follow tali on ...

the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
JAN
26

How a Writer Measures Time

I have this thing I do, where if I buy something in bulk, I try and calculate the amount of time it will take before I need to buy it again. Then I picture what life might be like at that time; what might have happened in my life by then. And please understand that when I say I picture it, I really do. I spend moments of time waxing pensive over all the different possibilities, the different versions of life that may have played out.

For illustration's sake, let's take q-tips. I buy them in bulk at Costco, 3 packs each containing 625 q-tips. This is 1875 q-tips, which at my normal rate of using 2 q-tips per day, means that they will last 937 days. For those keeping track at home, that is two-and-a-half years. And what will my life be like then? What things will have happened (or not)? Will I be in this relationship? Will I be in another? Will I be at this company, in this house, in this city, this state? Will I be healthy? Will my cat? I'm finishing one of these bulk packs right now, getting ready for the new one, which means nearly two-and-a-half years ago I had this same internal conversation, wondering what my life would be like at this point. It's not exactly that I make goals and measure myself against them. I don't even remember what I had even thought back then, if I had particular hopes for this moment. I can say that my life is certainly different in a few ways, and in many more it is the same. I suppose it's the unknown of it all that has me once again envisioning what another two-and-a-half years might look like.

It reminds me of a recent This American Life podcast where Ira Glass and team were exploring the idea of alternate universes. It's a topic that will probably get any writer waxing pensive, because this whole idea of all the other ways life could have turned out based on different decisions made is almost paralyzing fascinating. It's the Sliding Doors principle (that Gwyneth Paltrow movie where two different versions of her life are played out based only on whether she makes a particular train one night or if she doesn't), where something so simple can change the course of a life. I went to graduate school with a girl who, after graduation, treated herself to a trip to Europe where she met a man after getting on the wrong train. The wrong train! They married and have four children, but what if she hadn't gotten on that wrong train? What if she'd found the correct train? 

Some physicists believe that for every decision we make, there is an alternate universe that exists in which we make the opposite decision. I'd give anything to take a peek into those realities and see how things would have shaken out, how happy I appear to be compared to the reality of this universe that I have chosen. Of course, that's not possible. We have only this one universe, this single pack of q-tips by which to measure our progress. So I guess I'll see you in another two-and-a-half years.

JUN
03

End of an Era

b2ap3_thumbnail_staten.jpg

People have asked me what it feels like now that I'm a gemologist. And while it's hard to say that "the same" and "amazing" can both be valid answers, they sort of are. It's like you feel after your birthday...no older, but you'd like to think you are changed somehow nonetheless. And of course every day there is still the recollection of last week's exam, how hard it was, learning I passed, the satisfaction and amazement still fresh.

I can sum up post-gemology life in two succinct bullets:

1. I've resumed the writing of my third book. Feels good to be back in the saddle. I still have no idea really how this one will turn out, especially since it'll be my most personal book yet, so there are some jitters. But as always, I'm looking forward to how it comes together.

2. I've accepted a job. It's in the gemology field, so experiment Quit My Corporate America Job to Become a Gemologist and Switch Careers in the end has been a complete success.

Of course, going back to work can be summed up in two equally succinct bullets:

1. My time will no longer be my own. (ie. no more sleeping in, whiling away the afternoons reading in the park, doing really whatever I want all day long) And the end of such a satisfying sabbatical would make even the most stout-hearted cry like a baby.

2. I am leaving New York. Speaking of crying like a baby. I always assumed if a gemology job came my way it would be here. But it's actually on the other side of the country, which gives me only a few final days to get as much city time in as I possibly can.

So I'm going to stop writing and go outside.

MAY
20

Slow Living

b2ap3_thumbnail_slow.jpg

I took this picture while sitting in Washington Square Park eating fresh bread and cheese (From Amy's and Murray's, respectively) and washing it all down with a beverage from Papaya Dog. If you've read the book pictured above, New Slow City, this will all seem apropos. And not a bad way to spend an afternoon, am I right? Nice work if you can get it. Which is what I've been wresting over since reading the book. Not really slow living in general, because when it comes to the concepts (savoring meals instead of wolfing down fast food, taking in the buildings and birds and other sights you pass instead of hurrying along with your face buried in your smart phone, seeking out urban sanctuaries to temporarily escape from city chaos), I'm completely on board. I mean, aren't you? Think of your own life and tell me it wouldn't be bettered by such changes of pace. But a major aspect of the book deals with this whole notion of taking back your time, and I'm a bit skepitcal about how realistic it is to do that.

Of course, having recently quit my job, I'm the absolute poster child for taking back your time. Because I did. I took it back. All of it. So when I recently read New Slow City, I did so with a chorus of "Amen, brother!" dancing around in my head, because seriously, why's we gotta be working so much, America? And while I quit my job for a specific reason (to do something I've always wanted to do [become a gemologist] in a city in which I've always wanted to live [NYC]), I'm definitely capitalizing on all the benefits (to heart, mind, and soul) of living a slower life. If it is within your power to do the same, you should.

But this fancy-free phase of my life is of course only temporary, and I think it's actually going to make it a bit harder to go back to a 9-5 after this. (I feel Plato's Allegory of the Cave coming on...) Not to mention, most of us are slaved to a 9 to 5 *period*, in that there is no financially feasible way for us to escape or even scale back. "Um, boss, how about I start working part time from now on?" "How about you give me more vacation time?" "How about I work from home?" Most of us simply can't pull these kinds of strings, to which I'll say two things. First, if you've never asked these questions, they are worth a try. Who knows? They might work. Of course if they do, I don't want to hear about it because I hate you. And second, if you're like most people and can't actually put in less time at the office, then do a quick inventory of your life as a whole (where you spend your time, to what extent you disconnect when you finally DO have time away, what gems in your own city you've been too busy to take advantage of...) and figure out what slow(er) living means for you. I promise it will make a big difference; that you will be less stressed and your life more full of the things that truly matter. Like fresh bread and cheese, a bood book, and a patch of sunshine. We can all make time for that.