Boston, So Far

I have… 

  • fallen in love with my gym (Healthworks Fitness Center); started taking spin classes, working out with a trainer once per week and getting after it
  • visited New York twice; once with a friend from Ithaca for the Fitocracy meetup and once to see Ricky Martin (et al) in Evita on Broadway
  • gone to the tree lightings at Faneuil Hall and Copley Square
  • attended the Trinity Church (pre-)Christmas service
  • walked different parts of the Freedom Trail simply because I was on my way to another bar
  • learned how to knit from CMcMac
  • seen my job adapt and transform to fit me and my company best
  • had to take a cab home to Revere three times
  • seen a snow-covered Atlantic beach at 2 a.m.
  • decided I never want to own a cat
  • experienced my very first hurricane

Wisconsin Layover

I meant to post this all on my last morning in Wisconsin, but last-minute packing and errands got the best of me and I’m really only finding time to review and post this now – my third day in Boston. Sigh – oh well.

I worked my last day at my Chicago job on Thursday. Mostly packed up and ready, I went out for a low-key last-night-in-Chicago dinner. Friday morning came early; my brain wouldn’t let me sleep with all the little odds and ends I still needed to wrap up.

It was all done in time for the movers though and by 11 a.m., we were on the road with the smallest U-Haul truck to put my whittled down collection of belongings in storage in Wisconsin. The ride was smooth; overall, the day was pleasant. I didn’t love saying goodbye to my last Chicago friend, but with that the layover in Wisconsin truly began.

Per tradition, Friday night = fish fry, bowling, and beer. And it was lovely. But I was exhausted, and done before 10 p.m. Sleep is better in Wisconsin – the nights are darker, the world is quieter. When Saturday morning came around, I was ready for a full day.

I am taking full advantage of my last few responsibility-free days. Saturday started with an indulgent coffee treat. We threw in a bike ride on a gorgeous gravel trail. Our first time really biking the area, my brother and I did a quiet, easy 8.5 miles. We then hit the driving range for my first golf lesson which was a blast. Of course, the night wrapped up with a game of Scrabble. (I did appallingly bad. I think my final score was like 80-something. Shameful.)

Sunday was the big day though – family fun day. I started the morning off on a solo bike ride. Saturday’s easy ride was nice but I wanted more of a challenge, and got about 15 miles in. In the afternoon, we had a nice overlap of time where everyone could be here: my parents, all of my siblings, and my nieces and nephew. We went on a mini-hike in the “woods” behind our house, though the kids did not exactly appreciate the nature in the way I had hoped for. We played catch during the requisite cookout though, and I taught my niece how to properly throw a football. (Proud aunt here!) Sunday night, of course, was for cribbage – we’ve already hit bowling and Scrabble, after all.

Monday started with crossing my fingers while my baby brother took (and passed!) his driver’s test. My mom and I hit the gym – my first time back at true strength-training in a long time. We shopped a little, of course. And then we headed up to Oshkosh to check out my old stomping grounds – the history department at UW-Oshkosh. The new building is beautiful, very student-friendly; I sure wish they had that when I was there! Then we drove a bit north and watch the aforementioned brother slip into his alter ego super sweeper superhero role. (They tied.)

There was nowhere better to be on Monday night than in Wisconsin – Monday Night Football, Packers vs. Seahawks! We all indulged in my favorite pizza. I sipped on my serendipitously discovered Tyranena Lake Mills beer. (I had it once in Chicago a few years ago and have not been able to remember what it was called or find it again until this weekend.) And then the game took a turn for the worse… we will not rehash it here, but it was acutely felt.

My last full day in Wisconsin, Tuesday, my sister and I took to the gravel portion of the bike path. As you can see in all of these photos, it’s a gorgeous path, lined with trees and providing real Wisconsin nature basically in the middle of town. All of those pictures above are from my longer solo bike ride. What a beautiful ride… what a beautiful home. The hometown layover was wonderful, a perfect way to set up bouts of homesickness now in Boston.

My sporadic blogging is about to become even less reliable. I need to settle into a basic routine and then add all these extra back in. I trust you will find a way to carry on.

Breaking Down Becoming a Bostonian

Most importantly, current countdown status…

9.5 more days of work, 15 days until I leave Chicago for a brief layover in Wisconsin, and 19 days until my flight to Boston… 19 days!

I am ready for this move, better prepared and more excited than any of my other big moves. While that definitely sets me up for success, it also introduces room to take on too much, too quickly. It doesn’t feel as intimidating or overwhelming as other big movies I’ve made, but my logical brain keeps pinching me to remind me that this is a lot.

The job, for starters, is very different than what I do now in some key ways and is going to require something of a paradigm shift for me, in how I think about work and “going to work.” There are going to be long days and a lot of new information and while I am one hundred percent excited and on board with that, it would be irresponsible to deny that it’s going to be an adjustment and that it’s going to take a lot of energy (and caffeine).

Though it’s been a favorite weekend getaway spot for me, living in Boston will just be different. I have to figure everything out from scratch again: what is the best time to leave to catch just the right train to work, where do I get my morning coffee, which local craft beers are my favorite, where will I get my I’m-too-tired-or-lazy-today-to-cook Thai food, etc.

In order to approach this all with a plan, and to avoid the compulsion to blog about every nuance too, I’ve broken the project down into three main areas of focus, one for each month.

October’s Focus: Start work and find a gym.

This is pretty straightforward. I start my new job on October 1st and by the middle of the month, I’d like to have signed up for a gym membership. I already found a place near the office which has a little bit of everything: basic gym equipment, friendly personal trainers, group fitness classes, and a beautiful view of the city. I’m hopeful this will work out well. If I can get into a work-gym-home routine by the end of the month, I’ll be well prepared to deal with transition issues (homesick for home, homesick for Chicago, etc.)

November’s Focus: Explore Boston.

When I was in Boston last November, Caitlin and I went to a great Degas exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. And in May, I went to the Boston Ballet’s staging of Don Quixote. I’ve had a taste of the arts offerings in Boston. November is the time to dive in with a subscription to the ballet and explore museum exhibits in Boston. These weekends will be spent poking around Boston and the surrounding areas then, pushing past some of the obvious entertainment options and finding the things I will love for many years to come.

December’s Focus: Christmas in Boston.

I love the winter holiday season. I love sending Christmas cards and baking holiday treats and white lights and snow and ice skating and gift giving. I have every intention of being in Wisconsin for actual Christmas, but until then, December will focus on exploring how Boston celebrates Christmas. I will fight any homesickness with holiday shows, boutique shopping for gifts, and ice skating – somewhere, there must be ice skating somewhere!

Of course, I will have my constant autumnal touchstone of Packers football during these months. I have already found my Packers Bar and will be trekking there for most games. Wherever I go, whatever “-ite” or “-ian” I become, my fervent dedication to the Packers will never abate, and shall bring me much comfort when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

I’m not exaggerating. The most important countdown I actually have right now is 3 days until Packers football starts!

Bring It On, Boston

I am so excited to finally publicly announce some big news. On September 26th*, I will board a 1:55 p.m. flight out of Midway (with my two suitcases (thank you, Southwest), a carry-on bag, and a purse) to Boston.

A one-way flight.

I am moving to Boston.

I have told so many of you individually, but allow me the space to cheer about it online and to offer you some more details.

I have been slowly job searching since I chose to leave my graduate program last fall. It was not a serious or frantic search, as I have been satisfied with my employer and job in Chicago, but I felt like I needed something different, a new path for my career. If I was going to stay in tech, I wanted to really get into tech. A few small actions – reading more blogs and books about tech and project management, signing up for Path.To, revamping my LinkedIn profile, feeling antsy the day before vacation, all led me to apply for a “project management”-esque position with an Open Web development company in Boston.

In Boston?! What?!

I know!

It was not so long ago that I even started musing on the possibility, saying, “Well, I love Boston. If I was ever going to move to another city it would be Boston.” I’ve only been back in Chicago since February, after all. I think getting back to Chicago though was just what I need to get me back to myself, and able to figure out the next step. This is the right thing to do, and the right time for it – I am certain of this. Let the lesson here be that if you love something, let it go visit it a half-dozen times in less than a year and see if you can resist the allure of moving there.

Over the last six weeks, I’ve gone through this amazing interview experience, which honestly never felt soul-crushing, stressful or overwhelming. If I was ever intimidated, it was by the amazing work they do and feeling humbled by how much I have yet to learn (and can learn, and will learn). If I was ever nervous, it was always easily dispelled within the opening moments of conversations. Indeed, every interview really did feel more like a really interesting and engaging conversation. Have you been on many interviews where you talked about the democratization of the web and the need for an informed and engaged public? (I have not.) It just felt right the whole time.

This is a huge, big, scary, exciting, wonderful opportunity and I am ready. I am so excited about the work they are doing and I am ready for the challenge. I am going to be learning a lot, and pushing myself hard, and recapturing that elusive feeling of contributing to society, of making a difference. (Snippets of Cassie circa 2006-2008 rising to the surface again.)

I have to add here though that I have been happy in Chicago, and that if I hadn’t found any satisfaction in my work, I wouldn’t have had any hunger to do more, do different in this field. If I hadn’t found any happiness in my life, I would not have had the confidence and drive to pursue more. This is not about leaving Chicago, or anything or anyone here, but about going to Boston, and going to something new.

Oh, how I am going to miss you all, and that skyline! I am really, really, really going to miss my friends oh-so-very much but am grateful for social media, blogs, and Southwest’s multiple daily flights making it easy for us to all keep in touch.

Perhaps not surprisingly now, my next endeavor will be “Three Month Project: Becoming a Bostonian, 10/1/12-12/31/12.”

*The date of my flight is subject to change based on, you know, finding housing and other relatively important things that need to be done.

Who Has the Better Summer? Round 2: Stuff To Do

Wisconsin is where Chicagoans go to escape the city in the summer but it’s also where I spent my first 24 summers. The novelty that city slickers find in small town Wisconsin is just my normal. But after a few summers in Chicago, this feels normal too. So which is better? If you had to spend summer in just one place, which promises a better summer: Chicago or (my) small-town Wisconsin?

Summer Festivals
In my hometown, we have two summer festivals really – Walleye Weekend and the fair. The first is at the large park on Lake Winnebago and has formed around a three-day walleye fishing tournament. I know it better as the weekend we eat all kinds of fried food and watch the younger ones in the family play soccer. Just like any other summer festival – terribly unhealthy but delicious food, beer, bands, and the real purpose is something no one pays attention to. The fair is, of course – the fair. Come on. Carnival rides, animals in a large barn-type thing (um, I’ve been informed it’s just called “a barn”), and more fried food and beer.

In Chicago, summer festivals are much more compact – just a few blocks of space, at most. They’re typically not free; they’re suggested donation-admittance. Of course, here you’ll also find your fair share of fried foods, but many festivals are held in celebration of some heritage and so you’ll get a sampling of new foods too. Chicago’s festivals are so phenomenal though because there is literally something for everyone all summer. Lincoln Square’s Maifest (like Oktoberfest in spring!), Printer’s Row Lit Fest (used books for sales, author talks and readings!), and Wicker Park Fest (hipsters and music!) are a few of my favorites. And there are several fests every weekend, so it goes without saying if you have nothing to do – you’re wrong, there’s something to do.

Point Chicago.

This one is easy. You can’t camp in Chicago. Point Wisconsin.

Lazy Summer Porch Drinking

Yikes, this is harder. There are not many porches in Chicago. We have a back staircase that has a landing which we could theoretically put out one, maybe two, folding chairs and drink some beer. The view is lovely – the roof of the apartment building next door or into my neighbor’s kitchen. But Chicago has some pretty amazing local breweries that give perfect summer beer options – nice and light, crisp and a bit fruity.

Eh, you can buy Goose Island anywhere now. Wisconsin has New Glarus, big backyards, decks with grills and plastic kiddie pools. Point Wisconsin.

Outdoor Dining
It feels unfair to even write out a comparison here. There is no comparison. Point Chicago.

The Lake

Contenders: Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan. I realize much of Wisconsin has access to Lake Michigan but we’re talking about my Wisconsin. My small-town Wisconsin has Lake Winnebago. A lake I’ve never swam in, maybe once canoed in, and often mocked. That said, I’ve only been to a Chicago beach once and certainly did not go in Lake Michigan. Tied.

Oh no, tied overall. Who guessed that would be the case? Truly, the winner is usually wherever I am not. When Chicago is too hot (and dirty), I crave a Wisconsin summer. And when Wisconsin gets boring, I itch to be back in Chicago. Luckily, it’s easy to go between the two.