The first stretch of time I ever spent in New York was a five-week work trip in the hot summer of 2013. I was staying in a cold, industrial loft in Williamsburg and I remember that time most as one of visceral extremes. I was exactly where I wanted to be, and yet up to my neck in anxiety for the first time in my life: a tightness in my chest, a shortness of breath, a tidal wave of emotions that made me dream of escape. I now know I was coming to terms with the fact that I’d been lying to myself back in San Francisco, and that my spiral was manifest fear of that fact that I’d have to go back. But at the time it just felt confusing, and so my friend Karolyn and I came up with a mantra:
“Don’t think about it,” I’d say, to her and to myself.
“You’ll figure it out later,” she’d reply.
We repeated this call-and-response all summer. Over text on the way to work, laying in Central Park on a Sunday, sitting by the Soho House roof pool she snuck me into. Don’t think about it. You’ll figure it out later. Again again again. It went counter to everything I’d learned up to that point–that my feelings were worth unpacking and responding to in responsible, methodical ways. It was a verbal hand wave, a refusal to engage with an emotion I simply wasn’t in the mood to feel. And it was, above all, chaotic.
Eventually I’d have to contend with the dark thoughts that bubbled up that summer (and I would, a few years later when I left my life behind). But that August, the month of my 24th birthday, I just shoved it all to the back of my mental closet, and it kind of worked. There wasn’t anything I could do about my life in San Francisco from my summer rental on Graham Street. And so I embraced the messiness instead of trying to solve it.
For this month’s writers club, we want to hear about your most chaotic life advice. We’ve all seen the scripted axioms making infinite rounds on Pinterest—this time we want something a little less tidy. The advice you might get from your eccentric aunt who never followed the rules, or from your best friend when you’re both feeling a little reckless. Write it up and send it to us in 500 words or less on or by Friday, March 20th. We promise to heed it carelessly.
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.