We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” —Joan Didion, The White Album

I’ve been thinking about these words from Joan Didion a lot lately as I’ve been preparing to move to New York. While I’m incredibly excited to move into my new apartment in New York, the prospect of carving out an entirely new life for myself is a little overwhelming at times. I’m leaving behind the comforts of a job, health insurance, and my childhood home in search of new opportunities that I haven’t secured yet. At the same time, this is all incredibly exciting. I will be a resident of Manhattan, something I’ve only ever dreamed about. 

In order to maintain the excitement of possibility and to forget about the worries that surround moving to a new city with no job in tough economic times, I focus on the narrative. Instead of focusing on how I am plucking myself from a comfortable life and catapulting myself into a new city filled with unknowns, I tell myself stories about what my new life in New York could be like. It’s these little stories that get me through the day-to-day details of facilitating a move and the anxiety of not having a job or insurance two weeks from now. Here are some of the little stories I tell myself as I pack up my belongings and give away clothes I don’t need:

  • You can work at the Gap and work your way into the fashion world. 
  • You can nanny and be the next Mary Poppins for a family on the Upper East Side
  • Moving to a new city is like that time you studied abroad, but without the hassle of going through customs or changing your currency. 
  • Just fake it ‘til you make it. 
  • Give it two years and if you have a terrible time, you can always move back to Wisconsin and live in the country. 
  • All of the east coast is at your disposal: eat lobsters in Maine, visit old friends in Boston, eat clams on the shores of Rhode Island, pop down to Washington DC and say hello to your representative, check out North Carolina, gamble in Atlantic City.

Maybe none of these imagined stories about my new life in New York will ever come true, but telling them is enough to keep me plugging along on this new journey. Something will eventually pan out and when it does, I will be looking for a new narrative to keep me going.

2 thoughts on “We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live

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  1. A friend recently did the same move (except from Minneapolis to NYC) with no job or prospects. She worked at the Gap for a couple weeks before she found a job related to her degree that she loves now!

    It always finds a way to work itself out!

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