The snow has melted and the mud is starting to subside. Everything is growing and blooming in a great display of resilience after a cool winter. There are birds out singing, and, from my kitchen window, I can hear children playing in the neighborhoods nearby.
For more beautiful images of the Portland area, check out Portland Daily Photo by Corey Templeton.
Tomorrow, I leave for Santa Barbara, California for some training. Though I don’t enjoy spending essentially a whole day traveling, I look forward to learning some new things and meeting some new people in a new town. I have always liked traveling. It keeps me thinking and learning.
I have been on hiatus here lately, though I enjoy writing. I have been working through a lot of emotions that came after moving here. There are so many things that I am grateful for and some that sadden me. Thinking over the events that transpired before my leaving Emory, I know that some I handled less than perfectly, but I was sure to get out what I needed to say, so I don’t have any regrets about them. It is more important to learn how to work with the outcome and recognize the good that has come from that tumultuous time.
The NHL playoffs have also been a nice distraction from some of my less productive thoughts. I do like being in a place where you can watch hockey on basic cable channels.
While I have been lucky to make new friends here in Maine, there is a loneliness in moving to a place where you have absolutely no ties. I have kept myself pretty busy working on my house and working on myself. I have been eating better and working out, keeping my stress in check. I love living near the Eastern Trail, and every time I run down the path that opens onto the Scarborough marsh, the view takes my breath away. It does my soul good to be able to enjoy the outdoors. I am able to clear my mind out there.
I do have a lot to look forward to—my parents’ visit in June, a conference in Montreal and then visiting my Atlanta friends for the 4th of July holiday. I think that the healing will take some time, but I am so very lucky to have such amazing friends and family. Even if they aren’t in the same state, they manage to cheer me up via the Interwebs. Thanks to all of you. It means more than you know!
I think this week away will be good for both learning and introspection. I will write again soon (sooner than last).
So, I have been very web-silent on this site. Mostly all the hot parties I’ve been hitting up. Actually, I have been working on a big writing project in my new-found free time. It has been extremely challenging as well as rewarding. Rewarding in a personal sense, at least until I have others read it. After my thesis, I thought it would be several years before I could even stand the idea of writing, but, surprisingly, I have had momentary bursts of inspiration and motivation. So, I’ve tried to harness those creative moments and get them on paper. I am sure it will be ongoing for awhile, but I have learned to respect my own flights of fancy.
In other news, it’s almost spring here in Southern Maine. Meaning, the snow pack is only two feet deep and beginning to melt, creating massive mud slicks. After winter storm Nemo, I am enjoying the slightly warmer days with clear skies. I don’t even mind the brisk breezes anymore, so long as I can hear the birds. Some trees are even beginning to bud! I have moved to Scarborough, which is southwest of the city of Portland—I really like the community and its proximity to everything.
Recently, I volunteered with some other coworkers to help out with the Maine Regional Science Bowl at USM-Gorham, which turned out to be a lot of fun. All of the kids were super bright and asked a lot of good questions. It was great to see so many students have been able to retain their natural curiosity. The MSSM team won to go on the the National Bowl. It was awesome to meet some of the USM faculty, as well as other coworkers that I hadn’t met before. One of the coworkers had an interesting Northern Maine accent, one I hadn’t really heard before. It’s always interesting to learn about where people are from and hear how they speak.
I haven’t yet invested in any Maine winter gear, like skis or skates or snowshoes, but I think that I’ll be able to do more next winter. I do enjoy the “outdoor-sy” way of life here. In my worst generalization, people here are handy, hardy and kind, with a no-nonsense honesty. I will be busy in the next week or so with a trip back to Charleston, but I am planning to go with the local hiking group when they plan some spring hikes. Ice-fishing is a given, with the most passionate fishermen skiing or snowmobiling miles to their super-secret special fishing spots.
And sometimes they have a wicked** hard time accepting the melt.
But to know how they were taking it, you’d need this handy emotions chart, which I have found to be invaluable.
So, I will most likely be working on my other project, but I will still continue to update as I learn more about this place and its fascinating people. They may even appear in my novel some day, though their names will be changed to protect the innocent.
**I am trying to slowly incorporate this into my speech, but I am not saying it convincingly yet.
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.
Update coming very soon!!
So, who the hell am I and what is this about? I am a grad student in “ole yeller” mode, i.e. trying to finish and graduate from my program here at Emory. I haven’t been much in the mood for writing since I have been writing A LOT of other things, namely a paper and my thesis chapters. But it was suggested that I take a short break and write a bit about the stuff that happens outside of grad school. Like life stuff. So, I took inspiration from Sam and thought I’d make a feeble attempt at a blog. Hopefully, it will give me a place to vent and reflect, so I’m sure it will be entertaining for all those that read it. Especially since I tend to write like the voice in my head sounds, including the outlandish exaggerations to my daily life that some people have called “whimsical.” Others just shake their heads.
The hardest part about this whole blogging thing is where to start—life is a continuum, so to try to block it out like a play seems kind of weird to me. I think it’s like other things. If I keep practicing, I’ll find a method that works. I guess I’ll start with my visit to Maine two months ago. I had been looking for a job for about eight months when I saw an opening for a research assistant on a job posting site. It was for a company in Maine (henceforth called Biotech Company X for their privacy) and, after seeing their website and reading about their company values, I felt good about sending them my CV, though I didn’t expect much since I don’t have a background in industry. I got a call back with an invitation to come for an interview. Exciting! I’d never been north, really, save for Ohio, and never to New England. I was a bit apprehensive because I’d been to several interviews in the previous months and turned away, always hearing the same thing—you’re awesome (my paraphrasing), but you’re too damn smart (again, my words). It’s more like you’re great but we don’t have the money to afford you when a Masters or Bachelors would be just fine. They never tell you at the beginning of grad school that a Ph.D. might actually hinder you in a search for a good job. Unless you’re going into academia, it’s much more efficient to get a Masters since you would be qualified, but not overqualified, for more jobs. But the folks at Biotech Company X were accommodating and arranged for me to come visit their labs, and I just can’t say no to seeing cool new equipment.
I made it through Hartsfield and to my gate. It was a very small gate at the far reaches of the airport, but I got my exercise getting there. I saw the gate in the distance, shining a brilliant white, and I thought racistly to myself, “I bet that is the gate to Maine. There’s only old white dudes standing about.” And lo, I was correct. I mean this in the nicest way, of course. I feel like I can say that without much guilt since I am from a small town in rural Georgia that is also very white. Moving to Atlanta was refreshing for several reasons, one being an increase in diversity. I was pleasantly surprised to find out later that Biotech Company X has much more diversity than was represented at the airport terminal to Portland. I figured it would be a normal boring plane ride, so I dozed off at the window. I woke up before we landed and I was so glad that I had—the view of the islands off of the Portland coastline was amazing! I didn’t have a camera, but I don’t think even pictures do it justice. This is the closest image to what I saw from the window (not my own image).
It was a sunny, summer day and the water was a rich blue-green, which was beautiful next to the deep pink of the rocky islands and the forest green of the trees. I enjoyed the homey feel of the Portland Jetport, though it was not nearly as small and homey as the Bozeman airport in Montana, which is essentially two small buildings on a craggy mountainside. Of course, any airport seems small and homey compared to Hartsfield.
My contact for the company came by my hotel to pick me up for dinner the night before the interview day, and I was amused when we got behind three slower cars on a two-lane road going into town and she apologized for the traffic. Really? I guessed she’d never been in Atlanta on I-85 on a Friday afternoon between 3pm-7pm.
I was amazed at the perfect weather (sunny, but cool and breezy at 72 degrees). The lanes of the road shifted in several places and she commented saying that they had two seasons in Maine – winter and road work. I feel like that has been true here, too, except it’s more like summer and road work. She said they’d had a lot of tourists coming into town off the boats for vacation and that it would only get worse when the leaves started changing—the lead peepers would flood into town.
n., The "southanaws" that come up in fawl to see all the pretty leaves.
We went to dinner at a restaurant on Congress Street called Five Fifty-Five. It was very good food and the kitchen is open so you can watch the chefs making the dishes. I appreciated that they were using seasonal foods and it was super fresh. During dinner, she told me about the food snobbery that exists within Portland and that the locals frequently run out chain restaurants because they have super high standards for their chefs using local ingredients. I also learned about the Mainers’ passion for blueberries and that they aren’t usually cultivated, but rather people tend to claim blueberry bushes on their property, protecting them against neighbors with veracity. It sounded similar to how we treat our blackberry bushes here in Georgia. I caught on to the usage of the word “wicked” pretty quickly, though I’ll never be able to use it with their gusto. Their shortening of phrases is similar to how we talk in North Georgia, so I didn’t have that hard a time understanding them when they pushed words together (we do that all the time back home).
adj., A general intensifier: "He’s wicked nuts!"
I had a great time the next day meeting the team at the company and getting to tour their facilities. They were refreshingly honest and down-to-earth. Maybe I’ve gotten too used to talking with people in higher academia who like the sound of their own voices? Perhaps. I was especially amused that several people commented on the beautiful weather and followed this by saying, “Just way-et till Novembah.” Long story short, they soon contacted me to offer me the job, which I accepted based on a gut feeling. I don’t often talk with people about my decision-making process because it is often misunderstood. I tend to plan and think very far ahead, but in the moment, I ultimately depend on my intuition about a decision. It’s not very scientific or logical and not many may understand it, but it has never led me astray and I’ve learned to trust it above all else. It has served me well in dealing with people and difficult situations.
My next adventure after accepting the job has been researching the area to prepare for moving there. So, in between writing chapters, I have also been reading about the neighborhoods of Portland and the different housing options. My most recent entertainment has been the endless questions I get when I contact real estate agencies about their rental homes, which I can liken to the Grand Inquisition. They don’t understand why a single gal like myself would want a 3br/2ba house! It sounds ludicrous apparently. There is more to heat, yes. But on average it isn’t much more than what I pay now for air conditioning (another thing that is difficult to explain to my Maine contacts). It actually averages out, just in a different season—late fall, winter and spring rather than late spring, summer and early fall. They have been quick to suggest I get a 1br to help with costs. I appreciate their tenacity and budget-consciousness, but I have my reasons. It would be nice to have room for friends and family to visit without falling all over each other (we Southerners like our space and privacy). They always ask how many kids I have, too. Ah, well, they have all been nice and super helpful. Especially to someone “from away.”
adj., What all houses for sale have, at least according to the brokahs. Really old houses also tend to have "characta," especially if the roof and floors need to be replaced.
So, I will hopefully have a camera in the next month so I can take photos during my move for my own documentation and your future entertainment.
For all of those doing NaNoWriMo, I am proud of you and wish you luck in your writing. I won’t be participating this year since I’m working on a helluva non-fiction piece (le thesis), but I’ll be excited to join in next year.