The other day I caught up with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile. Being in your 20s in NYC is a unique experience, and it's important we make time to congregate and create communal conversation, even if it is a shit-talking session on the couch. He vented to me about his housing situation- he'd been sending rent to his subleaser for 6 months, but his landlord came at him with the smoke when he revealed he hadn't received a single payment in the last 6 months totaling near $20,000! Another friend signed as the guarantor for his roommate who's habitually late on rent; that resulted in a fist fight and uneasy truce for the remainder of their lease. Another friend of mine had to take to social media the other day to call out someone he thought was his friend; he lent out $900 to someone he thought was trustworthy who turned out to be very cavalier and dismissive when it came time to pay it back, even with a 6 month grace period. I myself went through a similar situation where I lent out $700 to my girl friend at the time so we could secure our apartment. 7 months later I got back maybe $300 while battling with her for months after over the remaining $400 balance, I ended up getting $300 more in the form of a gift that did not reconcile us, while she skipped out on rent in our apartment for 6 months, leaving us with a balance of over $8000 and getting us kicked out with a bang (I had to fist fight two very unhappy ex-roomies). When faced with these situations it comes to pass how hurtful it can be that no good deed goes unpunished; as a friend, someone I am in community with, I would never want you to go without a home; however, when it comes time to return the same regard, I ended up displaced while she left on a flight to Portugal funded by her mother and her scamming her friends of their kindness.
It is my belief that everyone deserves a home and living in NYC will show you how ludicrous the price points are; apartments that haven't been inspected or updated in months, leaky faucets and drains, peeling paint that you simply have to go over yourself, broken toilets, dirty roommates- the list goes on; these apartments simply aren't worth what we have to pay for them. When applying that logic to an individual scale, it becomes easy to see why one would simply not want to pay it, even as the risk of homelessness far outweighs the radical mindsets of some who turn to stooping. However, there is something sinister in adopting individual thinking when considering that most all housing is a communal effort. NYC can be a lonely place; in the throws of club-drug life and fashion booms, most people only find a sense of community through friendships based in similar aesthetics or hobbies, and deeply need-based romantic relationships. When faced with real life challenges, where the spirit of intimacy is integral, it becomes clear who is still connected to that spirit of community and who has forsaken it for the much easier facade of community through social media outlets. It is not lost on me that most people I've seen fuck a friend over for some dollars have thousands of social media followers to help satiate their need for community through validation and praise of their online persona. The real world doesn't matter as much; as long as you look rich, you are rich, even as most of us are poor, and those deceiving and betraying their people are most definitely broke.
If you can find someone to say you aren't wrong, no matter how dastardly the deed is, then you aren't wrong. There is a reality where someone will accept you; but what kind of reality is it to live as someone amongst others that does not practice basic compassion, empathy, and regard? After several months of displacement, I found a new apartment with a new rent; more than double what I used to pay. Modeling has slowed down and I've gone through rejection after rejection per job interview- I was struggling to pay rent this month. My plan? I told my roommate I was struggling. I let myself be vulnerable. I came up with a plan that includes everyone involved, and to my integrity I found another way. Simple math. The fake nonchalance and cavalier, dismissive attitudes that cover my peers is something I am struggling deeply to understand as an emotional and expressive person. How could you call someone a friend then take advantage of them? Is your need for community fulfilled by a cult-like following that amounts to some likes on a screen and thousands of robots collecting data on your person? Why is there always a yes-man involved to let anyone feel better about not caring to have real community? What is community in a place like NYC for the 20-something just trying to figure things out?
When I approach this topic from a place of empathy, I am filled with compassion for everyone involved. We are struggling to survive in a world that is exponentially more expensive than the one we were born into just 20 years ago. However, when I approach this topic from a place of compassion for myself, I am filled with rage for the complete and total lack of human decency one person can show another. None of these material things will come with us when we pass; the only thing that will matter is how you lived your life when you were alive. No Instagram or Twitter followers are coming with you to the grave. No bussdown chain is coming with you to the grave. Not a pair of pants or duffel bag is going with you to the grave. But the blight on your conscience that covers you in the blood of your guilt and misery even as you attempt to feign happiness and carefree joy? That will follow you for the rest of your life and into the next, it will infect your children, your relationships, your identity.
The lesson becomes that not everyone has the same heart as you, and even if your friend is struggling, it might be in your best interest to withhold your help, even as this is the opposite of communalism. How has money made so many generations so lost? Without community, you die, and in moving without integrity toward your community, you become the type of person who must manipulate others in order to get what you want; it is a viscous, ugly cycle that I'm reminded of every time I see a mutual repost a photo of my old friend; that feeling of pure disgust when I see her face, that pit in my stomach that knows they are next to be taken advantage of because that is all this person knows to do when looking to survive.
NYC is a tough place to make it. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. If you can make it here, you're cool. It's become a place though, where people come to try and make it seem like they're making it while they piggyback off the successes of others and try to pay their rent in clout points. It's become a place where people come to look cool instead be cool, to look like you have sound character instead of actually embodying sound character. It's a difficult lesson for the 20-something to learn; not everyone is your friend, even if they say they are. In knowing this, what can those of us who do care and have regard for others do to manage the major pain of that sort of betrayal? In my opinion, radical honesty and responsibility are the only cure. You cannot expect others to move like you, nor can you control someone else's actions, you can only do for self what you can do for self. If that means a fist fight? Fight them. Internet call-out? Drag them. Small claims court? Finish them, but inevitably, whatever any one person decides, there must be a space created for each party to come to honest blows and take radical responsibility for themselves and their actions. I've adopted the mentality that any money I lend out moving forward, I don't expect back.
My oldest brother lived in NYC as well; he had a situation where his roommate was out of the job for 6 months and instead of kicking him out or fighting with him; he just covered the balance until his friend got back on his feet. This is because he had the space to give. It is my deepest desire to create that space for myself, that space to give. In order to do that, I have to understand underneath my rage is the responsibility I have to take toward the fact that I was sharing of myself when I didn't have the space to give, and while someone may have seen my generous nature and sought to take advantage, I can take ownership of the fact that no one can fool you without your consent, people show who they are very early on. Housing stability is the number one insecurity facing my peers. Buying a home seems impossible, affording an apartment might mean getting into a relationship of convenience, those we dub hobosexuals. Everyone deserves a home, and no one deserves to be taken advantage of, and with integrity and vulnerability we can secure those things for the people in community with us. It's a difficult topic to embrace, as the energy behind money and its use is more than just the superficial payments, it is a representation of the respect and value you have for yourself and other people, and its hard to be friends with someone who does not respect or value themselves. In the end this is my belief: finesse the landlord, not your friends. All that's left to say is, what's up Nia? You got rent?