We've just now passed the year mark in New Job City, folks, and there has been much mulling. It's been a long time since I moved to a city where I didn't have a built-in social scene (grad school) or already have good friends (New York). And with J still in NY, trying to wiggle his way into a line of work that's VERY insular in NJC, I've been a little lonely.
Starting a new job in a new city means not only finding your bearings within your department and your university, but also within your world in general. For me, I need to feel a part of the city I live in, and a mailing address just isn't enough. I need to know people beyond my workplace, and have bars or restaurants that are mine. I'm a social person; I need a social life.
But it's not like exploring the local watering holes on a regular basis is something a new TT professor has tons of time to do. For the first couple of months that I was here, I rarely went anywhere besides my apartment and campus. I was working hard on the R21, trying to staff and equip the lab, and squeezing in a quick workout at the NJU gym when I could. It was pretty rough--I felt totally disconnected from any semblance of reality, especially with only cats to come home to instead of J (nothing against my cats, of course--they're very snuggly. It's just that they don't have quite as much to say about Game of Thrones).
My reward to myself for finishing the R21 was a membership at a real gym in downtown NJC, which helped somewhat; at least it got me off campus. I got to see and interact (a little) with actual NJC young professionals, and spent a little more time exploring NJC (the eucalyptus-scented towels didn't hurt, either). In addition, I was exceedingly lucky that a new prof from a different department was given temporary lab space near mine while hers was being finished. We became quick friends, and even though we do completely different kinds of science, were able to help each other negotiate our New Lab Startup deals with Fisher and VWR in a slight variation on the classic Good Cop/Bad Cop routine. It was awesome. But then she moved across campus, and though we make an effort to have lunch or drinks once or twice a month, it's not the same thing as seeing someone every day--being able to pop in and say good morning, yell across the hall to their office, or spam them with text messages when you can tell they're having a particularly ridiculous phone interaction with a vendor.
Late spring/early summer I was perhaps too busy wedding planning, getting back in the research swing after a killer semester teaching, and looking forward to a much-needed vacation to notice that I was lonely. But after a week at the beach with J--the longest stretch of time we've spent together since the move--it hit again, and it hit hard. The reality of how long we've been living apart, and that there's no end in sight to this, is sinking in. The day after we get married, he'll go back to New York, and I to NJC. It is too depressing even to think about.
I realized recently, too, that I'm kind of Science Lonely. I miss having people in my immediate field around who I can chat with about a new paper, or bounce ideas off for a grant. The latter has really started bugging me in the last few weeks, as I started to put together two grants due this fall. I couldn't quite wrap my head around my ideas, and I really needed to talk to someone. In person. I thought about trying to organize some sort of "NJC New Faculty Drinking Club" (there are one or two other reputable institutions of higher learning in the area), but figured that might take too long for something like that to build up steam. So I put on my big girl pants, and emailed the faculty member who intimidates me most to see if she wanted to have lunch. I figure I've got a few more weeks left of being able to play the new girl card--time to cash those chips in.
And just for good measure, I took myself out for a drink. There's a super old fancy hotel that I walk by on my way home from the gym, and for the last 6 months I've been
drooling observing as renovations to their stunning dining room/bar progressed. When they were finally complete a week or two ago, I popped in after spin class and perched at the bar with a paper, happy just to be in a beautiful, bustling space with a decently made cocktail. But one of the things about hotel bars that makes them easy to go to alone is that a good majority of the other people there are also alone, and it is not at all difficult to start making friends. I happened to be next to an alone woman a few years my junior, in town on business from Seattle, and we had THE BEST TIME. We are friends on facebook now.
Of course, the downside to hotel bars is that the patrons are rarely from the city in which the hotel is located, so this may not be the best long-term course of action for creating a community for myself. Perhaps next spring I'll start working on my NJC Lonely Profs Club--I think with enough interest, we might be able to get a monthly thing going. In the meantime, I've got two grant deadlines, two speaking engagements, two meetings, and a wedding coming up--that should keep me busy for a while.