Friday, September 17, 2004


Driving down University Avenue in St. Paul is like flipping through the Sunday advertisement section: Target, Subway, Chevrolet, Walmart, Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video, Cub Foods, Rainbow Foods, Hobbit Travel, Discount Tire Co., ABRA Auto Body, McDonalds, and on and on. The Midway is probably the strangest neighborhood in all of the Twin Cities. The neighborhood itself is: inhabited by people who only make as much as any of the above listed businesses pay; frequented by the occasional resident of the upscale neighborhoods that surround it; and fly-by home to any and all manner of alcoholics that visit the local bars as they ride the city bus from one downtown to the next. It’s a strange brew of people, and it somehow lacks cohesiveness, though it’s hard to imagine it becoming anything more than what it is. It just is.

Adding to the strange brew that makes up the Midway are a slew of nonprofit organizations seeking cheap office space, a location close to the state Capitol, or serving the needs of the neighborhood. In what promises to become a personal tour of these nonprofits, my new office sits on the second floor of a building overlooking the majesty of the Midway in all its shopping glory. I try desperately not to heed the call of Target next door. So hard do I rally against becoming a chronic Target addict simply because of my proximity to it on a daily basis, in fact, that I’m currently out of toilet paper. (There has to be a happy medium somewhere between conscientious consumerism and basic personal hygiene.)

It’s amazing how difficult the transition to a new job can be. I’ve spent the last month switching between any and all faces of the “How Do I Feel Today?” magnet on my refrigerator. I get home from my new job an average of 10 hours after initial contact is made in the morning. I swim through paperwork that I, as yet, have no frame of reference or context for. I manage relationships that I haven't started and don’t understand. Instead of speaking for myself on behalf of the organization, I speak for someone else speaking on behalf of myself and the organization. People (okay, mothers) say that it takes 3 months at a new job before you begin to grasp what’s going on, and a year to really feel grounded. It’s true. It’s also little comfort when you’re in the middle of it.

As I muddle through the new kid syndrome, it’s evident that things are different. Better. The people here are formidable. They’re connected to what they’re doing. They’re thankful and happy and optimistic and confident they can make a difference (and they do). They’re at home at work. And when I cart my overexerted-introvert-self home at the end of the week, I’m exhausted in the best possible way, because I realize that I’m a few short steps behind becoming one of the family.

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