A slow adjustment

I’ve been at my job for a month now; it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, and already I’m not the new person anymore. We’re hiring at an exponential rate, so people who have been there since November are considered veterans. I have talked to a lot of people and I have a group I eat lunch with, but I’m not really all that close with anyone. I’ve been so lucky in the past; at SNP, I met Eileen (among others), who became one of my closest friends. At OCSEA I met Stacey, even though I had to wait a lonely year and a half for her to get there. At my job now, everyone is within a couple years of my age and well educated, funny-by-job-requirement and wildly interesting — almost to a fault. This sounds bad, but I don’t exactly feel special there.

I had an image of myself as a brave, mysterious go-getter who dropped everything to move to the big city and start over. The thing is, that describes about half the people I work with. And I can’t really play that bashful, “Oh, I’m so very new in town” card I used at the store because, let’s face it, I’ve been here five months now. Some people I talked to my first day had been in Chicago a week and moved out of state just to work at my company. They win!

So I guess I am feeling a little rocky with my social life here. As always, thank GOD for John and Christina, but they can’t be my whole world, as content as I might be with that. I’m here to start over. In Columbus, I had a healthy network of people from Muskingum who knew and liked me, and college was the setting in which that started. Everything was so much easier in college, and especially meeting new people. SNP was a really welcoming environment, but I do remember feeling really self-conscious and anxious in my first several weeks there, wanting too badly to be liked; I’m remembering that all too well this month. I’ve gone out a couple of times with the folks I eat lunch with and this past time I got into a really great conversation with one of the guys about music, failed relationships, and music that reminds us of failed relationships. I’m going to try to go out with some different people this Friday, but to be fair, that was what I told myself I’d do this past week and I chickened out.

One of the first people I met was my desk mate, and aside from me asking her the occasional question, we barely spoke for the first two weeks. Then, the week before last, we met in the break room waiting for coffee.

She complimented my Ohio-shaped pendant necklace I’d bought myself when I was home to celebrate my recent employment with money I hadn’t earned yet. I thanked her, and then absentmindedly repeated something someone had said to me about how Ohio’s an attractively enough shaped state and that you just wouldn’t have the same kind of necklace if you were from Utah or something. About halfway through this joke I remembered my desk mate hailed from somewhere near Salt Lake City, but I was too far gone and didn’t dare trust myself to come up with another hideously shaped state in the time it took me to finish this quip that was doomed to fall flat. (This is why you don’t recycle other people’s jokes.) So rather than stop mid-breath, I finished and laughed awkwardly. She made a face.

“A Utah one wouldn’t be so bad,” she said and changed the subject. I was sure we would never be friends. I wish instead the first thing I’d said about Utah was about driving through it last summer on that cross-country road trip and being absolutely astounded by its beauty and depth. But nooooo, I had to go and make a crack about how her home state is shaped like a Lego piece.

But then, last Friday, she vented to me about a problem she was having with a project. I said something and she laughed. Then I told her some of the crazy things I’d been faced with that week and suddenly we were having a normal conversation and I wasn’t insulting her family or anything.

She also commented on the illustrated cover art of the copy of “The Portable Dorothy Parker” I was carrying around last week and it turns out she is a comic book artist in her free time. She even shared some of her work with me and it’s pretty cool looking.

It had been a rough week and to thank us for our hard work, our supervisor passed out warm cans of Miller Lite. I turned to my desk mate and said, “This is a weird place to work.”

She raised her drink toward mine and their impact made the sound only two half-full cans of beer can possibly make.

“Cheers to that,” she said.

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