The First Year

I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary of living in Madison and at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Although it’s been a trying time, it’s also been a time worth sharing. Since this is pretty significant (at least to me), I thought I’d write about both my working aspects and my living experiences.

Employment

When I first arrived at WisDOT, I was a little overwhelmed with how things are structured. Fortunately, the staff was really friendly and helpful (there’s no manual here). The former analyst was still in the office (who is now our lead analyst on our team), so I used him as a resource quite often (I still use him as a resource, but not as often). My section chief was extremely patient with me (and still is), and offered me some guidance.

I didn’t realize the amount of detail among the different appropriations. But I spent much time learning about them, especially when my section chief assigned me the task of creating a document that explains all of the appropriations and current issues. I continue to learn about other aspects of my assigned division by interviewing divisional staff and writing allotment requests. I know I’m still learning, but I have a better idea of how things are done now, thanks to my section chief and the former analyst.

I thought about looking for a part-time job not long after I moved to Madison. I missed working in customer service. I looked at places that I went shopping, but nothing seemed to really impress me. Recently, I went shopping at a store called Bed Bath & Beyond. I was so impressed with the way people treated me and with the products they sold, I went back and bought a second item, then a third, and received the same treatment each time (no, they didn’t tell me to kiss my own…). So, I applied for a job there. After a couple of weeks of working there, I’m really happy I made this move. I interact with people all the time and I have fun playing catch and climbing a ladder (all stock related). Although it’s a ton of work, it’s also pretty fun (or so I keep telling myself). The pay is, well, let’s just say that I took the job for fun.

Recreation

When I wasn’t traveling to Milwaukee for the weekend, I spent time trying to find recreational things to do. A coworker introduced me to cross-country skiing (well, I went once) during the winter, and golf (I went very often) during the summer. I took golf lessons and really enjoyed knocking the wind out of a small, helpless ball on the driving range. I spent most of the summer playing. Although I still have lots to work on, I’ve had a good time so far.

Now that winter’s around the corner, I spend most of my time at home in my little apartment. My office book club recently read The Hobbit, and I was so captivated with reading it again (I first read it in grade school) that I decided to reread The Lord of the Rings trilogy again, apparently just in time for the first movie. I’ve also been upgrading my computer to Windows XP, so I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with problems (easy to upgrade my a**). On the plus side, I now have high-speed Internet access. Although I like the speed, I still don’t use my computer as often as I probably should.

One evening, I had a craving for cookies, so I bought a stand mixer and some other necessities to bake them. So far all I’ve baked is cookies, but I seem to enjoy it, probably because I like to bake for others. And now that I’m working at Bed Bath & Beyond, I don’t know if I’ll have time to do much else.

Next summer, though, I know I’ll devote more time to golf. I also plan on traveling… probably to some golf destinations.

Domestic Life

A year ago, a friend of mine told me that I’d spend my first week alone in my new apartment feeling lonely. Thank goodness I bought a TV, a VCR, and a DVD player, because I’m still waiting for that moment. He also told me that I’d get sick of cooking after about a month. If only he knew what I spent on groceries just last week.

But seriously, I do enjoy my apartment (which I refer to as “right-sized” for me). It’s got most of the amenities of home (furnished kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room, dining area, washer and drier in the basement). The building I live in is also set back from the road, so I don’t normally hear the traffic or much else. My neighbors are also pretty quiet. My only complaint is the small amount of countertop space in the kitchen, but I’ve compensated and adapted.

Besides eating, watching television, and sleeping, I spend some time in my apartment just catching up on domestic things (like cleaning, paying the bills, etc.). I’m not someone that could handle working from home all the time (I need to interact with people), but I do spend some time doing some house-type work at home. For example, I do use my computer for more than just surfing the web. There are letters to be written, finances to be analyzed, and Metallica to be listened to. And, of course, there’s plenty of room to practice my putting and swinging (though I still need to visit a driving range to actually drive any golf balls).

Social Life

There isn’t much to say about my social life in Madison. I guess one of the reasons I got a weekend job was to get out of the apartment and interact with people on the weekends, even if in a work-setting (oh, there’s the fun part). I spent so many weekends in Milwaukee during the last several months that I never really found time to get out and try to pursue a social life in Madison. And when I do go out in Madison, it’s either alone or with a couple of coworkers, but that’s pretty rare.

I recently discovered that I’m not a big fan of the bar scene anymore. I haven’t had any real desire to go out and have a drink, so my blood-alcohol content has been at zero for quite some time. Yet I also haven’t found a chance to date, so I’m still maintaining that I’m “happily” single.

I also spent much of my time on the driving range and putting greens this past year, since I’m really enthused about golf. Although I’ve met a couple of people in passing on the course, I haven’t made any real long-term friendships outside of my office. But I’m sure as life goes on, I’ll meet people and start living my life in Madison (just need to stay away from Milwaukee for a while)… and now with a weekend job, I think I have some excuse.

Volunteer Work

I’ve spent so much time helping out my Cub Scout pack in Milwaukee, that there are times that I feel that I could use a break from them. I’m still the Committee Chairperson of my pack, but I’m ready to move on. Fortunately, there is someone that acts on my behalf when I’m not around, and I hear he’s been doing an excellent job. I’ll be talking to him soon about relieving me.

As a result of all of the time I spent in Milwaukee, I haven’t found time to do any volunteer work in Madison. I did discover that other adult leaders work in my building that are always recruiting new volunteers for their Boy Scout troops. But with my busy schedule, it’s tough for me to find the time to help out another troop.

I’ve also been asked to sit in on an advisory committee. Although it sounds promising, I haven’t made a decision as to whether I’m really interested or not. Something tells me that I’ll be signing up for this soon, depending on whether or not my section chief gives me permission to.

So what are my feelings now that I’ve lived in Madison for a year? I like living here. It’s small, compared to Milwaukee. It’s got plenty of recreation to offer, which I need to capitalize on. My apartment feels more like home now, but could still use a few amenities (like a computer desk and a recliner). I’ve made some really good friends in the office. And I’ve taken up golf, so I’ve got something to look forward to every summer.

But I can’t help notice how many things I’m still missing out on. Because I live so near Milwaukee, I still drive there to help out with some odd thing or other. I would like to spend more time in Madison and try to get a jump-start on my own life (which has been slow-going so far).

In retrospect, the first year here has been very rewarding and very exciting. I hope that the next year allows me to pursue some more fun and exciting things… I’m sure it will.

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