by Carly Gelfond
On a recent evening in April, I sat in a bar in Brooklyn across from an old friend from college. She’d quit her job the week before, citing stress and a lack of career advancement. She’d also had a brief stint in the hospital for an illness she attributed to the stress. “Oh, and my parents are getting divorced,” she said, taking a long sip of her pink.
“Man,” I said, ever the one with words.
It was okay, though, she told me. Leaving the job was an effort to “create space,” as she put it. She wanted to get away from her ordinary routine, to break old habits, to make room for new people and new opportunities. Maybe she would move somewhere else. Take up a new hobby. Try some new activities and stick with the ones that made her most happy.
I liked her idea of “creating space.” I pictured a big open field, all grass and wildflowers and breezes.
“You know, it’s interesting,” I said. “Whereas you imagine space, and activities taking up space, I’ve always imagined my time as a bar graph.” I conceded that this metaphor wasn’t a particularly romantic vision, but it made sense to me. “Everything I choose to spend my time doing is a bar on the graph, and its height depends on how much time I dedicate to it. Work is a tall bar, of course. Other bars I have are cooking, running, blogging, playing hockey, seeing friends—those kinds of things. Also, relaxing is a bar all its own, because you really do need to carve out time for that. And pretty often I assess my bar graph. Do I think certain bars need to shrink or grow? What do I wish I spent more or less time doing? And then, if I can, I make some adjustments.”
My friend leaned back and crossed her arms. “That’s an interesting way of thinking about it,” she said. According to my metaphor, she’d basically razed all of her bars, I thought.
I’ve talked about this with people before. My much better half, John, thinks of his time as a house, which he walks through every day, going in and out of different rooms. He often thinks about how much he likes being in each room, and if perhaps he’d like to spend more time in other rooms he’s passed.
Even before that night with my friend, I’d been spending more time thinking of my bar graph. Earlier in the spring, I’d read in the paper about a co-ed street hockey league that played every Sunday in Tompkins Square Park. Before I could second-guess myself, I emailed the coordinator, and soon found myself drafted onto a team, playing a sport I wasn’t very good at, but which I completely and totally loved. Poof. Just like that, a new bar was born.
Of course, the introduction of my hockey bar meant that my relaxation bar took a major hit. But you know what? I always found that bar sort of boring anyway.
Looking to raise the bar with some new activities? Here are a few I recommend, which I’ve tried out myself, unless otherwise noted.
Take a cooking class at Miette Culinary Studio.
In a Greenwich Village townhouse, classically-trained Belgian chef Paul Vandewoude teaches professional techniques and shares his recipes in hands-on sessions. Classes are small—under 12 students—and cater to amateur cooks of any skill level. Participants work together to prepare the meal, learning the necessary skills as they go, and everyone dines together at the end of each class. It’s worth it just to hang out with Chef Paul, who is completely wacky, in a good way.
Miette Culinary Studio
109 MacDougal Street, Suite 2, New York, NY
Join a co-ed hockey league.
You, too, can be a part of New York City’s “original ball hockey league.” Blacktop Street Hockey games are played every Sunday afternoon in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Players wear sneakers—not in-line skates—and play with a ball—not a puck. It’s (supposed to be) a friendly game, with no fighting and checking allowed. Mostly, this is true. Teams are co-ed, which means that each team must have at least two women on the court at any given time.
Note: The season is already in full swing, but there may still be teams looking for players, ESPECIALLY WOMEN. You have to register online before you can play.
Blacktop Street Hockey
Tompkins Square Park–Enter at 9th Street and Avenue A. BTSH.org
Learn how to design and make your own jewelry.
I’ve never been to Brooklyn Charm, but it’s been at the top of my list of places to check out for months. If you’re like me, you’ll sometimes look closely at a necklace you own and think, “I bet I could make that.” Well, maybe you can and maybe you can’t, but there’s only one way to find out.
145 Bedford Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets), Brooklyn, NY BrooklynCharmShop.com
Volunteer for Central Park.
One summer I interned at a fashion magazine that had hired too many interns. As a result, we were constantly being sent home early for lack of work. I would go to Central Park and wander around, and on one of these walks I saw a sign that said, “Volunteer for Central Park,” followed by a phone number. I pulled out my cell phone and called it, and that is how I began working in my spare time with Mario, a supervisor in the southeast corner of the park. I pruned trees, weeded pathways, and planted flowers, and I couldn’t have imagined a better alternative to the stuffy fashion closet I’d been cooped up in.
Central Park Conservancy