Floating on the Surface

Last weekend, I took the plunge. I scheduled a “float” appointment. I’ve wanted to do it for years now, but never made the effort. I was never scared to do it, I just didn’t want to pay the lofty $60-70! The idea of floating is to spend 90 minutes in a tank filled with 10 inches of salt water. You’re meant to float on the top of the water and experience total sensory deprivation and relaxation.

Luckily I found a Groupon that lowered the cost to a reasonable $30. I read the Yelp reviews of the “spa” and they seemed to be split. Some customers loved the place, but others wrote harsh reviews. Most of the bad reviews had to do with pricing or saying “They made me cancel my appointment after I showed up 30 minutes late! So unprofessional!” So I took those with a grain of salt.

I took a leisurely walk to the spa on Saturday afternoon. It was nestled on a residential street and would have been easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. I walked up right as another customer did. We approached the door and saw a sign with an arrow, pointing to the house next door. So we walked next door and saw another sign with an arrow pointing to the first house! We were confused. After a bit of back and forth, we realized the arrows were instructing us to enter through the tiny gated alley in between the houses! So strange.

Once we opened the gate, it made sense. There was a nice courtyard with a pond and flowers and beautiful trees. We walked into the reception area and it was crowded. There was one woman working the front desk and she didn’t have an ounce of urgency. After about 8 minutes, it was my turn to check in. She took my ID and I filled out the waiver. She asked if I needed a towel. I said yes, and she handed me what can only be described as a dish towel.

She instructed me to wait on the bench and someone would show me to the tanks shortly. This little spa was busy! I saw 30-40 people come and go within the 15 minutes I spent waiting. Most people seemed to be using the spa pools or getting a massage. After awhile, a woman walked up and asked “Are you the floaters?” The guy sitting next to me said yes and we followed her to the tanks. I was a little concerned. The lockers where we were supposed to store our clothes were located all the way across the spa. We would have to strip down and then walk past the showers, sauna, relaxation room, and then into the float tank room. There were signs everywhere saying that it was a “Clothing Optional” spa and told people not to exhibit creepy behavior. What?!

I assumed it would be a normal spa with normal sized towels and a tank in a private room. I didn’t pack a swim suit. You’re supposed to float naked!

My float parter and I went to the lockers and he started to strip down. I turned around and played on my phone until I could tell he was finished and had left. I have no interest in seeing a strange hippie get naked! I changed and wrapped myself in the mini-towel as best as I could and scurried into the tank room. Luckily there wasn’t anyone in the sauna or showers, so it was okay.

The tank room had 2 tanks the size of large ice coolers. They were slightly separated by a large folding wall, but there still weren’t any doors for privacy! Each tank had a slanted door, similar to a cellar. My float partner insisted he have Tank #1… I’m not sure why, but that should have been my first warning sign!

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I put petroleum jelly on my cuts so the salt water wouldn’t irritate them and then jumped in.

The water was warm. Almost too warm! I climbed into the tank and shut the door behind me. It was dark and the air was human. I laid down in the water and let myself float. It was a little uncomfortable at first. The water was pushing my back into a weird arch that wasn’t natural. I tried moving my arms in different positions and felt that the “goal post” felt the best. I closed my eyes and tried to relax.

I “relaxed” for about 20 minutes before I became bored. I couldn’t fall asleep because it was so cold! The top half of my body was above water and there was a ventilation fan that continually blew cold air into the tank! I ended up shivering most of the time and resorted to swimming around to try to stay warm. I realized I could easily just exit the tank and leave… but I paid money for this! It was kind of a cool feeling to float around on the top of the water. I had about 2 feet on either side, so I gentle pushed myself back and forth across the tank.

Before I knew it, I heard the knocking on my tank door that signaled the float was over. I listened for my float partner and waiting until he exited the room before I opened my door. I quickly grabbed my towel. The spa had become a lot busier and there were several naked people showering as I walked out. I was covered in salt water and I still had to walk home, so I needed to rinse off. I pretended to read a brochure until everyone left and I could shower in peace (as peaceful as an open shower with no wall or door could be!)

Inevitably, as soon as I started to rinse off, an old lady wandered in and started showering next to me. I’m not sure why this experience felt so awkward when I’ve already been to a naked bath house in Korea. Maybe because I was a foreigner it felt new and exciting. In America, it just felt weird. I showered as quickly as possible and put my clothes on before fully drying off.

I checked out and left the spa as soon as possible. Apparently my float included a complimentary 30 minute soak in the hot tub room… but the idea of sitting in there with more naked strangers was not something I was interested in.

I don’t think I would float again, even if it was at a more private spa. I never felt fully relaxed because I was so cold. Even if it had been warm, I don’t think I would have experienced the full sensory deprivation. My tank had flashing lights that reflected off the water and I could hear footsteps whenever anyone walked on the floor above us.

I would recommend floating if you want a unique experience, but definitely go in with low expectations!

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The First Week: Complete!

It’s funny how time works. Sometimes it flies by… sometimes it crawls. This week was a bit of both.

I woke up early on Monday and gave myself plenty of time to get ready. You can’t be late for the first day! I left my apartment at 8:30 with the intent of arriving at work by 9:00am. After two years of commuting at 6:30am with no traffic, I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily my route is a simple drive down a not-so-popular road, so there wasn’t much traffic. It is only one lane, so sometimes it gets backed up when people try to make left turns, but it isn’t too bad. My commute was only 7 minutes!

My first day was filled with the basics – tax forms, signing agreements, and getting a parking pass. Everyone was so friendly! I’ll be working in the Operations department (which is really just a cluster of desks!) with two other ladies. They took me out to lunch on my first day and told me what to expect!

The office is so Portland. It is a nondescript building with no signage except a large hotdog hanging above the entrance. You enter and immediately walk up a flight of creaky stairs under a hipster mural. The lobby is complete with a pirate’s chest full of crushed PBR beer cans, a stuffed bobcat that the owner shot on her property, and a big display of rusty circular saw blades surrounding a painting of a naked lady eating ice cream. Very eclectic, for sure! There really aren’t any rooms or doors in the entire office except for the bathrooms, the owners office, and a meeting room. The rest is an open floor plan. No cubicles – just desks and fun art on the walls.

We have a shared music system that plays throughout the entire office. We can all add songs via an app on our computer. They didn’t like my techno songs, but they seemed to enjoy when I played Fleetwood Mac!

Learning names has been the hardest part. Most of the office is female 20-somethings with messy hair and tattoos. Since my legal name is Katie, that is what I have on my resume. I wanted to be polite and not correct them to “Kate” during the interview, so on the first day when they told me there are 3 other Katie’s, I offered to go by Kate!

My week has consisted of a lot of learning! After the first 2 days, my brain was fried. I had to go home and immediately go to sleep to process it all. I don’t think I had ever been more exhausted!  I’m so thrilled to have a job where I don’t sit at a desk all day. I love the variety!

The rest of the week has been more relaxed. I’ve finally gotten the hang of things and have an idea of my daily routine. I spent a good deal of time purchasing organizer containers and getting the drawers in order. Everyone is so happy!

Even though I’ve learned a lot this week, it has just flown by! It feels like just yesterday I was nervous about my first day. I’m still a little stressed out after a long week of new experiences, so I scheduled a float session.

Float tanks are pretty trendy right now. You can either go to a spa or a designated float shop. Usually you schedule a 90 minute session for about $50. Cheaper than a massage! During this time, you float in the tank to achieve total relaxation. The water is actually a salt solution designed to make you feel weightless. Apparently you can’t tell where the water ends and the air begins. It is also completely dark, so you have no perception of space. The “tank” itself can take many forms: a space-age pod, a tiny room with a cellar door, or an entire open-air room for those who are claustrophobic. I booked the medium sized room. It is about the size of a large gas station ice cooler. Everyone I know who has floated has loved it, so I guess I’ll give it a shot!

The Next Chapter

This summer has been a season of change.

My close friend Alicia moved away to go to grad school. My best friend from high school, Mackinley, moved to Portland! Several of my friends were offered new jobs, so we had many celebratory drinks.

Throughout all of this change, I realized I am stagnant.

I have a wonderful apartment that requires no more DIY improvements. I have a steady job with the same schedule and I see the same coworkers every day. I go to the same fitness classes and frequent the same bars on the weekends. Life is good… but predictable – and I started to become boring.

My friend Joe made me realize that the only way to feel fulfilled is to keep challenging yourself, especially in the workplace. Currently, I come to work, complete my list of duties, and then watch the clock until I can leave. I love talking to my coworkers, but I don’t have much passion for optometry. Even in school, I hated the chapters on learning the anatomy of the eye. I simply didn’t find it interesting! I certainly don’t want to become an optometrist or even an optician. I don’t want a career in optometry… so what am I doing here?

I accepted this position because I needed a paycheck, but I stayed because I genuinely enjoyed my coworkers and morale of the office. My first year was exciting because I was still learning the system and how to operate the machines, but now I know. Clicking the same buttons every day has become monotonous. The last two years have given me time to discover the type of work I enjoy. I LOVE when my manager gives me a hands-on project like unpacking the new contact lenses and reorganizing the lens room to make them fit. I don’t quite enjoy talking to patients on the phone and getting screamed at because we don’t have a same-day appointment. My coworkers are amazing extroverts and can strike up a conversation with anyone. They have the type of personality that makes them thrive in customer service. I’ve realized that my skills are more suited for organizational, data-based work. I am certainly friendly and helpful toward patients (I haven’t had any complaints!), but I get so much more satisfaction from completing a project than hearing a patient say “Thank you, Kate!” Different strokes for different folks.

I think my true realization occurred when I was talking to my brother and he urged me to look into project management. It’s a tricky field to get into without experience, but I started looking for any position that was operations-based. I started back in spring, but I didn’t want to settle, so I was picky. I had a couple interviews but nothing felt quite right. In June, I interviewed with a design agency. After a couple more rounds of interviews, they offered me a job!

What is my position? I think of it as being the junior office manager. Technically I’ll be working under the operations manager (and maybe someday becoming it!) and I’ll be handling all of the nitty-gritty details of logistics in the office. I asked for a general run down of my daily responsibilities and they said there is no “normal.” Each day is different, but I’ll be prepping the office for meetings, assisting design teams with projects, delivering hard copies to clients, and a lot of hands-on work putting together projects in the garage (the exact work I was looking for). I’m excited to finally get out of a desk chair!

I start this coming Monday. I know the first couple of weeks will have a learning curve, but I’m not that nervous. I am a quick learner and the company seems filled with friendly people. One of my current coworker’s friends works there! I looked at their Instagram and they definitely have a fun office environment suited for millennials. Every Friday is “bring your pet to work” day!

But when a new door opens… another must close. It was so hard to give my two weeks notice at my current job. My manager has become a close friend. I went to her house for Easter, her husband reads my blog, and I even housesat for them last weekend! It felt like I was breaking up with my Portland family. I’m most upset about not seeing my front desk mate, David. We spend 8 hours per day sitting next to each other… and even more snapchatting after work! Management has likened us to siblings because we always bicker, but deep down we really care.

I’ll also be sad to leave my lunch buddy. For the last two years, I’ve eaten lunch every day with one of the doctors. She is a mother of two, so she always gives me advice when I need it. She’s heard all of my dating stories and was one of the biggest motivators in my departure. She encouraged me not to get stuck here. While it broke my heart to tell her I was leaving, she supported me and said she knew I was capable of bigger and better things. The saddest part is knowing I will never be close to these people again. Sure, I can meet them for drinks (unlikely since they all have families), but there’s always going to be this new distance. It’s a bittersweet goodbye.

Ultimately, I’m excited for this change in my life! The only part I am bummed about is my shift in schedule. Instead of working 6:45-3:45 and avoiding traffic, I have to work the typical 9-6. The office is in the better location, though! It is in the “hip” part of the SE and should be a quicker drive. I’ll report back after my first day!

Summer Kickball League!

I wanted something new and fun to do this summer, so I joined a kickball league with two of my friends – Leila and Joe!

We signed up for the league and were placed with other players who didn’t have enough people to form an entire team. Most of the teams we play against are groups of friends or coworkers who signed up together as a team. We are the underdogs! So far our season is 0-2, but there are still 6 weeks left of the season, so we might still win a couple.

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Vote for Eyes on Broadway!

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The local newspaper has a yearly “Reader’s Poll” where readers nominate local businesses in a variety of categories. We won the title of “Best Eyewear Shop” in 2015… and we’ve been nominated again for 2016!

As I am in charge of our social media, I am inadvertently responsible for our victory! If you wouldn’t mind, please vote for us at the link below…

http://wweek.secondstreetapp.com/l/BOP-Voting-2016/Ballot/LocalBusinessService

It does make you enter your email and zip code, but it doesn’t send you any spam. It is just to verify that you’re an actual person!

You can find us under “Local Businesses” and then halfway down the page “Best Eyewear Shop.” Results will be published in July! Fingers crossed!

Fitness Update!

I am so close to accomplishing something I never thought possible – running an entire 5k! I’ve never been a runner, but I love challenges, so I knew I had to overcome my fear of running and sign up for the Turkey Trot. I’ve been using the 5k Runner app for the last 9 weeks and I only have 1 week left!

This journey has been eye opening. I never thought I would be able to lace up my shoes and run for 35 minutes straight. Even the first weeks of “Run 5 minutes, Walk 2 minutes” felt impossible at the time, but as I built endurance and overcame the mental block, it seems laughably easy in retrospect.

I attribute my success to two factors: scheduling my runs during my lunch breaks and listening to podcasts while I run. Once I get home from work, it is so easy to come up with excuses – “I’m so tired,” “I need to do laundry and cook before I can run!” “It’s too cold out.” But when I am trapped at work with nothing else to do, it is easy to find the time. In fact, it is a great stress reliever! I feel so much more accomplished during the rest of the day, knowing I’ve already gotten my run in. Secondly, I listen to podcasts as a way to distract myself from the agony of running. I started off the program listening only to music, but my playlist became boring after day 4. It’s true that music is a good motivator, but once I’ve heard the song several times, it loses its punch. I like listening to podcasts because they are a form a storytelling and it is totally distracting! Plus, I feel like I am simultaneously training my body AND mind.

I’ll definitely update with some photos and stats from race day. I don’t plan on aiming for speed at this point – just completion! If I can run the entire 5k without stopping, I’ll be ecstatic. Even if I finish last in my age group, I’ll be a champ. It still feels pretty surreal that I’m about to accomplish this. I’ve had the app for about 2-3 years but could never break through the 3rd week. I definitely plan on downloading the 10k Runner app, but it sounds even more scary!

In addition to running, I’ve also started my second Whole 30! I plan on dedicating the entire month of November to clean eating and eliminating sugar, dairy, grains, and legumes. Halloween definitely did a number on me and I’m sad to have wasted some progress on one extravagant weekend.

To help motivate my second Whole 30, I am participating in the app Diet Bet. It is a very interesting concept where you can join a month-long challenge. You “buy in” with $25 or $35 and are given 4 weeks to lose 4% of your weight. If you fail, you get nothing back. If you succeed, you split the pot with the other winners! I am extremely monetarily motivated, so I know I will stop at no cost to earn my money back!

Now I’m off to attend a barre class – think ballet meets cardio and lots and lots of leg shaking!

Portland: The City of Transients

I’ve officially lived in Portland for 1 year and 10 months, including my 3 month internship. I’ve had so many adventures and met countless new friends – which is surprising, because Portland is a pretty hard city to make friends in! Everyone has their own niche and are reluctant to invite anyone in. I’m a fairly outgoing person so meeting new people isn’t intimidating, but it is still hard work. As more people move to Portland and as the rental and job markets become more competitive, residents are starting to move away. Among them are a few of my friends!

One of my first friends when I moved to Portland for my internship in 2013 was Alex. He grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, and had just finished serving in Afghanistan. Since I had recently returned from Amman, we had lots to discuss! He soon became one of my closest drinking buddies and we always went on epic treks to discover new bars. Even though I have a bar cart in my apartment, I never learned how to mix drinks. I usually stick with the basics. Alex has an insane talent for mixology! My favorite weekend pre-game is having him mix up something crazy but delicious. I’ll definitely miss his drinks! He was also my travel buddy. He came with me on my first trip to Seattle in 2013 and again to Seattle in 2014 for a Hoodie Allen concert. Some of my favorite “crazy youth” memories occurred during those trips – and I got my special “Pike Place Market Starbucks” mug on the 2013 trip. I still use it every weekend for my coffee. After becoming a certified helicopter instructor, Alex decided to move to Austin, Texas, where there are more opportunities for jobs. I plan on visiting in the spring – I’ve never been to Texas!

A typical Friday night - Alex fixing things in my apartment while I drink.

A typical Friday night – Alex fixing things in my apartment while I drink.

When I moved to Portland in 2014, I met Rhianna (pronounced Re-ANNA, not like the singer!). She was my intern at Shop Adorn and moved to Portland for the summer knowing no one. I immediately invited her out to brunch and we became best friends. We would automatically hang out every weekend and go to bars and wing woman each other – it was a blast! She lived downtown, so I could crash at her place when we went drinking there, and vice versa for my apartment in SE Portland. She was from North Carolina but her family lives in England. Even though I only knew her for 3 months, she became one of my closest friends and I still miss her dearly! Unfortunately she doesn’t have any plans to move back to Portland after graduation 😦

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Rhianna and I at my favorite bar – Dig a Pony!

Rhianna, Me, and Alex - a trio of trouble.

Rhianna, Me, and Alex – a trio of trouble.

Around the time Rhianna left, I met Joni. She had just moved from Ithaca, NY, with her boyfriend. Typically I prefer to make friends with other single ladies. It is a lot easier to make plans with someone who doesn’t have to check with a significant other first! Plus, it is fun to get dressed up and go out and be single. I thought that women in relationships never did this – Joni proved me wrong. She originally moved downtown in a 1 BR with her boyfriend. We hung out a lot as we had similar schedules and her boyfriend had his own social life. One perk of this arrangement? He would always pick us up and drive us home! I hung out with Joni nearly every weekend – sometimes we just stayed at my apartment and drank wine and chatted for hours. One of my favorite memories is when we tried to convince men on the app Tinder to buy us a pizza and have it delivered. After HOURS of trying, one man finally agreed! We gave him the address next door (for safety) and he told us he ordered it. I even called Papa Johns to “check on the status” and they confirmed it was ordered! We giddily waiting outside to intercept the pizza at 2am. When it arrived, the delivery driver informed us that it would be $23.99. I reluctantly paid and we chalked it up to a failure.

Joni worked a number of odd jobs from doggy daycare attendant to nanny. She always had crazy stories. One of our last adventures was going on a river float. You take two cars and park one at the starting point upstream and the other at the finish point. Typically they are about 3-5 miles away from each other. Then, you blow up a giant raft and load your food and booze and cruise down the river. It took us 5.5 hours to go 3 miles! It was loads of fun and I’m sad we won’t get to go again as Joni recently moved back to New Jersey to go to grad school for speech pathology.

Joni and I crashed a Jewish Meetup at a bar! Joni is actually Jewish. I am not.

Joni and I crashed a Jewish Meetup at a bar! Joni is actually Jewish. I am not.

Joni and I on our river float!

Finally, the most recent departure has been my roommate Maddie. She isn’t technically moving away, but she is moving out. I was so excited to find a roommate from Cincinnati! When she moved-in in February, we were fast friends. We would go to the bars on Belmont nearly every weekend and she always invited me to go to events with her and her coworkers. We bonded over spots around Cincy and our mutual friends. My favorite memory is St. Patrick’s Day when we partied too hard the night before and then woke up at 9am and started day drinking for the holiday! We went to a church festival in the rain and brought green food coloring to color all of the beer green. The chef of the event thought that was funny so he rewarded us with unlimited food!  The entire day was a blur of rain, beer, and green – a total success. Soon after, she started dating her current boyfriend and now they are moving in together along with a coworker. I have rarely hung out with her since the spring and, since they will be living in the far south, I doubt I will see much of her after she moves. It’s a shame because she was a great friend and roommate! It’s just proof that sometimes life pulls people in different directions.

Maddie and I with St. Patrick!

Maddie and I with St. Patrick!

I do still have a handful of friends in Portland. Maggie, Joe, and Grant are all from Oregon so there’s a slim chance they will be moving away. We always go to beer fests and throw crazy Hanukkah and Purim parties. I’ve recently been focusing all of my free time working out, as explained in my last post. I also have a handful of DIY projects I want to get started on. As for socializing, I’ve been going on a few dates here and there. I was pretty excited about one I had last week, but then I found out he is only in Portland for 5 months before being sent to Wisconsin for his job! I don’t want that!

To fill Maddie’s vacancy in the apartment, I invited a new roommate to move in on September 1st. Her name is Hawi and she is grew up in Germany before going to boarding school in Canada and university in Portland. She is currently an intern at a startup downtown, but says that she will be offered a full-time position soon. She seems very respectful and chill, but said she loves going out on the weekends, too! I feel like I’ve reached a point in my life where finding a roommate who likes to party is no longer the #1 goal – I just want someone who cleans the dishes and doesn’t leave the screen door open! Maybe that means I am finally an adult?