Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Midwest

I ran across this quote in American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It sums up pretty much exactly what I think about the Midwest.

"Then we were back in Wisconsin, a place that in late summer is thrillingly beautiful. When I was young, this was knowledge shared by everyone around me; as an adult, I've never stopped being surprised by how few of the people with whom I interact have any true sense of the states between Pennsylvania and Colorado. Some of these people have even spent weeks or months working in such states, but unless they're midwesterners, too, to them the region is nothing but polling numbers and caucuses, towns or cities where they stay in hotels whose bedspreads are glossy maroon and brown on the outside and pilly on the inside, whose continental breakfasts are packaged doughnuts and cereal from a dispenser, whose fitness centers are a single stationary bike and a broken treadmill. These people eat dinner at Perkins, and then they complain about the quality of the restaurants.

"Admittedly, the area possesses a dowdiness I personally have always found comforting, but to think of Wisconsin specifically or the Midwest as a whole as anything other than beautiful is to ignore the extraordinary power of the land. The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills (far less of the Midwest is flat than outsiders seem to imagine), that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace. There is room to breathe, there is a realness of place. The seasons are extreme, but they pass and return, pass and return, and the world seems far steadier than it does from the vantage point of a coastal city.

"Certainly picturesque towns can be found in New England or California or the Pacific Northwest, but I can't shake the sense that they're too picturesque. On the East Coast, especially, these places--Princeton, New Jersey, say, or Farmington, Connecticut--seem to me aggressively quaint, unbecomingly smug, and even xenophobic, downright paranoid in their wariness of those who might somehow infringe up on the local charm. I suspect this wariness is tied to the high cost of real estate, the fear that there might not be enough space or money and what there is of both must be clung to and defended. The West Coast, I think, has a similar self-regard--all that talk of proximity to the ocean and the mountains--and a beauty that I can't help seeing as show-offy. But the Midwest: It is quietly lovely, not preening with the need to have its attributes remarked on. It is the place I am calmest and most myself."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Today was my last day at Trader Joe's. I didn't realize until this past week how weird and actually even hard this would be. I've worked there (albeit on and off) since I was 19. Since I started working at Trader Joe's I've lived in Naperville, Greenville, Washington DC, and Seattle. I've met Jeremy. I've graduated college. I've moved into an apartment of my own for the first time. I've learned how to use public transportation. And I've changed career paths like five times. It's a lot of change and I'm not a huge fan of recognizable change. I honestly prefer the type that sneaks up on you gradually.

Working there has not always been fantastic. It is often frustrating and ungratifying. There have people who I have not enjoyed working with and there have been customers that I would have very much liked to strangle. It often makes me hurt. Getting up at 3:00am unvaryingly sucks and not having a consistent work schedule makes planning anything but work a challenge. But by and large I have enjoyed my time there. Almost all of my coworkers in Naperville and many in Seattle are people who I have been blessed to know and work with. However mundane working a grocery store may seem, eating is nonetheless an essential part of life and getting food to people is a vital position to hold in society. I learned a lot about food, and about people, from working at Trader Joe's. I also gained confidence while working there, though that also has had to do with growing up, I think. But I was allowed time and again the opportunity to learn how to do new things and found (thankfully) that I could usually rise to the occasion. This is important because I often wonder if I'm ever going to be good at anything that's not school.

I'm glad to be moving on, I think. I never intended and still don't want to make Trader Joe's my career. Most of my angst at the moment is stemming from the contrast between Trader Joe's, where I am secure in my ability to do a good job, and what comes next at IHME, where I do not yet know that I will succeed. I hope that I will. Experience indicates that there is a good chance that I will. But we shall see.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beginning (again)

I've had this blog for some time, though I've never actually posted anything and until now it's been set as 'private' so that no one else could see it. Originally I intended to use it as a sort of journal, hence the private setting, but this, as with all of my attempts to keep a journal, fell rather flat. I've thought about keeping a blog for awhile now. I like the share with people the things that I am reading in the news and thinking about, which is why so many people at work probably don't like having their lunch breaks at the same time as me: I am incapable of Not Sharing whatever it is the news that I am reading about because I am also incapable of understanding how things I find interesting are not interesting to the rest of the world. And maybe a blog is a more polite way to share my thoughts with the world because in this way by simply not reading it anyone at all can politely decline to participate in what interests me in particular. At the same time, I have held off starting a blog for a long time because even though anyone can choose not to read it, I do feel that by making it available I am making a statement that I feel that what I have to say deserves an audience. After talking with two of my friends last night, both with blogs as it were, I decided to get over it. I believe that what others think has value and I enjoy reading my friends thoughts on blogs and facebook and the like. It's possible that there might be handful of people out there who feel the same way about me. And someday soon I might even tell them that this blog exists.