Today is my one year mark of living in New York City. There are so many amazing things the city has to offer that we’re all well aware of — culture oozing out of every crevice in the sidewalk, vibrance refracting off of every facet of the edifices, life radiating from every sad, happy, confused and crazy face.
However, there is one thing people take for granted being here, and that is Craigslist.
Growing up in Florida, Craigslist was where people dumped their garbage, or recovered from being dumped themselves (shout out to the “personals” section and that one Florida man that swears he met his bride at the gas station on Bee Ridge Road, even though he doesn’t know her middle name or where she’s from). I’ve always been quite resourceful, so, when I moved to New York as a savvy (read: cheap) millennial, confident in my dumpster diving abilities, I didn’t know what a gold mine NYC craigslist would be for me. But, boy, did I get lucky with my purchases.
With a little bit of elbow grease, a chic dining table that expands to seat 12, a vintage red velvet arm chair from a $7 million Park Avenue penthouse, and a refinished Victorian coffee table all purchased on (a little more than) a dime made my experience a craigslist success story that would resonate with hipsters, neighbors, and friends for blocks (or so I like to imagine).
But then, after another rendezvous on my (actually beautiful) pleather Walmart futon (seriously), one of the legs snapped and I needed to replace it. Being the craigslist poster child, there was no question where I would begin my search. Within an hour I found the couch for me. In my mind, it was a beautiful, red velvet eclectic piece, formerly a prop on a famous Chilean TV Show. I was sure it needed some work, but come on! I was the king of craigslist! Surely the C-List Gods wouldn’t give me a project I couldn’t handle. After negotiating due to unforeseen (but predictable) tears in the fabric, a cracked leg, some/many questionable stains, and the fact that it would have been more comfortable to sit on a row of plungers (you decide which direction), I got the couch for basically the cost of moving it.
It looked good in my apartment.
Well, the idea was good. However, it needed to be reupholstered, the wood needed to be refinished and repainted and the leg needed to be reinforced. It became clear I should have reevaluated my decision all together. I ended up giving it away for free because I couldn’t imagine getting it down the stairs (again) of my fourth floor walk-up, and I had zero bites when re-listing it.
Before purchasing the couch on which my grateful ass is now perched (shootout to Bob’s Discount Furniture Warehouse), I had a realization. I knew that after my mistake-sofa was hauled away by two hooded men from Queens, I could go back to Craigslist, and with some work, find another great deal…maybe. But I had an epiphany.
I was always finding fixer-uppers in my life.
As a kid, every injured bird landed at my feet. As a college student, every damaged drinker came to me. Whether it was relationships, friendships, or furniture, I had a tendency of playing psychotherapist, AA sponsor, or in this case, amateur renovator.
When it comes to fixer uppers, you have to ask yourself, is this healthy? Is this worth my time and effort? Will I be able to sit on it at the end of a long day and feel good about myself (the couch).
In the dating world, I did my share of fixer-uppering. I had my most ambitious project in college; I thought I could teach someone to love, to stop drinking, to see how much beauty there is in the world. But, I didn’t even know who I was then….my happiness was contingent upon making someone else laugh or love — someone who was broken, who didn’t want to and who couldn’t. A fixer upper who, even with a perfect exterior, would always be hurtful and wrong for me. I have literally and figuratively graduated from the naive, and insecure person I was then.
And I’ve realized: You can’t fix someone if you’re still broken.
I’m thankful that I’m able to help people, fix furniture, and put my own loving, unique mark on what I put my heart into. But if you don’t make yourself your first and most important project, your fixer-uppers will become The Island of Misfit Toys.