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!

A Weekend in Vancouver, Canada!

As I took the majority of my vacation days when I went to Asia, it has been hard to find the time to travel! One of my good friends, Alicia, is leaving to go to grad school, so we decided to go on a weekend trip to Vancouver, Canada, as a final hurrah!

I have been to Vancouver once before in 2013, but Alicia had never been. We took the Bolt Bus ($80 round trip!) and stayed at the Cambie Hostel ($15 a night!) in order to save money. The Bolt Bus takes 8 hours and has stop-overs in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington. It takes a bit longer than driving, but is so much cheaper! And it has wifi and outlets, so we spent the entire time napping and listening to podcasts.

We arrived at 9pm on Wednesday. We found our way to the hostel and checked in, only to find that the remaining 2 beds in the room of 8 were top bunks. Lame! I spent the first night sleeping above a Brazilian guy who kept tossing and turning the entire night. Doesn’t he know that bunk beds shake?! He also kept itching his skin incessantly which was pretty gross.

The next day, we decided to switch beds to the opposite side of the room, away from the weird Brazilian. I got a bottom bunk next to a window that had a breeze, so it was great! We spent the entire first day walking around Vancouver and Stanley Park. We walked a total of 15 miles!

The food in Vancouver is so expensive. An “inexpensive” meal in the “$$” range is $15-$20! That’s too much to spend on lunch, so we brought a lot of protein bars and ate the complimentary muffins the hostel provided. We did splurge a couple of times on nicer food. My favorite was a picnic board where you built your own sandwiches! The entire platter was $15 and we split it between the two of us. Extravagant but cheap!

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On Friday, we found a bar to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It was a lot of fun and we even got to see the city light the Vancouver Cauldron from the 2010 games! That night, we planned to go to the Richmond Night Market which is famous for Asian street food and unique wares. We spent $9 to get there and it took 45 minutes on public transit. Once we arrived, there was an additional 15 minutes of walking to the market and being shuffled around by crossing guards and crowd management. It was packed! We stood in line for 20 minutes before deciding it wasn’t worth it. The food was still expensive ($10 for street food!) and the fairgrounds were exploding with people. There wasn’t an inch to move inside the fence! We left and took the train back to Vancouver, feeling defeated.

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The next day, we took the ferry across the water to North Vancouver where we went to the Lonsdale Quay market. That was much better! We didn’t find anything to buy, but it was nice being on the harbor. We stopped by a restaurant to get brunch. Did you know that in Vancouver, Bloody Marys are called Caesars? They’re made with clam juice, too! Pretty tasty. I also got to have taiyaki – my favorite fish shaped pastry I discovered in Tokyo! We ordered 3 of them to share… one with beans, one with custard, and one with nutella!

On our final day, we stopped by Tim Horton’s, the famous Canadian coffee chain. I ordered “one iced coffee” which typically is just black coffee with ice. I was served a beverage that was almost white in color and tasted like melted ice cream. It had so much cream and sugar, it didn’t even taste like coffee! Since turning 24, I’ve realized that I need to start asking for what I want, especially in stores. So at Tim Horton’s, I had no problem with telling the barista that I wanted a BLACK coffee. She seemed irritated, but ultimately switched out the coffee. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask!

The bus back to Portland was less fun than the ride to Canada. A loud group of 20-somethings got on in Seattle and kept LOUDLY talking about attractive women and explicit topics. The entire bus kept giving them the stink eye until they got the message and shut up. Some people just don’t know how to act in public.

Overall, it was a fun trip! Vancouver is a great city with amazing food (if you want to spend the money!) There aren’t many cultural or historical sites, so there isn’t much to tour. Unless you have friends who live there or are into the bar scene, I wouldn’t recommend going there on a long vacation, but it’s great for a short trip!

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The Big 2-4!

In just 10 days I will be turning 24!

My birthday falls on a Saturday this year, so I’ve organized a big weekend event. I jokingly invited one of my best friends, Caroline, who I met during study abroad and currently lives in DC. She surprised me by buying a plane ticket to come visit! I’m taking a long weekend so I can show her around and celebrate.

Otherwise, my summer has been fairly uneventful. We are nearing the end of kickball season – only 2 games left! The season wasn’t as fun as I expected it to be. I joined to meet new friends and run around in the sunshine, but none of my teammates like to go out after games… in fact, most of them joined with a significant other, so they keep to themselves! There are also quite a few competitive people on our team which makes it less fun for those of us who just want to have fun.

The 4th of July was a lot of fun! I had a bunch of friends over for drinks before we headed to a neighborhood grill out. So much yummy food! I made watermelon jello shots that were cut into triangles on an actual watermelon rind. They were very popular.

In exciting work news, we won the Best Eyewear Shop in Portland! Thanks to everyone who voted!

Now I am just gearing up for my next trip to Vancouver, Canada, in early August. I am going for a 4 day weekend with my friend Alicia. I’m thrilled that we are staying at my favorite hostel! It will be interesting to see how much it has changed since I was last there in 2013.

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!