Friday, January 13, 2012

Advice for Moving to a New City in your 20's

Robert and I in the bean's reflection.
I've lived in the windy city three months, my car is buried in the snow, and I don't have to leave my apartment today so I think it's a good day to reflect on things I've learned recently. Sometimes when I am looking in the mirror pinning braids on top of my head or laying in bed around noon knitting because I'm a waitress who doesn't work till 6, I wonder who is this adult woman I've become? 

Things I've learned in the form of advice for twenty-somethings maybe moving somewhere:
  • First of all, I think moving is awesome. I think everyone should try it. Chicago is great.
  • Buy a table. Go on craigslist and find some family upgrading from their first table with the fingerpaint stains to a nicer one and buy it. The kind dad who sells it to you might also show you how to fold down the seats in your Civic. Maybe you didn't even know the seats could do that! A table is a good idea for many reasons: 
    1. Fabric gets dirty if you cut it on the floor. You can now cut fabric on your table.
    2. You don't have much money. That means when you break your Macbook because you store it on the floor next to your bed and you groggily reach over in the morning to check the time because you can't find your phone (it's probably in your bra from last night, but anyways...) and you drop it... your mom won't pay for a new one. A table is a great place to keep a computer. Because, be real, if you break this Macbook, you're going to have to replace it with a small, weird HP that costs $250... and nobody wants that.
    3. Eating oatmeal in bed is sad. Effin' sad, Maura. Stop it. Buy a table.
  • Get a serving job at a restaurant you can't afford to eat at. If you can't afford to eat there even with your discount, that's better! People pay you to talk to them. If the restaurant has a theme, like, for example, sweet country goodness, dress up in that theme at work. The people will love it. They might even refer to you as a banjo-picking Zooey Deschanel even if you can't pick a banjo... you probably need bangs though... some of this advice is kinda specific... Oh, and be really nice to your busser and dishwasher. He works harder than you and makes less money. And if you are very nice to him, he'll start calling you, "Maura, numero uno..." (but probably only if your name is Maura...)
  • Go out with people after work. You aren't in school anymore. You don't have homework. Buy a round of beer for everyone. Be generous. Plus Daydream Believer will probably play on the jukebox at the bar you go to and you'll want to dance to it... just check to see if the floor below you is wet with melted snow before you hop excitedly off your bar stool to do so... if you don't, you will fall. On your face.
  • You may be really good at something. But you may be crap at teaching other people how to do it. Or you may think you are really good at something and you may have learned how to do it wrong years ago from an 8 year-old. I had this experience at the yarn shop. Now, I'm not saying I'm crap at teaching knitting... but I had absolutely no vocabulary to speak about the things I did with my hands and things like "dive, scoop, swing, twist, wrap" mean different things to everyone. Also, I've been casting on my projects wrong my whole life. Thanks, 8 year-old MaryGrace Joyce. Thanks. So take a humility lesson and try to teach something that you are awesome at to a group of 8 people. It's very hard, but you will get better at it. Also, become an apprentice somewhere, learn from a master. The tricks of any trade aren't actually tricks, they take practice. Oh and if you have a tattoo of a yarn ball on your body, you better be able to tell someone what Merino Wool is. Just sayin.
  • Talk about your heroes with people. It's way better than talking about yourself. Talk about Tina Fey. People love Tina Fey.
  • If you move to a new city, throw a party before you think you have enough friends to invite to a party. Chances are people will come, chances are people want friends too, chances are people will bring booze, chances are you have more friends than you thought.  
Chicago friends, December 2011
  • Don't beat yourself up because you aren't learning Arabic right now, or whatever language you feel like you really should be learning to be a well-rounded, global citizen. I'm not saying you shouldn't learn another language... I'm just saying that it's your first year out of college and you will learn Arabic when the time is right... also you haven't finished Mad Men yet, so please... one step at a time. 
  • Surprise parties are more surprising if everyone at the party is also surprisingly missing an article of clothing.
  • Convenience is important. Support your neighborhood. Put your money in the bank next door to your weird house across from a Shell station and (now) vacant Christmas tree lot. Get your hair cut at the salon down the street. Volunteer at the cool, indie writing center for kids on Milwaukee. Buy your furniture from that Polish thrift store. It's a great feeling to run errands on foot... within a 5 block radius. 
  • Buy something you've always wanted. Just do it. Then you won't have to think about whether you can afford it or not... Cause it's sitting on your table... which you bought to hold things you don't want to break.
  • Find an awesome, classy bar which is right next to a cheap Polish bar so you can enjoy a good beer before some less good beer. A classy bar is Bangers & Lace, a swanky place with craft beer and great hot dogs. It is next to a bar without a name whose "Always Special" is $1.50 PBRs. The bartender is a 63 year-old woman named Helen who dreams of retiring to Krakow to smoke cigarettes with her sister. (Ya'll get the theme, there are a lot of Polish people in Chicago.) Also, if the guy you are with throws out a drunk homeless person and helps Helen move a keg, she'll probably give you free beer and even ask you to watch the bar while she has a smoke. (Indeed, you can take-out hot dogs from Bangers and eat them in the Polish bar. win. WIN.)

So there it is, a little glimpse into my mind and new life. 2012 for me is to be the year of a quieted mind. So I leave you with this song. "House of Diamonds" by The Bowerbirds. As the song insists, "You are free. You are already free."