Possibly one of my last articles for the DN. Thanks Brian for actually doing due diligence and reading the policy manual. Stay tuned for further updates...
Possibly one of my last articles for the DN. Thanks Brian for actually doing due diligence and reading the policy manual. Stay tuned for further updates...
They give me top billing but this article is so much better than the one I submitted! Mine was technical and researchy and arch-speaky. This one is interesting, fun, relevant, and so much cooler!
Thanks Maria & Andrew for being so smart and giving me the opportunity to help!
Every year it sinks in slowly. It dawns one moment at a time, shifting from surreal and unexpected to old and comfortable. It is that bicycle I never forget how to ride. I am home. This is my home.
Today I woke to a small, warm, soft, grumpy weight lying on my chest and purring. I dozed and somehow still managed to pet the cat, who would cry loudly each time I stopped, until the radio come on to the soothing and disturbing tones of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. I listened with half a mind to excerpts from the Democratic National Convention, disturbing stories from Afghanistan and Georgia, and an interesting piece on the perception of climate change in rural Nebraska. Then I noticed it was raining. Not simply raining, it was thunder storming. Ah…a good Nebraskan thunderstorm.
I rose and checked my windows, noting the direction of the wind and strength of the rain. Seeing no danger to my electronics or furnishings, I left the windows open and enjoyed the cool breeze and rumbling clouds. I brushed my teeth, made coffee, and found my pants lest I give the state workers three stories below more of an eye opener than they were expecting. Then I settled into my office which occupies the whole of my small dining room, watching the rain, the people, the cars, and sipping from a warm cup. I admired the State Capitol Building as I do each day.
I am attached to this place, I though as I added a little more hot water to the instant coffee in my cup from the antique corian pot I keep on my tiny gas stove. Oh yes. The feel of the colorful rag rug under my bear feet in the kitchen, the sight of father walking his two kids to the elementary school down the block, shooing my cat away from her destruction of my poor potted plants, the satisfaction I feel when I look across the length of my tiny apartment and call it mine, all of it is attachment. On Saturday my mother commented on trying to sell my apartment to a few of her coworkers whose children were reaching college age. I realized I don’t want them to sell it. I love my apartment and I would like to keep it even though it is very unlikely I will remain in Lincoln after college.
Yesterday, I stood in a very long line at the bookstore. The manager was bustling about like a caffeinated squirrel. “Thank you for being here,” he cheerfully told the hundreds of book-bearing students standing in line. I thought it was such an odd remark, no matter how happy or sincere. “Like there was an option,” I mumbled out loud and the girl behind me chuckled. I was already falling back into an old mindset. The cynical mindset through which I have always viewed my formal education was dropping back into place.
I headed up the familiar steps of Architecture Hall and greeted by name the faculty and staff of the Planning department on the third floor. A professor told me it would be difficult to leave this place when I graduated in two years. I wasn’t so sure. I had left very successfully and hardly missed it for two summers in a row. I had just gone and dropped this life like a dead fish and taken up a new life and made that home for over three months. Then I reluctantly return to this life and everything, all the old habits come settling back into place like a set of winter clothes, freshly aired out after a long summer packed away in the attic.
That suit of clothes includes every defense mechanism I have build up over a decade of college and a lifetime of public education before that. It includes a Twain-like sense of cynical humor, a strong dose of skepticism for anything the so-called learned professors have to teach me, a hearty helping of detachment, a refuge in my little home high above it all, and enough intellectual candy (writing for the paper and attending senate debates) to keep me slogging through the tedious reading assignments, homework projects, and mind numbing lectures.
And that is just my expectations talking. That is the cynicism and skepticism. Truth be told, I like what I do. I love architecture. I love planning. I enjoy the faculty; they are, by and large, good people. Writing op-eds and arguing over legislation are important, not simply to keep myself happy. They are am important opportunity for service and, when approached with the proper mindset, a way to put others first.
Yet I continue to cling to that old set of clothes. I keep thinking it will get cold soon. Three classes with three professors, a thesis project, thesis mentor, thesis client, my editor, my bosses at RMI, all making competing demands on me. I might just need that armor, that protection, that warm set of clothes.
Then again, maybe not.
I do a very good job of ignoring unpleasant things. For a week I have been ignoring my computer and ignoring my blog, not because they are unpleasant, but because writing often makes me face myself. It makes me look squarely at the things which are going on in my life. I don’t really want to look.
So many good things have been happening to me. My job is going well. I had a lovely send off. They got me cake and a card and sang (which was odd, but much enjoyed). I got a little vacation up in the mountains staying with a friend at the center. My drive home was smooth. My cat is even happy to see me (though she won’t admit it and continues to grump, but she follows me around). I’m back in Nebraska and getting ready for a new semester. My mother took tomorrow off so we can do something fun. My birthday is coming up in just a few days.
But I feel like I left something behind. I left someone behind. I’m not one to be mooning over a man. Or so I keep telling myself. We’re just friends. Friends who are sometimes more than friends, at least, when we’re less than five hundred miles apart. Ah, shit.
I wanted that serious relationship, didn’t I? Wasn’t that what I was crying over when I got back to Nebraska last summer? Did it materialize in the interim? Nope. So I’m not tied down this spring when I head back to Colorado and that more than friendship has ample opportunity to resume. And it’s good. It’s more than good. Things go well. He’s grown. I’ve grown. We’re both in better places in our lives. We’re happier, easier on each other. We both learned a lot last summer. We’re comfortable around each other. That might not seem like much, but it’s the most I’ve ever had. It’s wonderful.
But, shit. What the hell am I supposed to do about it? We don’t exactly want the same things. I’ll be honest with myself. I want him. And he…well, he wants me when I’m around. Otherwise he wants to stay in Colorado, at the mountain center for two more years at least. Which is fine; I think it’s a good place for him. I’m going to be here in college for two more years anyway. But he doesn’t want a long distance relationship. I can respect that, even understand it. The trouble is, my insecurity gets to talking. My ego butts in. Even if I were there or he were here, then what? Would he even want a serious relationship at this time? I kinda doubt it. He needs to grow into who he is as a person. He’s four years younger than I am. That sounds like so little time, but when you’re a young adult, so much can happen in four years. I got that four years and so much changed. Doesn’t he deserve the same?
I can be patient. I’m good at that. The question is, should I? It’s not a very good policy to pin your hopes on what someone may or may not feel or want years from now. Especially when what they may or may not want in the present is questionable. I’m not going to sit around on my ass pining, that’s for damn sure. I've spent enough time waiting on that boy. (He's never on time.)
Damn. I’ve just been to one too many weddings this year. My cousin Jeff. My brother. But the coup de grace was Stalios and Jermaine, who got married in the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya three days ago with their families, friends, and all the staff of Shambhala Mountain Center in attendance. A Greek from Texas married a Chinese girl from Toronto in a Tibetan stupa in Colorado. It was very awesome.
I don’t want to get married. Not right this minute. But damn, it would be nice to have someone to talk to on a regular basis. It would be nice to have someone to tease and bug and who will bug me in return. It would be nice to have someone who will smile real big when they see me and greet me with a kiss even when they had a bad day. It would be nice to have someone to wake up to in the morning. Like the last few mornings, the last few before I left and drove to Omaha yesterday.
My mother bought a new bed for the guest room. It is a very pretty and fits so nicely in that room. It is a twin sized daybed. Absolutely no chance of sharing that with anyone. Even the cat thought it was too small for two last night. So it was very lonely as I went to bed last night, not only because they bed wasn’t big enough for two, but because the person I would have specifically liked to share it with was not there.
Oy vey. My brain is turning to mush. Absolute mush. Here I am obsessing over what cannot be changed. Damn, I’m glad he doesn’t read my blog. He would probably keel over.
I did realize one thing, while I was watching Jermaine and Stalios getting married, with all their friends there, all these other couples who are officially couples, some even though they live far apart. You shouldn’t fail to tell someone you love them simply because you are afraid of whether or not they want to hear it. I tell people I love them all the time. I tell my friends and my family. But I never told him, because popular culture dictates that when you’re in an even remotely romantic relationship is a guy (especially one as casual as ours), you don’t tell them you love them first because you don’t want to scare them away. You don’t say that thing because they will freak out and run screaming into the hills never to be seen or heard from again. Right?
Well, I figured out that was a piss poor reason and I’d never let pop culture dictate my behavior before, so I did tell him that I loved him. He did not run screaming into the very beautiful and completely accessible surrounding hills. He commented that I’d never said that before, kissed me, told me he loved me, and then went back to work while I got in my car and left. Totally anticlimactic. Not even any descent theme music. And yet, totally satisfying all the same.
Sad, but in that good sort of way where you actually feel that heartbroken feeling Chogyam Trungpa is always talking about, that sore spot that happens when you start to peel back the layers of protection that insulate you from the world. And that leads to a curious sort of hope. Not a hope that someday he’ll want all the same things I want and we’ll live happily ever after. Just a hope that comes from knowing that even if that doesn’t happen, things will be okay. Things will be better than okay, they’ll be good.
Because, basically, the world is good.
My last day, probably the only day I’ve woken to rain since I’ve been here. Boulder is invariable sunny, cheerful, and warm. As if to push me on my way, a front blew in yesterday on a chill west wind, with some of the first true rainclouds I’ve seen. Normally the rain seems to skip over Boulder, where it is snuggled up against the mountains. It lands further east on the Colorado plain, over places like Greeley and Fort Morgan. Not today.
Yesterday we holed up in a little conference room far away from RMI and ran through Chapter One paragraph by paragraph, picture by picture, graph by graph. Today I have three pages of hand scribbled notes, mostly small things, typos, misaligned text, etc., but enough larger pieces to keep me busy next week as I travel. It’s all coming together and we are moving on to the next pieces of the puzzle.
We rode in the wind and the rain and the lashing trees. It was exhilarating and fun. Then we settled in for the evening at a trendy restaurant on Pearl street for wine, appetizers, and dessert. While there, we ran into other co-workers who had the same idea for entertaining some new client partners who just arrived in town. The rain let up for the walk home. I spied a long haired black and white cat coming out the front gate of one of the picturesque cottages in my neighborhood and we had a lovely chat and pet. It makes me look forward to seeing my own feline alter ego in a few short days.
This morning a few of us dashed out of the office to stand in the rain for free tulip bulbs. On the downtown Pearl Street Mall thousands of tulips bloomed this spring. Then they faded and were replaced with midsummer flowers. The city of Boulder buys new varieties of tulips every year and a two block line had formed by the time we got there to happily accept this year’s bulbs. People casually chatted under the cover of umbrellas and hoods about the best times to plant and how to propagate the precious bulbs.
I will miss this laid back office, where everyone just does their job because they want to, not because their boss is peering over their shoulder. In fact, the bosses are in such demand on so many projects that they are usually flying to far-off locales and not even in the office. People work on evenings and weekends because they have a drive to get things done, but no one bats and eyelash when someone takes off for a mid-day tulip run. We trust each other to get the work done.
This afternoon they have rolled open the garage door facing into the courtyard and fired up the grill. Even though it is raining, hamburgers and barbeque chicken keep coming. Everyone gathers just inside while David, the HR manager, braves the rain to keep the hot food coming. A small crew of workers here to install some new office furniture take advantage of the generosity to dig in and join the conversations taking place over key lime pie.
Today is my last day in this office, but I am looking forward to the next few weeks. Tomorrow I load my car for the long road back. I have a little free time yet before school starts and my life tries once again to go spinning off the rails.
I’ll be back soon; I’m not that easy to get rid of.
A friend of mine recently wrote a post “Advice to my fifteen year old self.” I identified with her advice. Much of it mirrored my own mind. Yet, when all is said and done, I’m not sure I would give any advice to my fifteen year old self. I would not change my past, even the painful moments. I like who I am and where I am, even if it took a circuitous route to get here. However, I have often thought should I have a child even remotely like myself who found herself in even remotely the same situation, there are definitely a few things I would tell him or her. (Of course, if he/she was like me, he/she probably wouldn’t listen.)
Screw the paycheck. Don’t take that job serving burgers and fries. Go do something worthwhile with your summer, like work with Habitat for Humanity and learn about how houses are built, as I should have done when my Grandfather was a foreman. In return, at the end of the summer, I’ll help you buy your first car (an all electric, non-polluting one, of course.)
Drop out of school. Go take classes at the local community college so you can get your GED and some job skills in half the time.
Work for a year, spend nothing, and live at home. That way, before you head off to college, you’ll have a year to spend backpacking in Europe. (And as your mother I’ll try not to worry or nag too much.) Four weeks of travel is more education than a four year degree.
Don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand. Don’t let stuffy college professors make you feel like a fool because you don’t understand. College is for learning. If we already knew it all, we wouldn’t need to go.
Don’t feel like you have to go to college. Don’t feel like you have to make a “descent living.” Follow your muse. Try things on for size. Be a starving artist if you want to. Builds character, as Calvin’s dad would say.
Be responsible. Understand the consequences of your actions. Have enough confidence to realize that whatever happens, you can work with it. At the same time, always know you can ask for help and don’t feel guilty when you do. It’s not a weakness to admit you’re in over your head. You are not a failure.
Stay away from credit cards.
Don’t try to put down roots too quickly. Stability is overrated.
Don’t mistake disagreement for disapproval. I know we’re not going to have the same opinions on everything. Think for yourself and don’t be afraid to tell me what you think even if you know I don’t agree. Just don’t expect me not to do the same.
Make friends with people who make you uncomfortable.
Find a sport/hobby/club/activity that you can share with others.
Be happy. Anger, sorrow, frustration, and all that young adult angst harm the bearer the most and when inflicted on others only come back to bite you in the ass. You are the only one with the power to determine your own happiness or unhappiness.
Don’t fulfill society’s expectations. It is much easier to exceed them.
Don’t fear intimacy.
The Boulder Public Library, of which I have become an avid fan, sits next to Boulder Creek. More accurately, it sits over Boulder Creek. The entrance to the community art gallery and theater borders Canyon Boulevard on the north; a narrow addition containing a café, gift shop, and free book shelves spans the creek to connect to the main library which borders Arapahoe Avenue on the south. Between these two streets runs the Boulder Creek and Boulder’s Central Park, an open grassy areas with steps leading into the creek, trails for walking and cycling, and an amphitheater shell for concerts.
On particularly scorching days, I escape my non-air conditioned cottage and head for the Library. After a satisfying search, I head with an afghan and my treasures to the shady grass under the tall cottonwoods by the creek. It is usually quite busy, full of people walking dogs, riding bicycles, wading in the still cold water, and tubing down the little rapids. The air is cool there, thanks to natural air conditioning. There are always lots of families and lots of children.
Once I watched a young father. He sat in his swim trunks, flip flops, and baseball cap, on the green grass next to the Library garden. Boulder is full of beautiful people and he was certainly no exception, but what caught my eye was the tow-headed toddler curled in his lap, leaning contentedly against his bear chest. The man was speaking to the child, what I could not hear, but I could see his mouth move and a smile crinkle the corner of his eyes. The child listened, his little fist curled by his chin. After a while, the child hopped up and when running across the grass, where it made a slight bowl. He ran up one side and down the other to where his still-sitting father caught him before he did it all over again. He smiled and laughed. After a while he returned to sit on his dad’s lap, chattering vigorously, then eventually curled up again to rest. Soon the whole scene was repeated. Both father and child seemed so very happy, so content to just wile the day away on the grass next to Boulder Creek. I watched them surreptitiously from behind my novel.
I have never been on the Mommy Track. I have occasionally thought I might like to have children someday. I have always believed that when that someday arrived, I would see to it, whether that day included a man in my life or not. I always felt it would be preferable, but I wasn’t going to hold out. My opinions hasn’t really changed, and yet….and yet….
Watching that father and son, I realize I would want that for my child. I would want to know there was someone with whom he or she could chatter and lean against and run through the grass with. I would want my child to be that happy. I would want to know my child had someone with whom he or she could be that happy, should anything happen to me, even just in the event that I couldn’t be there every hour of every day, which is more than likely.
I’m still not holding out, and yet…
What does a one-eyed dog, Yellow Submarine, a dead cow, campsite cosmos, Minnesota rummy, a yurt, pin ball, zoom floom, giant all-natural bean bag chairs, and special brownies have in common? All of these things can be found at my department retreat. And just a special note, the brownies came after, not before, everything else.
I love my job.
Written Friday, August 1, 2008.
Team building is just another way to torture introverts. Extroverts express desires for togetherness ignorant of differences – blithe and happy in their belief that all love “getting to know you” like the Julie Andrews song. Introverts are excruciatingly aware of their failures to conform to the ideal of the “social animal.” Perhaps it is an argument against evolution that this trait has not yet bred out.
Introverts can learn to deal, to tolerate, to fake it, even to acquire a taste, but there are limits and tolerances in all tings and some will always need cream in their coffee. Six hours, a measly six hours, in the company of two dozen people I like and my head pounds. I feel trapped, surrounded, and I seek any distraction which will allow me to withdraw into the safety and comfort of my own mind, even if it is just writing in my notebook.
But I must push on – move beyond my comfort zone – persevere – and seek equanimity – for it is the only way to grow.