- 1. BECOME A NUN
If you’re willing to take a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, your prayers may be answered in a convent. Some sisters live full time at a convent like the Corpus Christi Monastery in the Bronx, where the eighteen cloistered nuns spend all day praying in “perpetual adoration of the most blessed sacrament.” Brooklyn’s Sisters of Mercy get out more, if only to work in schools, hospitals, women’s shelters, and soup kitchens. Still more adventurous are the Sisters of Saint Francis in Syracuse, who get to go all the way to Hawaii, East Africa, and Peru. You have to be Catholic (though there are Buddhist and Orthodox Christian nuns) and neither married nor divorced (God frowns upon that, though being widowed is okay by Him). Go to religiousministries.com to find the right order for you.
- 2. RUN FOR OFFICE
If your friends are tired of hearing you say, “I should run for office,” the New York City Council may be the place for you. There are 51 seats in the city, it pays at least $90,000 a year, and owing to term limits the council has to turn over completely every eight years. Plus, a City Council run requires 900 valid, legible petition signatures, compared with the 7,500 needed to run for mayor. “The best way to do it is through the issue that you’re most concerned about,” says City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who started out as a council aide and got elected to office in 1999. For your cause, consider helping children in some way. Surely there are libraries that need renovating, playgrounds that need building, orphans who need feeding. What can your opponent say? “Don’t feed them”?
Consider doing a stint as a district leader—rung one on the city political ladder—and make sure you’re physically fit. Campaigning requires standing for hours at the subway, which can be hell on the back. “If you’re planning a year in advance, start doing sit-ups now to strengthen your stomach and back,” says Quinn. “If there’s ever a step or a curb, put one foot up on it. That’s a good trick.” Another trick is knocking your opponents off the ballot by catching them on petition technicalities (illegible handwriting, invalid addresses) and sending them to court to defend themselves, which, at the very least, sucks their spirit dry and, at best, leaves you with one less challenger.
- 3. TEACH THE DOWNWARD DOG
- Although yoga-teaching programs can last six months, Manhattan makeup artist Elisa Flowers became a certified core-strengthening Vinyasa instructor in six weeks, thanks to an intensive twelve-hour-a-week course with Sadie Nardini, an instructor at Essential Therapy on East 25th Street. It helped that Flowers had been practicing for five years; generally, those teachers who are qualified to certify others invite only their top students to pursue it. Flowers’s next step is teaching for free or half-price at a yoga studio as practice and to draw students. “It’s like I’m a band trying to get picked up by a record label,” she says. “I need to develop a following.”
- 4. GROW ORGANIC TOMATOES UPSTATE
Aissa O’Neil was a fashion designer in the city (she started a sportswear line called Hybrid) and a Boerum Hill loft-dweller before she sold the business; moved to her weekend house in Delhi, New York; and created Betty Acres Farm, a 90-acre organic farm that sells vegetables, eggs, and organically raised meat to farmer’s markets, stores, and restaurants. To get the place up and running, it cost her $75,000, which bought a new barn roof, a 1965 Massey Ferguson tractor, five sheep, one pig, and a goat. (Neighbors gave her chickens.) O’Neil was able to break even in her first year, but it took her three to draw a salary. “If you’re a farmer making $29,000 to $30,000 a year, you’re doing very well,” she says. On the other hand, it only took her two years to find a husband, who works for the post office when he’s not baling hay. Having a family member in a nonfarm job is a good idea. “It gives us both health-insurance benefits year-round,” O’Neil says.
There are hundreds of certified organic farms in New York State, and the number is growing. To start your own, look for land with expansion possibilities in Orange County; the Catskills are too mountainous. To make money, design your farm around an upscale restaurant menu, with items like Angus beef, baby lettuce, and artisanal cheese. Avoid eggs. “In the summer, we sell about 50 dozen eggs a month, but the more we sell, the more we lose,” says O’Neil. “No farmers make money on eggs.”