Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you

- F. Scott Fitzgerald

While boarding a flight and preparing for takeoff, I tend to immediately close myself off to surroundings. Headphones on, sleeping mask ready, and cash in hand for exorbitantly priced plane wine to lull myself to sleep - this trio works like a charm.

But while I purposely drown out the in-flight crash landing instructions, I recently realized that there's an important message to be found in these directions: in the event of an emergency, help yourself before attempting anything else (I'd say anyone, but I think that's territory for parents only. Write about what you know, right?).

The emergency that allowed me to come to the conclusion was a raging hangover, the variety that only strikes but a few times per year. I've cut back on the number of times I stay out drinking in this city, but when I do, watch out - a hurricane is brewing. The city becomes a giant enabler - God bless any former addicts or alcoholics trying to live here, because it can feel like substances are pushed at every corner. My feeble attempts to get to the gym, eat a healthy meal, or simply go to bed at a decent hour are scoffed at by the NYC Fun Police.

As with most lessons, this one is simple but can be used with varying levels of complexity.

Lesson #39 in moving to a big city: Help yourself before you think about doing anything else; there's always a lot to do, but you're going to do a much better job if you get a handle on your own life. I'm using the simplest example I know: being incredibly hung over and looking around my messy apartment, my growing to-do list, and the nagging voice in my head telling me to "better myself," which isn't enjoyable when paired with sudden, burning flashes of how many drinks I've had the night before. So this past weekend, I did things differently.

Instead of half-assing my day, running errands in a hazy state, scrounging around for bits of sanity in my mind, I allowed myself a luxurious hang-over. I basically stopped reminding myself of how I could've stopped drinking earlier, drank more water, or sweated a little less on the dance floor; I embraced the leftover party raging through my system. Then I took a shower to cleanse the Ke$ha-esque glitter I'd accumulated through the night and washed that hangover right outta my hair.

Until early evening, I didn't feel totally like myself for 2 reasons: 1. I was hungover and hazy, but more importantly, 2. I wasn't upset with myself for it. If anything, I looked at my actions as a mother might view her 2 year old: reprehensible, but oddly adorable and endearing. And at the end of the day, I had a new zest for life that only can come after hitting rock bottom.

I also realized that it feels good to have a day without expectations of oneself and just dedicated to whatever whim comes my way. And it would feel good to have such a day when not mercilessly hungover.

So did I energize my community, strengthen my friendships, and clean my small but nicely situated apartment that evening? No. None of the above. But a little self love went a long way that day, and I am a happier person for it. As always, cheers to days like these and to not figuring out everything at once.


  1. Hey, just wanted to say thanks for all the big city advice. I move to nyc for a new job in July and am feeling a bit intimidated. You're a great writer by the way!

  2. Great post pupps, how did I miss this one! I'm sitting here writing my thesis in the library and laughing out loud and listening to Hurricane J. Love you, great writing as always :)

  3. Thanks to both of you! Really made my day. :)