There’s a reason I never set a schedule here on my blog. It’s because I inevitably get caught up in whatever I’m doing at the time, whether that’s spending two months driving through the backroads in New Zealand or simply pondering the purpose and pace of the blog itself. And now, sure enough, I’ve been sufficiently preoccupied by my new life in Portland — and wondering, too, about the direction my sporadic musings should take — that, as is becoming habitual, I’ve pushed Literary Vittles to a dusty folder in the back of my mind.
I’ve settled into an 8-to-5 pace that forces me to wake up on time and do workout videos on the IKEA rug in the living room/dining room/kitchen if I have any hope of exercise. I limit myself to buying lunch once a week and make sure to eat a hearty breakfast each morning. After showing up at work looking like a sheep one day, I reluctantly admitted that it was time to start fixing my hair again. And I downloaded an app to keep track of which outfits I wear, and how often, which sounds ridiculous but is also ridiculously helpful. I hardly recognize the reliable person I’ve become in the short space of just one month, and it’s jarring to think about the other ways in which I’ll continue to adapt without question.
Starting a new job is always startling, for many reasons. There’s the adjustment to office-specific patterns of behavior and communication; how much corporate-speak will your colleagues tolerate? What’s the boundary between formal and informal, and when is it deemed appropriate to cross? Portlandians are exceptionally friendly and open and warm, and they don’t like to criticize others. Which, on the whole, is a wonderful quality, but from a practical standpoint, what it often means is that I’m left wondering if I’ve committed a terrible mistake that half the office isn’t telling me about. Very different from the direct triple-correction I’d receive each time I made an error in my New Zealand workplace.
I look back at my work history and realize that it’s strangely lacking in the private sector. There’s retail, but that’s another beast entirely. Nonprofits struggle with everything, from paying their bills to rationalizing to donors why those bills should be paid, and higher education is a strange and capricious thing with its enormous endowments and conflicting senses of self. In contrast, the private sector is fast, the answers to questions relatively straightforward, and existential crises regarding purpose/meaning/drive simply do not exist. Much has been written about these stereotypes already, but it’s strange how quickly I’ve arrived at many of the common conclusions.
How strange, too, that I’ve found such an environment in Portland. But, as Kiwis would say, it suits. There’s something to be said for punctuality and efficiency and being able to divide moments of work from moments of rest. In time, I’m sure I’ll come to understand.