How we live

Life Before Quarantine

By now it’s clear the world will be very different tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. What we don’t know is how. I’m writing this to help future me have a record what the past was like. I want to remember this turning point or later know if I was foolish to think this was the moment when everything changed.

The proverbial watercooler

I started optionally working from home on March 2, 2020. I immediately went stir crazy and visited the office and gym a few times. The few half days I went to the office, work felt business as usual with extra Purell. There was more signage in the bathrooms about washing your hands for two happy birthdays. Coworking spaces are so high traffic, it was hard to feel like it mattered.

At yoga, I got a few funny looks when I insisted on using lysol wipes instead of whatever is in those spray bottles. I never really liked the used rag method, but I guess no one wants to lug their own yoga mat around dirty NYC.

Zero feet apart weekends

That Friday, March 6, 2020, I had a date with someone I had been seeing for a bit. It was hard not to talk about anything but Coronavirus. Even when the topic shifted to something positive, there was a heavy weight in the air. Even his pup was stressed out. Eventually, I suggested I go home. In your 30s, Friday date nights are hard even when a pandemic isn’t looming. I stayed up feeling low until 3am watching Jessica become Messica.

Hangin out zero feet apart

Saturday morning, friends who live on my street hosted a bagel brunch. Like any New York home hang, we were shoulder to shoulder. “Six feet apart” wasn’t in the daily dialogue yet. Someone I met at brunch invited me to join a dinner with more friends in the neighborhood. I enthusiastically said yes. Needless to say, that dinner never happened.

That night, I rode the subway to LIC. No gloves, no mask, no fear. My eyes were shamelessly glued to my phone, watching the finale of Love is Blind. I almost wished the ride was longer, just to finish the episode.

I met friends for dinner at Adda Cantine. We squished six to a table and shared a single travel size Purell bottle. “Covid Nineteen” was in the air. Some friends at dinner practice medicine, so of course I asked how worried we should be. All logic pointed to staying home– but still, we went out. From one squeeze to another, we piled into a Lyft, back to Brooklyn.

Before the dancefloor was full at Public Records

Daniel Bell was playing at Public Records. A remarkable artist at a tasteful club. If you’ve been there before, you know they graciously cater to a slightly more mature demographic, which includes placing a high value on keeping hydrated. Friends pulled clean tin cups from the community stack and dispensed water from the tap. I wonder if we’ll bring our own cups in the future.

We’re very lucky no one got sick. I say the following because we were so fortunate. I’m glad I went out dancing. We shouldn’t have. But it seems like I might not get to move my body in a large gathering for a long time. It’s something I need, it gives me energy.

I bumped into a few friends there. One being a promising young designer I met at a Carbon 5 mentor night. She had just gotten her first job and finally had health insurance. I hope she’s still employed, I should look her up. I left early, though. The BPM wasn’t picking up and I liked the idea of a good night’s sleep — ok fine, the finale of Love is Blind, was calling me.

On the other side of Brooklyn, my brother was DJing a party in Bushwick. At the time, opportunities to hear him play in a night club felt like great abundance. Bushwick was far, and I wanted to lay down. Read the quote. It was the best gig he’s had in NYC.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9mRDlRJN6Z/

I wish I was there. I regret going home. Netflix and early bedtimes are painfully abundant now. I’m not sure when I’ll dance with friends again, or meet for dinner, go on a date, or stroll to my neighbor’s house. Heck, I can’t even predict when I’ll hug someone again.

All of these things will happen. But New York will be different. I’ll be different.

Isolation is not for New Yorkers

I won’t sugar coat it. It’s scary in New York right now. What I know is my friends and family are staying home, washing their hands, and keeping a distance if they have to go out. If the numbers get worse, there’s not a whole lot more we can do. The only way out is through.

Friends and family are asking how I’m doing. I don’t know how to answer this question. Bad? Fine? Hangin’ in there? We’re all living through this pandemic, with our own unique challenges. What’s less visible to the rest of the world, is what transplant New Yorkers signed up for when they moved here.

In a few hundred square feet, I sleep, where I eat, where I work and design, where I exercise, and where I write. Most of us don’t have spare bedrooms, porches, back yards, garages, cars, and now barely the subway. The promise of moving to New York is the gift of walking out your door with the entire world at your finger tips.

My situation is not worse than yours. But every morning I wake up and I am exactly where I’ll be, with nowhere to go but inside.

I hope you’re doing ok. Please stay the fk home.

How we live

I Will Teach You to Be Rich [Spreadsheet Template]

Personal finance is intimidating, especially since many Millennials graduated when the economy crashed and started off their adult lives in debt. Ramit Sethi will teach you to be rich. His book I Will Teach You To Be Rich is a step-by-step plan for setting and forgetting your finances. I got really into it with my brother and geeked out making a spreadsheet based on Ramit’s Framework.

Please keep in mind our spreadsheet is a compliment, not replacement, for Ramit’s book. The percentages and dates are samples and are different for my personal budget.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich [Spreadsheet Template]

  1. Read Chapters 1-4 of I Will Teach You To Be Rich
    This spreadsheet specifically refers to Chapter 4 (39% way into the book) but the first three chapters are important setup. This book is especially great on Kindle. Even if you’re usually a paperback person, having it on the computer like a reference document, using the Kindle Desktop App, was helpful.
  2. Make a copy of the spreadsheet
    File> Make a copy
  3. Only edit the cells in highlighted in blue 
  4. Input numbers from your paycheck (Cells B13-B17)
    The numbers on your payslip tell you how much money you earn, and thus how much money you can spend and save.
  5. Adjust your savings percentages (Cells C2-C9)
    These percentages help you decide how much money you can allocate to different categories of spending. In my spreadsheet I made a new row for each of my savings goals. This will then calculate how much to auto-transfer to a high yield savings account every month. Add or remove as many rows as you like as long as the percentage equals 100.
  6. List your fixed expenses (Cells B23-B27)
    Enumerate each expense you have every month. Now compare the Monthly calculated total (B23) with D2 (Monthly fixed cost). Adjust the numbers so they come close to matching. Ramit offers many specific tips to lower your monthly expense (and how to get a raise).

    Ramit recommends

    • 50-60% Fixed Costs (rent, utilities, loans, etc)
    • 10% Investments (401k, Roth IRA, other investment funds)
    • 5-10% Savings (gifts, house, down payment, unexpected expenses)
    • 20-35% Guilt Free Spending (dining out, music, burning man, etc)
  7. Bonus activity
    1. Money in savings (B23)
      If you want help re-allocating your existing money into higher yield accounts, list the amount of cash you currently have here.
    2. Target date (G4-G9)
      What is all this saving for? You may not know if you want to get married, have children or buy a house. However, if it’s something you’re considering, this can help you estimate how much saving you need to do now for possible big expenses in the future.
    3. % from savings (I2-I10)
      Looking at raw numbers can be overwhelming. Allocating savings by percentage makes it easier to parse and prioritize numbers. This column can help you re-allocate any cash you have that you want to redistribute into high-yield savings or investment accounts.
    4. Total (K2-12)
      This column shows you how much you will have saved by your target date (existing savings + future contributions). It does not account for interest.

Good luck, have fun, and stay positive. You may be pleased with how much money you have or disappointed by how expensive it is to live in today’s world. But rest tonight knowing you are ahead of the curve by having awareness and approach for your finances.

How we live

Frameworks for life

I love organized patterns, structures, and frameworks. They reduce stress, cognitive load, and decision making on topics where I lack expertise. That means I spend more time focusing on the parts of life I care about. Here are my favorites:

Finances

Ramit Sethi teaches you how to set your finances on auto-pilot. Make money when you’re sleeping and enjoy a nice pool of money called Guilt Free Spending. It took me about six months to get finances buttoned up but it was pretty painless, and to be honest, quite fun. He writes a language easy to understand with anecdotes that make a scary topic accessible.

Home

Marie Kondo believes when our home is a happy place, we can bring our lives into a happy place. Her framework is famous for finding items that spark joy, but her system protects from rebounds or doing a little cleaning every day. Patterns like similar items together and make sure all items are visible in a drawer are small changes that have huge impact.

Art

Julia Cameron’s self-directed 8-week course of writing every morning and taking yourself on artist dates is blissful, inspiring, and challenging. She helps you unblock creative insecurities, experiment with art, and do daily self-reflections. She and I both believe, everyone is creative and can be an artist.

Health

The Whole 30 diet is a true challenge. It’s an elimination diet that only allows for fruit, vegetables, and meat. No sugar, dairy, grains, beans, booze, honey, soy, etc. The authors say

This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.

That’s some tough love. I am still working on finding a way to integrate my Whole 30 insights into a daily lifestyle. Stay tuned on that.