2012 retrospective

January

It was going to be the year of bike touring. I woke up in 2012 at Stub Stewart State Park, having biked there from Hillsboro with a group of friends to celebrate New Year’s Eve with two nights of cabin camping. Although it had been an easy 22-mile ride, I reacted to the dawning of the New Year with relief that I wouldn’t have to pack up my gear and pedal home that day. Most of my prior bike camping trips had lasted a single night each, allowing little time for laziness in the morning, as it was always best to head out by 11:00 to get home at a reasonable time. And mornings were always cold. This time we were tucked into heated cabins full of furniture, food, and board games that people had stashed in their panniers. I had the entirety of New Year’s Day to play silly games like Taboo, read my book, drink from various bottles of liquor sitting on the windowsill, and take a couple naps on the bunk bed while eavesdropping on friendly conversations. It was thoroughly relaxing.

Later that month, I bought some Adventure Cycling Association maps and cultivated the idea of a bike tour down the Oregon coast into northern California.

February

On a day in mid-February, I walked into my office for a day of work just as I’d done for the past eight months. Nothing was different except that I had just been converted from contractor to full-time employee of the company. Procedures dictated that I be treated as a newcomer and receive a two-hour orientation. I listened half-carefully during the session while skimming the employee handbook. At one point, the company president walked into our conference room and shooed us out because he needed the meeting space. He was friendly, and when he found out that we were new employees, he introduced himself to us. My hands were busy cradling all the orientation paperwork and a coffee cup, so unfortunately I couldn’t accept his handshake. He welcomed me to the company anyway, and some indignant part of me wanted to say, “Haha! That’s cute of you, but actually, I’ve been working here for a while and I’m too good for this orientation. Will you please tell this HR person to let me return to my work?” Instead, of course, I left quietly and followed the trainer into the lobby so she could finish telling me things I already knew. I haven’t had a chance to meet the president since. (more…)

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Christmas grows up

Dear friend,

This is not the house I grew up in. It’s been about ten years since we’ve celebrated Christmas in a house that I had ever called “home”. My parents are restless and easily dissatisfied. After trying out a gleaming subdivision, a 20-year-old ranch-style home shaded by trees, and a small rural house in the Sierra foothills, they have now settled in another subdivision even as they dream regretfully about the country-style suburb we lived in while I was in high school (which, also, was not a house that I spent my childhood in). And my dad dreams about the actual countryside as he plans to cash out some of his retirement savings and buy a few acres of property. But they have forced themselves to stay put for a few years, at least, in this suburban town outside of Sacramento. The house is new, stuccoed, and neutral in color like its neighbors. I can look through the window at a freeway carrying shoppers to the nearby mall. I can go for a walk along the paved path that winds through the entire subdivision but passes only a single point of interest, at a patch of wetland where ducks and egrets reside.

Being here does recall, in a sense, what it was like to grow up where I did. It’s just … very suburban. If you came of age in a similar setting and now have a healthy dislike for it, then I don’t need to tell you what that means. For those who are unsure, I mean that my brain feels dulled by boredom and the constant noise of television. I can’t quite remember how I spent my time when I was growing up, once I moved past the age of playing with Barbies. I know that I went to stores and malls quite often, after getting a driver’s license, even when I had nothing to buy. When I hung out with friends, we’d listen to music—we were totally rockers because we favored the “alternative” radio station, have sleepovers in a backyard tent, and put on goofy shows in front of my dad’s video camera. When I was alone, though, what did I do at home? I’m recalling a few things: I learned HTML and built myself a website. For a while I published a e-zine on AOL. I met strangers in chat rooms. I gorged myself on photos and news articles of my favorite band, Third Eye Blind. I practiced art photography while wandering through our neighborhood. I read books and played with our dog. (more…)

Courageous and mortified

This week I’ll be introducing a new group of friends to my 14-year-old self. I have finally gotten the DVD copy of my summer performance at “Mortified”, a showcase of people who reveal embarrassing parts of their adolescent selves by sharing diary entries, poetry, and the like. My show was attended by a group of loyal and loving friends, but not everybody was able to make it, given that “Mortified” shows always sell out. So I’ve invited some of them over to watch it on video.

It will be the first time in years that I have seen myself in a taped performance. I hope it’ll be better than watching Audrey’s and my skydiving video from last month, in which I looked awkwardly at the camera and snarked about “jumping out of a frickin’ plane.” And it must be better than the tape of my speech at high school graduation. I’ve never worked up the nerve to sit through that one, as I couldn’t stand hearing the speedy cadence of my words. When we showed the tape to my grandparents, after I’d graduated, I left the room in shame and came back to some pointed advice from Gramps: “You should talk more slowly!”

During preparations for “Mortified”, the producers told us—the performers—again and again that we had to speak slowly enough for the audience to understand what we were saying. At least I knew I wasn’t the only person to have that problem. By the end of rehearsals I felt that I’d improved a bit, but I didn’t know how I’d behave on stage with a microphone at my lips. My voice through a microphone sounds like something unfamiliar and uncontrolled, with every vocal habit and intonation magnified. (more…)

Plane jumper

“Did we just jump out of a plane?”

My friend Audrey texted this to me after I dropped her off at home. Of course the answer was Yes; we’d just spent an hour or so looking at pictures and talking about the fact that we had gone skydiving. But a sentiment of disbelief lay under all of it, because the experience had passed much too quickly.

As promised, we’d gotten one full minute of freefall and five-to-six minutes of gliding with parachutes. The freefall ended just as I’d begun to adapt, as I tried to breathe deeply and evenly despite the heavy attack of cold, dry air on my mouth and nose. My tandem instructor steered us in a few different directions, making hand gestures that I suppose were pointing out landmarks in the distance, but I didn’t notice what I was looking at. I couldn’t. Then, almost suddenly, we reached an altitude of 5,000 feet and needed to open our parachute. He put his hand over mine and guided it to the release handle, which I pulled without thinking, jerking us both into an upright position. (more…)

Fresh ink

“You’ll tell me before you start putting the needles in, right?” I cast an anxious look over my shoulder at the tattoo artist poised above the back of my leg. He laughed and said, “This isn’t your first one, is it?” I confirmed enthusiastically that Yes! Yes it was! “Ahh, well that makes more sense,” he said, having pinpointed the cause of my sudden fear. He assured me that I would know before he began. So I laid down again, gripped my friend Audrey’s hand, and waited for it.

After the first moments of small, searing pain, the artist pulled the gun away and said, “See? That’s all it is.” I didn’t tell him that it had hurt more than I’d expected. There was nothing to do except hold my left leg still and explore different methods of coping with the pain. (more…)

A tribute to love

I knew Ryan in his “before” days, when we were both mostly single with short interludes of broken relationships. We were college classmates who graduated one semester apart. I’d had so much fun working with him that I kept in touch after graduation, and we became friends. We commiserated on our shared singledom and reassured each other that we’d each find somebody special, one of these days. He got into the bar scene for a while, but gave it a rest as he got older and realized that wasn’t where his dream woman was likely to be found. And he turned out to be right: around the time that I moved to Oregon, he met her at a coffee shop.

On a Saturday in June, I sped down California’s Redwood Highway, trying not to arrive late at their wedding. I’d frantically changed into my dress moments before getting in the car, leaving so hastily that I forgot the gifts I was supposed to bring. Precious minutes were lost as I turned the car around, ran into the house where I was staying–trying not to trip over my dress–and grabbed the gifts. After that came the speeding. Everybody drives too fast on that section of 101 south of Trinidad, but this time I passed many of them.

I made it to Patrick’s Point right on time, although the wedding did not. (more…)

Goodbye, Belmont Street

After much packing and back-and-forth schlepping, I thought by Sunday that I was finished with the old apartment. I had spent the weekend scrubbing it down, wearing out my sponge-wielding hand until the wrist became numb, and collecting all sorts of last-minute items that were left lying about now that the furniture was gone. When I brought over a rental car to handle what I’d guessed would be the last load, I had to extend the rental period by an hour because, of course, there was way more stuff than I’d expected. Since not all of it was in boxes, there were many trips up and down the stairs of my old building, and much playing of real-life Tetris as I wedged a miscellany of items into the tiny car.

It was the next day—yesterday—when I remembered the one thing I had left behind: that stupid bathrobe hanging on the back side of the bathroom door, hidden from my view as I passed that door with every trip in or out of the apartment. I was too pre-occupied (and maybe a little stubborn) to go back for it right away. Monday was my day of vacation from work, an expanse of time that I planned to consume by putting together my new home. I needed to situate the furniture, unpack what boxes I could, do some laundry, and go to the store for some basic household items. I did it all, and felt satisfied despite the fact that I’d forgotten (again) to eat a decent breakfast or lunch. (more…)

Career development

I’m swimming in the wake of very recent staffing changes at my company, involving in the loss of one person’s job and a major shift in mine. The firm is small enough that any hiring or firing has a pretty significant impact, at least in the short term. People have been anxious. I’ve been anxious because I don’t like it when the people around me are unhappy, but mainly because I’m being given responsibility for an area that I know very little about.

My brief history with the company is this: I was hired for an administrative position, which left me with a lot of spare time and took minimal advantage of my capabilities. I started asking co-workers if I could help them out with minor technical tasks or proposal-writing assignments. Eventually it came to the executives’ attention that I was willing and able to handle more challenging work. As of last Friday, I’ve been transferred to a position that has me much more closely involved with our software products. Let me remind you that I have no background in software or computer science. Clearly that’s not a prerequisite for my particular job (otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten it), but I suspect it factors into the worried atmosphere that has pervaded the office this week. (more…)

The next chapter

While I was on the road yesterday, I didn’t think much about what I was leaving behind. I had already gone through the difficult step of tearing myself away from my friends, some of whom I’ve known since my early days of college, and from my co-workers, who have been so good to me. I didn’t do so well with uttering the word goodbye, but I did get hugs, laughter and free drinks from just about everyone I meant to see before I left. I’m pretty sure I’ll see most of them again someday.

Is it too early to say that I love living in Portland? Well, at least I can say that I’m happy to be here and I think I’m going to have a great time. After seeing off my dad today, I took the train and a bus home and unpacked my most essential items (stereo included). I won’t be able to fully settle in here because I’m just renting a bedroom in an established house. In a way that’s frustrating, because I have wanted for years to have my own place; but since I’m just starting out here, and don’t have a job yet, this works out nicely.

This afternoon I had to go out to buy some groceries, and I was anxious about leaving the house since I don’t know the neighborhood too well yet. (As an aside, this city is home to nearly five times the number of people that live in Humboldt County.) Eventually I hopped onto my bike for an easy one-mile ride to the grocery store, got what I needed, and returned to the house. It was a minor accomplishment, but it felt like the first step toward becoming a part of my new community.

I have a degree

Yep, it’s official. Well, official enough until I get the paper diploma in September. I graduated from college yesterday! My parents and friends were there, and many others were there in spirit. If I were in a reflective mood I could write something about the past six years that I spent at HSU. However, I am un-reflective, and my head aches, and my stomach has felt icky since Friday. (Perhaps Thai food doesn’t agree with me.) It’s been a great weekend, and I never have to do homework again. I’m looking forward to reconfiguring my life under this circumstance of newfound freedom. I’ll post some pictures when I get them.

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