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Transient Mode: Home, Pt. 3

Cleo van der Veen's picture

Sometimes, at Starbucks I give a name different than my own, just to try it out for awhile. I like the process of trying on a new name. It helps pass the time at a place where I get coffee, not for the taste, but for the caffeine and wifi. To me, Starbucks is the product to be endured in exchange for using the venue as your office for the day.


Working at a job like UNF can take it out on you. My job sometimes approaches incomprehensible sadness. When the day involves reading UN Secretary General reports on Mali, going to an event where the UN High Commissioner in Human Rights speaks on the Syrian humanitarian crisis, and then writing about all of it, I can't wait to leave at 6:00 p.m. on the dot. This creates a certain conflict-of interest for someone whose natural instinct is to live, eat, and breathe their work. Sometimes, oftentimes, I find it very difficult to love my job.


And yet I do.

I love my job and what I do. I love going to work in the morning just as much as I love leaving it at the end of the day. But the new desire to leave work at the end of my day means that I am forced to find a sense of balance, and I find myself pursuing a sense of escape. I watch television, go to the movies, and read books. I escape to a different world and indulge in a two-hour do-over. A giant “What if?”… What if I could start over in a different time, or place. Movies, TV and books, all an escape from reality just for a while.

My brain is great at fabricating escape for me all on its own without the help of media or books.

Like when I got tired of going home and dealing with the partisan politics in the city, my brain spinned an alternative for me. When I walk by the Capitol building after work on my way home, I imagine that partisan politics is a carefully orchestrated rouse. A scam for the press just to make politics interesting to the American public. Nothing is more interesting than a good fight or scandal. Cooperation is boring.

So democrats and republicans shout and yell and fight with each other. During the day. But at night after the press, staffers, visitors, and yours truly go home, Congress gets the real work done. After the last staffer leaves, Congress gets together and discusses the issues like reasonable adults; over a rousing game of sock-hockey in the hallowed halls of the Capitol.

For a halftime snack, they raid the freezer. They haul out the tub of rocky road ice cream and serve large bowls of it for everyone with whipped cream. Everyone adds piles of patriotic sprinkles in amounts ever to be admitted by those who claim to be adults.

Then they sit on the tables in the kitchen and swing their legs and talk about the issues. For real. They talk about immigration and abortion and the budget. Someone interjects; “I can't believe you called me a Hippy anti-god liberal. I almost blew my cover and burst out laughing! Warn me before you burst out crap  like that!” A senator responds, “I had only thought of it a few minutes before and it was way too good not to use! Just call me a conservative asshole or something tomorrow!” They all laugh and dump more patriotic sprinkles onto their ice cream.

Thus a five-minute escape from it all is born. A temporary do-over for a reality so crazy it sounds like fiction.


There is something great about starting over every once in awhile. New job. New city. New friends. New life.

You can try out a new personality, new hobbies, new friends, new clothes, words, hangouts.

At the same time, the process is scary. For every “new” there is an “old.” There is something to miss, something to lose, to mess up. Its easy to be comfortable in the current life and never gain the motivation to change. What if you don't like the new as much as you like the old?

We like to imagine do-overs, not actually engage in do-overs. The escape to a new world for two hours is enough for most people, and then they want to run back to their current happy, familiar lives. Do-overs sound great in theory, a simple start all over. In reality these do-overs are rarely this simple.