Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Caroline's Comprehensive Coffee Consumption

If I were to blog about my life in Austin, it would largely be a blog about local cafes. I love working from home — seven years of homeschooling prepped me well for that — but I don't feel completely whole when I'm in my apartment 23 hours of the day. (That one special hour out is reserved for my near-daily Lady Bird Lake Trail run). So on days when I have a large enough gap in my schedule without any major client calls, I bike or drive to a cafe. I haven't compiled a comprehensive list yet of all the places I've been to, but I'd estimate it's close to 15. I definitely don't want this to be a daily habit, as one $3 coffee five days a week x 50 weeks = $750 in a year. But it feels somewhat necessary as I need the variety, and because I work much more comfortably in a cafe than in the Trilogy office downtown. (Trilogy is the parent company that founded Crossover.)

So I've made it my personal mission to try every Austin cafe. During the week I'll visit and work at the ones that have wifi, and on the weekends I'll check out the ~disconnected~ ones. I'm evaluating them on ambiance (which includes decor, seating, and personality), price, menu variety, quality of coffee, and quality of any edible offerings I sample. I'll try to visit each one twice before making a final conclusion.

Here's to America's favorite drug*!

(*caffeine, if that wasn't obvious)

EDIT: Clearly, this idea never actualized: When I was spending 10+ hours per day on my laptop for Crossover, the last thing I wanted to do was spend my free time gazing at the same screen. It was a good idea, though. Maybe some day...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Broken Circle

My compost bin is quiet like a tomb. The dark, moist soil lies still as a corpse.

But the corpses are gone. Thousands of tiny carcasses were scraped off the top of the soil, where they had futilely sought escape as they writhed in heart-wrenching anguish, their cells collapsing in the oven of my sun-baked car.

Their absence is a wistful ache in my heart. I want to laugh at myself for getting attached to a box of earthworms, but I'm genuinely too sad to laugh. I hate the way they died. I hate that I think about it every time I throw away an apple core. I hate that my generator of life was so quickly transformed into a mass grave for such amazingly productive creatures.

I loved the entire concept of vermicomposting: how my food scraps, otherwise destined to contribute more toxic greenhouse gases than anything else in a landfill, were food for earthworms that contributed nutrient-rich castings to the box of soil in which they lived. Hidden in my kitchen closet, they diligently broke down every banana peel and every broccoli stem before it could rot. I marveled at their efficiency. I took pride in talking down the incredulity of every person who wondered aloud, "But doesn't it smell?" The compost bin was a self-contained box of life-nurturing soil in a society where dirt is thought of as simply a nuisance, where food can be considered trash, where earthworms are assumed to be unimportant or useless or gross.

For eight months they neatly transformed my trash into gourmet food for plants. And then they roasted to death, in masse, in the backseat of my car. Is it really so incomprehensible that I'd mourn that?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

"The Real World"

I've always hated when people refer to life after college as "the real world." Was college not real? I suppose some people coast through college by achieving the bare minimum to be considered "successful" — that is, eligible for employment in a mediocre 9-to-5 contributing incrementally towards some generic product or service with dubious impact on anyone's well-being (from the overpaid CEO to the underpaid janitor to the mind-numbing dullness of every employee's monotonous life).

To me, that's a terrifying nightmare. A kind of soul-dying against which I will rage, rage until the sun sets on my life.

Much of what I did in college was low-consequence practice for higher-consequence responsibilities that I face now that I've graduated. But lower consequences doesn't mean less real. The work I did for The Daily Tar Heel was some of the highest-consequence undertaking I think I'll ever perform, unless I have the luck of reporting for a newspaper with an even bigger audience in my future. Yes, being a student gives you special permission to make mistakes in most peoples' eyes. But I still took very seriously the duty I carried as a representative of every organization with which I was affiliated at UNC.

A month into life "in the real world," my four years of college still feel so much more real to me than I can ever imagine full-time work feeling.

And yet I'm here, and this is my life now, and somehow I've got to make the most of it. I vehemently defy the cloying clawing quicksand of routine, that subtle sink into "your normal, hardworking, quietly desperate species of American."* That will never be me, even if it's an uphill battle the entire way.

Right now I have a job that requires me to sit on my computer for 50+ hours per week — something I never thought I could endure. But the work is engaging and challenging. I'm learning all kinds of skills and processes at a nearly overwhelming rate. The salary is generous, and I can work from anywhere in the world. So I'm making small sacrifices for major advantages. And it's all worthwhile as long as I'm able to keep the balance of priorities in my life — feeling productive, constant learning, maintaining physical and mental health, engaging with people who challenge and inspire me, opportunity for exploration, and room for spontaneity.

For now, I think I can sustain at least a tenuous balance of all those things — the list of requisites to my happiness. I feel like I'm driving blindly into a foreign universe, but even "Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay"** — so with a sort of apprehensive excitement, I steel myself to stay deliberate and optimistic. Because what is "real," anyway? I work, therefore I am?

*David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
**Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"