A month in

I realized today that I have been at my job exactly one month, and in Dickinson one month and one day (give or take). It seems much longer ago that my apartment was still swamped in boxes; now I look around at my newly-painted bookshelf and photos hanging neatly on the walls and I wonder when, and how, I got settled here.

Not that I’m “here” yet, not by a long shot. I may have gotten my Dickinson Public Library card a week ago, but I still can’t tell you my address off the top of my head. I keep putting off getting a new driver’s license and registering my car here. Most days I still feel like I’m on some kind of working vacation, a fleeting jaunt to a different life that I’ll return from any day now and think, ‘Well, that was certainly an experience.’

A month isn’t much of a milestone — just another menstrual cycle in the grand scheme of things, really* — but I figure a little added reflection at this time can’t hurt. So, here the past month, in numbers. I have:

-been fired zero times

-written 33 articles

-hanged 26 pictures (sorry, neighbors)

-learned four chords on the guitar

-gotten two nosebleeds

-been to one African church service

-roped (what we city folk might call “lasso”) one unsuspecting lectern

-been on two dates, with one guy

-watched six seasons of Sex and the City

-cried just once (setting off one of those nosebleeds)

(UPDATE 5/27/14: Oh! Forgot to include my first/last time speaking at a Kiwanis Club meeting. The whole time I couldn’t process the strange time warp that was occurring.)

I’ve met I don’t know how many new people and made what I hope are at least five new friends, gone out for countless beers (that I had to buy myself! I was under the impression that randy Oil Patch men would be doing all the buying here). and played a dozen or so games of pool, because that is what you do here.

Now for the next month.

*should delete, won’t delete


In North Dakota now.

I’m in North Dakota now.PRAIRIE2

I say it more for myself than anyone who might read this blog; consistent readership has held steady at my sister and my coworkers, and by this point, I should hope they all know where I live.

It’s still to early for it to really sink in. Sitting around my apartment, with my blinds closed to the brown grass and dusty parking lot outside of my windows, it’s easy to forget which city I’m in: I could be anywhere. I still find myself feeling momentarily surprised when I walk out of my apartment to see a parking lot and not a metro stop.

It will take a while to adjust to this new everyday. To driving again, and at a legally mandated snail’s pace. To country music on all two of the radio stations my car picks up. To lots of white people, and lots of men, and lots of cowboy hats. To quiet.

I have an unending reserve of patience for animals, children and the elderly, which leaves very little patience to spread around to everything else, least of all myself. I’m finding it hard to wait to feel comfortable with no guarantee that it will happen. I want to be happy right this second, and I want to find my place here.

So much of this experience reminds me of when I was in the Republic of Georgia. I lived in a town that couldn’t have had more than 1000 people; it didn’t even have street names. Three months of misery culminated in a very public, very ugly crying fit on a bench outside a tech store in the capital because I couldn’t buy an internet stick without my passport. I called my mom on my dinky government-issued phone because I needed to hear that I could come home, any time I was ready, and I knew that my sweet, enabling mother would say those exact words.

I didn’t take her up on the offer, of course; somehow, those first three awful months of internally kicking and screaming at everything about the country gave way to three months of, if not quite love, then mutual respect. I started to understand how to navigate my way around life there. My language skills got better, I travelled to other parts of the country, I found myself a proper Georgian man who knew just enough English to not talk too much.

The culture shock of North Dakota isn’t quite as quaint and novel as it had been in Georgia, but I’m trying to keep the two linked. I have to give this a chance. Every time I try to justify leaving far too early and going back to D.C. with my tail tucked between my legs, I remind myself that I owe this place, and myself, a little more patience.

Starting Over, Yet Again

Miles upon miles upon miles.

Miles upon miles upon miles.

Well, I officially made it a year in D.C. Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the day two friends and I left Chicago at our backs and drove down to Washington. I thought I’d only be here three months.

Four sublets and three jobs later, it was another March 22, different year. So of course it would happen that on Friday I was offered a job out of town. Out of the state, even. Out of the time zone — in North Dakota. Because the universe and perhaps my own subconscious have decided that I can’t stay too long in one place, I accepted a city reporter position with The Dickinson Press, the premiere (ok, only) newspaper in fair Dickinson, North Dakota.

Giving my two weeks’ notice at work also meant giving my two weeks’ notice to D.C. I got comfortable, I guess, riding the same bus to work each day, or getting off at the same metro stop. Shopping at the same grocery store, visiting the same few bars each weekend. Seeing the same people. It’s funny how quickly we get used to things, especially since I came here kicking and screaming and vowing to leave as soon as I could.

But I did get used to it. More than that, I ended up loving it. Not all of it; I’d prefer not to live in a group house for more than I paid for a studio in Denver, or spend $40 a week on groceries. I still think the majority of people here are entitled assholes who go out of their way to walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk and force their way onto crowded metros when people are trying to get off. But there is always something to do in the city: a new art exhibit, live music, pub trivia, an impromptu BYOB happy hour in the NPR cafeteria.

I wish I could stay. It seemed possible. I’m lucky to have gotten to intern at NPR an extra semester, but it made the illusion of permanence that much stronger. I could imagine myself coming to the building every morning, eating my banana with peanut butter and drinking Peet’s coffee, checking the celeb blogs before starting work, making small talk with coworkers across cubicle walls and going home at six every night to eat eggs for dinner and watch Netflix. It would have been a good life. It would have been a simple life.

But as my gruff editor pointed out, that’s not what I went to school for. I studied journalism because I want to be a journalist. This opportunity in a town so small and foreign and far away is exactly what I’ve wanted to do for years: write, report, explore. I’ve never gotten to work for a real newspaper before; it seems like such a rite of passage for young journalists that I should have done years ago. At such a small production, I’ll have more responsibility, and more impact.

It would be limiting to take a marketing or PR or web producer position just so I can stay in D.C. I could try to freelance, but I know myself; I’m not cut out for that life that so many of my friends and old colleagues have, hustling from assignment to assignment. Pitching stories every day? Buying my own insurance? Filing quarterly taxes? It’s a miracle I filed taxes once this year. I’ll just barely recover in time for next April 15.

Professionally, Dickinson is a good move. Personally, it’s a terrifying one. I have friends here, and favorite haunts, and cute boys a few desks away. I’m scared to give all of that up. My boss pointed out, optimistically, I think, that I can go anywhere right now: I’m young and single, without the burden of kids or a relationship to worry about in a job search. He’s right (but how did he know I was single?), but part of me wishes I did have something, or someone, holding me down. Would it be such a burden to have a reason to stay, to say, without compromise, that I have no choice but to find a job here because this is where my life is?

Right now, I have to put career first. I can’t putz around as a failing freelancer or reluctant administrative assistant somewhere just so I can stay in D.C. because my friends are here, and I never did get to try the bread at Le Diplomat, and maybe things will work out with that one guy if we give ourselves enough time. D.C. will be here if I need to come back, but for now, I think the best thing I can do is go to Dickinson and play Cracker Jane Reporter for a while. Anyway, it’s not like I’ll be there long — the universe gives it a year at most.

If you want to make God laugh

Yes, that Georgia.

Yes, that Georgia.

I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of truly thoughtless, sometimes intentionally cruel things spewed forth from the mouths of manchildren, but perhaps the most cutting remark came absentmindedly from a man I’ve been “seeing” (can you call it that if he doesn’t know your last name?) since October. He’s set to go to Russia this summer for work, and since I’ve been to Georgia and have been considering going back for quite a while, we often talk about the region and he asks for updates on when I think I’ll actually go strike off as a freelancer in Tbilisi.

I should have known better than to tell anyone I was thinking about moving back to Georgia, if for no other reason than this proverb: “Want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.” Because once I even hinted that I wanted to try to support myself as a journalist there, I was setting myself up to fail. It’s been more than a year since I started talking to Georgian nationals, other journalists and editors about how I can make my dream work, and still, I’m no closer to taking action than I was when I was a student.

But back to this man, whom I made the mistake of telling my  deepest hopes, tricking myself into believing that if I say them aloud and to enough people, surely they’ll pan out. One night after we had gone over my reservations yet again — I don’t know any editors who want my work, I am broke as it is, I owe the government and my parents thousands upon thousands of dollars, I have no insurance — he said, in some roundabout way, “We both know you’re not going to Georgia.” (We? Who’s this we?)

It’s stayed with me since then. I should know better: that he doesn’t matter, that he has no right to tell me what I will and won’t do, that he’s wrong. But he might not be. So instead of getting on my feisty high horse and laughing in the face of his misguided doubt — I’ll show you, you irrelevant maroon! — while trotting off to Georgia with a reporter’s notebook in hand, I wonder if he’s right. I wonder if I should have told anyone my ‘plan,’ and more than that, I wonder if I should have even considered it in the first place.

And the reason his irrelevant opinion hit the nerve it did, possibly as much as if my sister or parents or editor had said it (which they haven’t because they get me, okay??), is because I might just agree with what he said. Might. The discussion never really came up again; he asks now and then if I’m still considering Georgia, and I say, Yes, but not for a while. Not until I can. Not until I’m ready.

All the while, I’m secretly plotting the day I do go abroad and write an article and get paid for it — voila! instant foreign correspondent, if only fleetingly. He’ll be the first person I tell. And whether it’s next month or next year or twenty years from now, I can’t wait for that day to come. It might end up being the only reason I go at all.

You just wasted another fifteen minutes of your life.

The house where I am renting a room — in “up-and-coming” Brookland, home to a variety of artists and general vagrants — has a beautiful old grandfather clock in the foyer. The men who own the house only recently bought the clock and were very proud to tell me all about it when I first came to view my future room back in November.

To think, how young and unburdened I was then, how silly and initiated I was to the reality of grandfather clocks, to wholeheartedly agree with the proud owners that this clock, this magnificent clock, was a beautiful and necessary antique around which life in the house should revolve.

That all changed when I moved in. I have not had one good night’s sleep in over two months. Because this clock, not content to chime on the hour, has to jangle off every 15 minutes. At 15: a short, jaunty jangle. At 30: a slightly longer jangle. At 45: a very off-key, unmelodious jangle. On the hour: a terribly long cacophony, followed by the stroke of bells. It’s all noise, all day.

I wonder, though, who wants a reminder that another fifteen minutes of life have passed and we’re still sitting in our beds eating Easter candy (this may be a very me-specific example)? Who wants to lie awake at night, trying to sleep, kept up by a record of the dwindling hours they have left before morning? Who needs a biological clock made tangible, telling us at set intervals that we have fifteen fewer minutes left to live?

Does It Taste As Sweet To Say I Love You In Another Language?

My first kiss was with an Albanian man I met in Venice, Italy; within hours, Jeta and I were telling each other, “Ti amo.”  I didn’t mean it any more than I knew his last name (and I won’t kid myself into thinking there was much sincerity on his end).

As my fleeting romance with Jeta proved, the Italian language holds very little emotional weight for me. In English, my native language, I don’t make a habit of telling strangers, “I love you.”

In any cross-cultural relationship that is also bilingual, there is a fundamental question that needs to be answered: What is going to be the couple’s language of romance?

Read the rest on NPR’s Code Switch blog.