Hi all. I have been delaying a post here for awhile since I wanted it to be meaningful, and most of the last month has seen me trying to completely rework my life with a move to a new city and a new job. I’ve also been working on some other writing projects.
In no particular order, here are some things I’ve learned over the past month.
Apparently, moving 1000 miles away from your family makes you “crazy.” I remember each time I told someone about my move, both in Atlanta and here, almost all of them looked at me like I was insane. “What about your support system?” “What happens if you need help?” “Aren’t you worried about emergencies or starting over?” I have learned that my support system is in tact regardless of distances. I have learned that people, in general, are willing to help you out if you ask. I have learned that, while it can be uncomfortable at times, starting over doesn’t have to be scary. And it really isn’t even starting over. I like to think of it as growing my circle. Now, I have friends in Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Montana, several Canadian provinces AND Maine! I have always believed that home is where you make it.
The food scene here in Portland is no joke. I had read about its great foodie ratings before coming, but I just love the sense of pride shown in many restaurants here. Most are an active part of their local communities and try to use responsible business practices. Not to mention, the food is amazing! Some favorites of mine are Hot Suppa!, Pai Men Miyake, Local 188, India Palace, Gritty McDuff’s, Five Fifty-Five, Caiola’s, Shay’s, Kamasouptra, Nosh, Otto Pizza, and Boda.
I don’t like the heavy donuts that are popular here. I ventured out one day to visit The Holy Donut, which is a popular donut shop here in Portland. I got six different types of donuts to try them all out and, while I liked the flavors of almost all of them, the texture is just too different than the Krispy Kremes I grew up eating. Not that they aren’t good—it’s just an acquired taste and I will always expect my donuts to be light, fluffy bits. Maine potato donuts can anchor a ship.
I do love the small coffee shops of Portland. Each neighborhood here in Portland seems to have its own hip, cool local coffee shop, complete with smarmy, overeducated baristas (a good thing!). I appreciate their “buy local” attitudes, and I really love the local roasters. Some of my favorites are Coffee By Design, Speckled Ax, Bard Coffee, and Tandem Coffee Roasters. I also like the Carrabassett that they serve at work.
Snow is pretty to look at, but then you have to move it. It has been unusually un-snowy here since I arrived in November. I figured it would be a total white-out as soon as I got north of Connecticut (my ignorance, yes). I was slightly disappointed. Even in north Georgia, we only ever had maybe one “snowstorm,” which was really a very light dusting that melted as soon as it hit the ground, turning to ice. Over the past two weeks, we’ve had two snowstorms come through that left over 15” in some places. While it was pretty to watch, it wasn’t too exciting to have to shovel my car out of it. And then again when the plows piled it higher. Needless to say, my shovel skills are getting good pretty quickly out of necessity.
Virginia drivers are nuts. That’s pretty self-explanatory. On my drive up, the craziest drivers we encountered were in this state. Here’s someone else who had similar experiences.
Maybe I just haven’t gotten out enough, but the guys here are well-built. Now, I know that I’ve been completely neglecting the world outside of the lab for awhile, but I swear that the dudes here are stacked. No offense to my skinny compadres, but I’ve always appreciated broad shoulders and general largeness in a guy. I have claimed for years that I would like to find myself a lumberjack. Though it is a broad generalization based on my small set of observations, the general population of guys here are taller and broader than those I am used to seeing back home.
On a related note, I love to watch men work. Not like doing the taxes. Or sitting behind a desk. I mean like physical labor. There’s just something so fetching about a man fixing something or moving heavy stuff. I could watch guys shovel snow all day long. Luckily, that’s pretty common here.
Industry is very different than academia in many ways. Not to complain, but in my previous workplace I had the most uncomfortable chair in the world. And it was a nightmare trying to get it changed or replaced. The first thing they did at my new job was an “ergonomic evaluation.” What the fuck is that? I asked myself. Apparently, they want their workers to be comfortable and safe so that they are more productive. Crazy! Not that every job doesn’t have its cons and stress, but I’ve felt more appreciated, compensated and healthy in the past month in industry than in the past eight years in academia. This is my personal experience and I’m sure that it may not be true for everyone, but it works better for me.
Grad-school is an all-consuming venture, and, while I learned a lot, it is very far removed from “real life.” It’s one of those things you go through that requires every bit of you. So much so that it is easy to lose your grasp on what is healthy or what is “normal” since you are constantly pushing yourself and making excuses so that you can try to get more data. People looking at it from the outside that haven’t been through it often have a difficult time understanding it, and people that have been through it can recognize afterwards how much it changes you. My grad school experience was a great learning opportunity and, though I value the lessons learned, I don’t know that I would recommend it for most people. I will always love basic science and asking the important questions, but I now appreciate that the traditional pathway is not the only way to enjoy these.
My neighborhood is a constant whir of machinery. Regardless of how much snow there is, there are always trucks with plows, snowplows and workers shoveling and salting and cussing and pushing snow around and generally moving shit with giant machines. Even for a small town, there is always someone working somewhere. Usually with a shovel.
Snow tires really do help. Pre-snowpocalypse, I managed to get my tires changed over, and they do really make a difference. I was skeptical, but I am glad I listened to my Maine advisees. Next will be getting all-wheel drive. And snow shoes.
Walking on snow or ice is actually easier after a few drinks. I have had a lot of knee pain here for the past few weeks because I would constantly tense up on every walk outside, paranoid that I’d fall to be concussed on the icy sidewalk and then be scooped up into a snow drift by the next plow. After going to several shows and hockey games that involved me having a couple of drinks, walking home was much more enjoyable. What was the magic secret? It was easier to traverse the terrain when I was not tensed up.
Maine is beautiful. Mountains. Lakes. Ocean. What more could you want?
It’s good to get out and just talk to strangers. After enrolling my dog in daycare to try to get her socialized (her separation anxiety was getting ridiculous), I vowed to hold myself to the same standard—meaning I had to be more social, as well. This goes against my typically hermit-esque nature, but it’s good for me. I started with going to a few Meetups around town and just talking with people at events and restaurants. For instance, I got to meet Hollis last weekend. For those unfamiliar, Hot Suppa! has a special on their breakfast menu named “The Hollis” that is a ton of food. I went by last weekend and sat at their nice bar to grab some eggs and a waffle. The guy next to me was super friendly and seemed to know all of the staff. He told me of all of his snow-shoveling adventures (his arms were impressive!). Everyone there said “Hey Hollis!” and then I opened the menu to see the special. I had a good time listening to his stories, and I enjoyed that the staff had incorporated him into their menu since he’s a community legend. You can read more about him here.
Some stereotypes are based in truth. Everyone here drives a Subaru. And wears plaid. And wears Bean Boots. Well, maybe not everyone. But a hell of a lot of people.
Canadians. Just…Canadians. As a “Mainer,” I am expected to make even MORE jokes about Canadians. Luckily, I already find them quite entertaining, so no troubles there.
I am an old and boring person by today’s standards. I would rather spend my Friday and Saturday nights reading or writing than going out. My condo building is full of older, more vibrant people than I that go out a lot more. Although I don’t have boat loads of friends here, I doubt that my preference would change all that much if I had tons of friends here since I didn’t go out a lot back in Atlanta. I’d much rather have a night in with my friends. Thus, I will seek out a great house over the next few months so that I can host my friends this next summer! That and I’ll try to be less curmudgeony.
Maine is a very dog-friendly state. Many people here have dogs and are very dog-friendly, which is great for Normand since she’s meeting lots of new people and dog-friends. People here seem to really include their pets in their family unit, which is how my folks are and it’s refreshing not to have to explain myself. My dog is part of my family unit, and, though she’s not a real child, she’s the closest I’ve got right now.
I’m not happy unless I’m singing or writing. After coming off of my thesis-writing freak-out, I was glad for some time to NOT write. I have always enjoyed writing, but grad school almost killed that joy for me. Only a week or two after, I was filled with an overpowering urge to write again, but not science. I have attempted to work on a science paper, but it has been reluctantly so since it makes me feel quite depressed. I have had much more luck with fiction and I haven’t had this much motivation to write and joy from writing in quite a long time. Because of my close neighbors, I haven’t done much musically, but I am excited to have more time for this, too, when I get the house.
2012 was a bitch of a year. Several deaths in the family. Becoming greatly discouraged in grad school. Job-hunting. Stressful interviewing. Stressful dealings with faculty and thesis-writing on a shorter timeframe than I’d have liked. Moving and starting over in a new town. But I am very hopeful and happy to see what 2013 will bring to me. It really is a new beginning for me and it feels right.