A thought occurred to me the other day: Every city I have ever lived in has had phenomenal ice cream. The kind of ice cream that people are willing to stand in half hour lines… More
If I were to write a short novel about my first few months in Portland, it would have to be titled “Car Trouble.” Nothing else would do. Since moving to this city I have created a small dent in my door from an encounter with a pole in a parking garage I now deem “the terror dungeon”, I’ve gotten two parking tickets, and when I awoke this morning, I discovered my car was not where I’d parked it the night before.
I would like to take this moment to share that before this city I had a perfectly clean parking record, and still have an unblemished driving record. So if I ever offer you a ride somewhere you do not need to fear for your life. Just maybe don’t let me park your car in Portland for you, because there’s a good chance you might never see it again. I will not be applying for any valet jobs here soon.
Back to my missing car: Thankfully, I was able to discover that it hadn’t been stolen, but I had accidentally parked it in the wrong zone so they towed it. After the brief period of confusion and denial, I can’t deny I was upset when I discovered my car wasn’t where I’d left it, I mean who wouldn’t be? But the funny part is, now that I’ve located the lot it was taken to and figured out how to get it back, I feel this strange sense of satisfaction associated with accomplishment.
Now hear me out, because that statement on its own is fairly ridiculous. “You feel… satisfied that your car was towed?” No, not that my car was towed- that obviously sucks and I don’t want to pay to get it back, but I feel good about the way I handled myself in the situation.
A month ago I would have cried. Probably a lot. I would have panicked and put off calling before I had read several websites to figure out who to call and how to handle these situations, and then I would have rehearsed what I was going to say over the phone when I finally did call. I would have let it ruin my entire day, and maybe even a few days after that.
But this morning I picked up my phone, googled something like “how to locate my towed car in Portland”, was directed to the city’s police and impound site, called the listed number, calmly explained my situation to the man who answered and he was able to track it down and give me the info of the towing company, which I called immediately after and figured out what I needed to do to get my car back. And I don’t feel like my day has been ruined. I called home with the update, took a walk in the sun, and am now borrowing Starbucks’ wifi to share the experience with you, before I work on some other projects while enjoying a cup of coffee.
And then beyond an excitement for stepping up and acting like a reasonable adult, to realize I am in a place where I can take this as something to learn from and move on with a positive mindset feels pretty darn good.
I would not have been able to do this a month ago. At least, not in this levelheaded and adult way. Things have a funny way of becoming known to you, but this situation has shown me how much I’ve grown in the past month. I might not have been able to recognize these changes in myself and feel proud about them without this little misadventure. While it might have been nicer to discover this new confidence in way that didn’t involve a tow truck, I have to admit, I’m grateful for this takeaway.
At some point during the past week of my living in my new apartment, I have become the sort of person who deems it acceptable to roll out of bed and walk down the streets of the city without even bothering to put on a bra.
I understand that this has become something of the style now, but the well endowed can appreciate it’s not one we should embrace… maybe I just haven’t found the right shirt. However I’m fairly certain that shirt will never be a plain cotton t-shirt, and the final look will never be completed with rumpled running shorts, flip-flops (or sneakers without socks depending on the weather), puffy raccoon eyes, and cavewoman hair.
It has taken all of a week for me to give up all cares regarding public image and there is but one thing to blame for this misfortunate turn of events: Street parking.
“Don’t be that person! All it takes is a minute! Just put on a pair of pants!” Cries the voice inside my head as I reach for a loose fitting sweatshirt and some running shorts. That’s as good as 17th Avenue is going to get from me during my morning meter feeding. I’m really setting myself up to make friends here.
Each morning as I lock my door behind me, I’m really counting on a good majority of the neighborhood population to be asleep before 8am.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Come on, what are the odds that the meter guy (or gal) will be up and patrolling at precisely 8AM?” Trust me, the risk does not outweigh the reward. After having already received two tickets in the month that I’ve lived here, I’m too scared to push my luck any further… That is, if you can call two tickets in a month “luck.”
Literally a block away from zoned parking and unable to apply for a residential pass, and surrounded by lots that won’t let you park in them Monday- Friday from 7-5, street parking has very quickly become the bane of my existence in this city. I fully understand that I’m not even suffering at the hands of some ungodly hour. I realize that many people are already at work, also getting out of bed, or have finished their run by 8am. But it’s the principle of the matter.
I will be all too thankful come July, when a space in our buildings parking garage opens up and I will no longer have to trudge down five flights of stairs to spend 8 dollars for 4 extra hours of peace. But for now, I will continue to embrace the lifestyle of the man who walks out the door to get his paper in nothing but a robe and slippers.
This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to see Nathan Sawaya’s “Art Of The Brick” installation. Sawaya works in a unique medium that appeals to the young, and young at heart: Lego bricks. The exhibit drew in a wide audience and left you believing more firmly in the idea that art isn’t limited by a particular medium; it exists all around you if you allow yourself to open your mind to it.
The exhibit was divided into multiple sections, beginning with reconstructions of famous paintings, sculptures, and artifacts made entirely from Legos. I felt like I had stepped into an adult version of Lego Land, and it was too amazing. Beside every one of Sawaya’s Lego interpretations was a brief description and history of the original, and then an explanation from Sawaya about how he chose to interpret the piece, specific techniques he used, and the number of bricks it took to complete the piece.
Many of Sawaya’s recreations were crafted to exact (or very close) scale of the original, although in some cases this wasn’t entirely possible, due to enormity or the dimensions effecting the Lego versions ability to stand on it’s own. The detail that Sawaya was able to capture with plastic brick is incredible, from jutting angles, to softer round edges.
The next section captured various phases and interpretations of the human experience. This portion explored the greater meanings of what we as humans view as meaningful, both personally and from societal expectations, in terms of aesthetic value. It also explored uniqueness and encouraged leaving behind self-doubt. Each of the pieces in this section was created using the same color brick, instead of mixing multiple, with bright primary and secondary simple colors.
This room moved into the personal exploration of Sawaya’s own times of doubts and evaluation of self worth. While this wasn’t necessarily the most captivating section, it was the bravest. Putting your internal battles on display for the world to see couldn’t have been easy, but it was incredible to see the battle waged in Sawaya’s mind between following his passion and meeting societal expectations. The effect of conveying such darkness with a children’s toy associated with joy and creativity was powerful.
The last section I’ll share was a collaboration titled “In Pieces” with photographer, Dean West. West and Sawaya captured photos of the common American landscape incorporating Lego props subtly into the scenes. The photos hung on the walls and the pieces used in the photos were on display in the middle of the room. My favorite photo was, “Dress,” featuring a woman standing outside an old theater in a red dress made of Legos which disintegrate behind her in the cold. However my favorite Lego piece was an umbrella used in the photo, “Umbrella.” I’m still so impressed by the way Sawaya managed to create the domed of an umbrella with square and rectangular pieces.
Pieces in other sections that need some honorary mention are the Tyrannosaurus Rex constructed from 80,020 Lego bricks, and perhaps one of Sawaya’s most recognizable pieces called “Yellow.” Constructed from 11,014 yellow Lego bricks, I loved what it conveyed about opening oneself to the world, and spilling out your soul.
The Art Of The Brick is an incredible gallery for all to enjoy. Kids loved it, because well Legos, and adults could appreciate the craftsmanship and message Sawaya intended to convey through his pieces. It made me step back and really admire the creativity of the mind and the potential it has to transform ordinary little fragments into works of art that can make big statements.
One of the best parts of working in an ice cream shop is that whenever you have a tough day you can always leave with an ice cream cone, and I’ve found that it’s a lot more difficult to be upset when you’ve got an ice cream cone in your hand. I recently had my first challenging day at my new job and by the time my shift ended I found that all I really wanted was ice cream. It’ll take me awhile to break this conditioning.
This lack of sweetness after a tough day was the first moment I really missed my old job, specifically my coworkers and the rainbow sprinkles. The years I spent working at Mora were some of the most challenging and surprisingly rewarding years of my life. My experiences there strengthened my belief that everyone should be in the position of “serving” someone else, at least once in their life. You encounter some of the greatest and most awful people you can imagine in customer service, and it forces you to grow in so many ways. I learned early on that you can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat a person who is “in service” to them.
More often than not, I found people making assumptions about me based on how I was earning my living. For example, one day I overheard a man tell his daughter “This is why you go to college, so you don’t have to work a job like this for the rest of your life.” It honestly took every bit of my will to not stop where I was and mention that I had earned not one, but two bachelors degrees in four years, the girl working the register was earning money to pay for medical school, many of us were back for the summer preparing to pay off future student loans, and not a single person there planned on “doing this for the rest of their life.”
And then I would have had to ask why he thought this was such a degrading line of work, also leading me to defend the choice not to attend or the inability to pursue higher education. I probably would have ended up on YouTube heckling this customer that there was absolutely no shame in working for a great company where we made good wages, had a lot of fun, and got to interact with unique and wonderful people both behind and across the counter
That’s the challenging thing about customer service: you have to ignore those ignorant comments, bite your tongue, and laugh along when people make jokes about what you’re doing, or else you’ll get poor reviews for “talking back” or being “rude” for defending your life to some stranger, which you really shouldn’t have to do in the first place.
All that being said, you can imagine there are a lot of tough days, which brings me to the redeeming factor of working in customer service: your coworkers.
Because of the challenges and overwhelming nature of the jobs being performed, you get really close with your crew really fast. I’m not sure I’ve worked a job where I’ve felt a greater sense of comraderie with my coworkers. Even if you’re not great friends outside of work, the minute they walk in the door it’s like your best friend has arrived. You’ve got to depend on each other for so much, because if you can’t create a smooth flow of conversation and means of operations, things fall apart.
Besides the necessity for smooth function of the store, I think another reason people working in customer service become so close is that they spend so much of their day dealing with difficult customers.
Because nothing brings people together more than shared misery.
If you’re rude to your server, I guarantee the entire store knows about you, and not in a good way. Servers need backroom rants to get frustration out of their systems so they can go back out onto the floor and smile politely to the people who call them idiots to their face. It’s easier to apologize for a mistake that isn’t your own when you can turn around the back corner and call bullshit to someone who empathizes.
I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I did without my coworkers. It didn’t matter that we went to different schools, that our interests outside work were different, that we were years apart in age, or that our styles of interacting with people were different. We had each other’s backs, because we were all in the same boat when we walked through those doors and we needed each other if we were going to keep that boat afloat.
One of my biggest takeaways from working customer service is the importance of leaving your bad days behind with an ice cream cone. Some days it was an actual ice cream cone and other days my ice cream cone was laughing with coworkers while jamming to the “after hours playlist.” Other days it was driving with all the windows down in the sunshine, or knowing that I’d go home to puppy snuggles. After leaving a challenging workday, you need to be able to find the little happinesses that wipe away any negativity you’re still feeling. Working at an ice cream shop definitely made leaving with a bit of this happiness easier. I’m not sure what my new ice cream cone will be in this new position I’ve taken, but I’m sure it’ll come with time… and hopefully a few less calories!
About a month ago, I ran Seattle’s “Tenacious Ten.” I’m writing about it now, because when I ran it I was a little preoccupied with other things (see my previous post “Movin’ and Shakin’” for more details) and writing wasn’t really a priority. But I feel like it was an experience worth sharing, so better late than never right?
This year Oiselle, a Seattle-based women’s athletic apparel company, organized the Tenacious Ten, a 10k or 10 mile run, around Gasworks Park and Lake Union. Simply put, it was everything I needed.
The week before the race, I was offered a new job in Portland and in the hectic transition, I completely forgot that I had signed up for the race months before. My race week schedule looked a little like this *feel free to input screams wherever you see fit*: I asked my manager to schedule me as close to 40 hours in three days as she could get so I could get to Portland and view apartments on Thursday and potentially Friday. I caught a break, as the weather wasn’t great those days so thankfully the shop was pretty quiet. The apartments offices didn’t open until I was already at work and closed before I got off, so this added a nice little layer of difficulty. I’d wake up early before work and make lists of places to call when they opened, and in the quiet moments at work I’d cross my fingers that no one would walk in while I called building managers to set up viewings.
I greeted Thursday with a 5:30 wake up call to be out the door by 6. From 10-4 my parents and I went to place after place and while I naively thought everything would work out so smoothly we could just drive back Thursday night, (so I could pick up my race packet in Seattle on Friday) my parents knew better. They had the decency to tell me to slow down for five seconds and that if we left Friday morning I’d make it just fine.
While all this was happening, my friend Lauren, (whom you may recognize from my previous “PBR” post) lives in Seattle and offered to let me stay at her place so I wouldn’t have to take the ferry and Uber over to Gasworks Park at the crack of dawn. After signing paperwork for my new place on Friday morning, I planned on stopping by home just long enough to grab my stuff, hightail it to the ferry, Uber up to the hotel where packet pickup was before it ended and get back to Laurens. This might have worked if traffic had been on our side…. But everyone knows that the moment you need to be somewhere, there’s an accident. Or construction. Or everyone and their mother decides to hit the road.
So with time no longer on our side, Lauren offered to go to the hotel and pick up my packet for me after she got off work. This girl is an absolute saint. So instead of going to the hotel I planned to grab my stuff, hop on the ferry (praying I’d remembered my shoes), catch the light rail to Capitol Hill and meet Lauren and some of her college friends for dinner, get back to her place at a hopefully decent time to be out the door by 7:15 the next morning. Raise your hand, if at this point you think I’m crazy for not swallowing the race fee and taking a nap instead.
By this point I hadn’t run for a week (maybe more?), hadn’t slept well, and didn’t even try to eat well. When I signed up I remember being a little bummed I missed out on the 10 mile distance and would be running the 10k instead. However this turned out to be a blessing because once I got to mile 5, I cannot express how happy I was that I only had a mile left instead of another 5. As I sat on the ferry the night before the race, I knew that the only thing pushing me across that finish line would be the excitement of the upcoming changes in my life, and any extra fuel in my tank would come from all the stress of the previous week.
Oiselle did a great job. The race was well organized, there was a great turnout, and they had plenty of fun booths to check out pre and post race. The course was easy to navigate and led us through the city, over bridges, and by the lake, and the start and finish in Gasworks Park was perfect. There was a great sense of comradery between the other runners as well as the volunteers hosting and cheering along the way. The morning was beautiful- the rain held off and it was even warmish, which is the best you can ask of Seattle spring.
This was one of the most stressful weeks of my life but by the time I stepped across the starting line, I felt so at peace that the race went from just another thing to cross off my list, to something of a life changing experience. I felt like I was able to leave so much behind me in those 6 miles. A year of rejections from various prospective jobs, the feeling of remaining stuck while everyone around me seemed to be moving forward, tears and breakdowns, knowing my only non-work friends in town were my parents and my dog, and fed up with the monotony my life had seemed to take, this race was the end of it all. Exhausted and overwhelmed I was able to plug into putting one foot in front of the other, and leave everything on the course.
It was a nice goodbye to a city that I never lived in but had grown to see as the only option for getting out of my small town. I felt a strange bitter sweetness running around the water and knowing that wasn’t the skyline I’d be waking up to every day. While I love so many things about Seattle I’ve never really felt compelled to call it home in the way so many of my peers have. While I ran around the lake it was comforting to know it’d be there, but in the capacity it had always been: a great place to visit friends and go to football games, see concerts or run a race, but not to stay. If I hadn’t been so set on lacing up my shoes that morning I never would have realized that, and I don’t think I would have gotten that closure.
I hope that everyone can find something that brings them peace like that. It doesn’t need to be running. You just need to find something. Something you can do almost anywhere and that you don’t need someone else- especially a specific someone else- to make it happen. I’m not saying it has to be a completely solitary activity, people surround you while running a race and it’s always fun to find a running buddy, but for it to really heal, it can’t be something that depends on someone else making it happen for you. You need something where you can take a second to get out of your own head before you dive back in.
The Tenacious Ten was the perfect end to my week of ups and downs. Crossing the finish line gave me a sense of finality to that chapter of my life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better source of relief.
These past couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Stresses and excitements have been swirling around to create utter chaos in my life. I tried to take a break from it all last week to write a post about everything that was happening but I think instead of providing a sense of serenity or feelings of anticipation, it was a stream of incoherent thoughts because half of my brain was dedicated to telling me I should be doing something constructive like packing or making phone calls or really doing anything but relax. So now that I have a minute, I’ve got some big news.
A few weeks ago I accepted an internship with the Portland Timbers in their administration department. I’ll be working the front desk part time, while taking special assignments from other departments as needed. When I received the offer letter I cried. Everything seemed to go from zero to sixty. I had all my interviews and accepted the job within the same week and my manager at the ice cream shop was an absolute saint in helping me find coverage, switch shifts, and get me down to Portland for my interview.
My mother can attest to my spastic behavior post acceptance. I was in the middle of baking a blueberry lemon cake when I got the offer, and it kept hitting me at random. It’s a wonder that cake turned out because mixing was interspersed with bouts of sitting on the kitchen floor in awe and measuring was interrupted by several needs to make lists.
One of the most daunting of tasks for me was finding an apartment. Having spent my days at home, college dorm, or sorority house, I haven’t had to experience the whole process of looking for a place of my own yet. The idea made me both embarrassed and grateful. Sometimes one more than the other… So having decided I wanted to try living on my own, eliminating the roommate finding factor, I began scouring sites and making appointments to tour places that looked worth seeing and within my budget.
I planned to get down to Portland to look at places on Thursday so Monday through Wednesday, I crammed about forty hours of work into three days to make that happen. I scheduled these viewings during slow moments at work, praying no one would walk in while I was talking to these building managers. My parents came with me, waking up bright and early to be out of the house by six to make it in time for my first appointment. 10-4 was booked solid, and miraculously well ordered in terms of locations.
One of my biggest frustrations while looking at colleges was that I never felt that “this is it!” feeling everyone talks about. I absolutely loved where I ended up and couldn’t picture it any other way today, but I won’t pretend it was love at first sight. The town, campus, and tour were all great but didn’t hit me like a bolt of lightening or anything… I’m not sure why I thought apartment hunting would be any different. But at about two, after not having anything stand out as fabulous, combined with the pressure to find said fabulous place in a day, I was incredibly frustrated.
This feels like as appropriate a place as any to thank my parents. I was not a pleasant individual to be around that week. I like to think I have a fairly easy-going personality, but one of my big takeaways from this process is that my easy-going demeanor is reserved for others, and not something I apply to my personal life. If you are going through a crisis, I’ve been known to give sage, levelheaded, and calming advice. However, I can’t seem to find this advice when I need it for myself. I’ll admit that now. I’m honestly surprised neither of my parents didn’t just throw their hands up and walk away. But I guess that’s what you do for people you love. You take the bricks they throw at you and build them a platform to stand upon.
With the pressure of a two-week start date looming, I weighed pros and cons and ended up filling out an application feeling okay. Not great, but definitely fine with my decision. While I did this, my mom called the apartment across the street to see if their parking garage was full and what the prices and wait-list looked like. While she was on the phone she ended up asking if they had any studios available. And much to my horror they did. I only say horror because in my head I’d finally committed to this other place, and I was going to make it work wonderfully. More importantly, this new one my mom found was not on my list. Being on the list and being on schedule was incredibly important to me, it’s how I both kept my sanity and also how I realized I’d lost it.
Guess where I’ll be living ladies and gents?
Just as I stumbled across the job opening with the Timbers, I stumbled across my new apartment. It’s funny how things have a way of working out. There is something to be said for faith in God’s timing. After a frustrating year or so of applying and interviewing for a variety of jobs that didn’t work out, this opportunity felt like it came out of left field. After laboring over apartment listings and city maps and various phone calls and scheduled interviews, the right home came to me completely unplanned. For these reasons I think Portland will be good to me.
The subsequent application processes haven’t gone off without a hitch by any means, but I guess they say that the best things in life don’t come easy. I wasn’t even sure that I’d gotten the place until about a week ago. Thank goodness my mom had me shop for furnishings, because my stubborn mindset took the stance of “Well I don’t even know if I have a place yet so why would I shop for things to put in the apartment that I don’t have?” I’m telling you people; I was loony. To be fair, after I said this out loud I realized I was being ridiculous and embraced the healing power of home decorating and retail therapy. I started to get a little less stressed and a little more excited, and tried to stay that way by not looking at my bank statement too frequently. So now when it’s time for me to move in, though I won’t have a bed, I’ll have some pretty great wall art, a great chair, and furnished kitchen. Priorities.
While I made it down to Portland and I’ve started my job, I haven’t been able to move in quite yet. I’m starting to get antsy, but in the meantime I’ve been able to stay with the kindest family until my place is ready. Friends of family friends, it was a bit of a stretch, but I think we all kind of embraced the situation and ran with it. I’m incredibly grateful for their generosity; they’ve already done so much for me in my first week, and it’s been the perfect start to this new chapter in my life.
Hopefully there will be a good follow up to this piece about a flawless move in to my new place. Since my sister has already informed me she’ll be visiting me every weekend this summer, I’m sure she’ll have some input about decorating, and my grandma has been planning shopping trips since the minute I told her about the move. My aunt is an organizer extraordinaire, and a known breath of fresh air in moving process (from past college moving) providing helpful tips and laughs when needed. I’ve also been informed my dad thinks bringing the trailer into the city for potential furniture hauling might be a good idea. I’d like to see someone parallel park a large car and trailer in a city notorious for its poor parking. Not someone I’m related to, because the whole scene has great potential for a comedy sketch, but maybe someone else. I know you’re reading this dad- can we please borrow a truck?
So be patient everyone, this story isn’t over yet…
For the love of sweet dairy products could someone please just tell me what is so wrong with vanilla? I don’t think that there was ever a more popular, but also more victimized flavor. I can’t count the number of times vanilla lovers will come into our shop and either end up being bullied into another flavor, or be ruthlessly teased for their lack of originality. As a fellow vanilla lover, I want to come to their defense. I want to yell over their naysaying counterparts, to give their taste validation, to give them their scoop on the house for their bravery in sticking to their guns. You don’t deserve to be heckled simply because you want to get vanilla instead of a chocolate with caramel, nuts, more chocolate, and cherries. *Disclaimer: that is not a flavor we have. Please don’t come into the shop looking for that and then get upset because you were led to believe we did.*
My favorite breed of vanilla haters are those that spend their entire time trying to get their friend to branch out to other tastes and then get plain chocolate themselves. Alright. You’ve lost your right to give your friend a hard time. Call me crazy here but I’m not sure that there is anything that separates plain vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry as being better than the next other than personal preference. But I don’t see the strawberry or chocolate lovers getting teased.
Where did vanilla get this bad rep? Why, when you look up synonyms for “vanilla” do you find words like “plain,” “boring,” and “unexciting?” Why not “timeless,” “classic,” or “loved by all and goes with just about anything?” I mean there’s got to be a reason that it’s the number one selling flavor in the world right? Even with all those other flavors out there, vanilla remains tried and true because of its uncomplicated and delicious sweetness. Vanilla holds such a beautiful nostalgic sentimentality. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone that reminds you of running around the streets barefoot as the streetlights flicker on, or sitting in the front seat of your dads truck with chicken nuggets and soft serve. Some days more than others, you need that trail of melted vanilla dripping down the edge of a cake cone onto your hand so you can wipe it on your bare leg while your mom tells you to get a napkin.
Now I’m not giving my fellow vanilla lovers out there a free pass to never try a new flavor ever again. I think you should always try new things and expand your palate, but if after trying new things vanilla is still your favorite, then by all means vanilla-on! Everyone has different tastes and you should be able to like what you like without fear of judgment. We could use a bit more sweet simplicity in this world.
I hated junior high. I remember starting socially at square one because all the friends I had managed to make in elementary school were in different classes. I also remember my soup exploding in the cafeteria microwave at a more than common frequency. And oh I suppose I remember not knowing how to tell the boy I liked that it wasn’t him, I just didn’t know how to be someone’s girlfriend in seventh grade, nor did I see the point of dating at thirteen. Retrospectively I see that I was clearly mature for my age and am glad I thought these sorts of things out with a level head. I remember crying because everyone knew that they were going to be orthodontists and interior designers when they grew up, while I still thought making pizzas at Papa Murphy’s might be cool cause you could probably sample the toppings at leisure…. All right so maybe “mature” and “level headed” aren’t exactly the right words.
Basically what I’m saying is that junior high, or middle school if you had to go there instead, was terrible and a time I was grateful never to have to experience again. Or so I thought. Because the other day, it hit me: The past year and a half after graduation has been the junior high of my adult life. Junior high 2.0.
At the beginning of my 23rd year, I hoped the near future would bring some sort of newfound optimism and light. My goal was to take things day by day for what they were and to just try my best. Instead, I found myself walking through the halls in my new cherry printed dress and matching earrings, carrying my snoopy lunch box to find everyone else wearing Abercrombie and carrying brown paper bags. Just like in junior high I found myself pulled from the friends, unaware how to interact with males in a way that might endear me to them, feeling overwhelmed about committing to specifics in a world of endless possibilities, and lost amongst people who seem to have it figured out.
I have to remind myself that these wearers of juicy sweat suits look back and wonder what the hell they were thinking just as much as I did. And maybe it’s the same now. Maybe the twenty-something wearers of professional suits are looking out their windows wondering if they should drop everything and leave just like the girl in the purple apron scooping ice cream is wondering. They probably are. But you know what, that doesn’t make me feel any better. Maybe a little less lonely, or validated in a way, but not better. Because I hoped that after junior high I wouldn’t have to start at square one making new friends. I hoped that my soup would stop exploding in the microwave and I wouldn’t be left to awkwardly clean it up in front of my peers. I hoped that I might know what I wanted to do, and that I might be in a position to better the lives of others with whatever talents I found that I had.
Instead, I continue to clean up my messes, to try and be a little more open when meeting new people, and to cry after being asked what I want to do with my life. Despite all this, I understand that these phases of transition, from child to teen, from young adult to slightly more adult, are just that: phases. So yes, I don’t look back on junior high as the greatest years of my life (and I would like to examine the brain of those who do) but I understand that it got me through a lot of awkward that prepared me to be a little less… well awkward, later on.
The issue with junior high is that you expect yourself to be more grown up than you really are. You expect yourself to know things and have a plan, because you’re no longer an elementary school baby; you’re mature. But you aren’t. You’re still so young and when teachers ask you to complete a project on what you want to be when you grow up they’ll nod and smile and encourage, but fully understand that maybe three of your classmates will do anything remotely close to what they presented. It gets a little trickier as you graduate from college because you’ve taken the time to think things through and focus your attention towards something more specific. You foster that same feeling of maturity and know-how as you did in elementary school and right when you have reached peak confidence they hand you your diploma and tell you it’s time to move on. You realize the world is a lot bigger than before, and no one is holding your hand while you walk directly from point A to point B.
Not every day has been bad though- I’m not even saying most days have been bad. In fact I’ve made plenty of beautiful memories in the past two years, so I don’t want to insinuate that I’ve woken up every day since graduation hating life. Some days are just more frustrating than others because they’re marred with uncertainties that clash with your expectations. It’s a conflict that feels big, making the transition challenging, and occasionally if the mood hits you just right, overshadows the many small victories you’ve made.
I left junior high not only with superb microwave cleaning abilities and a handful of new friends, but chosen as “student of the year” by my teachers, and with a smile on my face. Junior high didn’t last forever, and as I keep learning new things and trying my hardest to move forward, I know that this junior high 2.0 won’t last forever either. So for now I’ll keep trying to take all the “No’s” I’ve been hearing as promises that something better is just around the corner instead of insurmountable walls, and sometime in the next year I’ll be able to exit junior high 2.0 with an even bigger smile…. and better yet, without the awkward dance at the end.
The morning after the spring daylight savings change always brings a special kind of pain. This year, one of my dearest friends, Lauren, and I decided to embrace that pain by signing up for the Poulsbo Beer Run. The run is held twice a year, an Oktoberfest themed race in the fall and a St. Paddy’s themed one in the spring, in the small Pacific Northwest town of Poulsbo, Washington. Poulsbo boasts a fairly large number of microbreweries for its small population, and most are within walking distance, making a local beer run tons of fun.
The Poulsbo Beer Run, or “PBR” for short, allows you to visit 5 local breweries in just under a 4-mile loop. The participating breweries are Slippery Pig, Rainy Daze, Silver City (hosted by Envy bar and grill), Sound Brewing, and Valhöll. Your $42 entry fee gets you 6 beers, a finisher’s prize, bragging rights, and a morning you wont soon forget!
Lauren and I arrived downtown at 8am (I had to keep reminding myself not to think of it as 7am) dressed in our best green clothing. We started at Slippery Pig and were able to register morning of without problem. They limit the race to about 120 runners per brewery, so while you definitely get to enjoy the vibe of the crowd, it never feels crowded. When you sign up your race bib has 6 tear away tabs at the bottom, good for a beer at each brewery and then an extra for good measure back at your starting point with your finishers prize.
Each brewery offers a 10 oz. pour and provides a couple of options from their menu to choose from. When you arrive at the brewery you tear off one of the tabs from your bib and exchange it for the beer of your choice. If you don’t want a 10 oz. pour you can ask your beer tender for a “short pour,” so you aren’t wasting product.
At Slippery Pig we started with their Secret Kölsch and after getting past the fact that we were drinking a beer at 8am surrounded by people dressed like leprechauns, it was pretty pleasant. That’s another thing about the PBR, you can’t really think when you do it: you just have to do it. When I woke up did running four miles while drinking almost a half a gallon of beer before noon sound appealing? No. But by the time I arrived and found myself surrounded by like-minded (and equally crazy) people, it felt like the best possible way to spend a Sunday morning.
From Slippery Pig we ran the farthest leg of the race out to Rainy Daze. There, Lauren and I both opted for their Sod Slayer. It was light and citrusy which was nice and refreshing. They have a nice open air garage-like setting, which was great after we realized we were pretty toasty after the mile and a half there!
After Rainy Daze we headed across the street to Envy bar and grill, which hosts Silver City Brewery, as it’s located in Silverdale. Half of the bar is actually a restaurant, and I can only imagine what the people dining there thought of the event next door. Here these people were, just trying to enjoy a nice brunch when all of a sudden an army of green and orange clad tipsy runners comes barging through the doors… At Envy I had a Ridgetop Red, which was my favorite beer of the day, while Lauren tried their Clear Creek Pale Ale.
After reaching the halfway point we walked down the street to Sound Brewing where I had an amber off their guest tap list, and Lauren tried Sounds American Mosaic Pale Ale, which was a lot hoppier than most. While the ambiance was great, I think it was my least favorite stop. Because you could choose whatever you liked from the menu, the line was pretty long, and for someone who isn’t exactly a beer connoisseur, in this type of hectic setting I found it easier to have more limited options.
After making friends in the ladies room through shared admiration of various green tutu construction techniques, we headed back into downtown Poulsbo to Valhöll. Now, running up a hill after 5 beers could probably go either way in terms of ease or pain, but thankfully I felt the former rather than the later, and we made it to our penultimate stop in what seemed like no time. Valhöll is one of my favorite breweries in Poulsbo; I like the beer, the people, and the atmosphere. They also offered a passion fruit cider as an alternative which I thought was pretty cool. I opted for that, and it was super refreshing! After hanging for a while at Valhöll, we jogged down the hill back to Slippery Pig to claim our finisher’s prizes and final drink of the race.
For those of you considering participating in the PBR in the future, my best advice would
be to take it easy and have fun with it! The beer is good, the volunteers are super friendly, the proceeds go to a good cause (this time it was Kitsap’s Blue Star Banner program, saluting local men and women serving our country), and it’s a fun way to engage with others in the community. While it is a “run” it’s by no means a race, and I would say it’s about 50/50 walkers and joggers, so don’t feel like you can’t participate because you aren’t a “runner.” There’s no time constraint at each brewery, so take your time and enjoy! The Poulsbo Beer Run is a great way to get out, get active, meet new people, catch up with old friends, and support local businesses.
The most terrible thing about the writing process is that oftentimes, it’s most difficult when you need it the most. The moments you need nothing more than to empty your mind are also those where you sit endlessly, staring blankly at a page that refuses to fill itself. You want to take your anguish, the politics, and countless rejections and splatter them across the page, but as you sit to do so, you’re hindered by a sinking fear that it might not be as therapeutic as you think. As if writing these things will make them more difficult, increasing your frustrations because you’re not only thinking these things but seeing them written out in front of you. No, these thoughts aren’t just piled up in your mind anymore, now they’re heavy with the weight of reality. You’d hoped after putting the words to page they would lift from your chest, but instead they’ve been etched in, pinning you down.
It’s terribly and beautifully ironic that the words that need to be said are those that are most difficult to say. Or write. Or read. Sometimes you aren’t even sure what those words are, and sometimes you aren’t sure if you want to attempt to find them. Would it be better to stare at the unfilled lines on the page, or fill them with words you aren’t even certain that you mean? What if you mean them today and tomorrow you’ve changed?
Why do we write? To truly feel the weight of our words or to lift them from ourselves? To become surer of our place in this world, or to embrace the difficult existence of the unknown? Do we share our stories for the benefit of others or ourselves?
I’m not sure. But I don’t think I need to be sure, because that’s one of the great things about writing- very few things are certain. Most likely our answers to any of those questions depends more on the time and the words and who we are that day, than on any fixed certainty. All I know is that it’s not easy. It’s not easy to sit down and bleed every day. But it’s necessary. It’s necessary to share your experiences, your love, your pain, your thoughts, and your feelings. That’s how we know we’re not so alone. That we might not be the only one who thinks such lovely and dismal thoughts, or laughs at the same bad jokes, or who doesn’t agree with the way things are going. Through writing we find solidarity, and through that solidarity we find strength. And some days it takes all the strength we can muster to find beauty in this crazy world around us.