I am not a person that does well with moments of transition. It’s the in-between times that get me — the times when there are no routines, no obligations, no rules. It’s when I don’t know where I’m going or what will happen, but have to maintain the image that I have a plan lest someone actually takes a second to ask me what’s going on and forces me to assess my life. But I don’t have a plan, and I don’t cope well with the stress of uncertainty.
So, I’ve been getting drunk a lot recently. Today a close friend asked me how long it’s been since I started smoking again, and I realized it’s been a month. Time is going by so quickly and I don’t know if it’s because I’m having fun or if it’s because I spend half of my time blacked out and slowly committing suicide via cigarette. When I woke up this morning, it was the first time in a while that I haven’t been hungover to some degree. The air was cool as I sat on my back porch with the guy, the Emmy’s guy, and drank orange juice from a coffee mug.
I asked him what was the best piece of advice he’s ever been given. But before he could answer, I was already telling him about the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. I guess this is because I am a 20-something-year-old girl and by definition I care more about my own answers to questions than the answers of those whom I ask.
“The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was by my old boss, my 92-year-old boss, Mimi,” I began, stealing a cigarette from his pack and lighting it. “We were at a book release party for work or something, and Mimi was sitting in this chair and people were coming over and chatting with her all night, like she was a Queen taking visitors. At one point the author of the book’s wife came rushing up to me wearing this horrifying, way-too-tight and age inappropriate bandage dress, and she asked me my name and if I was single, and said that a very handsome doctor friend of hers had seen me and wanted to talk to me. She pointed to a guy across the room and said, “Maybe you should go and say hello.”
“Mimi heard this whole interaction, and as the author of the book’s wife looked at me expectantly I felt a cold, papery hand grab my wrist. “Uh I’ll think about it, thanks,” I muttered, and bent down to Mimi’s side. And that’s when she said it, the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given in my entire life. She said: “Vick, don’t ever move for anyone. If someone wants to talk to you, they can come over and talk to you, but you don’t move for anyone. Anyone moves for you.”
The guy, the Emmy’s guy, laughed and agreed that it was solid advice. I don’t know if the significance of the story really sunk in to him or if he was trying to think of his own best piece of advice the whole time, but it felt good, sitting on the porch, repeating that story to him while smoking a cigarette and not being hungover.
“The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is kind of just simple,” he said, and I remembered that I was actually asking him the question I had just answered in the first place. “It was a very dark time in my life and someone said to me, ‘You know, it doesn’t have to be this hard.’ And I don’t know, that just sort of stuck with me, that idea that things didn’t have to be as hard as I was making them.”
I watched him take a drag from his cigarette and after a long pause, I told him I liked his advice. Later, after I dropped him off at the train station, I kept thinking about that conversation. Not about my best advice, but about his.
It’s just that things seem to get so fucking complicated sometimes. We wake up and spend all of our time in our heads, and when you’re in between jobs or find yourself with an excess of spare time, it’s easy to fall into the steel trap of your mind and start inventing problems. I can’t remember who said it, but I once read a quote about people being the architects of their own disasters, and I think that’s entirely true. Very often, the bullshit we think we are going through with our jobs, with our money, in our relationships, in our lives in general — very often all of those problems are not actual problems at all. They’re spirals of thought that we weave with our minds, and if we could just stop for a second, just take a deep breath, we would realize that we are expending tons of energy on building these disasters for ourselves.
I am not a person that does well with transition moments, but then again, I don’t know anyone who is. But if you’re anything like me, or like the guy, the Emmy’s guy, I have to say, remember…it doesn’t have to be this hard.