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The Vine, Anniversary Edition: April 26, 2010

Submitted by on April 26, 2010 – 4:32 PM101 Comments

A quick administrative note: I won't pick prize-winners until all the anniversary Vines have gone up; that'll give everyone a decent enough crack at answering. On to today's questions!

*****

Hi Sars,

I have one for you and the readers. After 11 years of living mostly overseas in Australia, I am now returning home to Boston permanently. It's by choice, sort of: I've recently found that I've pretty much exhausted my visa options, and rather than try to spin it out any further on desperation, anxiety and no money, I'm going to go home and make my life where I'm safe and secure and have the novel options of full-time work, earning enough to live on properly, doing a masters, starting relationships unencumbered by visa end dates, and all those other things that I imagined I'd have in place long before I was 32.

The thing is, while I know that I'm making the right decision for my future, it's breaking my heart. I wanted so desperately to stay here in Sydney, and I have my friends here and my life here and so many things I love. I never seriously imagined moving back to Boston permanently, and while there are heaps of awesome things about Boston (both as a city and being closer to my roots there) I'm still afraid of how much pain is in store for me. I'm going back to no job, no money, a very small social circle — more like a triangle, really — and, god help me, living in my parents' house.

I know that I've got to find a balance between mourning the life I'm leaving behind me in Sydney and embracing the opportunities that will now be available to me. I'm scared that I'm going to get mired in the grief. I'm not good at letting go of things, and I have some anxiety problems on top of it. I went through a big break-up about 18 months ago (which brought about my visa problems to begin with), and it took me a long time to get over that 3-1/2-year relationship. I feel like leaving Sydney is going to be more like a break-up than anything else, which means that I'm now facing the end of an 11-year relationship, which is just…so much worse, and I'm not sure I'm up to it, you know?

So what I'm looking for is suggestions on how to deal with resettlement from you and from people who have been through it, especially people who moved super-long-distance and/or didn't go entirely by choice. How did you deal with the grief? How did you get back on your feet? How did you get your social circle up and running? And how did you balance keeping in touch with your loved ones in your previous home with letting go of your life there and moving on?

To clarify: I am NOT looking for suggestions about staying in Australia. I've done the research, I know how miniscule my chances are, and I know that I cannot bear to live with this anxiety and insecurity any longer. I want help moving on and restarting my life. I know that this is something that people do every day, and I know that this could be the best decision of my life IF I do it right. Any suggestions you and the readers could give would be very welcome.

There's No Place Like Home…Wherever That Is

Dear Place,

I've lived in the same time zone my entire life, and never moved farther from where I grew up than I could drive in a day, so the readers will no doubt have better advice than mine.

But if you're already thinking about it as a break-up, it might not be the worst thing to treat it as you would the end of an interpersonal relationship. Not a "don't call Australia for 90 days" level of literalness, obviously, but some of the other tricks: trying to view it as the beginning of something, instead of the end; allowing yourself a certain amount of time each day to feel sad about it before moving on to another thing; accepting that we don't live in movies, and these things can take time to adjust to.

And now that I think about it, you may want to avoid calling Australia for 90 days. Well, don't call your friends for like a month or something, and don't go on Facebook for a while, because it's the same principle that applies to going to college — it's a good decision and you're excited about it, but it's also intimidating and overwhelming, and there's a temptation to call your high-school friends and write them letters and visit them and kind of try to keep one foot in your old life. We all did it, ain't nothing wrong with it, but people who kept doing it into sophomore year, it was like, why'd you come here?

You'll have days when it's hard and you feel horribly homesick, all the more so because you are "home" and you might feel like you "shouldn't." Just give yourself time. And see what the readers think. Readers?

*****

Hello!

Neither my sister (a librarian) nor I (not too shabby with the Google-fu) have been able to track this one down, but if Vine readers can not only identify a Seventeen magazine story about a gelatinous girl in a salad dressing bottle, but find the text online, what can they not do?

Our mother has often talked about a science-fiction short story that was very meaningful to her. As she did not share it with us at the time that she read it, I'm guessing it predates our being of an age to appreciate it, which means at the latest it's from the 1960s, but more likely from the 1950s.

Here's what she tells us about the story:

It is titled "The Curator."

It is set in a time when either most of humanity is either dead or doomed or suchlike; perhaps a select number has been able to evacuate Earth.

A man who knows he and human life on Earth are doomed still wants to preserve the best of what humankind has produced over the years. He travels around collecting items to put into a spaceship to be sent out away from Earth, hoping that someday someone will see them again. She specifically remembers that he cut the hands of Adam and God out of the Sistine Chapel as one of the items for the ship.

She still cries when she describes the story.

Trying to make my mom cry again (in a good way)

*****

Hi Sars and the great Tomato Nation,

I just learned that April is National Poetry Month, which kind of makes me want to read more poetry. (You know, more than the none that I currently read.)

The trouble is that I'm a very literal person, so I have trouble figuring out what's being said if it's not explicitly stated. I think what I need is Poetry for Beginners — something that's pretty easily accessible.

I remember enjoying some of John Donne's work when I encountered it in college, and Sidney Lanier's "The Marshes of Glynn" was another that I really liked. I'd like to try to stretch myself just a bit, but don't know where to start. Any recommendations? Bonus points for material that's in the public domain and easily findable online. Thanks a million!

Perhaps not quite as literal as Constance Brennan, but close

*****

Hi, Sars and Tomato Nation…

I have been tormented by the image from a book I must have read between second and fifth grade of the main character's younger sibling eating — barf — peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. Specifically, gloppy, messy, dripping peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. I feel like this is a minor part of a beloved and re-read book…one of the L'Engle books about the Austin family? A Judy Blume book? Help!

Google searches have turned up, unbelievably, nothing but recipes…RECIPES!!!…for the horrific-sounding peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich. Who would want a recipe for that? And, who would need a recipe for that? Isn't it just PB and mayo on bread?

Still gagging

*****

Hey Sars and Readers!

I'm looking for a book. I don't have a lot of specifics so I am hoping someone will be able to piece something together from what little I remember.

This book was listed as a choice on a school summer-reading list one year. I think I read it in early high school, but it could have been middle school, so sometime between the years of 1992-1995, though it may have been published anytime prior to that. It was a short story (possibly a poem, but I don't think so).

The key components I remember include: a lighthouse keeper, an island or other remote area of land which contained the lighthouse, a crane or other sea bird which returned to the lonely lighthouse keeper each year.

I think the lighthouse keeper was an old man, possibly Asian? Or maybe the cover of the book had an origami crane on it and I am projecting. There may or may not have been a young child involved who came to visit the old man? And the old man might have been teaching him life lessons or something via the crane? Or maybe there was no child at all, and it was just the crane who he talked to? There may have been a broken wing/arm/leg involved somewhere with someone needing to tend to the injury…

All I know is that one year the bird and/or child stopped visiting because he/it was injured and/or died and it was very sad. Or maybe the old man died. Or both. It's all very jumbled in my brain! I believe there were a few line drawing/sketch-type illustrations. I thought the title might have had the word "crane" or "lighthouse keeper" in it, but I've searched Amazon for all children's and YA books with those words in the titles and nothing is similar.

I would love to re-read this story. Googling has been futile. There are a few Asian stories involving cranes, but it is NOT the story about the girl with cancer and the paper cranes, or the story about the crane wife.

Thanks for any leads!

Cranes on the brains

*****

Hey Sars,

Here's another shoe plea for you and the readers.

I'm starting nursing school this year. This means I'll need some seriously supportive and comfortable footwear. There are plenty of nurse blogs with suggestions, but they rarely apply to me because I happen to be a guy. Male nurses are still something of a minority and I haven't found any shoes marketed straight to us.

The major difficulty is that, as part of my student uniform, the shoes have to be solid white and without any non-white markings or logos. That means I can't just follow my druthers and go with a really good pair of hiking boots.

The only all-white shoes I've ever owned were cheap sneakers, and they would never have held up to an eight- or twelve-hour shift of standing and walking. Worse, regular sneakers are not waterproof — and hopefully I need not explain why that's an important consideration in a hospital situation.

In what brand or style might a shoe-challenged dude find this sort of thing?

Short Scrubs, Long Jacket

Dear Scrub,

…Clogs? My friends in the health field swear by them for long days, and I found a small selection on Zappos.com; the Dansko Professional is all white, including the sole. You could check Endless.com and shoes.com as well.

Readers?

*****

Hi Sars,

My usual Google-voodoo has not worked. Technically it is something my mom remembers, but I doubt that she thinks about it very often — it's me that really wants this mystery solved!

Okay, so this is something that aired on TV, most likely in the '80s, most likely on PBS. It sounds like a Twilight Zone episode or a Ray Bradbury type of a thing, but searches into those areas have left me without a solid lead, so it may have even been a movie of some sort.

A few things my mom remembers:

  • In this town/planet/whatever, the currency is minutes of your life (i.e. you want to buy lunch, that will cost you 15 minutes). You can also earn minutes just like you would earn money.
  • When you run out of time, you die. So, you can live for a very long time if you are "rich" or frugal with your life minutes.
  • I think she said there was some sort of credit-card type of thing that held your balance. They would swipe it to pay for things.
  • One person was desperately trying to beg minutes from people since she was nearly out of them.
  • The most chilling moment she relayed to me involved a compulsive gambler at a slot machine who had to just keep trying one more time to hit the jackpot. The gambler didn't win — instead, he/she ran out of time and died on the spot.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? The concept creeps me right out and I'd love to see it someday. If anyone can help, I'd be much obliged. I don't want my life minutes to expire before I figure this out!

Hey Mom, keep your other weird movie memories to yourself, okay?

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101 Comments »

  • Lisa says:

    Heeeey, I happen to LIKE peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwiches! (Well, PB & Miracle Whip, but, ya know.) I never knew there was a story about them — will be waiting with bated breath! (And god, no white bread. PB&M needs a strong, sturdy brown bread. I prefer Roman Meal.)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …Roman Meal! Clashes with every jelly in the store.

  • TashiAnn says:

    Short Scrubs, Long Jacket = http://www.footsmart.com sells shoes for people who need really supportive shoes. On the home page for men's shoes there is an all white shoe. Good luck!

  • An says:

    For poetry, to get a decent spread, I'd try a copy of 20th Century Poetry and Poetics. You can probably get a used copy at any used book store (or any other Intro to Poetry text book).

    That was my introduction to poetry. I think my copy was a college text because of the notes written in it, so older editions = cheap. This way you can flip through and find the kind of poetry you like. You could be surprised by what's appealing and what's out there. I was.

    Also, if you're like me, and find Sylvia Plath terrifying on multiple levels, it's a low dose of the stuff you don't like and you don't have to feel obligated to read it all.

    Or you can poke around at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/
    They've got lots of cool and free stuff.

  • Marv in DC says:

    I don't know the Pb and Mayo story, but I'd like to find out since I have liked them since I was a little kid and always wondered why.

  • emily says:

    @Constance – it's not online, but there's an excellent anthology edited by Helen Vendler called "Poems, Poets, Poetry". It sorts poems thematically rather than chronologically (the way most anthologies do) and has a great mix of older and more contemporary work. It can be on the pricey side, but it's often available used.

  • Anna says:

    Hi, Poem-person. There's a ton of poets out there for everyone– but every single person I've ever recommended Billy Collins and his work to has loved the guy. He's American and has served two terms as the Poet Laureate of the US. I think this quote does a lot to sum up the appeal of his work: "We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals. He doesn't hide things from us, as I think lesser poets do. He allows us to overhear, clearly, what he himself has discovered."

    You can find a good selection of his work here:
    http://www.poemhunter.com/billy-collins/

    You can watch some animated versions of his work here:
    http://www.bcactionpoet.org/

    And you can even download him reading 33 of his poems aloud for free over here:
    http://www.bestcigarette.us/2004/09/downloading_the.html

  • patricia says:

    @Place: I moved to my current city 3 years ago and left a city I had grown to love dearly. For the first year, approximately, I didn't work hard to reach out to potential friends, find communities that I might enjoy being with, etc. because in the back of my mind I was always thinking of moving back. I realize that going back to Australia isn't really a choice for you, but I think your mindset needs to be along the lines of, I'm here now, need to make the best of it and get along with finding a life. I don't mean not mourning your loss, but be active about rooting yourself in your new place. Find whatever community or activity speaks to you and get involved in it, make an effort to see your triangle of friends regularly, look for work immediately. Get out and explore Boston; surely parts of it have changed since you were there last, and you'll see even the familiar places with different eyes after the last 11 years abroad.

    I think Sarah's advice about not calling Australia is pretty good too. Not that you need to cut yourself off entirely, but staying in constant contact with your old friends really will impede your ability to be open to new ones.

    And definitely do set aside some time to mourn your loss- but then try to be done with the mourning for that day and move on with things. It will help you face forward instead of getting stuck looking back.

    Good luck! I sympathize mightily with your situation. But you can do this! You're off on a great adventure, as great an adventure as moving to Sydney was 11 years ago.

  • Sophie says:

    @Place: I moved from New Orleans to Chicago, and while it's not the longest distance, the two places are worlds apart culturally, and the move was definitelt not by choice (Thanks, Hurricane Katrina!)

    It took me a long time to adjust to living here, and I think at least part of that was because I never took ownership of the decision to move here. I felt really helpless and put upon, and it made everything seem SO much worse…the weather, the lack of a social circle, the dramatic changes in lifestyle, etc. What finally helped me learn to enjoy the city of Chicago and my life here was actually saying to myself, "look…maybe moving to Chicago wasn't your first choice, and there were factors beyond your control that prompted the move. But ultimately, it was your choice to move, and your choice to stay, so make the most of it. Own it." It sounds kind of corny, but it really helped. I don't mean you have to go out an join a book club or start attending singles events, but enjoy the place around you. I bought a guide to Chicago neighborhoods by restaurant (Time Out…I assume there's a Boston one) and tried to travel to different neighborhoods. It didn't help me meet any people, but it did give me something to talk about when I DID meet someone new besides how awesome New Orleans is. If food isn't your thing, I'm sure you could do the same thing with live music venues, art galleries, vintage shops, local theatre, rec sports leagues, or whatever your thing is. Rediscover the place; chances are, there's new stuff to do, or some scene you didn't really appreciate or even know about before you lived in Australia.

    Eventually, you'll stop trying to do these things, and just enjoy doing them. I think Sars once said to give any new home a year, and I think that's true. Don't feel bad or guilty if you don't love Boston again immediately, or if you get really "Australia sick" (even five years llater, crawfish and Jazz Fest season is HARD y'all!) Eventually, you'll get to a place where watching "Muriel's Wedding" and drinking a Foster's is actually fun and brings back warm memories, instead of making you weep (Can you tell my knowledge of life in Australia is limited?) I know now I'm loving "Treme," when a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have been able to handle it.

    Best of luck!

  • Bess says:

    @Twilight Zone: It is clearly not the *same* thing your mom is talking about it, but there is a striking similarity between that description and Harlan Ellison's story "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Tiktockman. It's another future distopia where being a minute late to work removes a minute form your life, etc, and she might enjoy it even if it's not quite what you're looking for.

  • avis says:

    @scrub – several of the nurses I know like to wear/swear by (forgive me) Crocs clogs. They come in all white, even in men's sizes, and are waterproof.

  • Betsey says:

    ATTN Moderator: Please approve this version, with non-screwed up HTML, instead. Thanks!

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    April 26, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    To Short Scrubs:

    I have been wearing the PW Minor Performance Walker for years, for medical work and other on-feet-all-day activities. They are the best shoes I've had for something like this. I do add half-insoles, but that's mostly because I have ludicrous arches, and need the extra arch support; I don't need them for padding. These shoes also wear like iron – I can get 12 to 18 months out of a pair, wearing them every single day.

    I wear the Women's 6.5 EE (Women's shoes in widths! Who'da thunk it?) in Black, but they come in Men's and in all-white as well.

    I've bought my last few pairs from Shoebuy.com, because my local shoe store stopped carrying them.

    Here's a link to the Men's shoe in White.

  • Elle says:

    Scrubs, what about Crocs?

    http://www.crocs.com/

    They do have a medical line, but even their regular clogs are very comfortable.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I remember the peanut butter and mayo sandwiches but I cannot remember… Ugh, so frustrating. I'm thinking this was mid-late 80's?

  • Beth says:

    re poems: the best poem in the world, to my mind, can be found here. It's short, it says exactly what it means, most people can relate, and it uses the f word. It's called 'This Be The Verse' and it's by Philip Larkin. Hope you enjoy.

  • Katie says:

    @ Poetry: If you're interested in stretching yourself as far as meter and verse go, I'd recommend http://prosody.lib.virginia.edu/. This website allows you to practice identifying meter and rhyme scheme. I have found that looking into meter actually makes the poetry much more enjoyable for me. There's also an online glossary that explains all of the fancy terms.

    I also have some poets to recommend (although I second the idea of starting by picking up an anthology and then branching out based on what you like in there [there's a cheap one called Six American Poets that's published as a trade paperback (so under $20) that has Frost, Dickinson, Whitman, Stevens, Hughes, and Williams that I find great if you're interested in American poetry]). If you like Donne, try Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas Wyatt ("They Flee from Me that Sometimes Did Me Seek" has one of my favorite lines, ever), and Andrew Marvell ("To His Coy Mistress"). I also find Elizabeth Bishop ("One Art," "Sestina") really moving and Dorothy Parker ("On Being a Woman," for example) just delightful, if a little caustic. If you want narrative sorts of poems, I don't know that you can beat Robert Browning ("My Last Duchess") or Alfred, Lord Tennyson ("Ulysses"). Recently, I just heard a lecture on sound in Gerard Manly Hopkins and Christina Rossetti and picked up volumes of their work to read over the summer.

  • Valerie says:

    For poems, I'd recommend Walter de la Mare. Also try an anthology for young adults – not little-kid stuff, but ones for middle-school & high school age. Those are often a little more accessible than "grown-up" poetry.

  • penguinlady says:

    Hey Place Like Home, what I would recommend is getting yourself a tour book of Boston/New England and rediscovering it. My hubby and I have moved cross-country twice and are now living in another country (hey, Canada counts as foreign!), and even though it's sad to leave friends and family, it can be exciting to go someplace new and meet people and see things you didn't expect. It sounds like you know you have to go, so don't make it harder on yourself.

  • Colette says:

    I've moved across the country to a place where I knew basically no one, and yes, it will take time to adjust. Keep doing things you like to do (and maybe take it as an opportunity to do things that you've wanted to do but never did), talk to the people you meet, and eventually you'll meet people.

    I've done a couple of projects where I did something every day (for example, in 2008 I did one new thing every day) and after a while, my thinking changed – I was much more open to doing new things than I had been. If you're the kind of person who likes that sort of self-imposed challenge, you could apply it here – challenge yourself to make an effort to talk to one new person in person every day, or make a point of finding something you like about having moved every day.

    You will have days where you miss your friends in Sydney and wish you'd never moved – and that's OK. You'll get past it.

  • liz says:

    I remember the pbm sammies, too! I also feel like it was Judy Blume – Freckle Juice, maybe or Super-Fudge? Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing? I feel like it was one of her books for the younger set. Man, sorry, this probably doesn't help at all.

  • Diane says:

    I actually respectfully disagree with the advice to cut yourself off from Australia. I moved across the country two years ago and it's a lot different as an adult than when you're in college. There you have a built-in new life and automatic new social circle and way to quickly meet people who also need new friends.

    If you're by yourself I think it's worse to cut yourself off from your friends and support system, wherever they are. The time change will cause you enough distance and inability to talk to your friends, you don't need to go further than that. And these people are still going to be your friends (not all of course, but hopefully some of them). I found facebook really helped keep me sane, especially if you're under stress looking for a job and an apt and stuff – even if it was just keeping up with who's still dating who, etc. or posting a sarcastic comment on someone's page just to feel like yourself for a bit. If you don't have your friends at a time like this then what are they for? Seriously, do not make your entire social circle solely people with whom you need to be on your best behavior because you're not close friends yet! But everyone's different and I was totally alone – new city, no friends, worked from home, you may be different.

    Good luck and remember it takes time and every day it gets better and like Sars said, ultimately it's the beginning of something new and exciting!

  • Jenn says:

    @gagging – Could it have been one of the Pike kids in the Baby-Sitters Club series? They ate lots of weird stuff.

  • sam says:

    Scrubs:

    Just want to second (or third) the crocs recommendation. They're hella ugly, but I wouldn't have made it through my tour of india without them, because they're also hella comfortable for standing for long periods of time. That's why mario batali (and several other chefs I know) swear by them – many many many hours on their feet in one place (standing relatively still can be much harder on your feet than walking).

    As someone mentioned above, they do have a specific medical line that is designed specifically for health care professionals – all white, closed shoes rather than the ones that have all the holes in them.

  • zh says:

    For persons new to poetry who want to dip a toe in the water, may I recommend "Poetry 180," a site started at the Library of Congress by Billy Collins when he was Poet Laureate. It is geared toward high schoolers, and many of them are meant to be read out loud, but the poems are not baby-poems, they just aren't all Elioted up with footnotes and Greek and whatnot.

    http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/

    One of my faves is, Domestic Work, 1937 by Natasha Tretheway.

    Other poets who have a simpler, more direct style:

    Mark Doty
    Kay Ryan (our current Poet Laureate!)
    Stephen Dunn
    Mark Strand

  • Meredith B. says:

    Gag,

    Something about that rang with me, specifically, the word "gloppy" (Hew). I know I read the same book as a kid!

    A little Google-Fu and some random word association later, and it literally came to me out of the blue. I'm no 100% sure, but I think the book is "10 Kids, No Pets" by Ann M. Martin. I haven't read it in a while, but I'm pretty sure that's where I read about the sandwich.

    The things we remember…

  • clobbered says:

    @Perhaps – try the poetry of Wendy Cope. It is very contemporary and rather literal, but has that twist that makes you realise some things can only be said well in verse.

    @Scrubs – Try SAS shoes – you can't get them online, but Macy's stocks some of them. They are ridiculously comfortable, and some (like the Time Out model) are available in white (sasshoes.com)

    @No Place like Home – this may sound crazy given you are going back to your home town, but why not find an Aussie hangout in Boston? That could serve to provide a transition between the two cultures.

  • Jon says:

    Making Mom Cry — I don't know that particular story, but I would start by checking out the table of contents of the series Isaac Asimove Presents the Great SF Stories [xx] [Year]. There are volumes covering 1939 through '63, and Wikipedia seems to have the table of contents of each volume. (Here's a Wikipedia page that has links to each individual volume.) If it really was that great a story, it may be collected there, and it might have a title that clues you in to the plot.

  • Jon says:

    Damn, here's the link to the Wikipedia page: http://bit.ly/6bP0JH

  • Jen says:

    Finally, I know one!

    @ trying: The story is called "The Custodian", it's by William Tenn, and I have it in a book called "18 Greatest Science Fiction Stories", edited by Laurence M. Janifer, published by Grossett & Dunlap in 1966 and reprinted in 1971 under the Tempo Books imprint. According to its introduction in that book, it appeared in Tenn's collection "Of All Possible Worlds", and originally in "If" magazine in 1953.

  • cv says:

    For poems, my favorite anthology is "Good Poems" edited by Garrison Keillor. It's a big mix and includes a lot of accessible stuff and shorter poems. It might be useful for identifying poets and styles you like.

    Pretty sure the PB and Mayo book isn't a Madeleine L'Engle. I practically memorized many of her books as a middle schooler, and I think that part would have stood out in my memory.

  • Madge says:

    @Scrub – Dr. Martens makes all-white boots, some with all-white soles as well. For instance: http://tinyurl.com/2vcnjgp

  • Rebecca says:

    Seconding the clogs, they seem pretty gender-neutral to me and are almost universally adopted by all the medical people I know (thus their version in all white).

    If you're looking for male nurses to ask, you might also try the dude at Man-Nurse Diaries: http://mannursediaries.blogspot.com/

  • Arcadian says:

    @Place: I've moved back and forth between Europe and America a couple of times now, and I have anxiety issues too. I'm also very introverted and have a hard time making friends. I've struggled a lot, so I don't know if I'm the best person to be giving advice, but I've realized that a couple things help me. One is to — as soon as you can — find places, including public places, where you feel comfortable. For me that means getting familiar with the local library, finding a bar or pub that's quiet enough to read and play board games (yeah, I'm a dork) maybe a bike trail, a good local market or sandwich place, a park, things like that. If you find places where you can feel comfortable, it helps you be less tied to your apartment/parents' house (done that!) and gives you other places where you feel like you belong. I've also realized that I have to give myself a full year of not guilting myself about not feeling totally comfortable. One year is just how long it takes me to make friends and carve out space for myself, and before that there's no point in getting annoyed with myself. Coming to terms with that was a big help. You may also consider getting a therapist or starting a journal so you have a safe place to put all your feelings about the city, where you can be honest if you're not happy about something and you won't feel like you're complaining to your new friends. And remember that the people you do know will introduce you to others, and others, and others…

    @Poetry: If I were you, I'd grab a YA book called "Love That Dog," by Sharon Creech. Not if you hate YA books, obviously, but it's a sweet and touching story of a young boy's encounter with poetry, and they include several poems in the appendix that might help you find something you like. You might also try "The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry," by Alan Kaufman. It has a lot of beat and alternative poetry that makes it a really interesting introduction, especially if you've been raised on people like Shakespeare and Milton. I always have to dip in and out of it, rather than reading it straight through, but it's a really interesting book.

  • Dear Still Gagging;

    I don't have a suggestion for your book, but my dad use to make Mayonaisse, Cheese and Peanut Butter sandwiches (No my dad wasn't Elvis, and he wasn't wasted either!) that I also loved in my youth. Miracle Whip on one slice of bread, Creamy peanut butter on the other slice and a slice of Kraft in the middle of the two. It's not as bad as it sounds. Or maybe it is, I haven't had one in twenty-some-odd years.

  • Kirsty says:

    Cranes on the Brain: the crane/lighthouse story sounds like "The Snow Goose"

  • Liz says:

    Cranes–Not sure, as some of the details don't overlap, but you may be thinking of Paul Gallico's The Snow Goose, which features a snow goose with a broken wing, a semi-feral child, a hunchbacked lighthouse-keeper, and is just the sort of thing to make middle school suggested reading lists.

    Scrub–you probably want the Danskos. Frankly, I've never seen any fully-fledged nurses wearing all-white shoes in the hospital, so that's probably an unpleasant rite of passage, but lots and lots of non-student medical people wear them because they are super-supportive and can be hosed off if necessary. A pair of natty green nubuck ones got me through my internship, which involved 30-hour shifts every 4th night for a year.

  • JB says:

    No Place Like Home: I went through a (less drastic) 1300-mile move post-college, but two time zones and a bout of depression later, I did learn some things. I agree with the posters above, to make it a point to explore your new home… learn what's cool, find where the good restaurants are, take day trips to nearby cities or states, etcetera.

    As for the social circle issue, that was something I had to learn the hard way. What I would suggest is just say "yes" to any opportunity. Co-workers going out for drinks? Say yes. I learned that by forcing myself to say yes, I actually went out, made friends, and had fun, as opposed to sitting around watching TV and slowly turning into a hermit. Don't make mental comparisons to how your "new" friends aren't as cool as your friends back in Sydney, just try and make a point of networking as much as you can, and suddenly you will feel yourself fitting in.

  • Michelle says:

    @Scrubs

    I love anything from the shoes for crews line. They're slip resistant, mostly waterproof, and super comfortable for extended periods. I wore mine for 16 plus hour shifts, as well as walking across Europe.

    There are several different styles, and I know that some come in white.

    https://www.shoesforcrews.com/

    Hope you find something that works.

  • Renee says:

    Short Scrubs – try the Birkenstock Alpro in white. They're pricey, but in my experience anything Birk holds up better than a Crock. The Dansko is also nice, but I have better luck with my wide feet in Birks. I think the Alpro has a replaceable insole, too, which would make it easier to extend the live of it.

    Poetry novice – my recommendation as an English teacher is that you start with Poetry 180 ( http://tinyurl.com/4ytfmu ), which is run by the LOC. They have a poem a day and I always tell my students to read it once, aloud, then read it again, then figure out what you DO know and go from there. Poetry should be about an experience – the author's and yours – and the reactions/images/feelings the words create in your mind. It gets easier – the biggest thing is to enjoy it.

  • Megan in Seattle says:

    @Poems: Maybe Wallace Stevens or Billy Collins? Though I just re-read Stevens' "The Emperor of Ice Cream," and it wasn't totally obvious. The poem itself is on Wikipedia, though, and there is an "Interpretation" section. Several of Stevens' poems are on Wikipedia and, I suspect, elsewhere online.

    @I Hope It's Long Scrubs, Short Jacket!: I Nth the suggestion for Dansko Professionals. They make them for men and women, look good, and you can walk in them forever.

  • Not Constance says:

    Thanks for all the great poetry recommendations, everyone!

    @No Place: The biggest mistake I made in moving to Chicago was not spending more time just driving around getting lost so I could really learn where everything is – which shouldn't be the same problem for you, but as someone mentioned, surely there have been changes in the past 11 years. Getting out there and exploring it, and finding some new favorite restaurants and bookstores and whatnot, will help with the transition. I also second the recommendation to find activities that you enjoy or have wanted to try, as a way to get out there and meet people. Good luck to you!

  • Jesse says:

    For Place, I recently moved back to Boston, too! Although not from that far away, but still — not entirely by choice, I only have a couple of friends here now, etc. One thing I've done, which maybe isn't where you're at yet, is date a lot. Mostly first dates off online dating sites. So most of them didn't go anywhere, but they got me out of the house, into bars and restaurants, and talking to new people. I think it even helped me with the job search — I've been working from home, so it can be really easy to not talk to anyone in person for days on end. Anyway, a random thought.

  • Katie says:

    In addition to the excellent advice to the would-be Constance Brennan above, I might suggest trolling a few used bookstores for old (i.e. several editions out of date, and thus cheap) editions of a Norton Anthology heavily featuring poetry. You'll have a judicious selection of potentially helpful footnotes, plus enough of an intro to each author to give you some context. I think that almost everybody finds poetry intimidatingly obscure at first, so don't be put off!

  • Jane says:

    Cranes, are you sure you're not thinking of Paul Gallico's "The Snow Goose"? Lighthouse keeper, lonely man, young person, wounded bird…oh, and Dunkirk, but you might not have realized that when you were young, as it's a distant component.

    Poetry Novice, I second the recommendation to look at collections aimed at young people (they tend to include poems written for adults, not for teens, but the more accessible ones). Try Lori Carlson's _Cool Salsa_, or Janeczko and Nye's _I Feel a Little Jumpy around You_ (Paul Janeczko and Naomi Shihab Nye have also done interesting anthologies on their own). If you're interested in something with a narrative bent, I'd recommend Marilyn Nelson's extraordinary _Carver_, a biography of George Washington Carver in a collection of superb free verse poems.

  • Natalie says:

    I can't find any confirmation for this right now, but I wonder if the PB & M sandwiches could be Paula Danziger's The Cat Ate My Gymsuit or Judy Blume's Just As Long As We're Together. Both are from the right time period and have little brother character with odd eating habits.

  • mimi says:

    Place: On moving back in with your parents, since that's a whole different kettle of fish than just moving back to your hometown willy-nilly:

    I did it after grad school, when I knew I wanted to go back to Atlanta from New England, but didn't have the resources to live on my own immediately (it took over two years–I was freelancing in the arts). It was… not easy. I would recommend if at all possible that you create your own space: a place you can read, watch tv, play on your computer, whatever, that's not a place your parents are likely to intrude upon. That's not to say you shouldn't interact with your parents–of course you should–but it makes a difference having a place to retreat to. No matter how well you get along with them (and I get along with mine great, and will never stop being grateful to them for supporting me), you will want your own space, and you'll want to make it clear from the outset that it is your space.

    I know that's not always possible, but whatever you can do–a comfy chair in a closet, even–will help until you're able to move out.

    Best of luck!

  • Cait says:

    @Scrubs:
    As someone who shares your nursing school pain, try the New Balance all-white tennis shoes. Our dress code specifically states all-white, leather shoes that must have a back (no clogs or crocs for us). If you can't go with the Crocs route, the New Balance ones have saved my tail…and my back and legs…during clinicals this semester.

  • Beadgirl says:

    Constance: in addition to all of the wonderful poets others have named, may I recommend Stephen Fry's (yes, Jeeves) "The Ode Less Travelled"? It's billed as a guide to writing poetry, but the NYT review said it was an excellent and highly approachable guide to understanding poetry.

  • Anne says:

    @Poems I use This anthology (Seagull Reader: Poems) in my AP English class. Runs the gamut of eras, some poems are very challenging, some are very accessible. It's just a really good anthology for an interested beginner.

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