Today, I became a creative writer on special assignment.
For an imaginary company.
My husband Alex became my cowoker. His stuffed bear Grundy became my acquaintance down the hall, Ted. We had a full-on ten minute conversation harkening back to the yesterday of pre-virus times. A time where we all sat within reach or a desk away from a coworker, a boss, another company, the coffee maker, the hallway that would provide the path with one single leading step to your lunchtime meal choice.
It wasn’t real but it felt so very real, the simulation of the nostalgia of a feeling and an action in a specific time and place.
I’ve had a growing relationship with NYC since I first visited the city for a high school orchestra trip to play at Carnegie Hall. Back then, the wide-eyed moi remembered the astonishment of seeing a Starbucks on every corner, getting lost amidst the other wandering tourists, the eagerness I embodied of discovery even at corner sellers of umbrellas post the intermittent rain, the shops with chicken-scratch signs of discounts and wholesale bundles of hot products and just a je ne sais quoi that permeated the city.
As life unfolded post-college, I then began to form a different relationship with the city as work from the Midwest as a retail buyer continuously brought me to meet with vendors, companies, friends and more on almost a monthly basis for seven years. Then in 2017, after some amazing time spent living in Taiwan, I decided to take the leap and move to the city that I loved so much.
Suddenly, working and living in the city cultivated an even deeper connection to the city that peeled back more and more layers of understanding, of depth. It’s not unlike that dynamic of getting to know your significant other over the course of time. Maybe you initially fell in love like a naïve puppy, then enjoyed a honeymoon period where both of you could do no wrong, to fighting small fights to big fights to expanses of time where you learn so much from each other to the daily funny occurrences that bring you closer still such as the simple act of brushing your teeth together. It’s truly an onion being peeled that reveals itself more and more. Such is the relationship and dynamic of getting to know New York and allowing the process to unfold like a lifelong journey with your partner.
And thus, I think many New Yorkers have such a love-hate relationship with the city. It’s all a very unique and individual experience. But the conglomeration of experiences comes with it an overarching solidarity of commonality. New Yorkers just get it.
I’ve been missing the little details of working in the city in a physical location surrounded by coworkers collaborating together. Remembering times when I was frustrated with my initial job hunt to crowded shared work spaces to the seemingly forever wait to take an elevator no matter what building you were in to fighting the traffic and mobs of people rushing home after work and more, I’ve realized those little annoyances and nuisances were merely nuances of a greater experience.
The tiniest moments that are part of a daily process or a workflow can often feel so insignificant amidst the challenges of meeting deadlines or preparing an important pitch. But when those daily givens are no longer givens for the near future, their previous insignificance renders themselves significant.
Today we played make believe.
I took some time for myself and put on makeup that I love. I sketched in my brows with little brush strokes to mimic real hairs carefully in a way I never cared about in the past. Let’s face it, I suck at doing brows but I’m pretty damn awesome at shadows. I fished through my box of hair accessories and found a playful pink and green bunny clip and fastened it to the top of my side braid.
I rummaged through some tops and rediscovered a fun blouse I had worn to city hall when we had obtained our marriage license and put it on. Yes, I’m feeling a bit different than my past months of a regular pajama routine already!
I completed the look with a sparkly midi leopard skirt and even surprising myself, took out a pair of light blue heels adorned with bows and actually put them on.
It was a process I savored, one where I took my time. Not the usual previous rush of shit, my alarm is going off and I need to throw something on and get the fuck to work panic moment. I cherished and relished the process as if reuniting with an old friend from childhood after twenty years of time apart.
The sheer act of treasuring that previous mundane and necessary task of getting ready brought transformation to its meaning. How could something so simple become so meaningful, so empowering, so fun?
We didn’t let the make believe stop.
“Alex, do you need a break from work? Want to go get some coffee?”
“Yeah, no worries, let’s do it.”
“How was your weekend? Do anything fun?”
“Yeah, it was pretty good. I did some preparation for this project I’m working on.”
“Awesome! Hey, what kind of milk are you using?”
“Soy. You like oat?”
(The two coworkers are laughing and congregating at the workplace coffee machine; Cue Nespresso machine)
“Hey, Ted! How’s it going? Have you met my coworker, Alex?”
“Nice to meet you!”
“Hey Ted, didn’t you go fishing last weekend? How was your trip?”
“Yeah, sadly we didn’t go due to the rain.”
“Aww, bummer. I know you’ve been super busy with work but dang, your business has been so good!!! Would have been amazing to celebrate.”
“Thanks! Well, I gotta get back to it. Enjoy your coffee, guys. Nice meeting you, Alex!”
(The coworkers complete their coffee break and head back to their desks)
“Hey, Alex. Our 2 o’clock meeting. Can we move it to 2:30 instead?”
“Yeah, I’ll move it on our calendars.”
“Okay, cool. Putting my headphones in. See you at 2:30.”
(The coworkers start doing their work)
It’s 2:30 pm now. Literally one minute away.
Alex and I are about to do a YouTube workout with dumbbells in our less-than-400-square-feet studio apartment in Murray Hill. I’m at home, not in an office and not surrounded by coworkers. Alex is awaiting his work and travel permit from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services and not working at all. When we look out our windows, the streets are almost empty, apart from the trucks and bikes with delivery people or the masked-up pedestrian carrying groceries or sights of others perched on their balconies for a moment of respite. The reality of the situation is in our face every day, grasped fully from the sounds of applause at 7 pm including our own, to the press conferences held by the great leadership of the state to the grim news reports and much more. We feel it.
But for ten blissful minutes, we didn’t. We were working again, in an office, as coworkers conversing and carrying on about their weekends, meeting others in the shared workspace, grabbing a coffee and then getting back to our tasks.
Except this time my task was being a creative writer on special assignment instead of a business developer, instead of an e-commerce manager, instead of a buyer. My make believe was the catalyst for this post.
And in this moment of make believe, the past nuisances and givens of the everyday became real. Real significant.
It’s good to live in reality.
But sometimes, it’s okay and even necessary to take ten minutes for yourself and live in the land of make believe.
By the way, in our workplace office, Alex and I were in a secret relationship that our coworkers did not know about. Our coworkers are Grundy and Doodance, our childhood stuffed animals.