First Day of Work

Choosing Chicago.

On coming home from long-term travel.

Pretty autumn day on my first day back at work.

Going back to work on my first day.


It’s been over a month since I left Athens. Stopped traveling. It’s been over a month since I came back home to Chicago, since I started back at my new old job.

And it’s been over three years since I’ve been back in Chicago and working “permanently.”

The transition back into work has been easy. Too easy. I went back to a position I held for five years, so I already knew it inside and out. There was no grace period, no training period, no adjustment period, I was just thrown in. So much so that no one even bothered to re-teach me how to use the phones or tell me a password to get into my voicemail. They just assumed I knew everything.

Work has been busy. Last week I sent out 34 marketing emails. Trust me, that is a lot. I work every day past 6. Work through lunch most days. Check into my email even when I’m out of my office.

But, you know what? I kind of love it.


Civic Opera House


Yes, some days I miss the carefree days of having no other responsibilities outside of drinking a bucket of rum and coke on a Thai island. Yes there are days I wish I was back learning salsa in Colombia. I even miss those days I spent struggling through India.

But I love my job and I care about my company. And I love sitting at my desk every day laughing too hard with my coworkers in my cubicle group. I like the sense of accomplishment I feel daily. I like feeling like I’m being productive.

Out of work, though, it’s another story.

After spending 24 hours in transit, 24 hours awake, I arrived home from Athens at 6pm on a Monday, ordered takeout Chinese, and then passed out around 9. I woke up cheery and bright the next morning and set off for work, ready to take on the world. And that first day I felt great, alive, prepared.


Chinese takeout.

Chinese takeout: my first meal back home.


And then I just crashed and haven’t been able to dig myself up again.

I never really gave myself time to adjust and now all I want to do after work is come home, lock myself in my room, and binge watch Netflix. In the last month and a half I’ve watched several seasons of several bad reality shows. I finally watched the last season of How I Met Your Mother (and all I can say is what the fuck?). I watched the first two seasons plus of Breaking Bad before I had to step away because it was making me too nervous. I watched the first three seasons of New Girl and bawled like a girl the whole time.

And since I watch Netflix on my laptop I can’t even pretend that I’m working while watching it. So my outside responsibilities, and my blog, have been suffering. A lot. (If you noticed, I only posted one post last month. One. That’s never happened before.)

I didn’t feel any “reverse culture shock” coming home. The hardest part was remembering that I could flush my toilet paper, as I’d become accustomed to throwing it in the trash bin. But I spend so much time bouncing around and have spent so much time coming and going from Chicago that nothing feels different anymore. It all just is. But I have been tired and overwhelmed.

I have 12-days of Christmas vacation coming up which I hope to use to finish some neglected freelance work, catch up on my blog, catch up on life, and look for an apartment.

Though I’ll probably just binge-watch Gilmore Girls.



I pretty much just live in a pile of laundry.

This is how I live right now: in a pile of laundry.
At the opera.

At the opera.

Work perk: free opera.


My new coat.

It started snowing (snowing!) soon after I got home. So my choice was to either quit my job and fly back to Thailand or buy a new winter coat. I settled on the coat.


Heather and Jeremy.

These two got married. But more on that later.


Heather's bachelorette party.

Heather's bachelorette party.

Heather's bachelorette party.

Before those two got married, there was a bachelorette party that involved whirleyball and bowling.



I watch a lot of improv. Because if I didn’t I would never see my friend Mat.


Indian buffet.

All I crave all the time is Indian food.


Work Pot Luck.

My department at work is actually a lot of fun and we do a lot together. Like have pot lucks.


Marketing department outing to Headquarters.

Marketing department outing to Headquarters.

Marketing department outing to Headquarters.

Marketing department outing to Headquarters.

And go out to Headquarters Beercade to play video games and eat pizza.


Work Cookie Exchange.

Work Cookie Exchange.

And have a holiday cookie exchange.


Thanksgiving Buffet

Thanksgiving Buffet

Thanksgiving Buffet

Thanksgiving Buffet

Thanksgiving Buffet

Thanksgiving Buffet

Thanksgiving happened. No one wants to cook Thanksgiving dinner but me. And I don’t have an apartment to host it in or a car to shop and transport. So we went to a buffet. And I ate too much everything. And my nephews ate too much chocolate fountain marshmallows.


Choosing Chicago. On coming home from long-term travel.
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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Krista
    December 15, 2014at11:31 am

    Indian: Rangoli on GrubHub is my favorite!!! North & Western. Have never been in person but it’s great delivery. I’ve tried a lot of the places on GrubHub that delivered to Ukrainian Village. 😉

    Sometimes in London I know I should be outside wandering around, but you know, sometimes it’s good to just chill on the couch. I’m at peace with my lack of activity at times.

    Enjoy your return to Chicago! I hope this winter is better than last winter!!

  • Priya
    December 20, 2014at10:12 pm

    If you can binge-watch Gilmore Girls (all 7 seasons) in 12 days, then I’ll have SO MUCH respect for you, girl. And then you have to tell which of Rory’s boyfriends is your favorite. Personally, I go through Rory Boyfriend phases where each one is my fave while they are currently in Rory’s life. But if I had to choose, I guess Dean. Because he’s respectful and treats people with kindness. No, it’s Jess. Because he’s a “bad” boy, and every girl needs a bad boy. No, wait. It’s Logan. Because he has money. Apologies is you’ve never seen GG, and I’ve spoiled anything for you, but I don’t think I did. I hate the ending BTW. OK, I’ll stop.

    As for the transition part, I kind of feel similar to what you’re going through although I’ve never had a “real” job with health benefits and all the jazz. I just ended my contract job last week, and now I don’t know what to do with my life. I mean, yeah, I was doing the job while I was traveling technically, but I’d gotten into a routine. And now I’m transitioning into not having full access to wifi and not being couch potato and actually traveling and not just sitting around eating Cheetos and saying that I’m traveling. But life is full of transitions. It would be boring if there weren’t any. Go to cafes and the library to do actual work 🙂

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