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2012 in Review: It Comes Together

16 Jan

Cinco De Domo

Domo and I at a Cinco De Mayo Meetup, with a Domo hat!

2012 started as a year full of possibilities that were overshadowed by terrifying doubts. I was unemployed after finishing up a temp job at United Way in good standing. The job market was improving slightly, but it was still a recession. Two of my better friends in the northwest had to move away because of job woes. The lease on my apartment was expiring; suddenly, the questions disturbing my sleep ranged from how long could I live off my savings and meager unemployment; to where could I find roommates if I needed cheaper rent; to was living in Portland still even the right place for me? The flip-side, of course, is that finding roommates or taking on a promising new job or even living in a new town could all be exciting. I was nervous, but things turned around quickly. The doubts transformed into opportunities. 2012 transformed into a great year.

Instead of trying to weave together a narrative like I usually do, I thought the best way to reflect on this year would be to grade different aspects of my life and how I thought they turned out compared to my other years in Portland.

Career: A

Snow in Portland

We even had some snow in Portland!

To give you an idea where my expectations were at the beginning to the year: a 30-hour per week, $14 per hour job at a non-profit with limited benefits got me giddy with excitement. I considered there to be an above average chance that I’d be scrapping by with temp work until August, where I’d rejoin the seasonal United Way crew. Full-time jobs with benefits were the holy grail; nice to dream about, worth throwing my hat in the ring for, but lets be realistic. This is Portland. Rain and a crappy job market are the toll for living here. I knew that when I moved here.

This isn’t exactly a revolutionary sentiment, but I hate unemployment. When you live alone, being unemployed is a special kind of torture because you’re isolated from the daily interactions you’re used to. To quote South Park: “When you’re unemployed, weekends are meaningless.” I seriously considered taking on some menial contract work just to get out of the apartment in January. In this economy, I assumed I couldn’t turn down anything.

Work Team

The work team on an off-site

Lesson for me: think larger.

As I refined my application strategy, I started getting more responses, and finally the breakthrough happened: Yahoo! in Hillsboro, working as a Media Delivery Coordinator. A full time job! Benefits! A job title that sounds impressive on LinkedIn! Since then, it’s turned better than I even hoped for.

For once, I’m not the youngest person in the office. My coworkers are mostly fellow twenty-somethings, which adds some fun to daily interactions and the occasional off-site. While I worried my light web development/marketing background wouldn’t apply, it’s been a great advantage for me. The work involves a great level of responsibility and challenge without feeling like the world is on my shoulders (ahem, most of the time). There are short bouts of repetition, but I’ve had much worse at other jobs.

This job offers stability, which is an enormous relief. There was a lay-off scare early in the year, but these days it looks much better. For most of this year, I’ve focused on adjusting and just enjoying having stable employment. As the new year starts, I’m going to be thinking much more critically about where to go from here.

Social Life: B

It was a satisfying year! I used the stability the job offered to explore new opportunities. Domo and I are well-known on the Meetup scene, and I’ve become better friends with many of the Meetup regulars. More signs of progress: I made a good friend around the apartment complex; I had a great kickball team this summer; and I spend more time with my coworkers outside of work than at past jobs.

Kickball team!

Kickball team in Seaside!

Building a social network from scratch here in Portland was one of the most intimidating challenges I’ve ever faced. I’m an introvert at heart, but my life doesn’t feel complete if I’m not pushing myself to get out there and meet people. During my first year in Portland, I often felt anonymous. After a couple of years, I now feel like I’ve got a nice social network out here. It still doesn’t compare to Kansas City. Should it? Building intimacy and close friendships takes time. Sometimes I feel out of place in Portland.

As a sub-stratom of my social life, I’d give my dating something like a C-. I’m giving myself a harsh grade mostly because I’m trying to hold myself to a high standard. I’ve come a very long way in overcoming the shyness that gave me a reputation as “the quiet kid” back when I was young. Moving to Portland and building a social circle from scratch out here is testament to that. I take it for granted all the social situations I handle gracefully these days, but dating is an area which can bring out that old bashfulness. To make progress, I’ve got to push myself further out of my comfort zone.

That said: things were more interesting this year and some things may still develop. I just feel like I haven’t attacked this area with the assertiveness it deserves. Won’t be in my twenties forever!

Everything Else? B

Well, I moved to Beaverton and lost 20 pounds. At least one of those is good, right?

Beaverton remains a compromise but one that has served it’s function well. My commute is decent and on the weekdays I live in a very livable, convenient area. The weekends are a little more of a pain, but it’s nice that I live by the MAX line for trips downtown. It’s gotten me to many Meetups and a few farmer’s markets. I miss the East side quite a bit, though. My apartment is spacious and reasonably priced, but old. My lease expires in the summer. I’d like to move somewhere new, but I’m not sure where another good compromise would be.

Graduates!I adapted a much healthier lifestyle this year! I used to be known for my slothful bachelorhood, but these days I’m eating apples and drinking green tea. What brought about the change? Some alarming weigh-ins early in the year were quite the wake-up call! Won’t be in my twenties forever! I guess even now my metabolism is slowing down from tremendous to just very good. I took up weight-lifting, got on a regular running schedule and tried to avoid high fructose corn syrup where possible. I overshot my goals. I have more energy and feel a little more confident.

In other news, I had a few nice trips out of Portland. I enjoyed seeing Room 312 graduate back in Lawrence, spending a weekend in Seaside with the kickball team, taking a road trip up to Seattle with my old friend Eric and a very nice week in Chicago with my family. More traveling is a goal of mine, but I’m not sure where that would fit in 2013. I also watched way too much Netflix and invested too many hours into Xenoblade Chronicles.

So another year on the books! 2012 was a good one for me. It was probably the best year of my life since the AmeriCorps days. I don’t have any bold resolutions to unveil. Another year like 2012 would suit me just fine. But I want to keep challenging myself and have an eye for the future!

November Rain

2 Dec

Mimi at OMSI After Dark

Escape Domo! Great Costume at OMSI After Dark

We had a fantastic warm beginning to autumn here in Portland. August contained the rare couple of weeks where it’s actually too hot, but afterwards it settled into the kind of perfect autumn weather I remember in Kansas City-warm and comforting but with a certain briskness in the air. It carried me off into waves of nostalgia- Occupy protests last fall, my first few months in Portland, wistful nights in AmeriCorps, shuffling between classes at KU. Through September and into October, I was able to hold up my social schedule as well, hanging on to each moment of sunlight. But… the rain started on a Friday in mid-October, and it hasn’t let up since. This is Portland, after-all; there’s got to be a price for living in such a great town.

After the glorious summer, the last couple of months have been up and down. For one, the election was both exciting and nerve-wracking. My first two jobs post-college were stimulus-funded, so you can probably deduce my leanings and satisfaction with the outcome. Right after the excitement of that, though, some bad food poisoning  was a huge wake-up call. My formerly cavalier attitude towards expiration dates and some cooking habits are now long gone. It’s good for me to become more health-conscious, but it’s also a struggle sometimes to make sure the internet doesn’t drown me in hypochondria. I’ve made  that mistake before. WebMD and the average commenter on Yahoo! Answers is convinced I should be dead 20 times over. Regardless, I’ve glad this experience has given me a kick to the trinkets and motivation to right the ship. I’m still young, and my body can take a lot. I’ve improved a lot over the past year in this department. You’ll see me downing green tea and a apple each day, but I’m realizing more and more what I’ve taken for granted.

Eric visits Portland

Eric visits Portland

There have been some visitors recently! First we had my old friend and former roommate Eric visit town in early October. During the final week of great weather, I had a great time showing him around classic Portland spots like the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden and one of the famous poetry slams at Backspace Cafe downtown. While I  couldn’t take much time off work, I still gave him a taste for our local cuisine. We hiked up to Seattle for his final weekend. It’s a fascinating place, reminding me of Portland but with a stronger big-city feel to it. My two favorite highlights of the trip were probably eating fresh salmon by the waterfront and a science fiction museum that included, among other things, a Dalek used in Dr. Who, Captain Sheridan’s uniform from Babylon 5 and the captain’s chair from the original Star Trek. Sometimes you forget how nerdy you are until this sort of thing gets you giddy with excitement.

Family visit over Thanksgiving

Family visit over Thanksgiving

The second group of visitors was my family! They stayed at my place for Thanksgiving, and for the second year in a row we forewent a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a meal at Andina Peruvian Cuisine. It was superb to say the least. Our other plans were more of a mixed success as we had to deal with illness- first my brother and then me coming down with colds. Despite this, though, we managed to fit in trips to Powell’s, buying an Ipad for Mom, McMenamin’s beer and perhaps the best James Bond movie I’ve  ever seen, Skyfall. The family had some critiques of my apartment, so the good news is that my place is looking a few levels cleaner and polished than before. Always good to see the family! I’m really looking forward to heading back to Kansas City for Christmas.

I wouldn’t mind some sun while I was there! I love Portland and see myself here for a little while yet, but wintertime always has me dreaming about moving to a warmer climate someday. My social schedule has taken a hit but still pushes on. I’ve been to a handful of roller and ice skating Meetups. Can’t say my skill will win much praise, but the company was good. A couple other highlights were an excellent Dracula musical, OMSI After Dark on Halloween (where the costumes were jaw-dropping) and most recently the Yahoo! Chirstmas Party. I’m notoriously reclusive about parties- considering my distaste for alcohol- but it was an impressive set-up and a handful of quality Domo picture. As you can see, I’m still pushing through and getting out there, but I’d be lying if I said the winter grey wasn’t slowing me down. The last few winters have kicked me around with employment woes, break-ups and nagging health issues. Between grey skies, colds and food poisoning, this winter is off to an inauspicious start, but I’m still hoping for a better draw. Regardless of where December takes me, it’s been a fantastic year, and I’m looking forward to reflecting on it in my next update.

Glorious Summer

27 Aug

The beach at Seaside

The beach at Seaside

Hey there! It’s been awhile since my last update. In a soundbite: things are quite well! I’m six months into the job with Yahoo! and roughly five months into my life in Beaverton. In both cases, I’ve adjusted better than I could’ve hoped for. Outside of Portland, I’ve enjoyed a few vacations big and small. May brought me back to Kansas City to see off the Room 312 crew at graduation, I had a fantastic weekend with my kickball team out at Seaside in July and I’m not long removed from a wonderful family vacation in Chicago. Back in town, summer kickball has brought a lot of fun to my weekends while I continue to be a frequent sight on the Meetup circuit. And oh yes! Thanks to some healthier eating habits (I really had nowhere to go but up) and consistent exercise, I’m about 10 pounds slimmer. Being adjusted to the city and not having to panic about job-searching has really given me a chance to thrive.

Summer has been great, but spring, I admit, ranged from nice to awkward. Chilly weather stuck around until way into June. The job had a learning curve I was getting used to along with the seven others who started with me. I didn’t gel as well as hoped with my spring kickball team, who were part of the Recesstime league with aggressive pitching rules like high bounces. They were also way over on the east-side of Portland and required logging some miles on the old CRV. I was starting a new workout routine at the gym, and I was reading about five million pieces of advice about how you’re supposed to lift weights. When you start reading all this fitness advice, it makes you feel a little insecure!  I felt good about life, but there was still a sense that not everything was clicking into place.

Pizza Meetup with Nathan

Pizza Meetup in SE Portland

July, however, brought with it a string of fun weekends. I made some new friends and caught up with some old ones. The Japanese garden, another poetry slam, karaoke, pizza, an Iranian festival and an out-of-the-way Mexican food place highlight the last couple of months in Meetup action. Meetups continue to be one of my main avenues towards socializing and exploring Portland; to the point I sometimes wonder what I’d do without them! It really is the perfect way of using the internet to get off the internet. I’ve even been made an organizer now, though I’m waiting for a stroke of genius before I actually organize an event. I was so shy about Meetups when I first got to Portland, and now it’s crazy to think that a classic introvert like me is out there putting extroverts to shame.

Meanwhile in summer, the trip down to the coast with the kickball team was an incredible time- one of the best weekends since I came to Portland two years ago. This kickball team has been unique in that  instead of being composed of an established group of friends needing a few extra people, it was almost all strangers. There have been a lot of good times over the all-too-short season. When games were cancelled by rain, we went bowling over at Big Al’s in Beaverton, and I practiced with a couple of guys on a beautiful Sunday afternoon kicking the ball around and playing frisbee.

Kickball team!

Kickball team in Seaside!

For a team that never could choose a name other than the default Indy Team #1, we became fiercely organized once we learned that our teammate had a beach house and was inviting us all down for the weekend. As you might expect from a bunch of young people spending a weekend in the same house, I bore witness to many drunk hi-jinx. Making s’mores by the fire made me absurdly happy. Seeing the beach at night was a sight I won’t soon forget. And, of course, once you get past the epic sunburn, it was an amazing time spending the day on the beach playing bocce, throwing around the frisbee and flying my kite.

The following weekend, of course, I was in Chicago. You can look at my short blog post on it, but to summarize: Chicago is one of those magnificent cities that fills you with awe and makes a town like Portland or Kansas City feel small. I visited family, saw the major sites, and I got to spend some quality time with Fabio, one of my very best friends, before he had head back to Peru.

It’s been a great summer and a great time in my life- probably one of the best stretches I can remember since the spring of my AmeriCorps year. Of course, true summer in Portland is short-lived. As we’ve already started to joke around here, the colder, rainy season is already starting to creep up on us. The days get a little shorter; the mornings are a little colder. I’m getting ready for the new season. With kickball over, I’m going to work harder at making plans with people, which can be very challenging for me. I want to keep some of this momentum strong in what is really shaping up to be a fantastic year.

A Trip Home

18 May

Domo is proud of Fabio!

Domo is proud of Fabio!

Domo and I had the enormous pleasure this past weekend of traveling home to Kansas City to witness the graduations of two of my best friends, Room 312 alums Fabio and Andy! I was  a super-senior the year they entered as freshman, so I’ve really had the chance to watch them develop over their college years. Andy has managed to keep his big, colorful personality intact while growing into a stronger, more assertive person. Fabio has adapted to this new country and culture so well that many times I’ve almost forgotten the enormous obstacles and challenges he’s had to overcome to get to this point, so far from home. As you can tell, I’m very proud of both of them, and I’ve never believed in anything so strongly as I do their futures.

Of course, it was mother’s day as well, and there aren’t enough words to describe what my mom has done for me in life. I was only in town for a few days, but I manged to squeeze in a couple gatherings of old friends, a trip to the aquarium, my first experience with Mahjong, the Avengers and some of the best Peruvian food you can imagine. Yes, Peruvian food! Fabio’s mother was visiting for the occasion, and her cooking should be famous.

That’s just the cliff notes version of a wonderful trip. May the pictures add a few thousand words.

New Home, New Job, New Goals

10 Apr

Domo at the new apartment in Beaverton

Domo at the new apartment in Beaverton

It’s definitely been an eventful couple of months! After an arduous job search and a tiring apartment hunt, I’ve now settled into a great job at Yahoo! and a nice new apartment in Beaverton. It’s been an exciting and often exhausting transition. The decision to move to Beaverton in particular kept me pacing through circles of thoughts and indecisiveness for weeks. Suburbia? Will I really still have the ‘Portland’ experience? Etc. Starting a new job isn’t exactly a breeze either. However, as things are settling down a little, I find myself optimistic and confident about where I’m at and where I’m going.

Domo at Zelda Art Exhibit

Domo at Zelda Art Exhibit

Ever since I was laid off last June, life has been in a bit of a flux. United Way gave me a brief respite, but all along I knew I was soon to be thrust back into an unfriendly job market. So the questions floating over me for the past 8 months have usually been big ones like where will my next paycheck come from or will I even be living in Portland a couple of months from now or how am I going to find a roommate if all I can find is a part-time job. Pursuits like getting more exercise or dating or eating healthier were barely on the radar. As the transition to the new job and apartment is fading, though, it’s been nice to form a new routine and get to all these things I’ve been putting off. I’ve now got a gym membership, my dating situation is showing occasional signs of life and I’m attempting to cook a little more. I can focus on trying to get the most out of my weekends. The best part about having things settle down a little may just be that it exhausts my excuses about challenging myself.

Some recent exploits include trips to the zoo, the world’s smallest park, the PSU Farmer’s Market and a Legend of Zelda Art Exhibit; meanwhile some cool meetups have ranged from poetry slams to wine and cheese tastings to even a singles night. I’m writing to you from a new computer. With my 24-hour fitness membership only a couple weeks old, I’m already close to the best shape I’ve been in since last summer. For the near future, I’m looking forward to reuniting with my United Way friends at the Celebration for Caring banquet, learning some Flash development and visiting Kansas City next month to see two of my best friends graduate from college. I’m going to challenge myself to go out and meet people, especially when it comes to dating.

Whew! That’s life in a flash right now. As you can tell, I’m feeling pretty optimistic as the weather warms up.