My Tea Ritual

After doing some reading about the variety of ceremonies different cultures have that celebrate the brewing and consumption of tea, I realized that I have a pretty consistent little ritual of my own. It’s rather intricate and involved, so feel free to shorten/excerpt/adapt it to your use.

  • Without averting eyes from computer screen, lift mug to lips. Vaguely think “dry.” Set mug back down on desk. Wait approximately five minutes.
  • Without averting eyes from computer screen, lift mug to lips again. Vaguely think “thirsty.” Set mug back down on desk. Wait approximately 10 minutes.
  • Without averting eyes from computer screen, lift mug to lips a third time. Tip head back far enough that tea bag slides out of mug into teeth.
  • Spit tea bag back into mug. Look into mug for approximately 30 seconds, hoping with all your heart that some tea will appear in it.
  • Stand up from desk. Carry mug into kitchen.
  • Fill electric teakettle at sink. Accidentally overfill. Pour out excess water.
  • Start electric teakettle heating.
  • Remove spent teabag from mug and carry to trashcan.
  • Immediately prior to putting teabag in trashcan, remember that we’re composting those now. Change course and place teabag in compost bin.
  • Place new teabag in mug. Stand aimlessly for a moment, listening to the kettle heating up, before going back to desk.
  • Approximately 15 minutes later, realize that water should have boiled by now. Go back out to kitchen to find teakettle has reached automatic shutoff, and is quietly ticking to itself as it cools.
  • Restart teakettle. Force self to wait while water reboils.
  • When kettle stops again, pour boiling water over mug. Go back to desk while tea steeps.
  • 20 minutes later, without averting eyes from computer screen, attempt to lift mug to lips. Wave hand ineffectually at least thrice through the spot the mug usually occupies. Look over at flapping hand, realize that mug is still sitting on kitchen counter.
  • Shuffle back to kitchen. Retrieve mug from counter. Sip carefully enough to keep from spilling, but not carefully enough to avoid scalding tongue.
  • Grab two ice cubes from freezer, place in mug.
  • Carry mug back to desk. Sit down, placing mug in traditional spot.
  • Without averting eyes from computer screen, lift mug to lips.

Let’s Do This

I’ve been sharing random details about my situation as they were relevant, but I think it’s time to tell the complete story. The TL;DR version is short. My job has ended, and I’m looking for something new. If you want the rest of the context, keep reading after the jump.

Photo by Dan Chibnall

Photo by Dan Chibnall

I moved to Des Moines in August of 2011, to take a job as the Director of Research and Programs at the American Judicature Society. My primary work was studying judicial selection (how judges get to be judges in the first place). I conducted and managed grant funded research, wrote articles and opinion pieces, gave public presentations and legislative testimony. I also wound up writing press releases, updating the website and social media feeds, and the other things that people do at understaffed nonprofits.

I have to confess that I made the move somewhat reluctantly. After living my whole life near Philadelphia, and in the city proper for seven years before and after law school, my conception of Iowa was entirely consistent with my East Coast snobbery. I expected to be bored out of my skull, surrounded by people for whom corn (and the growing thereof) was the most exciting thing in their lives.

Instead, I discovered a vibrant, diverse, engaged community, with opportunities to experience culture, art, food and entertainment in an atmosphere that lacked a lot of the pretension and self-importance of a place like Philly. I’ve met some wonderful people, made invaluable personal and professional connections, and begun to identify with the community in way that was entirely unexpected.

Early in the summer of 2013, I found out that AJS was moving to Nashville, TN, and my position was going with it. I was faced with the prospect of starting over in another unfamiliar city, or staying in Des Moines and finding a new job after the end of September. Neither option was exactly exciting, but after a lot of thought, the safety and familiarity of the job didn’t mean as much to me as the people and organizations that have become a part of my life in Iowa.

What’s important to remember when I talk about Des Moines is that I haven’t exactly grown out of my elitism. I’m still very much a city person. I value a certain amount of culture, sophistication and tolerance. Des Moines has all of those things in abundance, and it’s become a place that I’m proud to call home.

The last thing I need to make this place perfect is a job where I can challenge myself, put my skills, education and experience to good use, and hopefully give back to this community that I prize so highly. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m confident that it’s out there, out here, in this city that I’m so happy to be a part of.

Come on, DSM. Let’s do this.

I Don’t Write Enough

Yes, I’m busy at work, and yes, I’m under a lot of stress, and yes, I’m mired in a half-dozen other necessary things aimed at ameliorating some of that stress. But god damn it, I haven’t written anything (beyond a handful of halfway amusing social media posts) that wasn’t for work in almost a year. This is unacceptable.

Why is it unacceptable? It’s not as though the public is clamoring for my creative output. There’s not exactly a serious demand for another blog post/hastily sketched comic/sarcastic bit of advice. If I surrender to the creeping stultification of age and anxiety, would anyone actually notice? I am far too old and anxious to delude myself that they would.

The reason it’s unacceptable is because I’m consenting to the complete waste of whatever nascent talent and creativity I actually possess. Like any skill, being pithy and/or clever and/or informative and/or eloquent needs to be practiced. By letting whatever meager ability I had lie completely fallow, I’m allowing it to wither, and the longer I neglect it, the harder it will be to revive it. If I permit my schedule and my anxiety (not to mention my abject fear that I’m not half as clever as I think I am) to keep me from at least trying to reconnect with those abilities, it’s only going to get more difficult.

So here’s what I need to do. Fucking write once in awhile. Or more than once in awhile, but c’mon, we both know I’m not going to suddenly overcome every hangup I have about how much I suck and pump out a novel or something. Let’s try a baby step or two, shall we?