What Home Is

I’m sitting on my bed in New York, snacking from a bag of homemade Chex mix that traveled with me this morning on a plane from Portland, Oregon. This is bringing me great joy.

For the first time since I moved to New York over two years ago, I went home for Thanksgiving. I’d been home other times, of course, but this was the first time in a few years that I spent Thanksgiving in Portland. I was lucky to get a good chunk of time there, too – flew out Tuesday morning and came back Sunday afternoon.

One thing that’s surprised me about living in New York is how infrequently I get homesick. Or rather, how infrequently I get Portland-sick. I miss my family, but we talk all the time, and since my sister is also in the area for school, they come to New York at least a couple times a year. We’ve also gotten together in “neutral” places, like a trip to Florida last summer. So while I miss a lot of things about Portland – friends from college who live there, extended family, Fred MeyerPowell’s – I find myself able to go a long time without physically being there, because so much of what represents “home” to me can be found elsewhere.

This was my first trip to Portland since last Christmas, and I think I was wearing my almost-a-year-away-from-home badge with some degree of pride. I secretly wanted to see if I could make it a year. And I know I could have done it, but what’s the point? The opportunity to go home was there, and I wouldn’t have jumped at it if there hadn’t been some part of me that longed to be in the actual place.

These little thoughts about home have been bouncing in my mind since Tuesday. What is home, really? A place? The people in the place? A combination of the two and several other elements? When I landed at PDX on Tuesday, my first stop was my old high school, where my mom is still a teacher. A landmark for me in Portland – but the school changed locations in January. I loved chatting with my favorite teacher and cross-country coach, but we weren’t in any of the classrooms I used to sit in. It didn’t matter, of course. But it was different.

And about a year after I moved to New York, my parents moved within the Portland area. They’re not far from the old house at all – my sister who’s still at home didn’t change schools – but there’s not the same sense of nostalgia. I’m not going to Portland so I can sleep in my old room, you know? My whole frame of reference for driving has changed, too. Again – none of this really matters. Home is still home. Portland is still Portland. But I was reminded this week of how things are always in flux.

It’s the physical places that are in flux, though. Not the people I spend time with. My parents and little sister are the same people, as are my best friends from college. It was a joy to see those girls. I think there’s a relaxed air to the Thanksgiving holiday that doesn’t exist at Christmastime, where there are more events to attend, gifts to buy, places to be. At Thanksgiving, we can just hang out.

I know there isn’t a formula calculating the perfect number of times one should visit home. There are so many factors. But I know this visit was perfect, and perfectly timed. I saw so many amazing people, made two trips to Powell’s (scored a gloriously retro used copy of this for $2), tried new (to me) restaurants and sang at the top of my lungs while driving up and down I-5 (though I discovered that in two years of basically never driving, I’ve lost my parallel parking prowess).

There’s something I love about landing at JFK and knowing I’m home. Not home in the “this is where I was born” sense, but in the “this is where I am supposed to be right now” sense. So here I am. Eating snacks from home and thinking about what home really is. I think the last few days have given me a pretty good idea.

Obligatory New Year’s Post

One of my perennial New Year’s resolutions is to “blog more.” I never make it specific enough to really get motivated, so my goal for 2014 is to develop more of the thoughts I have for posts and stop leaving so many in my drafts folder. Ideas spring to mind at all hours of the day, and I want to get better at acting on that motivation.

I did leave a ton of half-formed “end-of-2013” posts sitting as drafts, but in the spirit of writing more and wrapping up the last 365 days, here’s a quick look back at some of the highlights and notable obsessions.

I’ll start with the most recent event: A ten-day trip home to Portland for Christmas. I’ve been back in New York for a couple days now, and with the benefit of hindsight, I can see how that trip helped me hit the restart button. It was rejuvenating to step out of the everyday routine, have a change of scenery, and rekindle friendships that are hard to maintain when living on the other side of the country.

Looking at the year as a whole, I’ve now completed my first full year of life after college – and my first one settled in a full-time job. I had a lot to learn about the post-college world in general, and specifically about the post-college world in New York City, but definitely feel like I’ve found my feet in a way I hadn’t thought possible when I first moved here.

On a lighter note, I’ve discovered and indulged a few new passions/obsessions this year, including movies and movie criticism. I’d never been much of a movie person before, but discovered a love for watching movies and reading reviews that place the film and its message in the larger context of society. This is due in large part to rediscovering Roger Ebert’s brilliance (I’m sad to say it took his death in April for me to remember how much I love his writing), and listening to Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday‘s weekly review segments on the Tony Kornheiser Show. Of the films I saw for the first time in 2013 (both brand-new releases in theaters and new-to-me films on Netflix/DVD), favorites include American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, Fargo, Up in the Air and The Royal Tenenbaums. 

Staying in the media vein, I discovered The West Wing this year, which changed my life a little. I don’t even care if that sounds dramatic! It’s the best show I’ve ever seen and it helped me understand a lot about the American political process. Educational value aside, it’s brilliantly written and structured, with deep character development that leads you to love even the most insufferable characters (except Mandy – she’s unlovable). I have fallen especially hard for Toby Ziegler, the White House Communications director, who proved with this rant that he is my spirit animal.

It was also wonderful having my sister in NYC over the summer, and I loved traveling to Philadelphia, Boston, Orlando and Portland over the course of the year. So many of the moments that made 2013 great would seem silly if I tried to explain them, but little things like a great night out with new friends or a funny text from an old friend gave the year even more character.

As far as 2014 goes, I have a few resolutions – but again, nothing really specific. I’d like to travel abroad (hopefully to London) and milk even more out of my time living in NYC. I’ve also been saying for years that my dream is to write a novel. At the moment, I’m pretty thin on ideas, but maybe I’ll start piecing it together in the next twelve months. 

Who knows where the next 365 days will lead, but here’s to a fresh start.

New York and Portland, Lately

There is no tired like red-eye jet-lag tired. Holy cow. Actually, new-parent tired is probably way worse, but of all the tireds I have experienced, this PDX–>JFK variety takes the cake.

While I’m tired in this moment, I’m really feeling refreshed after a four-day visit to Portland for 4th of July weekend. It was planned pretty last-minute, and I flew out after work on Wednesday.

Brief aside: One of the best “cheating the New York system” feelings comes from taking the subway to the airport. Yes, I paid an arm and a leg for a cab ride home from the airport this morning – I love the subway but there’s no way I’m riding it at 5:30 a.m. after having been on a plane all night – but getting all the way from Chelsea to JFK for $8ish when you include the cost of the AirTrain? One of the city’s best bargains.

Anyway, we (meaning my sister Hope and me; see below for more on why she’s in the city this summer) arrived late Wednesday night and got our first glimpse at the Landsem family’s new home in West Linn. My parents moved from Tualatin in May, and despite my lack of familiarity with the floor plan, I have to admit it’s a cool house, complete with a huge backyard that provides ample roaming space for the dog who may have kind of started to like me.

For as long as I can remember, we’ve spent our Independence Days at our cousins’ house in the Columbia River Gorge among grandparents, aunts, uncles and other friends, setting off our own fireworks in their driveway and enjoying a bigger show over the river, put on by the city of Cascade Locks. I talk a pretty good “city girl” game, but spending the day in view of the river, trees and mountains reminded me that there’s nothing quite like the natural beauty of the Northwest.

More visits with family and friends filled the weekend, and they not only afforded me opportunities to see some of my best friends from college; they also gave me the chance to drive all over Portland to see them in various locales: downtown, the Rose Garden (as in flowers, not Blazers), Pittock Mansion, the Eastbank Esplanade and of course, that great bastian of suburbia, Bridgeport Village. I love driving and never get to do it in New York. Jetting across town to see some of my favorite people at some of my favorite places, all while driving with the windows down and blasting my rediscovered Switchfoot mixes from high school (don’t judge) was a serious treat.

It can be tough to live 3,000 miles away from most of the people with whom I shared my college years. While I’ve made amazing friends in New York – honestly, every day I count my blessings with regards to the community I’ve found here, and know many of those people will be lifelong friends – there’s a slightly deeper comfort zone with the people who knew you before you started out on the post-college journey. This past weekend, they challenged me (in a good way) with regards to how I like New York, where I see myself in a few years, whether I would move back to Portland and how I’m doing personally and spiritually. I was probably in a reflective mood anyway, since the visit came around the same time as my one-year anniversary of living in New York (June 18) and my birthday (July 1), but I loved seeing how the last year had taken us all down different paths but hadn’t changed the relationship we had. I am blessed to have them.

New York is a singular city. No other place holds the same level of excitement and intensity, but this weekend reminded me how important it is to take a breather every now and then. Recharging in the company of family, friends and Portland was good for the soul.

*Since I haven’t written in awhile, I have to do a quick speed round of awesome NYC happenings from the last month or so:

  • SUNSHINE. And as a result, perfect afternoons and evenings outside at the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria, the Skillman BBQ Crawl last month in my neighborhood, and the Top of the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking district.
  • My sister Hope’s arrival in NYC for the summer. She’s interning at the Wall Street Journal, and even had an editorial published in the paper last week. A number of other friends – from Oregon and elsewhere – are also finding their way to the city this summer.
  • Lots and lots of Mets games.
  • Movie obsessions as of late: Joss Whedon’s black-and-white, Shakespeare-language-in-a-modern-setting staging of Much Ado About Nothing, which Hope and I loved. And, because I’ve had a Bill Murray obsession lately (for no particular reason, although I recently rediscovered Lost in Translation and have pretty much had it playing on a Netflix loop), I watched The Royal Tenenbaums on my flight to Portland. So I guess now I have a Gene Hackman obsession. I mean, come on.

That seems to be it for now. I can’t wait for the rest of summer in the city.

Breakfast and an iPad

Today marks the end of an era for the Landsem household: My parents ended our subscription to The Oregonian.

For as long as I can remember, The Oregonian has been part of my life. In middle and high school, I’d read the sports or living sections while eating breakfast (Fridays were reserved for the A&E). I loved reading the comics in color on Sundays, too. A self-proclaimed hoarder, I have copies stuffed in my closet commemorating the deaths of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy, and countless sports sections recounting the Oregon Ducks’ recent football success.

Our final Oregonian.

I’m a journalism major in the “print v. web/newspapers dying/internet paywall” age; that print papers are on the decline is not news to me. But for some reason, that discussion never really hit home until last night, when my parents announced that today’s paper would be our last home-delivered Oregonian.

While much of my parents’ decision to cancel their subscription is based on the availability of other options – my dad can read a print copy of The Wall Street Journal at work, they both have iPads and both read a lot online as it is – another factor was the poor delivery service. I haven’t been home to witness it, but my dad’s been frustrated for a few months since our delivery is often missed.

I’m sure the Oregonian has bigger worries, but when it’s so easy for consumers to get their news elsewhere, you’d think they’d bend over backwards to serve loyal customers (my parents have subscribed since they married in 1986; and really, since 1982, when my dad split a subscription with his roommates at OSU). After a few days of no paper, and no apparent effort on the part of the paper to remedy the situation, my parents decided it was time to cancel.

My parents are not customer service snobs; they’ve considered unsubscribing a few times in the past, but never had as many reasons to as they do now. One factor in their decision was as simple as clearing the clutter that accumulates with a daily paper. They still plan to buy the Sunday edition from Starbucks or 7-Eleven, to take advantage of the expanded feature sections and coupons.

I completely understand what they’re doing. Since I’m not home 90% of the time, it doesn’t even affect me. But metaphorically speaking, a stage of my life ended with the end of the Oregonian subscription. The Landsems are no longer one of the households keeping print media alive. My eight-year-old sister will never run outside, pajama-clad, and grab the paper to read over breakfast. To archive major world events, I won’t save a front page in my closet drawer; I’ll take a screenshot or clip to Evernote.

It is sad, but more for what it represents in journalism than for what it means to my family. I’m not losing any sleep over it – I’m waking up with breakfast and The New York Times on my iPad.

Pondering Life’s Big Questions. Or, My Last Night in NYC.

An email with this subject line just popped into my inbox: “Check in for your flight to Portland.”

That means my return flight from NYC to PDX is less than 24 hours away.

What?

When I booked the flight back in April, just leaving for New York in June seemed lightyears away. And now it’s August? What the heck?

Editor’s Note: I really don’t analyze my emotions as much as the next few paragraphs might suggest. Bear with me for one post that’s more on the “reflective” side.

But my final day in the city has arrived. And I’m not sure how to feel about it. Last year, I was legitimately homesick and ready to be back in Oregon. This year, it’s different; I’m excited because I’ll be reunited with family and friends (and Oregon football), but I’m also bummed because I’m worried that a lot of the growth I experienced this summer – personally and professionally – might be stunted once I’m back in my true comfort zone.

It’s not as though I can’t grow during the school year. I’ll be involved in a lot of different internships and activities that will undoubtedly challenge me, and I truly can’t wait for it all to begin. As much as I loved the city this summer, there were times I wished I was at home, where the pressure to be doing something all the time is lifted. But when you’re in New York for an extended period of time, you can’t imagine being anywhere else. What’s the point of living in another city when everything happens here?

Sure, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I’ve pondered the question. I think part of my nervousness stems from knowing that I only have one more year of school (and fun and wearing sweats all day and being home, if I do relocate after graduation) left before I’m tossed into the real world, and I’m scared that I won’t make the most of it.

But amidst all these larger-than-life questions, there’s real work to be done. When I get home, it’ll be time to roll up my sleeves and start preparing for the year at Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency at the University of Oregon, where I’ll be Firm Director. I’ve also started working with Baseball Prospectus as one of their social media interns, and my mom has informed me that I must deep-clean my room and my car before I head back to Eugene. It might not be New York, but all of the aforementioned tasks (except maybe cleaning the car) make for an exciting agenda upon my return.

Guess it’s time to print my boarding pass.

Learning from the Pros

If you’re a PR student, having the opportunity to dialogue with recruiters from one of the world’s largest independent public relations firms is invaluable and exciting.  Yesterday, Waggener Edstrom, one such firm, invited several UO PR students into their Portland offices.  We had the opportunity to learn more about Waggener Edstrom and hear recruiters’ perspectives on resumes, personal branding and more.

Six members of WE’s Talent Acquisition Team talked with us about what they look for in a job candidate and offered tips for job seekers in the PR industry.  My own job search won’t happen for a couple years, but I learned a lot from the tips they shared.  Some of the “gems”:

  • It’s important to demonstrate your digital fluency to a prospective employer.  This was a new phrase for me, which I understood to mean your ability to demonstrate proficiency in a number of different digital media.  It’s not just about being able to use a Flip Cam, though; it’s also about being able to demonstrate how you use digital platforms like social media.
  • Four C’s: Though it wasn’t specifically communicated as “the Four C’s”, the team discussed the importance of knowing the company, its competition, its clients when you come into an interview, and the necessity of coming to an interview with questions.  It seems obvious, but I know that I can spend so much time anticipating questions that I forget to do extensive background research.  Doing background research will inevitably lead to questions you want to ask the interviewers.
  • You can share anecdotes during an interview that aren’t necessarily related to a public relations internship or experience.  In my case, I didn’t gain PR experience while working as a nanny this summer, but I still learned a lot about solving problems on the fly, working with a team and dealing with long-term challenges.  In an interview, I can share those experiences and what I learned from them.  It’s not a replacement for a PR internship, but non-PR endeavors can still prove valuable in the job application process.
  • Be prepared to accept an intern role post-graduation that has high potential to lead to a full-time position.  Even though I’ve always pictured accepting a full-time job after graduation, the Waggener Edstrom workshop helped me understand how a post-grad internship could fit in nicely with a long-term career plan.  It may seem counterintuitive, but it could also help get your career off the ground.

While I’m far from a PR pro, that’s what I gained from the Waggener Edstrom workshop.  The Talent Acquisition Team shared several other tips, but I can’t post them all here without writing a small novel.  Aside from implementing what I learned yesterday, I’m looking forward to learning from the Waggener Edstrom Career Blog, which posts WE employee profiles, shares interview tips and more.  Waggener Edstrom Careers also tweets: @WE_Careers

Janis + Wikipedia = Editorial Review

This clip from 30 Rock pretty much sums up why Wikipedia is adding an extra layer of “editorial review” to its articles on living people.  I know Janis Joplin is dead, but you get the idea. (Sorry for the poor video quality; it was the only one I could find):

This New York Times article provides a good summary of Wikipedia’s proposed changes. I think this is a great idea. People go to Wikipedia expecting credible information.  Hopefully infrequent, less-established contributors will be willing to sacrifice their right to the “final say” in an entry so that the general public receives the most factual article.

I’ve never actually contributed to any Wikipedia articles, so I’ve never personally experienced the satisfaction of knowing I’ve supplied the public with valuable information.  Have you ever contributed to a Wikipedia article?  What do you think of the idea?

Also, one non-Wikipedia related thought: if you’re on Twitter and live in the Portland area (or even if you don’t), check out @PDXfoodcarts.  They tweet about the numerous unique food cart offerings around the city, and for someone who loves local flavor, I love seeing sweet uses of social media like this one.  If you know of a similar Twitter account in your area, I’d love to hear about it.