Friday, March 29, 2013

The Having It All Project: David Levy

Julie introduced me to David when we were all college students, only he was over at Harvard and had a much nicer dorm room. Our lives continued to intersect a bit over the years, and I was one of many who was unhappy to see him move away from Boston, but will also count myself among the many cheering him on his new endeavors. Here is how David is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am a newly transplanted New Yorker, just arrived in Brooklyn on February first after a lifetime spent in the greater Boston area (with a brief hiatus in Los Angeles for two years after college). I hit the ground running, with job and apartment in place, and I haven't looked back. Unlike most who move to a city they've never lived in before, I came with at least three distinct social circles waiting for me, so there's been very little anxiety about making friends. On the contrary, it's been a struggle to make sure I find time to see everyone I want to spend time with, and two months in there are still some very close friends I haven't connected with yet. 

Throughout my life, I've had a tendency to get very involved in volunteer activities, a trait I inherit from my mother. When I was in high school, a friend and I used to describe ourselves as "organizational cancer" - once we show up, we take over. I'm trying hard not to accumulate new volunteer responsibilities quite yet, but I do sit on the board of Keshet, a non-profit that works for LGBT inclusion in the Jewish community, where I also chair the development committee and sit on the executive committee. (See what I mean?) Since moving to NY, I've dipped my toes in the pool of the Jewish community, and one of the great things about being in a bigger city is knowing that there's less pressure for everyone who has any kind of ability to take on leadership, simply because the pool of potential leaders is bigger. That said, a couple co-conspirators and I have begun laying plans for a live show based on one of my blogs, Fuck Yeah Stephen Sondheim, and I've noticed that since moving I've begun posting more actively at Jewschool, a site where I was once an editor but took a step back about three years ago.

While it doesn't make me unique in any real sense of the word, I suppose being gay, male, and single makes me unique in the context of this series. I live alone (thankfully) in a one-bedroom apartment with my cat, Rhoda Morgenstern. I'm newly back on the dating scene, after a year of being in a relationship and then spending a few months pre-move actively avoiding romance (lest I get entangled with someone in the city I was leaving). That provides an extra level of excitement and stress and disappointment and mostly scheduling hell to add to the mix. Being out of practice only makes it more challenging.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I would be totally lost without my Google Calendars. Plural. I keep my work commitments on one calendar, my personal commitments on another, layer in things like US and Jewish holidays on their own calendars, and thanks to the beauty of Google and Apple, can see it all on both my computer and my iPhone. It's not perfect, and I still occasionally double-book or miss appointments when something doesn't save correctly, but the ability to update all my calendars, instantly, from anywhere, has been life-changing. 

I'm also training myself to banish the Fear Of Missing Out ("FOMO") from my mind. There's so much going on, always, and I can't do it all. It's a struggle to recognize that I can't do everything I want to do -- a struggle that's only intensified since moving to the busiest city in the country -- so I've learned to prioritize my time based on factors like whether what I'm considering skipping is likely to be repeated, how recently I've seen the particular group of friends involved, what else is going on in my life, and how busy the rest of my week is. This is still a learning process for me. I doubt I will ever be great at scheduling in true downtime no matter how much I need recharge time with my cat. But they say recognizing a problem is the first step towards conquering it.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
The week of my move from Boston to NY, I came down with a stomach virus that may or may not have been the norovirus. (By the time I spoke to a doctor, she said we should treat it as such and not waste the time/money on the test.) That meant I missed half of my last week at work and had a big impediment in trying to pack up my belongings in time to load the UHaul to make the move. In typical David fashion, I had to move on the day I had set not because of a real estate closing or anything like that, but because I had matinee tickets for my first full day in New York and I didn't want to miss the show. Luckily, I am blessed with a tremendous group of friends who really are a chosen family for me, and they all came together to help with the packing and loading of the truck -- I even had a friend drive with me, and more meet me on the other end to help with the unpacking and Ikea shopping. Obviously, I would have had friends helping me out regardless of my health, but I was really touched by the way they rallied with additional energy when I most needed it.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I look at a lot of my working-parent friends and marvel at the way they keep it together, but it's hard to think of them as role models because our lives are so different. There's a lot of "grass is always greener" when we compare our lives, but outside of a (facetious?) vicarious lust at the prospect of being able to have sex with people other than their spouses, I don't get a lot of "boy, I wish I was still on the dating market at age 35" from my happily married friends. 

There's a myth in our culture that the happy bachelor can do it all, balancing a surging career with a swinging social life (often paired with an absurd amount of drinking), and maybe that's true of other people, but it's not for me. Just as parents often find themselves having less time to spend with childless friends once kids come along, I find myself having to calculate how much time to devote to dating vs. spending time with friends. Since dating plans tend to get made on a shorter time-frame than friends plans, I see my friends with the most flexible schedules (i.e. those without children or spouses) most frequently, because I can call them up after work when a date fell through and grab dinner with them instead.

I am terrible with hard and fast rules. I know some people reserve one particular day of the week for "me time" or "family time," or who have a strict limit on the number of hours they can give/activities they can be involved in, but that has never worked for me.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
I'm not sure I had any concept of 35 when I was 18. Certainly I would have expected to be settled into a long-term relationship, probably raising kids.  (When I was 18, the idea of gay marriage was only the punchline of jokes about Hawaii.) I probably would have guessed that I'd have moved to New York much sooner. I also never imagined I'd work full-time in the Jewish community. After spending my high school years as a hyper-involved leader in my Jewish youth group, I saw how much of themselves the professionals gave and didn't want to sacrifice my own personal life for the sake of a job. I'll leave it to others to decide if that's what happened in my twenties or not, but I think by this point in my life I've struck a good balance now between career, volunteerism, and personal life.

Relate to what David is saying? Leave him some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!

1 comment:

  1. I've inherited the same trait from my mother too! Luckily learning my limits has become easier as I get older...