“I heard the police are completely defunded in Portland.”
“Are you ok?”
These are all typical questions I get asked by people in Utah when I tell them I’m living in Portland, Oregon. After COVID took a toll on the main economic industry of Portland (tourism and food & beverage), the city has, indeed, sunk to new lows. read more
A Year of Change: Making Big and Difficult Life Decisions
One of my greatest faults is my inability to make quick decisions, even about minor issues. I am so indecisive that I will see-saw back and forth for mundane decisions such as what to wear for the day or what meal I should select at dinner. So when I’m faced with the task of making a big and difficult life decision — such as relocating or pursuing a new career — I am usually paralyzed with anxiety.
This year was filled to the brim with life-altering choices that I saw as junctions in the big road we call life. read more
There are many moments that make up the Ruby Ronin’s 2018–but none ring louder than one word that acts as a theme to the entire year:
The Year of Texas
This time last year, I was horrified at the prospect of moving to Texas. I remember sitting in our temporary Portland, OR home, staring out the window into a sea of gloomy skies and barren winter trees, wondering why the hell I was moving to Texas. As the days nearing my move inched closer, my anxiety only grew. Portland was starting to feel like home to me. I was finally with my husband. Life was good, despite being unemployed. Why was I leaving again?
When I set foot in Dallas, I knew I wasn’t in Portland anymore. Hoodies and tattoos were replaced with leather cowboy hats and boots. In place of Portland’s public transportation and walkable streets were sprawl and traffic. My European bakeries, a dime a dozen in Portland, were now replaced by Whataburgers, Chik-fil-a and jugs of iced tea. Most of all, the trees, mountains, and nature I was so accustomed to in both California and Oregon were gone. Now on the horizon were the flat, barren plains of America’s heartland.
Still, not all was bad in Texas. The people are polite, although distant. The food is actually insanely good, and diverse. The winters are mild. The cowboy culture is kind of cool. Many of my friends came to visit, and we had a great time exploring the city. BBQ is awesome.
Overall, for me, 2018 was the year of Dallas. It’s a year I’ll never forget–both good, and bad.
The Year of the Introvert
I moved to Texas and I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t even know a friend of a friend of a friend. My husband often wasn’t here, as he still worked in Portland.
So, I tried to make friends at work–but let’s just say, it’s extremely hard to break into the circle of the South (all of my coworkers are native to Dallas or the South). I tried Meetup groups. Classes. Group outings. A few language exchange clubs. It got me out of the house, but it was socially exhausting with few rewards–I didn’t make one single friend.
One Friday, instead of agonizing about how to meet people during my days off on the weekend, I said to myself: I’m done. I’m exhausted trying to make new friends in a new community yet again. I’d rather be alone than try to befriend someone I’m simply not compatible with.
Now I go to the movies alone frequently (I’ve seen over 15 movies this year). I read books like a maniac (one per week). I go on many walks alone. Binge watch TV. Explore coffee shops. Cook elaborate meals for myself. Exercise like a maniac.
I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I’ve learned how to handle being alone for very long amounts of time. I have discovered my inner introvert.
But still, the loneliness was crippling. Worse than Japan. I hope I never have to relive this ever again.
The Year of New York
Despite forcing me to live in Dallas, all of my managers and teammates are in New York. I was flabbergasted to move to Dallas and find out that I’m actually part of a larger New York team and I’m working “remotely” from Dallas.
As a result, I flew to New York–a lot. Sometimes twice in a month. I went from never setting foot in New York in my life, to flying there every other week.
I love New York City–it’s the kind of place I always imagined it to be. The neighborhoods. The cast of characters. The food. The skyline. It’s a place deeply embedded with character, history, hope and ambitions–and honest to god, there is nowhere else like it. I may not want to live there, but damn, it’s a fun place to visit.
The Year of Jet Setting
If I wasn’t flying to New York for a meeting, then I was flying to Portland to see my husband. I had to go to the Bay Area for some holidays, and Utah for others, and a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. In terms of international trips, my boss suddenly put me on a plane to Japan in July and I traveled across much of Canada for a wedding and leisure. In between, I hopped on a plane to see friends and family in California to keep my sanity.
In summary: I was on a plane. A LOT.
The Highlight of My Year
My husband took me to Montreal, Canada in August…. and I loved it. The European architecture. The good, French influenced food. The bilingual residents. Parks, natures, and adorable neighborhoods galore. Markets with fresh produce. Delicious beer and coffee to kill for.
I’ll (hopefully) write about Montreal in a later post. It’s a magical place and was my most memorable moment of 2018.
Overall, 2018 was the year of survival
I try to be grateful. I have my health. All of my limbs. My family is doing well. I’m happily married and, as a couple, my husband and I couldn’t be better together. We take vacations. We both have jobs. In some ways, we’re living the dream.
However, if I’m brutally honest on here–and somewhat selfish–I must admit that there were moments when I thought I wasn’t going to make it through my Dallas tenure in 2018. The learning curve at my job was steep, and as a “remote” worker in Dallas I had no one to rely on for help or training–and I had no colleagues on my projects. I failed again and again to make friends, and although in the end I was content with being alone, the isolation still stung.
I had no colleagues to vent frustrations to or ask for help, and I had no friends to fill the gap of loneliness created by my new workplace. While I was physically healthy and on the financial upswing, my mental well-being took a huge nosedive in 2018. This also explains my minimal updates on the blog in 2018… I felt no motivation to write.
As this kind of lifestyle away from my husband was simply unsustainable, I decided to confront my boss. A nervous Mary told a very high-ranking stakeholder that you either let Mary move out of Texas, or Mary’s going to move out of your company.
And I’m happy to announce that he not only consented, but was very supportive. I can finally reunite with my husband. We can finally be together–and I can keep my job.
The year of 2018–or Texas, as I like to call it–was a rough one. I survived, and I’m moving on up–back on up to rainy Portland with my husband.
Is a Flexible and Remote Work Environment Really Better for us?
This post has nothing to do with China, Japan, or even travel. It’s just about the monster that has taken over my life and kept me from writing in this blog: my job.
Despite relocating to Dallas for this job, the nature of my role allows me to have a mostly flexible and remote working environment. I haven’t visited the Dallas office in over a month. In fact, I work from home and on the road almost all the time. Many envy me when I tell them I work from home, but whenever I hear their words of longing, I can’t help but think…
Is a flexible, or remote, working environment really better for us?
The Line Between Work and Personal Space Begin to Blur
I used to tell people that I loved work more than school because, unlike school, work didn’t give us ‘homework.’ As a graduate student, the worry of papers and homework always loomed over my head even after class ended. I thought back to my work days when work ended at 5pm and didn’t follow me around. It was great to clock out, go home, and not worry about the monster that was my job until the next day.
I’ll tell you now:
a flexible work schedule destroys that clear barrier between work and personal space.read more
Why 2017 Was the Craziest Year of My Life… With a 2018 Surprise
Planning a wedding while going to graduate school, on the other hand, really sucked. I not only had a strict budget to stick to, but I also had to coordinate a Utah wedding from California. Yet thanks to my friends, family, husband and the best maid of honor a woman could ever ask for (shout out to you, H!), I survived my wedding.
I had my perfect dream wedding. I got married in the mountains of my home state with the man I love. I couldn’t ask for more.
In addition to marriage and grad school, in 2017 I moved a total of ten times. From Socal, to Norcal, back to Socal, to Salt Lake City, then Minnesota, San Francisco, and now Portland–I’ve been goddamn everywhere. Honestly, looking at my suitcase makes me feel physically ill.
My husband thought taking short-term contracts around the country would give me flexibility to look for a job anywhere in the USA. I thought it was a great idea, but in the end, our nomadic lifestyle put an immense amount of strain on our well-being.
In 2017, I realized just how important it is to have a home and some sense of stability. I never thought I’d say this (especially since my blog is called the Ruby Ronin ((wanderer)) but; dear, god, I just want to settle down.
I thought I would have few opportunities to travel after leaving Asia.
Oh, how wrong I was.
This year alone I went to Ireland, Japan, Vietnam and China–with the last three vacations happening in the span of one month! I’ve already written up some posts about my journey through Northern Ireland and Northwest Ireland, but more posts will follow chronicling our trips to Kyushu, Hanoi and Saigon.
…as well as many interviews on the road…
As I moved and traveled around the USA and world, I was also looking for a job.
I conducted an interview over Skype in a hotel in Fukuoka City, Japan. I completed another interview in Ho Chi Minh, City, Vietnam. Another interview was done mere hours after my landing in the USA from Vietnam. Two interviews were done in hotel rooms on the road.
If I have advice to anyone job hunting, it’s this:
Don’t travel (too much) while you’re job hunting
It was REALLY stressful to coordinate across different time zones, find a stable connection, and most of all secure a quiet place to conduct the interview. There were at least three instances where I spent money in Japan and Vietnam to book my own private hotel room to execute a Skype interview.
Don’t do what I did. Stay in one place when you’re job hunting. It helps… a lot.
Which, Finally, Leads to My Big Surprise of 2018
Just kidding! But believe me, this news is almost as shock inducing…
….I’m moving to Texas.
You know that platitude about “you never know where life will take you”?
Well, holy hell, coming back from China I could not even imagine that I would move halfway around the USA and end up in Texas. None. At. All.
Although I experienced some inner turmoil with the decision to take the Texas job, I went with it. I won’t go into details, but I will be working for a huge private firm in their Japanese business department.
Texas was definitely not high on my ‘places to live’ list, but I’m trying to be positive with the move. I think Texas will pleasantly surprise me and give me a kick start to a new beginning in 2018.
More than anything–after all these months of being a nomad–I’m particularly looking forward to one life change in particular:
Having a permanent home.
Happy New Year Everyone! 明けましておめでとうございます！新年快乐！read more