Tonight wasn’t much different to most Friday nights. But somehow, that’s something worth celebrating.
I finished work a little later than normal, due to this week’s launch of our awesome (free plug) new website, and made my way down Sewall (and Second) Street to The Liberal Cup for between four and six post-work beers.
As usual, I sat down at an open seat at the bar, taking in the various tables full of people younger than me, and coworkers, before shooting the shit with a bartender I hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks.
The first beer barely touched the sides. I’d brought a book that I’m interested to get to the end of, but mostly I was pleased to be out of the office. The last three days have been the busiest and most frantic of my almost six months at the KJ/MS.
On top of that, it’s been an intense week inside my big dumb head. I’m a classic overthinker, so if you want to combine a 45-hour work week with the responsibility of piloting the website launch, the terrifying financial overanalysis of considering a house move as well as saying farewell to a great new friend and wondering what the next few months hold, you’ll get a picture of how busy life has somehow become.
But that, I think, is the thing that is most surprising to me. That one word: “Life”. Come Tuesday, I’ll have been here in Augusta for half a year. And while I’ve probably personally done myself somewhat of a disservice during my time here, by living under the expectation that this isn’t forever, or even particularly long-term, it’s gone from feeling like I’m “the new kid” to feeling like I have purpose here.
Through the seven years or so of my career, I’ve been a part of about five website redesigns, and each time I’ve had a little more responsibility than the last. But this time I was the editor on deck as the website I’ve spent six months learning each intimate nook and cranny of became something entirely different and way better, and I was the guy in the hot seat for the switch-over.
Mere days before my probationary period at the KJ was up, I was left in total control of making sure the shiny new toy looked and worked right. Now, professionally I back myself to get such things done, because I’m a control freak son-of-a-bitch with a competitive streak that refuses to let me fail. But deeper than that, I guess I was a little incredulous at the amount of trust leveled at me by my higher-ups.
I relayed this in brief to a friend of mine from home, and she said it sounded like I’m “making [my] mark” here now. I hadn’t thought about it in that way until this point, but it seems to ring true.
Back to the Liberal Cup. Dan, my long-suffering bartender, and I recapped the last time we saw each other, and he gave me shit for what he calls my “trick” bringing a book to the bar only so it could be a talking point long enough for some curious stranger to figure out that I have an accent. That’s entirely not why I take a paperback in my pocket every night, but Dan isn’t really far off.
What prompted this post (aside from the fact that I had six pints and a Coors Light for the road tonight) was when someone heard said stupid accent and asked me where it was from. Without skipping a beat, the same way I have for a good month or two now, I answered, “it’s an Augusta accent.” Whether joking or not, I’m automatically identifying myself as a resident of the capital city, and Maine in general.
Now, while I still don’t expect to be settling in Vacationland forever, or perhaps even be here in the next year or two, I do like the sensation that comes from feeling like I’m “home”. As I said a couple of weekends ago heading up to Bar Harbor, there was something strangely prideful about driving past out-of-state license plates on the way to a pretty piece of countryside, knowing that my tags say “Maine” on them somewhere.
As long ago (relatively) as early March, I remember feeling a sensation of “coming home” when I spotted interstate signs for the Augusta exit on I-95 coming back from Bangor, and I felt the same thing entering the Augusta city limits via Route 3 on the way back from the coast a couple weekends ago.
Even at my own place I feel more comfortable at home. As I mentioned earlier, I’m moving house over the next couple of weeks into a bigger apartment. But I finally had the chance to sit down with my landlord and his fiancee last Sunday with the view to interviewing them for my book, and it ended up being a long afternoon of off-topic binge drinking. Sadly it took me nearly six months to have a beer with them, because they’re great company and I thought we got along like a house on fire, to the level that I’m going over there for brunch less than eight hours from the time I’m writing this post. Shit.
The more I type here, the more I feel it’s stream-of-consciousness bullshit that hasn’t really got a structure or purpose the same way many of my other introspective babbles do. But at the same time, maybe this as as honest as it gets?
I think my overarching point, without revealing too much of my thought process, is that I’m finally feeling like Augusta, and central Maine, are my oyster for now. I’ve got new purpose in my job, my column ideas appear to be backing up and clamoring to be written for the first time since my print debut, and I’ve rediscovered an identity and a new level of hybrid Australian/new American self-confidence I’ve been hoping to regain since I got here.
And if this is how I feel now, on your average Friday night, I look forward to how the next six months are going to play out. Stay tuned.