—I’m definitely an optimist—so I think I ignore the big picture so I won’t see any of the negatives. I focus on one thing at a time. It’s all my brain can handle!

Sometimes I hate this about myself. I get such a reality crash when the bad things hit, and I think wow, I can’t believe I couldn’t see this coming. But lately I’ve viewed my way of thinking as a blessing. I don’t want to be one of those people who analyzes every situation to death that by the time they live it, nothing catches them off guard. I like being caught off guard. I don’t do monotony. I don’t do routine. I need the unexpected to keep me going, to get me out of bed every day. Although it might be a naïve way to live life, and while I certainly feel foolish when consequences I hadn’t foreseen play out, I wouldn’t change this. And to be honest, I think this way of living is definitely a blessing for me, at least right now, because frankly, I’m not sure I could have done all this if I knew how hard some things were going to be—having to plan out an entire day, for example, just to go shopping. Not to mention getting homesick and missing so much about the childhood life I knew, in a happy suburb of Pittsburgh, that I took for granted for 22 years.

Well, when I finally got to Kohl’s yesterday, I actually found what I wanted pretty quickly and decided I was going to make it a whole day of shopping. (Those are my favorite kind of days, after all.) I had remembered a Marshall’s and Old Navy a few subway stops over from my neighborhood, so when I got back on the train I rode it a few extra stops then got off to wander around and see if I could find those stores. Turned out I was in the way wrong area, and again, when I tried to ask for directions no one I asked spoke English slash understood at all what I was saying.

So I just started wandering and exploring, and I found this independent clothing store, so of course I walked in. It wasn’t a conscious decision; that’s how I am when it comes to shopping. It was like one second I was walking along looking for the Marshall’s, and the next second I was in this little boutique. I don’t even remember opening the door and walking in. It was just like well, of course I’ll go in here. And it was a decision from fate, I’m sure, because it turned out they were having a great clearance on winter boots, and I got the most **aMaZiNg** (insert singsongy voice) pair of shoes. So. If I hadn’t gotten lost and been misdirected by well-meaning but helpless people in the neighborhood of Sunnyside, Queens, I would have never found those shoes.

It’s funny how things work out when they don’t work out. In a year or so, when I look back on everything I’ve done since I first decided to move to New York, will I see it like this? I don’t know, but I’m done pondering deep things. I’m going to look at my boots, the fond images of which haven’t failed to bring a smile to my face since I purchased them yesterday.

After a particularly sardine-like experience on the subway, or an untimely time for the Chinese to have their New Year, it’s funny how something so small can make everything all better. I’m SO glad I got lost yesterday and found those boots!


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