Dont believe anyone who tells you the recession is over. In New York, we are grasshoppers in winter. I have smart, talented friends who havent worked in months, who are surviving on whatever they stashed away in the foolish years. Rents are down, but they dont have broker fees to move. Vindigo got 700 résumés last week from a single advert, and the people I meet at (rare) industry events have a desperate look as they press Consultant business cards on one another. Its a crazy time to look for a job, unless you have to.
When youre rich, you dont pay for drinks. Technology didnt attract the kind of people who partied like Wall Street types, but still, all those liberal arts content producers had several freebie parties a night to choose from. Its different now. During the boom, I never saw where my friends slept, but unemployed New Yorkers invite each other over to their tiny homes. Six-packs, we discover, cost less than Negronis. And Brooklyn is more fun than Manhattan.
I like the new way better. Its as easy to catch up over a four-dollar bowl of pho as over arugula salad and grilled tuna. My credit card bills from the last few years make depressing reading nowI feel like a twit for spending thousands of restaurant dollars maintaining 120lbs of human meat.
I feel even dumber for spending my twenties in an office. Saturdays, late nightsI was expert at face time. Did I produce more that way? Absolutely not. Any parent dying to get back to a four-month old would churn out more work in six hours than I did in 12. But when everybody worked long hours, there were no playmates to lure me out. Staying at the office and making friends at the work saved me the hassle of getting a life. I thought it was perfectly fine to blow people off with I have so much work tonight, but some of them stopped calling.
It took a while to realize that Im not going to be able to press Pause to stay 28 for a decade so that I could see the world and build a fine career and have a brood of kids while my body is young. So Ive decided to take my savings and travel. Ill fill a backpack with too much stuff and slowly discard bits and pieces over several months in Southeast Asia. In the meantime, Ill fret about getting Internet access in Laos and what shoes to wear in Thailand and whether Ill find anyone to watch my bag at the train station in Phnom Penh.