I am sitting at my gray cubicle in my Midtown Manhattan office, which (if you know New York) is just down the street from the Chrysler Building. I sit perpendicular to my manager Michael, who outside of work, is known to be the flashy, overconfident party-goer–the one who spends gobs of money on having a good time. Inside of work, he has quickly climbed the corporate ladder as one of the most successful salesmen in the company.
I watch him sitting at his desk, sipping on a dark blue smoothie as he’s approached by Kyle, one of our coworkers. After a quick hello, he asks Michael what he’s drinking.
Michael looks down at his barely consumed beverage, looks back up at Kyle and says, “An Acai Smoothie with protein.” What happens next surprises me. Kyle casually asks if he can have it. Michael hands him the $10 drink, and just like that, Kyle walks away, drink in hand.
Apparently, the two businessmen have an arrangement. Kyle’s apartment is a only a few blocks away from work, and in exchange for buying Kyle lunch a few times a week (and also apparently giving him free access to drinks not originally intended for him), Michael is granted to use Kyle’s apartment for taking naps during the work day.
“It’s mutually beneficial,” Michael explains, as he wipes away the ring of condensation left behind on his desk. “It’s important to have those kinds of relationships in life.” Ah, yes. The transactional relationship.
I am quick to nod my head “yes,” when in reality, this comment leaves me feeling empty. Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing wrong with a mutually beneficial relationship–a classic “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” type deal. But here in NYC, these types of relationships are far more abundant than meaningful relationships, which seem to be obsolete altogether.
When it comes to sharing my emotions, I have always been a leaky floodgate. I have practically zero standards when choosing a confidant and if no one’s around I’ll vent to anyone–a stray dog comes to mind. But after this Upstate girl left her liberal arts college for a cut throat sales job in Manhattan, one of the first things she learned was to be careful choosing who to be vulnerable with.
Here among the corporate wolves, weakness is snuffed out. This job is hard. We all work 10 hour days, but many of us are expected to stay longer, especially if we are new and still establishing ourselves. All 3 meals of the day are during work hours and our packed schedules often cause one or two of those to be skipped or forgotten completely.
But the hardest part of my adaptation to city life has been accepting the realization that hallow cordiality is the norm here. And that if anything, this is merely an echo of the larger culture surrounding us. People in Corporate America disown their human needs and limitations, evolve passed them; that they starve their stomachs as much as they starve their souls. The need to uphold one’s social image has replaced the need for genuine human connection, and the bottomless hunger for money is in vain pursuit to fill a hole it will never be able to.
So how does one stay soft in a world that intends to harden them? How do you stay true to yourself in a city so unaligned with who you are? Part of it is to see the bigger picture: this city is just one chapter in my life, after all. And when it has served its purpose, I will leave to better things with my notebooks filled.
But for now, how does the lamb prevent Wall Street wolves from swallowing her whole? That’s easy–she must do what makes her soul sing. She must intentionally create time for it. She must sit down with the infinite material this city has given her, weave it into words, and write.