In Pursuit of Small Plates and Financial Autonomy by Leah McDonald

Today Sib told us that London has been named the Greatest City in the World and then we all laughed.

On the way home from the office my phone broke and I held back tears on the Northern line. Just this morning I told El I didn’t think it was normal how tired I was all the time and then I googled is it normal to feel exhausted all the time in January. Thomas and I went to sleep at half past nine all week and we didn’t even have sex.

I’ve heard a lot of talk recently about how we’re the only species who don’t hibernate. (Which I have looked into and found to be false. Fish are also incapable of self-induced torpor. Must be all the water). But I think the point they’re trying to make is that we should be winding down when winter comes. That our bodies aren’t biologically programmed to work a 9-5 schedule year round. (But really, who works a 9-5 anymore? That’s a utopian myth because it’s likely been pushed out to a 9-6 now, which is essentially a 7-8 when you factor in commuting and all of the things that you have to do around work which feed into the next day).

When I got in, I lay face down on the couch and began to laugh and cry a little bit too but in a funny, endearing way like Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding.

I can’t afford to get my phone fixed.
I am so tired from working that I don’t have time to do any of the things I really want to do.
Yet I can’t afford to get my phone fixed.

Sometimes I feel ashamed because I’m 25 but I can barely stand on my own two feet, financially speaking. In other respects I am rather excellent at utilising both feet and not afraid to do so. In fact I’ve stood on them quite a lot and for long shifts too, which is why it’s all the more alarming that I have literally nothing to show for it.

I creeped on this girl from work’s insta and found out she bought a flat at 19. She’s now 21 and I guess that should make me feel jealous or inadequate but it’s a bit too ridiculous to fully comprehend.

And you know I’ve always wished I could be some big shot Solicitor or an Operations Manager and make 70k. I have the brains to do it.

But I have the brains not to do it. I would crumble really fast under the weight of all that corporate jargon. It would be like school all over again when they’d hold assemblies for mental health and then be like, play sports.

I guess what I’m really wishing is that I could actually bring myself to be one of those things. That work, if it has to be transactional in that it takes most of my time and all of my energy, could at least be a lucrative one.

Alas, I’m rather attached to the idea of being creative. Dismal financial outlook, as you are probably aware.

Greatest for what? We all asked Sib. For living? Surely not.
I’m not sure, she told us. I think it’s just like, general… things to do, wages…

But living in London is spending your wages before you’ve even earned them.
Living in London is grocery shopping like you’re still a student even though you’re on a perfectly respectable salaried wage.
It’s freezing on the streets and sweating on the tube.
It’s a hangover that never really goes away because you’re never sufficiently rested and watered and anyway it’s Thursday again tomorrow so pints after work?
To be successful in London one must network.
It’s a rat race.
It’s raining all the time.
And why is it still dark outside at 11am?
London’s small plates scene is really taking off.
For £67 you too can make a Tik tok of the hottest new Orange Wine bar.
You’ve never seen Burrata like this!
Complaining about London is a cliché. But who has time for an original thought?
Besides they’ve all been used up and serialised and re-made ten years later for a new generation of cinema goers.
Maybe I have SAD.
Maybe I hate my life.
No, I love literally everyone in it.
It’s probably just January.
It’s still Mercury Retrograde.
I think I just need some sleep.

Leah McDonald is an emerging Irish writer of literary fiction and essays. She currently resides in London where she works in the fashion industry.