Brooklyn at 1
I have lived in Brooklyn for a year as of today. Earlier today, it seemed like this would make for a nice, reflective blog post, but then I’ve gone and cooked and eaten dinner and I’m feeling less into it. What is there to say? I guess I could make a list of goals for the next year and see if I can reach them, considering I probably didn’t come close to meeting the goals I set for myself a year ago. Then again, it’s possible I didn’t any goals at all. Last year I just wanted to escape Queens, and the feeling of escape led me to really enjoy the first year of living here in the very kid-like way I was still living in Astoria. With a year under my belt, I see more of the parts of my personality I’ve been neglecting — ones that have generally served me well throughout my life, provided I continue to do them.
For instance, I used to be insufferably particular when it came to arrangements, labeling and design of all sorts of things. I thought this was a unique trait until one day at the Maroon office when I went through a folder on the Maroon server and made sure all the file names were similarly capitalized, and Moacir exploded, faux-enraged, “Who do you think you are, ME?” That was about the same time I gave it up, as well, mostly because I was around a lot of extremely smart people where just minding my p’s and q’s wasn’t quite cutting it, or so I thought. My first quarter of college I performed the rather insane task of reading every single book assigned to me, but quickly realized in class discussion that my reading comprehension skills didn’t measure up to the class dicussion dominators. Looking back, I shouldn’t be surprised: those motherfuckers were smart. I was too, in different ways, but I took that personally and almost immediately retreated to the shelter of the newspaper office, where I would spend most of the next four years. After my stint as Editor in Chief, which ended my junior year, I began let go of my OCD-ish tendencies, and it’s been a steady unraveling ever since. To be fair, it probably served me well when I worked and lived in Queens; if you’re obsessed with making that place fit into neat boxes, it will drive you crazy. Queens is about survival, or as Ravi says, “Queens: People live here.” I’m sure there are exceptions (and thousands of them) to this, but in general I think it’s fair to say Queens defies neat categorization.
The problem was that when I rebounded from my Queens newspaper job with one at a trade magazine, I had fallen into bad habits that would only get worse. It was okay to just get things done in Queens because things were incredibly hard to get done; now I was just getting things done that were pretty unexceptional. Still, I became the nominal EIC within a couple years, and got the official title about nine months ago… and I wasn’t doing a good job. I’ll be the first to admit it. In fact, every day in the last few months, as my workload has steadily increased, has clued me into the fact that I’ve been doing a fraction of the work I should be doing. That I’ve earned some plaudits for it doesn’t make it better… it makes it worse. I don’t want to be complimented for unexceptional work, mostly because it’s not good for me. The last three months, I’ve worked as hard as I ever have, and today I was cleaning up my work area only to realize that my counterpart’s work space was immaculate, and along our shared cabinet space there ran a 38th-parallel like divide between her neatly arranged issues and my piled-up crap. It’s not that this happened; it’s that it’s been like this for months, maybe even years, and I never noticed it. The problem? I’m a freaking writer. I’m supposed to be aware of what’s happening around me, and this shit has been like this for a long, long time, and I had no idea.
Which leads me to my next question: What’s next? What’s the next thing where I’m like “I’ve been so oblivious/self-absorbed that I completely missed this?” Maybe it had already happened the night before, when, prompted by the oncoming one-year-anniversary, I started cleaning up the documents folder on my desktop. To my surprise, I had about 30 completed or mostly completed essays that I’ve written and done nothing with. Thirty! After years of writing pretty much exclusively for publication and ridiculing anyone who called themself a “writer” without doing so, I did the exact same thing. For four years! Now I have a pile of things to go through to see if they’re worth anything and if they are, make them into something better. I suppose that’s on my list of goals. Maybe that is my list.
It’s not that simple, but it is as simple as this: As long as I know what exactly I have to do, I can balance everything. I can get the p’s and q’s right if I’m paying attention. I’m fixing my desk at work not for appearance’s sake but so I can go back to being hyperaware of what’s happening around me. I’m doing the same thing at home, or trying to. The benefit I have now is that I’ve seen it from both sides: I’ve seen the benefits and the drawbacks of, effectively being OCD-ish, the benefits being that very hyperawareness and the drawbacks being that if you always thing linearly UR DOIN IT RONG. It’s certainly a good place to start, though, especially for me now, as the memories of Queens grow smaller and smaller. I still don’t feel quite at home here, but I’m not sure I do anyplace… though I certainly feel more like myself at my best more often nowadays. In the grand scheme of things, these are good problems to have. But my problem has been looking at the grand scheme at the expense of the microscopic one. Year two’s about that microscopic precision, and moving outward.