Step One: Move back home
Your “room” is now the two-feet radius circling the futon on the living room floor.
Step Two: Get a job
Your dream job should consist of an employer who wants to hire you.
Step three: Get a bicycle
Get a road bike. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive one or the nicest looking one – like a serviceable hooker, the bike shouldn’t give you mysterious rashes around your groin when you ride it.
Commute to work on your road bike. Enjoy the fifteen-minute descent on your first day. Shrug off the strange looks from your boss and coworkers as to why you showed up on a red Bianchi that’s clearly two sizes too small for you. Grind through your part-time shift during which brats give you shit and ignore your instructions. After work, get back on the bike to head back home. Realize that an eleven hundred feet ascent is slightly more difficult than an eleven hundred feet descent. Curse the stoplight located right before the steepest part of the hill. Get home covered in sweat and exhausted after an hour. Regret the decision of commuting on a bike. Think about the debt you have to start paying off starting in November. Collapse on the futon in the living room instead.
Wake up and get on your bike. Shuffle around awkwardly at work because muscles you didn’t know existed are sore. During your break, calculate how many more hours it would take to be debt-free. Deflect questions from your next student about why you look so depressed. Slog through another day of work and ask the boss when the first paycheck is. Watch her roll her eyes and tell you it’ll come in three weeks. Take out your anger on the bike on the ride back. You get home in sixty-five minutes. Eat dinner alone because your family has already eaten. Collapse on the futon after showering.
Wake up and head to work on your bike. Walk around on a pair of noodles. Check Facebook in the bathroom. See all the cool things your friends are up to on your newsfeed. Head back down in time for your one-on-one tutoring session. Parry more questions from the same student about why you look so depressed. Talk to your supervisor after work about taking on more hours. He tells you he’ll think about it. Know on your bike ride back home that he probably won’t think about it. Smash down on the pedals knowing that tomorrow is the weekend. Get home, eat alone, and collapse on the futon without showering.
Get up at noon when Dad walks into the apartment wearing his cycling gear. He asks how you’re feeling. Inform him that your legs feel like shit. Give him a death stare when he asks if you’d be interested for a “short pedal around the hill” because no such thing exists, similar to “affordable higher education in America” and “2015-16 NBA Champions, Los Angeles Lakers.”
Drink a lot that weekend with your friends who are still unemployed. Hit on some girls who aren’t interested. Come home drunk and wake up with a hangover Sunday morning. Get a phone call from the boss that evening. She asks if you can come into work earlier on Monday. Tell her you’ll be there ten minutes early.
Wake up at five a.m. to the sound of your father using the coffee grinder. Accept his coffee, which is the blackest morning Joe you’ve laid your eyes on. Gaze into the cup long enough that the cup gazes back. Down the cup. Get on your bike and feel the rush of the coffee and wonder in your jittery state of mind whether or not your dad spiked the coffee with amphetamines but get to work in record time and thank the boss for giving you more hours and sweat everywhere and hate the rest of the day because she’s packed your schedule with the worst students and you have to keep running to the bathroom every fifty minutes and one of your students tells you that he doesn’t even need the good grades because his trust fund will get him through college one way or another.
Suppress the urge to smash his smug face and the pubes-looking hair he’s got growing on his chin into the desk he’s sitting at.
Get back on the bike after work. Say thanks to your supervisor on your way out. Tell yourself your legs don’t feel so bad. Immediately change your mind halfway up the hill. The ride takes fifty minutes. Eat alone. Collapse on the futon.
Wake up at five again, drink Dad’s coffee, and head to work. Run to the bathroom within the first hour and shit everything you have inside you because – Dad, seriously, are those coffee beans even approved by the FDA? Feel fantastic the rest of the day. Get on your bike after work. Your supervisor will stop you to chat about the day. He makes a politically incorrect joke about Austrians and Nazis that you laugh about while riding back home. Think about what’s for dinner. Get home and find out that it’s leftovers. Eat it alone, except for the last five minutes when your dad sits with you to ask how your day went. Laugh together about what a student had said to your boss about her weight that day. Pass out on the futon afterwards.
Finally get your paycheck. Tell yourself that this is the best day of your life. Get home in record time and pay your dad this month’s rent. Deposit the rest into your loan payments. Realize all that money covered only the interest. Sit on the couch wondering where all your money went. Rethink all the snobby things you said in college about people who took jobs working at consulting firms and banks. Realize you’d do a lot more fucked up things for a lot less money. Get shitfaced over the weekend with your friends, who are still unemployed because they refuse to write cover letters for their job applications.
Hop on your bike for a lap around the hill the next weekend. Stop for a few minutes at the beginning of the big climb back home. Gaze at the base of the winding road that stretches toward your destination and how the repetition of the numbing, tedious rides up the hill epitomizes the mental and physical fatigue at the end of each and every day as you work to pay off your loans. Come home spent.
Wake up at five and down two cups of coffee. Get on your bike. Run all the stop signs on your way down and refuse to use the brakes unless absolutely necessary. Almost get into a car accident. Blame the driver. Refuse to teach students a section in the history textbook titled “Positive and Negative Effects of Colonialism” because you have a hard time believing that in 2016 a textbook has four paragraphs devoted to all the wonderful things that came about from the extermination of millions of indigenous peoples. Instead go into a graphic rant about the history of colonialism and the grisly deaths the native peoples met. Get a stern talking-to from the boss. Teach the next student all the great things that colonialism brought to the thankful non-European people of the world. Be the last person to leave work so you can rip that bullshit section out of the textbook. On your ride back, try to stand up out of the saddle going uphill. Fiddle with the gears a little bit. Cause the gear chain to come off of your bike. Stand on the side of the street in the dark trying to put it back on. Come home covered in chain grease. Eat, shower, and sleep.
Decide to ride as fast as possible to and from work next week. Give up after Tuesday because your legs have metamorphosed into noodles again. Have your boss give you more hours with more difficult students. A 7th grader tells you to show him some respect after you confront him about his lack of focus and effort. Chew him out in front of your coworkers and other students. Earn a reputation as “the scary tutor.” Start to hum The Imperial March quietly to yourself whenever you walk into work. The ride back home now takes about forty-five minutes. Your dreams involve throwing wads of money into a sinkhole.
Your father asks if you want to go for a short spin on the bicycle again. You’re surprisingly not too tired from all the riding during the week. You agree before you hear what the “short spin” entails. On the way down towards the beach at thirty miles per hour he tells you that you’re going to the town twenty miles over. Consider quitting. He offers you lunch at a delicious taco stand. Decide not to quit. Regret the decision after a full stomach and halfway back up the hill to your house. Attempt to keep up with your fifty-year-old father. He will drop you like the pathetic piece of shit you are on that undersized bike.
Ride your bike in the rain. Fall down because of hydroplaning while going down a curve. Scrape your knees. Bleed a little bit. Wash it off with the rain. Still get to work five minutes early because fuck those stop signs. Explain to your second-grade student that you’re bleeding because you got into a fight with a cougar. Refute her argument that cougars don’t live in the area by pointing out Billy’s mother, who has just walked into to pick up her son and looks way too good for a forty-year-old, like
Get chewed out by the boss for the previous comment. Stay an extra fifteen minutes at work to clean the place up with your supervisor. Bring up Billy’s mom. Feel a little better that your supervisor thinks that she’s a total cougar as well. Get on your bike. Imagine that you’re racing your dad and he’s kicking your ass. Curse out the wind. Get home. Eat alone. Fall asleep on the futon. In your dreams, you are now shoveling piles of money into a gaping, colossal asshole.
Open your paycheck stub. Notice that you’ve been given a raise. Thank your boss and supervisor. Pay the month’s rent. Dump the rest into your MyGreatLakes account. Your bank sends an automated alert telling you that you’re a broke, worthless piece of shit, but in a very polite and thoughtful way. If your bank were a person, she’d at least takes you out to dinner before fucking the shit out of you, but then tells you to leave her apartment at two in the morning and makes you get the Uber ride on your own.
Start showing up at work fifteen minutes before everyone else, even before your boss. Stay after work to help your supervisor delete the porn that one of the students has been stashing on the work computers for the past three months. Critique the kid’s taste because everyone knows that a nice ass beats tits every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Talk to the students whose parents don’t show up until well past closing hours to pick them up. Keep them company even if it means you’re going to end up missing dinner with your family, but remember to kick them out as soon as their parents arrive. You’re not a fucking charity.
Hold off on paying this month’s loan payment because you want to see what it’s like to have more than twenty-five dollars in your checking account. Immediate change your mind when you see that your debt has accrued interest. Receive more alerts from your bank about your how little money you have. Go down to the grocery store and buy a tub of ice cream. Eat that tub of ice cream. Feel a little better about life.
Your days are now mapped out by: riding, working, riding, and sleeping. Your commute home takes thirty-five minutes. One evening, a car pulls over further up the road and the driver gets out to stop and ask whether or not you’re training for something because he sees you every day going up Hawthorne like a madman. Tell him you’re training for the luxurious life of jerking off in the comforts of your own apartment. Watch him speed off very quickly.
Accept your dad’s invitations to go on a bike ride more frequently. You’re not hurting any less, but you notice he’s gasping for breath and putting his head down more often. He doesn’t play around anymore, and he openly admits that his intention on the sharp climbs is to break you. Return the favor. Attack him when he slows down. Let him pull and do all the work. Pick and choose your battles. Attack him near the top of a climb when he’s hurting the most. Talk shit once in a while. Call him every name in the book, but silently because he’s still your landlord. Piss off any other cyclists you come across on the road by chasing them down and stomping on their dicks. Unless they dickstomp you. In which case, you weren’t even giving it your all, what a fucking try-hard. Step back and congratulate yourself for embracing cycling culture.
Take on those shifts on Sunday mornings that no one else wants to do, but let your boss know that the little shits can wait until ten a.m. to ruin your day because you’ll most likely be hungover. Enjoy the peace that comes with riding your bike on Sunday mornings.
Summer is around the corner, and most of your friends are employed. They’ll be moving soon. Celebrate their success with them.
Your weekend rides with your dad not only come with tacos, but now with sunburns. Offer to go on longer rides with him while you still can.
You’ve noticed that the numbers on your loan account have shrunk while your calves have become toned. Next time you go up the hill from work, take a moment to think about the countless times you’ve ridden up its winding roads. But more importantly, remember how you’ve always managed to get to the top.
Now go climb that hill again.
Step four: Cook your own meals
Eating out costs a lot of money.