Friday, August 28, 2009

Last Day of Work

Here I am, sitting in my dusky purple office chair for the last time, looking around at these dingy cubicle walls. The pine cone I picked up a year ago while taking a lunch time walk rests atop the messy patchwork scarf I knitted between calls; my wall is adorned with blue and white thumb tacks, bits of sentimental paper stuck to it. The Acrobat Man is smooshed between my two shelves, his inflatable head half cut off, his stylized legs ever running into a wall.

My collection of stolen plastic flags stick out from the wall, testament to my craftiness- there's blue, yellow, a pirate flag, the gold fabric flag that used to be run on the Adobe contract when the queues were clear at night... I have a Mario mushroom on a stick that I qualified as a flag, gifted me by a manager leaving the contract. And by 'gifted' I mean 'abandoned'.

All around me, I hear the oh-so-familiar mumble of indistinct voices, the same jingle day in and out- 'can you verify your email address...?' 'First name? And the last name?' 'What product is this on, then?' The verbal idiosyncrasies of my coworkers ring clear and true to me. I am used to these people, but even more accustomed to seeing their faces on day, gone the next. Every one of these people has a story, and only a few of them will end here, I hope. Very seldom do I talk to anyone who wants to remain here indefinitely. I remember a time when I was happy to be here. And yes, there was such a time- I recall it distinctly.

But that time has long faded. I should have left when it did. I can hardly stand the sight of this place, the smell of the building, the way the floor trembles when someone walks by on the cheap flooring, the constant sound of calls pouring in, data being collected, so much information that it simply becomes meaningless... I hate the sound the phone makes when the customer comes on the line, the insistent and demanding "HELLO??" when they hear it connect... but most of all, I hate the sound of breathing.

Maybe it's strange, to hate such a thing. I understand that people need to breathe. Breathing is, after all, quite a necessary part of being alive as a human being. I know that it is an irrational hatred. But for me, it's too close, too intimate, to listen to a stranger breathe... I don't want to be that close, to feel the soft wind of their exhalation across my ear. And that's what it makes me think of. It makes me feel sick. This strange idea has gotten worse in the past few months, to the point where it is grating enough to have me squirming in my chair. My most dreaded call is not, in fact, the screamer who calls me a c***- although I hate that call, I will admit; no, it is the Mouth Breather. The person who is incapable of breathing through their nose. Maybe they are congested, maybe they have some sort of disorder, or maybe they're simply winded by how angry they are to be on the phone with me- there are many factors which can, combined or alone, create the Mouth Breather.

Most often, the Mouth Breather is plenty polite. They do not yell at me or shriek obscenities in my ear. No... they just breathe. Long, wheezing breaths. Sometimes the phone moves, and there's a hopeful rustle- and then, the breathing again. Like my very own personal Darth Vader, 'hooooooo-chuhhhhhhhhhhh... hoooooooooo-chuuhhhhhhhhh'....

But today is my last day here. No more Mouth Breathers... at least, not for a while.


This morning, I began packing the trunk of my car with things like my boxes of books. This has reassured me. I have many, many things... but so far, everything is fitting according to plan. I'm a little concerned about the size of RJ's suitcase- namely, I don't know exactly how big it is. We'll just have to play it by ear, I guess. I'm feeling like everything will work out fine, though... I mean, I have EXTRA space.

RJ gets here at five thirty AM. This is a glorious time of day I like to call 'butt-early o' clock'... yet I'm not really mad about having to wake up at four to be ready and to pick him up. In fact, I couldn't think of a better reason to get less than six hours of sleep.

I already have a Plan. I'm making him get in the shower first thing, and then it will be time to sleep for a few hours. After that, using the rest of the eggs in the refrigerator, and the rest of the whole grain pancake mix for a good breakfast... then it is off to my last Karate class, where Sensei Nick can evaluate RJ for himself, heh.

I suddenly feel unready to leave, now that I've left the call center for the last time. An unsureness that shakes me to my bones, but trust me, it is too late to turn back now. Not that I want to. Well, okay, part of me wants to. But I ignore that part of me. The fear will do me no good.

Tomorrow, I leave Portland.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Waiting Game and Online Dating

I've turned in my notice at the place I rent and my job. I've packed most of my things, and gotten rid of most everything else. I've said goodbyes to various people and places. I've culled down my collection of books. I've driven to Goodwill. I've gotten my car checked out (and paid for expensive repairs to my brakes). I've consolidated all my disks to a disk case, and gathered up my food items to give to Aubra, who will be bringing them to the local food bank.

I still have things I would have liked to do that I don't think I'll have time for, such as Craigslisting my old Xbox and games and better organizing what few things I have. I still need to do that last load of laundry, and wash my bedding, just for good measure. I still need to see if all my Stuff will fit in my car.

But really, right now it feels as if I am trapped in stasis. Because I really don't have the time to sit by the phone waiting for someone to call me about the Xbox (I'll just take it with me and sell it when I get there.) There's little left to do, and I'd prefer to spend my time to myself... saying goodbye to all the people I know and have known is depressing, and I don't want to focus on that my entire last few days here.

But there are so many things I am anxious about! Will my stuff fit in the car? Will I have enough money? Will I be able to find a place to live, and a job, once I get to New Hampshire? Will I get hopelessly lost on the way there and end up out of gas and broken down in the middle of no where in the blazing desert sun? Have I lost my mind in deciding to do this? Is everyone just too polite to point out to me that I've lost my mind?

And then there's the additional complication.

I asked my long distance boyfriend from Georgia to come join me.

Perhaps it sounds crazy, but both of us are in places in our lives where we NEED to leave the nest, and what better way to test a fledgeling relationship except by putting tons of strain on it via a shared road trip with both of our Things?

I've kept kind of quiet about this aspect... because I know it sounds nuts. Because I'm a little embarassed to say that, yes, I met my boyfriend on WoW, and no, I've never actually met him yet. I know. I KNOW. 'You can't really know if it's the real deal if you meet online!' 'What if he's really a crazy stalker?' 'He might have lied to you about everything- you can be anyone online!' 'Anonymity breeds crazies!'

I know.

Trust me, I am aware of these potential issues. I'm also aware that, even if he's everything he says he is- and he has been nothing but honest with me in the year we've known each other- that there may simply be no chemistry between us.

I know the risks. But to be honest?

I'm more worried about the trip than this particular aspect of it.

I mean, if you're going to date long distance, you have to meet some time, don't you? If it doesn't work between us, we will both have the maturity to continue on with this and make it to our destination, where we can part and go our separate ways. This is a risk neither of us might have taken, without the push from the other. Just that makes it worth the risk, in my opinion. Because this is something I needed to do, and I don't know if I would have done it on my own.

So we'll see what happens. But this, too, factors into my fears. Because what if we do meet, and it isn't what we'd hoped? Just another thing to add to that dreaded List. What if my interpersonal intuition is way, way off and he's an axe murderer?

One step at a time. We'll see what happens.

He gets here on Saturday, early morning. We leave Saturday night.

So now... I'm just waiting.


I'm starting to get real sick of waiting, today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why New Hampshire?

In two weeks time, I am leaving Portland.

I am driving away, and I won't look back.

Only what can fit in my car is coming along. All the accumulated riff-raff and knick-knackery is departing my ownership. I am leaving a job, a home, and the place I have known my entire adult life- the city which is the closest approximation of belonging that I have.

"Where will go? And why?"

New Hampshire. And... honestly? I'm not sure.

When I was young, I lived in Vermont for several years. My grandparents still live there. But Vermont isn't New Hampshire... and I don't have contacts in the Granite state.

My impressions of the east coast are Vermont. Endless green hills, with quiet roads rounding the curves of the majestic mountain roots, their high peaks long eroded and gone... every so often, a gash of granite sprouting through the greenery. It is a place utterly unlike Oregon. The trees are different, the mountains are different, the air is different, the people are different. I spent a summer among the green hills, in a small town on Lake Champlain at my grandparents' house. Morning walks through clouds of mosquitoes, daily five mile treks around the island, wandering...

Looking into the local New Hampshire economy suggests that the job market there is more compelling than my native Oregon. But Vermont was always more difficult, in terms of employment. Taxes were higher. The cities were smaller.

New Hampshire allows me to be close to family- but not so close that I don't feel my independence.

New Hampshire echoes in my thoughts. The taste of it is subtly different from Vermont; the terrain is less elegantly rounded, a little rougher feeling. The woods are darker, somehow.

In the three years since I've turned eighteen, I have struggled to keep my obligations to a minimum. I have avoided pets, boyfriends, debt- all with the intention that I would remove myself from the comfort zone, and travel the world.

I went out and got my Teaching English as a Foreign Language/Second Language (TEFL/TESOL) certificate with this intention, and yet, here I am, still working at a call center, feeling trapped and increasingly unhappy. Why?

It's easy to fall into the trap. I'm safe here. I have a (somewhat) stable job, I make above minimum wage... and yet...

It's too easy to say 'someday'.

What's keeping me here? Recent changes in the workplace have rendered me with a startlingly high amount of job disatisfaction. I have very little left of a social circle, due to my anti-social nature and dislike of telephones. The economy in Portland isn't getting any better, either.

So here I am; I'm 21, working a job that feels all too much like a dead end, wondering when my life is going to start.. but what am I waiting for?

Snap out of it.

I do have control. I am alive, and opportunity isn't going to fall in my lap. Wake up and smell the city of roses, people. Instead of feeling paralyzed and unable to change, just do it.

So that's what I'm doing.

Instead of continuing to escape reality through video games and burying my head in the pillows to stifle the screams, I'm going to take this risk. I am not the only person in the world who has felt trapped. I am not the first person to abruptly uproot and move away.

So, here goes, world. This is my story. I'm holding my breath, and waiting...

Two weeks until I leave Oregon.