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To Have and to Have Not: A Socio-Economic Flip Flop

When you move to New York right out of school, Brooklyn actually, Sunset Park to be specific, you begin to realize how little you can live with/on. Oh, we had food and furniture, but there were very few splurges. We hardly went out that first year and we grew sad (for many reasons).

You are not alone as an out of work artist, newly self-emloyed designer, intern/assistant doing something cool, or working for a non-profit, earning less than the people you are helping. The kids make it look cool. You eat the prepared fruit from the Korean deli and shop for rad stuff at thrift stores. But if ever you venture outside your hipster nest – above 14th street, some might say – you discover that other New York: Manhattan, and remember that you, adrift are poor, and your things seem so shabby in the glare of Grammercy Park. Maybe you’ve moved to a better neighborhood in Brooklyn and you love that you’re surrounded by BoBo bakeries, Bugaboo strollers, and bars with (ironic) Bocce courts inside. But you’re not quite there, you’re faking it somehow, which is crazy because you’re so much more solvent than you were in the beginning, but it doesn’t matter. This city will eat you alive. Your cards are almost maxxed and it’s time to make a choice.

At that point you either have to 1) get serious, or 2) get out. I obviously chose the latter.

We had a slow start, but most people would not arrive in foreign country with a few thousand dollars in their pocket and a vague notion of doing something (great). It’s not for everyone. I’m lucky I managed to hold on tight to Malcolm’s coat tails, but I was chewing my hair all summer and making bad decisions. It was crazy-scary.

We took our time, looking, earning slowly, figuring out how money works (I mean how it spends, how it lasts here, since they’ve pretty much use the same cash for goods things we’ve got up North) and getting acclimated. I am only now beginning to understand how curious we appear as foreigners (extrajeneros) to some of the denizens of this small port town. I was culturally naive (even though I’d lived in NYC which makes you think you are exempt) leaving my shoes outside and being surprised when they were stolen.

This is not to say we are A Major Thrill. There are loads of very affluent Mexicans here in the summertime whose consumption is riotously conspicuous. This is also not to say that there is a sad poverty thing happening all over here. Certainly there are very ugly, unhappy pockets, but most people seem to be having a pretty good time. But we are Americans and for that mere fact we stand out and we are young and that means we have more shiny bleepy things than some of the oldens. (not all of you, don’t get tetchy). It is a new and unusual position for me. You can’t help but look and compare, to define what you have based on what you don’t and always sort of envy what’s on the other side of the glass topped wall.

There Are 3 Responses So Far. »

  1. You both made a choice to step outside the US rat race competition and to find your own way…I am sure many of your readers are envious of your relationship, your courageousness, and your spunk, besides.

    Compare all you like, just don’t change who you are!

  2. Jillian,
    I love reading your and Malcom’s word pictures. They are so thoughtful and reflective. (Perhaps you were buddhist monks in former lives.) I also appreciate all the photos and the food stories. My wife and I have purchased a modest home in Merida and expect to be living in it in a few years.

    Keep experiencing or as you say, “Looking and thinking”. None of us know what we should be doing in life so it’s a waste of time worrying about it. Envy over the glass topped wall is natural. So too is your appreciation for all that’s beautiful around you. Keep telling us all about it. All of it. We love you.

  3. When we get back from a trip to Mexico we’re always shocked at how much crap we have and how ridiculous some of it is.

    I totally relate to the whole cost of living/you’re poor thing that happens when you live in NYC. Before we moved to the burbs, we didn’t even have the money to live in Brooklyn! We lived in the ghetto in Jersey and we used to put old shoes that we didn’t want any more on our stoop- they were always gone in the morning… Yeah- It’s weird to commute from the ghetto into the city to work.

    Anyway- we’re vicariously living through you now until Hans’ contract in Westchester ends and we can move down south ourselves. Keep it up!

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