A year ago today, I was walking out of Hilary Clinton’s victory-turned-loss party at the Javits Center in New York when my phone pinged.
It was 2 in the morning, and Donald Trump had just won the presidency. I figured it was some news alert confirming the American Tragedy that I’d just witnessed, and I tried to hold my shit together as I swiped my screen to see what it was: An email.
SUBJECT: Remote Year Offer for Zoe Weiner
BODY: Congratulations! We are thrilled to formally offer you a spot as a participant on Remote Year – Kublai (Year) launching February 2017. We’re so excited to have met so many wonderful people that are ready to join our community and we think you are a great fit!
I applied to Remote Year on what can only be described as a “whim.” It was a Sunday mid-September, and I was hungover on the train on the way home from a wedding in East Hampton. I was scrolling through Instagram, as one does when they are bored and hungover on a train, and came across a Remote Year ad on my feed. They’d been targeting me for months, and since I had two hours to kill and literally nothing better to do, I said “fuck it” and clicked the “apply now” button. I answered three questions (name, age, occupation) without spellchecking and sent my “application” into the abyss. Considering Remote Year claims to get 200,000 applications to fill 65 spots, I didn’t really think much of it.
At the time, I was really, really lost. I had graduated from journalism school that May, and moved home a week later when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I spent two months living in Rhode Island, trying to be a good daughter while also trying to figure out what the fuck to do with my life. Then, in July, my dad died. It happened a lot faster than any of us had expected, and all of a sudden I needed to press PLAY on the life that I’d put on hold to be with him when he got sick. So I moved back to New York, into an apartment that I couldn’t afford, with no job and no idea what I was going to do.
I was I unemployed (save for a 3-day-a-week beauty freelancing gig) and sad as fuck, and it felt like the entire world had been ripped out from underneath me. I spent every day for two months sitting on the stained IKEA love seat in my tiny, West Village living room alternating between writing stories about lipgloss for $12 an hour, mindlessly watching Gilmore Girls reruns and sending my resumé to editors and HR people who I knew wouldn’t respond. By the beginning of September, after 15 interviews that went nowhere (I literally got ghosted by 15 different companies), I gave up on my lifelong dream of being a professional writer and started applying to jobs in finance.
A month later, I’d completely forgotten about the fact that I’d sent an iPhone application to Remote Year until I got an email telling me I’d made it to the second round. My non-spellchecked, short answer questions and $50 deposit were apparently enough to convince them I was maybe a fit, and a week later I got another email asking me to schedule an interview — which was the last hurdle before I was accepted into the program. The following week, I got the offer email.
There’s this cheesy quote that I’ve always loved (I think I saw it in someone’s AIM profile way back in the day) that goes something along the lines of, “You are one decision away from an entirely different life.”
My hungover brain mindlessly clicking “apply now” on that Instagram ad was that “one decision,” and it set an entirely new narrative into motion. A lot of much bigger decisions have been made between then and now (deciding to come on the program, deciding to really pursue the whole “full time writer” thing, deciding to break up with my boyfriend), but 365 days after getting that e-mail I can say with 1000000000% certainty that I am living a very, very different life than I was at this time last year. I’ve lived in 10 countries with 65 strangers-turned-family, and have managed to figure out where to buy toilet paper in all of them. I ended the relationship I thought I was going to be in forever. I’m currently sitting on the roof of a co-working space in Córdoba, Argentina — a town that I had never even heard of a year ago — firing off this blog post before 9am, when I start my day as an actual, professional writer. My decision to come on Remote Year started out as a way to run away from my problems (the grief, the confusion, the NYC utilities bills that I couldn’t afford), but it’s actually become a solution to them, instead.
I wish I could neatly wrap this up and say, “And I am so much less lost than I was a year ago, thanks to Remote Year!” but that wouldn’t exactly be true. I still have a lot of shit to figure out, and am pretty positive that it won’t get done by the time this program is over in 90-ish days. But when I look back at that girl who was so, SO confused about her life and wtf she was going to do with it, I feel like I’m headed in the right direction: For the first time in a very, very long time, I feel excited about the endless options ahead of me instead of paralyzed by them.