Last week I was editing a book, but as I was done the first full read, I took a much-needed break and spent the day swimming and hiking at a state park with a friend. I live in Queens, he lives in upper Manhattan and the state park was in New Jersey. I picked him up in Midtown and we drove through the Lincoln Tunnel. out into the wilds of Jersey, to a park that he’d known as a child.
The park had a small man-made beach by a lake with a roped-off swimming area. Little schools of minnows swam by our feet as we entered the water. It was August and we’d had a number of hot summer days recently, so the water was just cool enough to refresh without being shocking.
Because it was Monday, a workday for most, the beach was not crowded. There were mostly moms and babies, plus a few well-behaved teens and some complete family units. If there were any other adults our age there–without kids–I didn’t see them.
My friend works in catering, so he works sporadic, odd hours. I’m still collecting unemployment, looking for work and trying to see if my freelance business takes off. We both agreed (who wouldn’t?) that working the weekend and taking Monday off was way better than working 9-5 in some crappy office dealing with petty politics and crazy bosses.
But I was tired. Being unemployed means I have been keeping weird hours. I’ve been staying up late, spending a lot of time on the computer–sometimes writing, sometimes doing legitimate research, but other times just chatting and checking FaceBook and LinkedIn and Twitter to see if anyone has said anything in response to something I said, or if there’s anything worth responding to myself. I know I need more sleep.
So after the first quick dip into the water, I lay on the beach, my body covered in sunscreen, and tried to sleep. My friend had mini-speakers for his iPod and he was playing a Rolling Stones’ album. The volume was set relatively low–but it reminded me of my childhood on the Jersey shore where someone blasting music on a boombox never seemed that big of deal. I guess hearing the Stones themselves created a nostalgic mood for me. It was “Tattoo You,” an album that came out the year I graduated high school. (Yes, holy crap…don’t tell anyone it was thirty years ago.)
I’d brought two notebooks with me, one a personal journal and the other a multi-purpose book for drafting blogs, drawing, and jotting down ideas, to-do lists and get-rich-quick schemes. I always have the notion in the back of my head that I “should” be writing. I let that go for the moment.
I dosed off and had a warm, pleasant catnap. last I’d looked my friend had been lying back in his beach chair with a hat over his face. Since he was being quiet I guess he was napping, too. No one had to be anywhere and we didn’t need to set any alarms.
Eventually we started to come back to life. My friend wandered off to inquire about boat rentals and I opened up one of the notebooks and did actually get a page or so of a potential blog written. But when he returned and proposed ice cream from the truck at the edge of the parking lot, I abandoned my notebook. We talked, ate chocolate popsicles, took another swim and later took a hike in the nearby woods.
I think having my friend there allowed me to let go and not worry about life, writing, or my job search for a while. He’s an actor when he’s not catering, and is an outgoing, very friendly type, the kind of person you’re happy to hang out with. It is hard to get upset about things around him.
I really needed the day and the company. It is hard to relax when you feel like you should be doing something every hour of every day toward getting a job. I did send some resumes out last week and I made inquiries about freelance and full-time work with a publishing house where another friend works. So far there have been no job offers, and I’m still waiting to hear about the freelance.
On the beach, I wasn’t beating myself up about not being where I was supposed to be or doing what I was supposed to be doing. I’m doing the best that I can to survive these economic times, and I will survive them. When I do start working again, I’ll be working hard, and who knows when I’ll be able to go to the beach again. I’m going to enjoy it while I can. And I did. A perfect day.