Microwaves are super efficient and useful.
They make delicious things manifest themselves, like Hot Pockets. Bagel Bites. All the pizzas that ever pizza’d.
But whenever Franco and I tell people we don’t have one, we get one of three responses:
The first is WHY?
The second is WHY?
The third is… OK, maybe it’s more like we get one major response, and only after getting the 50 WHY’s out of the way do we get a smattering of follow-up questions.
Like, how do you eat leftovers? (By using the stove, silly, or in most cases just not eating leftovers at all because we’re wasteful and disgusting, but we don’t want to admit we’re wasteful and disgusting so we store everything in the fridge for a couple days until they succumb to mold and rot–the point at which it’s appropriate to throw them away while loudly declaring: How I wish I could eat this 20-day-old former sandwich, current sludge, but the food gods have spoken and they’re saying: don’t).
Another popular follow-up is: Hey, I could totally spot you and get you a microwave, no big deal.
This one is the most intriguing of all. First of all, it’s incredibly generous. Second, it underestimates Franco’s and my stubbornness. If we WERE financially strapped, we’d probably warm our tiny apartment by burning garbage in a garbage can first before accepting such generosity. Because we’re children. Children who are strong and independent and shan’t ever show any weakness.
Not that we’re blaming you for assuming we’re financially strapped.
I mean, let’s look at the facts:
- Franco and I live in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment in a HCOL city. Our tiny 1-bedroom is old and crumbling with a bathroom ceiling that leaks.
- Franco wears the same pairs of jeans and shoes every day… when he does go outside. When he doesn’t go outside, which is always since he works from home, he’s in sweats.
- While I have more than one pair of jeans and shoes, I probably rotate the same two or three pairs, and regularly wear things that are, shall I say, well-loved.
- I wear the same few dresses to all the weddings I go to.
- We say no to most superfluous trips, especially destination weddings, though that’s kind of redundant since most weddings happen outside of NYC (but that doesn’t mean we don’t love you).
- We don’t have a TV for the very same reason we don’t have a microwave.
- I’ve used a FedeX envelope as a laptop case, which prompted my co-workers at the last office I worked in to tell me that surely the company would pay for a laptop case. (I’ll have you know that FedeX envelopes are waterproof and discreet, which are perfect for anti-mugging purposes when you’re walking the mean streets of Astoria at night while carrying a cute tote instead of a bulky backpack.)
- We don’t have a car for the very same reason we don’t have a microwave or TV. (Plus, in NYC, having a car is useless and annoying.)
- We don’t own a house nor do we plan on buying one for the very same reason we don’t have a microwave or a car or TV.
- I freelance, which, for many people, is a special kind of hell.
- Franco does improv.
Now that I look at everything all laid out in listicle form like this, I’m going to have to say yeah, these facts are kind of concerning. Actually, now that I’m re-reading everything, I should apologize to YOU for even questioning your questions.
But don’t worry, friends. Franco and I are doing totally fine.
We’re better than fine. We’re so fine that I’m currently writing this on my three-year-old laptop in alright condition powered by the electricity that courses through our decrepit apartment building’s sometimes faulty wiring.
I kid. But seriously, using a blowdryer with the lights on is NOT recommended.
As for why we don’t have a microwave (or a TV or a car or a house), the short answer is we don’t want one. By not prioritizing the things that are nice to have, we’ve been able to do some really awesome things that we MUST have.
- Getting a pupper, whom we love and are obsessed with, and did not rescue from a shelter because we are horrible (and did I say wasteful and disgusting?) human beings.
- And traveling overseas at least once a year. (Here we are in Spain! And London! And Montreal! And Berlin!)
- And taking intentional breaks to write my own projects, twiddle my thumbs, and take a seven-week Eurotrip mostly alone so I could bike and stuff my face with macarons like an asshole.
- And taking improv classes, which aren’t cheap.
- And ordering takeout when we’re feeling lazy because we don’t have a microwave and can’t just zap ourselves up some dinner.
- And saying no to horrible and abusive clients with poor time management skills who never have to get better at it because that’s just how the world works.
I say all this not to brag (OK, I’m kind of bragging), but because I don’t think a lot of people talk about the financial aspects of what it takes to survive in one of the most competitive and expensive cities in the world while pursuing creative goals. If people do talk about it, it’s usually in the end, when this total outlier, uber-successful person has defied all odds.
What about the people in the middle of their journeys—the ones who are making it work even when society is telling them they aren’t making it work, based on rules that simply don’t apply?
Though convention steers us toward stable jobs with guaranteed paychecks, the creative life is volatile and nonlinear. It requires thinking outside the box, which may require living in one. It’s mostly rejection with some success. And if you haven’t been rejected, it’s because you haven’t aimed high enough.
There’s drudgery. Hopelessness. And never-ending nothingness.
And while it’s useful to read about the Steve Jobs and Michelle Obamas of the world, we in-the-middle-of-our-journeys people have Things To Say, too, dammit. And I think we should say them when it’s still super weird to say them precisely because we don’t quite know how the story ends. After all, it’s easy to talk about one’s quirks from a safe distance, when all’s said and done and easily attributed to being part of an uber-successful outlier person’s path to uber success. More interesting is what it takes to forego the conventional benchmarks of success in pursuit of creative goals that may not work out, especially when there’s no real semblance that they ever will.
If you’ve read this whole rant expecting some kind of epiphany and the answers to all these questions, my bad.
I have none.
If I did, I’d be rich, I tell ya, rich! And not writing this blog, but a book. A fancy book with hard covers and glossy sleeves and a respectable headshot in front of a manicured bush—the works, I tell ya!
But I, Writer Of No Import With Things To Say, think it’s high time I share my benchmarks for success—mostly because it’s cathartic and I like a good rant, but also to help those of you who are still in the middle (or beginning or almost beginning) of your creative journeys. After all, misery loves company, uhhhh I mean community and we’re all in this together and hope. Yeah, something about hope.
But if you take away just one thing from this ramble, I hope it’s this:
Because we live in a capitalist, er, THE capitalist society, we’re programmed to define success by the material accumulation of things. Which is fine, if that’s your jam.
But it doesn’t have to be that.
Like, my jam is time. While I can always make money (Capitalism’s swell!), I can never make up time already spent.
So my benchmark for success is having the time to pursue the things that matter to me.
These things involve writing, NYC, boy, dog, seeing the world, and writing about NYC, boy, dog, and seeing the world.
They don’t involve microwaves.