At times I freak out

Over a variety of things. Usually late at night. Which is really just one of many signs from the universe that I should go to be earlier, but that would be far too sensible.

In any case, my current freakout centers on the job I’m supposed to start in the fall:

  • When will I start? I don’t know. The background check appears to be ongoing. (I’ve been interviewed twice by the FBI; they had to come back the second time because they forgot to ask me four questions the first time – yes or no questions, mind you – and the questions must be asked face to face. The interviewers have been incredibly nice but I got the tiniest inkling of how someone could falsely confess under interrogation; I’d get asked about use of illegal drugs, or abuse of prescription drugs, and say, “No,” which is true, because I have lived a very sedate life. And yet there was a little voice in my head saying, I don’t THINK I’ve ever abused prescription drugs. I had that Vicodin when I got my gall bladder out – am I SURE I didn’t do anything I shouldn’t with that?) Also, I would imagine that if my job had vanished with the sequester I would have heard by now, but still, if one is looking to freak out, one can always find reasons…
  • Where will we live? I don’t know that, either. LDH and I went to New Job Town for a long weekend, which we spent with a little sightseeing and a lot of just driving around to get a sense of where everything is. (We also drove past the building where I’ll work, repeatedly, which I enjoyed. I may have even said, “That’s where I’m going to work!” every time. Poor LDH.) We stayed at a casino hotel where everyone was incredibly nice, and we ate a bunch of good food. We also found neighborhoods that we liked. However, a lot of the neighborhoods we liked best were all single-family homes, which would be great if we were buying, but we’re not; and of course the ones closest to work/downtown that we liked were more expensive, and the neighborhoods with more modern apartments and more reasonable prices are much further out. So while we’re more informed, the trip didn’t provide any easy answers.
  • What will LDH do? Also an unknown. He’s applied for a couple of jobs at the university in town, had an interview, but nothing has come through so far. I don’t know exactly how he’s job searching, in part because we don’t live in the same place right now, and in part because it’s not my place to nag him about what he’s doing and whether he’s applying for stuff. (I wouldn’t be the one doing the job; he has to decide what he is or isn’t willing/interested in doing.) He has said that if he doesn’t get anything, he will be a house-husband – cook, clean, shop, do laundry; I will have to do nothing but go off to work with a packed lunch each day, and come home to workout, watch tv, and knit. I’m sure he would do a lovely job (it’s not like I’m any good at housekeeping or cooking). But the closer we get to this scenario, the more it freaks me out: when I was figuring out possible career paths and whatnot, I never even considered being the sole bread-winner, and my salary isn’t bad but it’s not spectacular. Admittedly, it’s close to what LDH made all through me being in law school, when I wasn’t working, but I did borrow a wee bit more money than what I needed for tuition, to give us a cushion. I think New Job City has a lower COL than where LDH lives, but I don’t know that it’s enough lower to make up for that cushion (especially since moving is always expensive). And apart from the money, LDH has become well-known in relevant professional circles in his current city, and I worry about him moving to a new city with without getting a job, and not having anything work-like to do, and and and and arghhhhhh.

So, there you go. Change is good, but even good change is stressful. One of the government divisions where I interned during law school advertised for an entry-level lawyer just recently, and oh, it would be so nice just to move back to LDH city, work there doing the very straightforward work that job would entail (rather than the fairly unfamiliar and intimidating work of the new job, which is a whole other issue), living in the city that I love with a husband who’s also employed. But then, part of the reason LDH is so willing to move is that he would really like to leave his job, for a whole variety of reasons, and he doesn’t think he’d have a better chance of getting anything in his current city than he would getting something in our new city. (The irony is that since he knows he’s got an end date, I think the situation at work has improved in some ways, because he doesn’t care any more. But that’s a little unfair, as I know he also feels he’s just marking time till we move. Whenever that will be.)

Also, I really hope I like New Job City. I really like where I live now, and I really really love Law School City (LDH’s current city). New Job City felt a bit like where I live now, crossed with elements of California. But it gets really hot there. And sometimes this transplanted New Englander looks round at the mountains and deserts and so on and thinks, How the hell did I end up HERE??

So. Time to go to bed, to experience my regularly-scheduled freakout before I fall asleep.

Random bullets of self-sabotage

• I cannot seem to make myself go to bed at what is a reasonable hour given that I really do have to get up by 6:15 to get to work on time. (Pause to note this post’s time stamp…) I can’t even blame it on having work to do at home like I used to when I was a professor; now the work I have to do at home is actual home-related stuff, like laundry and dishes. Have I mentioned I suck at doing that stuff recently? Funnily enough when I shared a kitchen, even though with my husband, mess bothered me – now I can let it go for days. I guess I only mind either other people’s messes, or how messes look to other people. Even without doing that stuff, I stay up too late.

• I have been spending way too much time on sample sale and other discount sites online. I had been only vaguely aware of these things before this fall, when I responded to interview stress not by actually PREPARING, but by trying to make sure I had THE perfect suit/top/shoes/bag/jewelry/hose/suitcase.I should add that none of the results were perfect in the sense of achieving some Platonic ideal, but they worked for me, so that was a relief. But in the process of working that all out, I stumbled on lots of places to buy really nice things less expensively. The problem is that the more I look at these sites, the more I think, “Hey, that bag’s 50% off – that’s a truly EXCELLENT deal!” Which, of course, it is – except that full price, the bag’s $600 and I don’t exactly have $300 to drop on a bag, even when it is a really really great deal. (Some of these sites have couture-ish stuff and I find myself looking at bags that retail for $1000+, marked down to like $600-something. Yes, self, that is an excellent price for a YSL bag, but no, that doesn’t mean you can afford it. Not that I actually have the slightest interest in a YSL bag, but you know, advertising works precisely because the more you look at stuff, the more stuff you want.) It’s sort of amusing how strongly you can think, It’s SUCH a great deal, I really SHOULDN’T pass it up! even when you know the prices are outside your budget. (I should add that it’s not the crazy-priced YSL etc. stuff that tempts me, just the stuff that’s about one level above what I’d usually spend, which seems so REASONABLE when it’s on massive discount.) What’s frustrating isn’t even the spending – I have been pretty frugal – as much as the amount of time I waste looking at items which I think are sort of kind of maybe plausible, until I come to my senses and realize I still can’t afford them – I’m closer, but clothes-buying isn’t horseshoes.

• That said: I bought a suit. (Sssshhhh, don’t tell.) It was crazy cheap for a decent brand suit (<$150 for both pieces) and if it works I will love it to death. So cross your fingers for me. (And hey, next year I’m finally going to have one of those lawyer jobs that requires wearing suits, so I better start collecting some now, right? Right?)

Glass half-empty

So, I've been here 3 1/2 weeks, and I like the city, and I like my job (trials! so fascinating!). But today was one of those days when I've been thinking, Why did I think this was a good idea again? Oh, all the reasons for doing this clerkship still hold true. But it's been a depressing day.

Completely unexpectedly, it turns out I am two and three degrees of separation away from two of the Americans killed in Libya today (last night? the news broke this morning). I did not know any of them, am not even particularly close to the people who created the connections, and can't claim any grief. But there's something horrifying about having even this minimal link to people killed by violence half a world away. (Their deaths are, of course, just as horrifying without my teeny connection to them – but there's a difference when such events are personalized – even if there shouldn't be, there just is.) 

At the same time (and I know that in the grand scheme of the world, these things are completely different), one friend's kitty died in the last couple of days, and another friend posted they would have to say goodbye to their kitty whose kidneys are failing. As Middle Cat's kidneys are failing. (When we brought her in for her latest illness, they did an ultrasound for fear she had cancer – or I should say, more cancer. Turns out, she looks great – except for her kidneys, which look terrible. I mean, we knew her kidneys were failing, but it's still depressing.)

It's days like today that living on my own in a city far from my husband and cats just feels like a really dumb idea. 

I am kind of an asshole

I went to my first spin class here in New City this morning. I joined a gym, because I need the structure of a class – I like having someone at the front of the room telling me what to do, and I like that the classes are already scheduled, because otherwise I wibble and agonize over when exactly is the PERFECT time to go work out, such that I might not ever make it into the gym. (I know, I have issues.) 

And class was….fine. I mean, I sat on the bike and cycled for an hour, and it was perfectly strenuous and I got my heartrate up and sweated a whole ton and so on.

But it really made me miss my spin/yoga studio in Former Beloved City.

I realize most of my dissatisfaction is because this new class is DIFFERENT, and everything is DIFFERENT, and I don't want DIFFERENT, because I am very fond of routine and I like the SAME, kthxbai.

The thing is, in Former Beloved City I lived pretty much right downtown. (For instance, my court was in the city center – as they usually are – and I had a 10-minute direct bus ride a block from my apartment to get to work every day.) And here I pretty much live…in the 'burbs. It's in the city, but on the outskirts, and it's at least 25 minutes to work, in my car (because it would be an hour on the bus), including a stint on an interstate. 

There are a lot of reasons for this, in part because I grew up in the 'burbs and when facing a completely new place I default to what feels safe and clean [to an upper-middle-class white girl]. Also (I think I said this before), there aren't a lot of nice modern apartment complexes in the downtown/central part of New City – which doesn't mean there aren't cool places to live – there are – but a lot of the nice rentals were little houses, more expensive, and not quite what I was looking for for a year (I'd love a house, but like the security of an apartment complex when living on my own, plus I'm pretty much crap at yardwork) – also the neighborhoods are more mix-y (a nice street followed by a crap street, that kind of thing). 

So anyway. I'm in the nice, safe 'burbs, with lots of shops and restaurants and nice amenities, and I have a lovely view of the mountains and am across the street from a walking/biking trail that goes along right under the mountains, and is very popular, and it's all really very lovely and comfortable and so on.

But it's not really cool. And I hadn't thought much about this until I went to spin class, and was confronted with the difference between my downtown, granola-hipster, youthful spin studio in Former Beloved City, and my suburban, NOT hipster, NOT youthful gym.

The part where I am an asshole is this: when I first joined FBC's spin studio, I felt kind of out of place – I'd never done spin before and don't think of myself as an athlete, and everyone else there looked like an athlete to me. It's run by people who are hardcore mountain bikers, and I haven't been on a real bike since sometime in the mid-90s. The owner has a lot of tattoos – and actually, a lot of the patrons did, too. The patrons were almost all young women, and it was very, very hipster. I was WAY less hipster than this place – so much so, I initially felt like the old, fat, boring fart infiltrating their coolness.

But people were actually really nice, and the classes were really small, so the instructors actually knew who I was (which has never happened before). And it was really cheap, and it was (literally) three blocks from my house, and it turned out I really LIKED spinning. So I kept going, and eventually came to feel like a part of the place. And it turned out there were some other women my age, too – still fairly hipster types, but I wasn't at all the oldest person there. 

So I went to spin here this morning, to be surrounded by people who are – well, NOT hipster. The average age of the class was probably 20 years higher than in FBC. The instructor was VERY not hipster. It felt very, very suburban

And here I was despising this class and this group of people because they're not as cool as the people I felt like I wasn't cool enough to join back in FBC. 

So, yeah – asshole.

(I mean, I was also a little disappointed because I feel like the studio in FBC was more run/patronized by hardcore cyclists, which creates a certain kind of vibe, and there wasn't that kind of vibe at all in this class – it was more like, this class was just exercise, not training to be a better cyclist. I liked the way the instructors at my old place made a lot of use of watts, rpms, and changing gears – here, there was no reference at all to watts, and very little attention to which gear you should be in beyond be where you're comfortable, and very few references to what your cadence should be. Which may have been the nature of this specific class/instructor, and is in part, I'm sure, because all the serious cyclists in town are actually out CYCLING, like, on roads and mountains and things! But still, it was a bit disappointing. Which is yet more of me being an asshole, because I'm NOT a cyclist. I don't even own a bike [I really want one, but don't have the money right now].) 

(Also, I'm kind of a fascist, and hate when people in an exercise class are all CHATTY CHATTY CHATTY with their best buds attending the class with them – because you're there for class, not to socialize, and you're annoying the crap out me. But that's also because I miss having local friends to go to exercise class with, and if I did, I'm sure I'd act exactly the same.)

To be fair, everyone seemed (if no more hipster-cool than I am) really nice and friendly, and the gym's general vibe is perfectly welcoming and unpretentious. (I passed on a fancier gym, although it had really nice facilities, in part because the crowd it served seemed a little too entitled – that, and the class schedule didn't work quite as well, and it cost twice as much for what wasn't twice as much nicer. Nicer, but not twice as much.) And the atmosphere on a Saturday morning class is probably pretty different from the after-work evening classes. So I may get to take back everything I've said here.

(Except the part where I'm an asshole.)

Brought to you by a brief hiatus from packing

This is sort of heretical given that one of the prime benefits of academia is supposed to be "having summers off," but I have never been a big fan of summer. It's too hot, the clothes are too skimpy, I hate to sweat, I burn in the sun, and everything is so unstructured. As all academics know, you don't actually get summers "off" – you just get to use that time to try to accomplish all the things you don't have enough time to do during the school year. (Or, you're teaching, which is tough on both prof and students and sort of defeats the point of having summers "off.") Sure, the advent of fall makes clear how much you did/didn't accomplish, which can be depressing – but it's also the beginning of a new semester/school year, which feels fresh and exciting and full of potential, regardless of what did or didn't happen in the previous three months.

For all those reasons, I've always loved fall. It leads you to new things. The weather is GORGEOUS – cool nights, sunny days, blue skies, crisp air. After the summer glare, even the gray days are welcome. And leaves changing color is perhaps my favorite thing in the world. Sure, nothing compares to the fiery reds of New England maples, but golden aspens out west are pretty gorgeous, too. I love boots, I love sweaters, I love jackets, and I love the fun of rediscovering them again after putting them away for the summer. And the return of stews, warm cozy foods, apples and cider and pumpkin flavors, doesn't hurt either.

This year feels different, though. For the first time, this summer felt like the golden bubble of relaxation it's always billed as being – maybe because working 9-5 meant I was never overwhelmed with all this open time and the need to try to fill it productively. Long days and short nights make it feel like you have more free time off work, and everyone slows down just a little.

Now, the signs of fall approaching – shortening days, cooler evenings, brown creeping round the edges of leaves – feel like an ending rather than a beginning. And while usually something has to end for something else to begin, I tend to find endings inherently melacholy, even when positive. (For instance, I was sad after my dissertation defense, because even though I was thrilled to finish grad school, it meant grad school was over!) Leaves changing color look more like decay this year. (Of course, nothing's really changing color yet – it's just been so dry here, stuff is dying.) 

It's not hard to figure out why this summer is different: I'm leaving Current City. On Thursday, we pick up a moving truck. That afternoon, a couple of guys I found through the internet will help us load the truck, and Friday bright and early we'll load the cats in their carriers and drive to Next City, where my next gig begins.

And I'm excited for that gig, I really am. If I imagine being able to wake up in the morning here in Current City, and, instead of taking the bus to current gig, drive over to the federal courthouse, I'm hugely excited. (Also slightly terrified, but eh.) It's just that I really love Current City. I never expected to live here – in fact, since moving out here, NLLDH and I periodically turn to each other and say, "How did we end up HERE?" – and I don't have any connections here or, really, reason to come back. It's kind of like a little fairy oasis that appeared in our lives at the right time, which will retreat again as we move on to other things. I could be wrong, of course – and I'd be very happy to come back here and settle here. But I don't have any reason I have to be here, and will be applying for jobs elswhere. NLLDH is also job searching, and he's looking at openings around the country. 

(When I say I have no reason to come back – I do know very cool people from law school that I hope to stay in touch with. But I don't feel like I've put down roots here strong enough to pull me back in the future.)

Chances are Next City will not be the place I will settle to spend the rest of my life. And honestly, between the two of us, I don't know if we will ever settle in one place – what we want to do with our careers seems to keep getting in the way. No matter how I try, I can't quite seem to prioritize settling down over trying for certain career paths (and even if I did, NLLDH doesn't). 

But I hope – I really hope – that maybe the next place, that will be where we stay. That I can keep this new sense of summer relaxation, but that fall can be favorite season again.

Housing acquired

So, I survived my journey over the weekend to Future City, to find housing. It was one of the more frustrating housing searches I've made, which probably says more about my past good luck finding apartments I've liked than about Future City housing. On one level, everything I saw had what I was looking for – air conditioning, dishwasher, disposal, full sized washer/dryer in the unit, a balcony. On another level, nothing had everything – for each bonus there was a potential deal breaker. For instance, one place had by far the nicest grounds (they were GORGEOUS – lots of mature trees, vines, very green, and HUMMINGBIRDS!) and complex layout (everything felt really private and cosy). But the carpets, kitchens, and bathrooms looked kinda worn out and rundown, and it was the most expensive place I saw. Another place had by far the prettiest interior – nice layout, and built only a few years ago, so nice shiny new kitchens/bathrooms – but was in a less interesting neighborhood (not unsafe or anything, but kind of boring) and the opposite end of town from the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (what? how else will I feed myself than with overpriced pre-prepared foods?). A third place had an almost equally pretty interior/layout and decent kitchen/bathroom, but the only units available overlooked parking lots, which I HATE (it feels like being in a hotel).

So I ended up going with what was kind of the Goldilocks place – not that it was JUST RIGHT, but it was sort of in the middle of all the others: nice (though "apartment complex-y") grounds, good neighborhood, kitchen/bathroom somewhat out of date but acceptable, maybe a bit smaller, but a nice layout, and the least expensive. AND it doesn't overlook a parking lot: Photo 2 (5)

(Overlooking a road totally doesn't bother me – just parking lots.)

I realize it's a crappy iPhone pic that flattens the mountains and the desert-y stuff looks (at least to my east coast-trained eyes) sort of scrubby and sandy, but the view is actually quite pretty. (And there are pale little prairie-dog like things running in and out among the sand!)  

Of course, I've been suffering buyer's (renter's) remorse since then, and wondering if I really shouldn't have, after all, gone with the expensive place with the gorgeous grounds… the trees and vines and plants were just so PRETTY. (Although admittedly not especially environmentally appropriate.) But I think paying the rent they were asking for the aged interior would have grated over time. 

Keep reminding me of that, okay?

So, I have now spent about 56 hours total in Future City… there are things about it that are lovely (I'm surprised at how much I like the open desert, with its open skies and all its spiky and sage-colored flora). But there are things about this part of the world I just don't get – I've spent the largest part of my life in the east and the midwest, and it's very different out here. My default for what somewhere should look like is deep dark woods – green trees, moss, pine needles, dark earth, no clear vistas, hills but no mountains. All this sand and rock looks kinda like the moon.

Next is all the boring awful logistics of moving – figuring out dates, booking a truck, hooking up utilities, packing (UGH) and so on. NLLDH (who will be returning to Long Distance Husband status) and I need to figure out what I'm taking and what he's keeping, and I've become OBSESSED with getting a new sofa and/or rug for the new place (the rug is a much more realistic possibility). Because looking at sofa and rug colors is MUCH more fun than planning all the rest of it.


My laptop fan is whirring right mad right now, trying to keep up with the twenty-zillion browser tabs I have open for apartment complexes in Future City (each loaded with pictures and videos and so on). They're all running together by this point, stainless steel appliances and pools and fitness centers and move-in specials melting together into a great big pool of stressful things.

I have flights into and out of Future City booked for next weekend. I talked to my classmate who currently lives there. I've called a few places, all of which basically told me to come by whenever I'm in town. 

This whole process is just such a huge time suck. Perhaps the worst part is the apartment rating websites. I don't even know why I keep reading them, because about 90% of the people who post on these sites hate EVERYTHING EVER about their apartments. The sites are like the Rate My Professors of apartments, but I can't look away. The things I've decided I can't take seriously: all the people saying that people in the management office are evil/mean/rude/greedy. Those complaints sound way too much like saying a prof is mean/unfair/too hard, and you're getting only one side of the story; I'm sure some office people are rude and mean and so on, but I'm sure people who pay their rent late or want special treatment or bust up their apartments feel being held accountable for that stuff is rude and unfair, too. I just can't tell which one is happening.

There are also a LOT of people who complain about there not being enough parking who aren't willing to pay the extra for a reserved space. I know, money is tight and all that, but still, I don't quite get the unbridled ire about the company's trying to make money off their parking spaces. It's a company. Their purpose is to make money.

Also, the noise issue: I just think every apartment building built between, say, 1970 and 1995 sucks in terms of sound insulation. You are going to hear your neighbors. That's what happens when you live crammed with a whole bunch of other people into one building.

On the other hand, when people talk about roaches, I get wigged out. Maybe it's because I've never really lived anywhere with chronic roach problems. (Former City gets flying cockroaches, but thankfully I only had one wander in once – nothing endemic. We got some ants there, but little teeny ones, which gross me out much less than the big black ones from New England. And we had teeny ants here, too, but again, not too horrifying.) But when a number of people talk about roaches, I am way more likely to back away.

But again, these sites are so problematic, because some people are just never happy, and they're the ones who write apartment ratings. And yet I keep reading the damn sites anyway. Instead of doing other things that would be WAY more productive. 

How do you make a house a home?

That’s not a rhetorical question, even if it’s kind of melodramatic. I seriously don’t know how to create a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere in the physical space of our apartment. Whenever I see pictures of where my friends live, they look like the home of real grownups – there are places for stuff, for people, and they don’t conflict. Everything seems so solid, so anchored.

Whereas our apartment feels transient, unmoored, the residence of those who are still becoming, and it’s not entirely sure what. I don’t know how to arrange furniture so that it coalesces into a useful communal space rather than being a bunch of scattered stuff sitting around.

It probably doesn’t help that I grew up in a very traditional house – like, built in 1803 traditional – where there were clearly defined rooms, and now keep living in modern apartments with big (or small) amorphous kitchen-cum-dining-cum-living spaces.

It also probably doesn’t help that we don’t have that much stuff. We own nothing that the two of us can’t easily lift and move between us. (The worst pieces are probably the headboard of the bed and the queen-sized mattress.) That’s great for moving and reducing one’s carbon footprint, but not always for creating a welcoming space. That said, if the solution is “buy more/nicer furniture” I’m SOL for the moment because we don’t really have the money. (Leaving aside the fact that I’m married to someone who didn’t even think we should buy two plastic Adirondack chairs from Target, rather than one, because I was the one who wanted to sit on the balcony so why bother with two? It’s not that he’s at all stingy, it just doesn’t occur to him to want these things.)

It probably even more doesn’t help that we seem to accumulate piles and piles of little things – a lot of papers, but also just various odds and ends – without having much to put them in. So the clutter is endless. And without much furniture, it sits on the same few surfaces. (Including the floor, which drives me NUTS.)

But I refuse to think that the solution is simply buying more stuff (much as I enjoy buying stuff). So what do you do? How do you make where you live a welcoming place that soothes your soul and into which you can actually bring others? (I never entertain because I don’t like how the apartment looks.) Is there some way I can learn how to best arrange furniture for a given space? How do you do it???

The opposite of Schadenfreude?

It is sort of amazing to me how depressing it can be to find out who got a job you (okay, I) applied for and didn’t get (for which you weren’t even interviewed), even when 1) the person who got it is a friend, 2) the person who got it is eminently qualified (probably more than you are), and 3) you already have been offered, and accepted, what is, by many objective metrics, a “better” job.

Silly psyche.

(It’s also sort of amazing that my iPhone knows how to autocomplete Schadenfreude…)