Eating farm fresh

Oregon is one of the few states in mainland USA that enjoys the best of both worlds. It is situated in the scenic Pacific North West, surrounded by immense natural beauty in the form of ocens, snow-capped mountains, rivers, volcanoes, gorges, rock formations and even a high desert. It enjoys mild albeit wet weather dominated by the Pacific Ocean, is close to big-populous states of California and Washington and is unknown for its unbelievably friendly, dog-loving, outdoorsy population. It has had its own share of controversies, with events such as banning African-Americans owning land to more recently, the siege in a National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. But for recent settlers like me, the city is paradise indeed.

Oregon also has the largest settlement of a semiconductor behemoth which brings a large educated work-force here. Portland, boasts of a large Indian-origin population (like many cities in the USA) and hence is dotted with plenty of eateries, grocery shops and entertainment venues (movie theaters, temple halls etc) serving the south-Asian population. The sprawling Patel-brother empire, synonymous with stocking Indian food items all around the USA is nowhere in the vicinity, but the local population is enthusiastic about global cuisines and surprisingly embrace vegetarianism more fervently than Indians themselves. The gastronomic scene, the friendly people and the plethora of some amazing vegetarian or vegan restaurants is nothing like anywhere else in the USA.

The suburbs of Portland where a majority of the Asian population (like me) live, have a couple of small Indian grocery shops which stock almost all required items – paneer, atta, varieties of rice and dal and some Indian vegetable staples – lauki, karela, okra, curry leaves and the like. There are even larger Asian food centers which carry an amazing variety of fruits, greens (hello, bok choys, napa cabbage and arugula), fresh noodles, dim sum wraps and aisles of all varieties of tofu, tea, hot and soy sauce. Portland is a city where you’d find every global ingredient in its authentic form from brands native to the respective country – gulkund from Armenia, less-popular and local Turkish coffee brands or preserved haloumi cheese from small cheesemakers in Cyprus. But what I love is that you can find almost all these items in the local grocers like Market of Choice or New Seasons. These grocery shops carry local, fresh, seasonal produce and also stock up on paneer from local dairy farms (yes, local farms make paneer here!) or local brands of basmati rice. Restaurant choices for vegetarians and vegans abound, with every restaurant and I mean it, every, single restaurant carries vegetarian options eliminating the dilemma of ordering food for vegetarians when you step out with a diverse group. Even Killer Burgers makes some killer in-house black-bean gourmet burgers!

Milk and eggs are where Portland really surpasses everything else. The semi-rural borders of these urban settlements are dotted with farms which stock farm-fresh milk and eggs. You can drive in and pickup a freshly bottled, pasteurized galleon of milk and lift your spirits by venturing into the barn and petting the young calves. You see the cows grazing in unending lush grasslands and chicken coops scattered around with horses and goats in extremely idyllic settings. The baby cows and goats are friendly, love pets and greet you with a mischievous twinkle in their eye, making you forget that you are actually just a 15 minute drive from a huge metropolitan area and not in rural farmland. The Portland farmers market is one of the most famous nationally, and every summer hordes of people throng the lawns of Portland State University weekly, converted into a large market with stalls of salvadorean tamales (with plenty veggie options), taiwanese buns, fresh coffee, cherries and apples, berries, hazelnuts (national export of the state), lavender, pizza and even Indian food! Really, being here spoils you.

The coffee, craft-beer and food scene overall is one of the best in the country and there are plenty of blogs/videos/lists listing these amazing spots. The availability of such fresh food suiting all palettes due to the farmland surrounding the area and the importance of growing and eating local embodies the spirit of Portland. Often branded as too “twee”, people overlook the gigantic positives of this amazing city focusing only on the overly-liberal borderline-hippie culture of the city which is a topic for another time.

I had hardly known much about this city or state before moving here and discovering the food and local culture was a pleasant surprise. It is one of the only cities in the country where you can eat globally in a very local way.

Apathy

I used to consider this trait as part of the same genre of “selfish”. How can you not care? Naturally, apathy was a trait I associated among the negatives. Nice, caring, enthusiastic, selfless – these were the behaviors one aspired to imbibe and embody. Kids are taught to sympathize, empathize and reject being apathetic. As adults, apathy has moved from the realm of the undesirable to one that is needed to survive. I’m not sure if the older generation experienced this, but the millennial survival kit sure includes a generous dose this trait.

The dictionary meaning of ‘apathy’ is “lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern”. This drives the modern generation to achieve goals after goals and pursue limitless ambition at whatever cost. Be it in the workplace, at school, college or even your personal life, the norm seems to be “not to care except when it is about oneself”. It is easy to see “friends” approach you when they want something from you, extremely apathetic to your conversations, issues or troubles thereafter. You meet colleagues who dismiss your concerns or friendly comments, unless it is of value to them. It is not feasible to be attentive or caring about every one in this world (although it wouldn’t be a bad thing if you could manage that). But these are not people unfamiliar to you. They are not strangers. The tunnel vision and extreme focus on one’s own well being mixed with apathy towards other issues is so commonplace today, it is almost a prerequisite to success and survival.

I still feel bad when colleagues or friends are rude and dismissive. I feel bad when I’m ignored because my words are dismissed as trash. I still care and often think about others and their troubles and empathize with them long after our conversations are done. I still ruminate over the rudeness and unsolicited curtness of co-workers. It still puzzles me that people I had lunch with the other day look past me and ignore my embarrassed hand-waving or smiling. I cannot digest when people stop responding to texts suddenly without even a “brb or something came up, ttyl” text. It still hurts to be ignored, no matter how often it happens. It is wrong to expect to be the center of the universe. No, my expectations are far from that. But the complete indifference or extremely superficial tolerance of others with interest only in your own affairs seems a bit extreme. Innit?

Then I wonder why? Am I the only one feeling this way. If not, can we not actively be less-apathetic towards others and broaden our narrow focus? I feel a detached wonder when I watch such interactions imagining how aliens would document our behavior with each other .

“Entry 1: Weird, two-legged, so-called intelligent ape-creatures work together and collaborate and have altered the planet, but they hate each other and are constantly trying to put each other down often not caring and secretly wishing ill of others.”

“How terrible, Earth doesn’t seem a pleasant place to be. We are lucky to be 4.89 million light years away. Hopefully, our planet doesn’t catch a bad case of apathy from them”.

Small Fry

By Lisa Brennan-Jobs

This book is hauntingly good. It is common knowledge that Steve Jobs was not a role-model father, colleague, boss or human being. He was insanely gifted and artistic and made tech look good. Outside of his obvious skills and humanity-altering contributions of designing and pioneering revolutionary Apple products, his personality is known to be acerbic and awkward. When the book initially released, I read the NYT’s interviews of Lisa and the praise for the book, but hesitated to buy it. I knew the portrayal would be real and that Jobs would come off as despicable and hateful. But little did I know that Lisa’s writing would be so poetic, her descriptions of her homes and the Silicon Valley of the 80’s so vivid and her manner of writing so strong and willful, that I’d become an instant fan.

I haven’t been able to put down the book since it started, with her conversations and tip-toeing around her father on his deathbed. When Lisa writes about the eucalyptus trees, the slanting sunlight and the pink pepper pods around her front door, I can smell and see them. I have driven around on the backroads of Palo Alto enough to picture these Californian ranch houses, dotted with eucalyptus trees and that occasional ocean air. I chuckled at how she described empty lots on El Camino (all worth $$$ today) and how houses on Stevens Canyon roads had goats in their backyard! Even though she was a child of a hippie, poor,unstable mother and a wealthy, ex-hippie father entering prominence and the technological advancements and innovation of that era is not her focus at all, she draws you in and paints a picture of life outside the tech in the 80s. The society’s portrayal is compelling but has a hippie-style glamour that is so different from what Silicon Valley and the social vibe of that area is today. I particularly enjoyed these early descriptions and her matter-of-fact writing.

Steve Jobs was not a good father to Lisa. She understands her being cast as unwanted and has said so repeatedly in the book and interviews, as being thought of as a mistake in the perfect tapestry of Steve Job’s life (as per Steve Jobs). It is these honest feelings that break you heart, even moving one to tears many times in the book. You can feel a child’s pain, her helplessness as she watched her mother scream and yell in the car on a dark, stormy night. You can feel her wishing for things to change and appreciate her willingness to go on, aided in no small measure by the innocence of her childhood and the at-times exciting, yet mysterious presence of a famous, rich father. I don’t know why, but her efforts to please her stepmother and father, her joy at being with him at times when things are good and the emotional pain she experienced as a child and during her rough-teenage years touch your heart in a very tender way. Her experiences are very sad at times – being rejected for a kitten by the Humane Society due to instability or wanting a pretty house and watching your father and his new family occupy it. It is interspersed with her joy at skating around the neighborhood and smelling flowers, but one often wonders how she moved past these instances and managed to be cordial with the person who could have prevented them from happening in the first place!

It is also a perfect showcase of how much children actually understand the world and perceive adult behavior and stresses on the importance of a happy and stable early childhood. Lisa invokes self-pity very well, but balances it out nicely with her factual, straightforward writing and her combination of sad and happy events, describing her internal feelings so well. One particular sentence where she wonders (as a kid) why adults around her treat her like an adult, confessing their complex feelings and love-lives and she pegs it to the fact that maybe since none of them are married, they like her innocence and an opportunity to express themselves openly around her. She also likes the attention and importance and enjoys those interactions. It is this dual nature of her thoughts, I find so relatable and enjoyable.

There is nothing to learn factually from this book that the world already doesn’t know thanks to the multiple movies and biographies on Steve Jobs. But it is a very intimate journey of growing up in the 80’s silicon valley in an unorthodox setting that captures the reader’s imagination. It is also a story of survival and grit, of human errors and behaviors and a portrait of the delicate mind of a child subjected to bizarre and often sad circumstances. If anything, it would make a parent take stock of their behavior with their child and I think that is the biggest success of this book. It is never preachy and never tries to tell the reader what they should do, but it makes you think of how you come across to your child or family. For that alone, I’d recommend this book as a must-read.

Absolutely loved the book. Lisa Brennan-Jobs, you have my attention for all the writing yet to come.

A favorite weeknight dinner: Mexican Tortilla Casserole

Weekdays get busy and hectic with little time to cook. Over the years and with plenty of experience, eating at home at night has topped takeouts and meals at expensive restaurants (it adds up real fast!). I came across this recipe from one of my favorite blogs and have been making it regularly to some amazing reactions and results. It is easy to make, healthy (if you control the cheese) and full of protein. I like trying out the different types of beans – black, pinto, refried and also playing around with the greens – spinach or tart arugula. You can make it easier with store bought good quality salsa (no xantham gum or crazy additives) and some delish shredded cheese.

In fact, this is what I’ll be making tonight.

You can check out the recipe here.

PS: It also comes out looking EXACTLY like this making it perfect for an oven-to-table dish for guests or a small dinner party!

Image from one of my favorite blogs Savory Simple

A Tennis miracle!

In other news, I served in a tennis game yesterday and WON! I actually landed beautiful serves and won my game….FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE! Wooohoooo!

I CAN SERVE NOW. Yessssshhhh!

(I’m not coming down from my perch in the clouds anytime soon…)

Lethal White

by Robert Galbraith

The fourth installment of the detective series by J.K Rowling (whose pen name is Robert Galbraith) is my favorite so far. It is the longest (not unlike the Order of Phoenix in the Harry Potter series) and I think my joy is largely from occupying the world of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott for longer than in the past. Rowling is a class-act!

These two characters are some of the best written people in the literary universe. Period. We read about their thoughts, their attitudes and their experiences and it is so detailed, consistent and wonderfully flawed that you just want to buy Cormoran Strike a Doom Bar in his Tottenham Court digs. We wonderfully inhabit his familiar yet dingy office-cum-dwellings and his relationship with his assistant-turned-partner Robin Ellacott. Rowling is an expert in writing these characters which makes me wish for a romantic novel from her as well. The tension she creates between them – they are not just friends, not lovers (yet) and their ego’s and unsaid words get between them. It is something I thought couldn’t be captured using words alone and boy am I glad to be proven wrong! The tension, the chemistry and the undercurrents of love between the main characters is the best yet in this book.

It is also the most political statement Rowling has made yet. Her description of the political groups, the dark leftist groups and the radical thoughts are well captured in this book. Galbraith brings class-warfare that has been lurking in the shadows out in the open with her characters of Jimmy Knight and Flick who showcase the dark undercurrents of the left and also expose the fear and oppression they face.

“Because Rowling is so straightforwardly liberal, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that Galbraith is an equal-opportunity satirist. He is just as happy to send up the self-righteous anti-capitalists of the left as the clueless twits of the right.”

The New York Times

The most enjoyable though, is the Chiswell family – the rich, conservative politican with favorable views on death-penalty and a dysfunctional family. The family drama is well described and the wealth of characters does not muddle the readers and each character is given plenty of time and space to develop. (That might explain the 656 pages). The story begins very mysteriously with a mentally ill man who stumbles into the detective’s office claiming to have witnessed a murder. The novel starts with a prologue after the Robin Ellacott-Matthew Cunliffe wedding and Galbraith’s attention to physical and emotional detail are exemplary. The novel seems to fly-by despite the length largely due to the wonderful characters. Galbraith also takes the reader inside the House of Commons and gives a closer look inside the working lives of politicians and British politics. Even when the book slacks plot-wise, you just enjoy the company of the characters and the world they inhabit.

I cannot wait for the next installment. Rowling remains an all-time favorite and has seamlessly transitioned across genres. I just hope, her other writing commitments don’t keep us away from the world of Cormoran Strike for too long!

Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I stumbled upon Adichie by accident and I dont clearly recall how I started reading her other book – ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ but I was hooked. Her vivid descriptions, quick pace and a mild familiarity with another ex-British colony despite being in a completely different continent were soothing to the soul. Unlike ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, picking up Americanah was intentional, preceded by nearly a month of waiting for my turn to pick up the book at the local library.

Americanah tells the story about Ifemelu, her female protagonist who is very well fleshed out. We hear the story from her perspective and her hair also forms a big portion of the book. The way she styles her hair directly reflects her mental state and matures with her. The story starts as a flashback in a braiding salon, a routine essential to Ifemelu. The story is a journey of Ifemelu’s life through high-school and college, then moving to the States and her three main loves – Obinze, Curt and Blaine. Obinze is her boyfriend and soulmate from Nigeria, Curt is her white suitor, a window to a completely different life and culture and Blaine is a black American scholar who embodies the definition of suave and liberal with clean habits, a careful health-conscious routine and liberal thoughts. Ifemelu is a blogger in the book and her blog ‘Raceteenth’ documents her experience as a black woman in America.

I immensely enjoyed reading this book. As a foreign graduate student myself and a recent immigrant, many of the experiences Ifemelu narrates during her time at college her were so familiar and entertaining. The title ‘Americanah’ is what Nigerians call the migrants to America and the changes they embody – in speech, attitude, clothing and habits. She notices how the American system of education encourages “empty” comments during classes where nothing of substance is said except for the part of appearing very knowledgeable. She beautifully captures how spoken English is so different from the British version and how for the first time, she experienced racism. I recall her saying that despite being from Nigeria, it was only when she came to the USA, she was told she was black. Those bits about her experience in college were the best parts about the book. Her blog ‘Raceteenth’ also is very witty in parts but the most compelling was the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze. Their passion and dreams mixed with uncertainties of what lies ahead are so beautifully captured, you are left wanting desperately for the two lovers to unite.

It is by no means a love story, but a compulsory read for anyone who is interested in understanding the experience of this generation of youngsters from developing countries who share the American dream and wish for prosperity. The book is rather long (496 pages) but extremely engaging and kept me awake well past midnight many nights due to its pace and content – something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Ifemelu and Obinze have come to be one of my favorite literary characters. The hair – its styling, braiding, chemical treatments and upkeep form a big part of the book. It is something I have come to learn is an important part of a Nigerian/African woman’s life. It was interesting to read about how they manage their hair and the attention/money lavished on it. Her descriptions of Nigeria are hilarious and eerily similar to so many cities and the people of India as well. The corruption, the pride and respect acquired by money and the lifestyle of the nouveau riche are beautifully captured in the book as well. The attitudes of the recent returnees from America, the lifestyle they crave and the changes they bring back to their country of birth also hit very close to home.

All in all, a must read. One of my favorite books of the year. I’m now proudly a member of the Adichie fan-club!

Analog Childhoods, Digital Adulthoods

This concise encapsulation of the millennial experience – ‘Analog Childhoods, Digital adulthoods’ represents a facet of one of the most unique experiences in the history of mankind. Possibly, during a generation’s lifetime many millennia ago they went from wanderers to farmers when they suddenly found wheat or lived through life-changing religious upheavals. But in the recent past, it is hard to imagine a generation that faced the unique challenge of growing up in a completely different social atmosphere and then spending the rest of their adult lives in another.

Unless you were frozen in time (like Fry in Futurama), the bizarre changes in humanity experienced due to the internet, social-media, artifical intelligence which crystallized from centuries of physics, chemistry, medical and biological breakthroughs are hard to miss. Everything you do today, from shopping and running errands to professional skills ,from interacting with people to exercising has undergone such a massive transformation in the past decade and half, it is easy to forget how different things were not so long ago. The childhoods of the 90’s which included lots of 2-D cartoons, playing outside for hours, physical textbooks, classrooms with chalk and dusters, family vacations either spent in cousin’s places getting bored or trying to make new friends in the new apartment blocks, simpler birthday parties, rarity of restaurant foods and waiting for a movie on a Sunday afternoon to come on the TV was just 20 years ago! Phones were rotary, televisions were massive and personal computers had just started trickling in. We (the millennials) remember all of it very clearly. We patiently waited to record songs on cassettes when they came on TV, used pencils to rewind tapes, browsed through the occasional video store for movies to watch and had no trouble spending the evenings outside, hanging out with friends or reading books and browsing magazines.

I write all this to help reflect on the contrast of our adult lives. You don’t need this blog to assimilate the difference in life today. Computers are ubiquitous and we are the generation that became true expert programmers, invented new skill sets and whole new industries based on manipulating them. We became the whiz-kids of graphics transforming the video-game industry upending childhoods and the experience of gaming. We killed physical books, made movies available at the click of a button and made ordering/eating restaurant food a breeze. We changed all hardware – from computerized cars, everyday appliances to fitness wear to TV’s and the most pervasive of all – phones. The impact of all this revolution has been transformative on a personal level. As many of us step into adult worlds who have to raise children, it is tough to compete with humans brought directly into this world of ipads, iphones, plasma screen TVs, smart-everything. Numerous studies and articles describe the struggles of software professionals working at smart phone companies whose day jobs are to make the device attractive, addictive and functional, trying to keep their own kids away from these devices. It is a leap of faith on behalf of every teacher who uses smart boards and apps to grade, test and teach, when she/he has never been taught using one. Are they really better than the old-school methods? Only time will tell.

But all this technology has indeed made life easier in many aspects too. Paying bills happens at the click of a button, all of the world’s information is available on our fingertips, we can communicate daily with people on the other side of the globe, medical facilities have improved greatly with better imaging, sophisticated devices and good algorithms improve our life – be it commuting, better search results impacting all walks of life, better understanding of the world by unifying researchers worldwide or even just better movie recommendations. Taking advantage of these developments feels uplifting and inspirational. But every change being embraced, is a chance we humans take. As a generation straddling the analog and digital worlds, we are in a unique position to compare and contrast the pros and cons of both. Researchers are dedicating large chunks of time and resources in understanding the impact of these mind-numbing changes on the human psyche. None of the studies are anywhere close to completion. It is a question I struggle with everyday when faced with a hesitation or a choice that seems “too much” – is it just my discomfort at being pushed out of the comfort zone or is it genuinely bad. It is key to note that no generation close to us in the past or future, will have to make these choices.

As the holidays begin and the year winds down, it can be good to reflect on what we learnt this year about this new digital age – there is no benevolence in the tech sector, social-media is very harmful to humanity, tech hardware is bent on making a user addicted impacting his/her functionality in other spheres, we are more connected but less friendly, we eat more junk because it is so much easier than making our own food getting fatter and unhealthy in the process and of course, the world politically as we know it is thrown into turmoil with evidence of right-wing nationalism on the rise world over. If this all seems very gloomy, we can take solace that a fresh new year is around the corner and we can strive to rid us of the bad habits that came with digitization. We can be nicer, more communicative, spend more time with loved ones, learn some old-fashioned skills, reach out to people (and animals) in need and truly strike a balance between the old and new. Change is a great thing, only when it is positive and incremental enough to sustain well.

Happy Holiday and New Year!

Are you video-averse?

I know many people who hate voicemails – myself included. I find voicemails ominous, akin to the telegrams of olden times where such urgently communicated messages were rarely positive. Voicemails do the same thing – if you have to tell me something so urgently that you prefer leaving a message in this era where call-logs are routine, it can never be good! Only I can hear my heart thumping everytime I check my voicemail box.

Recently, I have realized that I am also video averse. I slowly noticed this trend when news articles (especially Indian) started peppering their news stories with a relevant video report on the same issue. I noticed near and dear who happily clicked on the video and didn’t bother to read the lengthy transcript and I found myself strangely attracted to the text. I have come to love reading the news, not watching it. 

Maybe this stemmed from my Harry Potter movie aversion, where I’d go to great lengths to avoid watching all the franchises so they don’t disturb my intricately-built, extensive imagination of every scene, person or location. As facebook, youtube and reddit videos abound, I find myself turned off if it is a video-only link without a text transcript attached. I do watch some type of videos – of playful dogs or cats or any animal documentary narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough or some cooking inspiration but am generally put off by “watching” something over reading it. Might sound strange, but true.

Did I tell you I also dislike watching movies? Okay, I’ll stop here before you think I’m a total nut-job!

Happy weekend, all! 🙂

Things that no one tells you: Working in isolation

Offlate, I’ve been on a path of self-discovery, or so it feels like. Growing up, far away in what feels like a different planet, my visions of adulthood were vastly different than the reality today. Many of the nuances and small battles in life were never brought to my attention before and not all of them are bad, but I really wish someone had read out the fine print in life’s manual earlier…say sometime in college. But nevertheless, I want to write down somethings that no one really talks about anymore (due to millennial angst, competitiveness, lack of deep-meaningful conversations yada yada) because they are uncomfortable. Let me start with the first, working in isolation.

In my hot pursuit of scientific knowledge and aspiring to work in the creative/innovative engines of a technical company , I never bothered to inquire about the actual work environment. I was in blinders, where I imagined I’d be solving these big issues, and working with a group of really smart people who I’d share great camaraderie with. The first bit I have realized, thankfully. I do work in an extremely research oriented group where I’m paid to brainstorm and innovate  BUT the second part of that dream has fallen off a cliff. “You are luckier than you think”, “Look! How cool is your job!”, is all I hear when I try to tell them that though the big picture is rosy, the actual life of a person working in research is very solitary. It is lonely and frustrating, where you sit at your desk and try to squeeze your brain-juices to solve an issue or develop a theory alone all the time and there is no concept of a downtime.
I am surrounded by some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. They are endowed with a great academic track record, understand complex phenomena as easily as the machinations of a coffee maker and do some seriously mind boggling work. But so many are crippled by social anxiety, making them the perfect definition of a modern-day “nerd”. They can rattle off names of countries which produce the maximum amount of silver and can list out the family of Romanovs like reading off a Waffle-house menu but clam up when asked to hang out over a cup of coffee. They are uncomfortable in social settings – happy hours are probably scarier than a hackathon for these folks and they positively look mortified making small talk. While I’m no social butterfly either, the absolute lack of any interaction beyond work in a research environment gets tiring beyond a point. And while these behaviors might be limited to what I experience, they are way more common that you’d think. Whether it is because I’m female and men are uncomfortable talking to a woman (see the nerd picture above), or the geniuses are usually introverts – I honestly don’t know. But here is my advice to any girl aspiring to work in research/science – learn to love isolation. It outlasts graduate school and probably will surround you for your whole career.
While learning quantum physics has been hard and is still in progress, the harder pill for me to swallow has been the loneliness. No matter the setting – academic, industry or a combination of the two, life in research is solitary. Duh, you’d say. But I’m not talking about just the work. Isolation is perhaps mandatory for excellent output, but the part no one told me about was  that there is little else. The work parties are awkward, pleasantries or smiles are hardly exchanged in the hallways and no one wishes you for festivals/occasions. 3pm parties are often a perfect excuse to leave early and light topics are hardly ever spoken. I’d hear about colleagues meeting up for coffee or meeting up outside work occasionally but I never imagined that I’d spend weeks where I don’t speak to a soul at work. I’m surrounded by thousands of people, tapping away at their keyboards but not a soul to talk to. Everyone is somewhere else, engrossed in their work (or reading blogs), walking around looking into their phones with headphones blaring their latest spotify playlist. 
Yes, there are a lot of ways I can become social but it is an effort to connect to people outside your department or go to official ‘meet-ups’ (I actually find them so uncomfortable). Following popular advice of actually going physically to a colleague’s cubicle actually renders the whole situation more uncomfortable with lack of eye contact and curt, abrupt answers. Yes, the group I work with is totally at home over instant messaging over face to face meetings. People don’t show up a minute before it is needed or stay back a minute beyond. These folks are not rude or un-friendly, they are just not social. They answer what you ask them politely and help with what you need. But turn to small-talk or non-work related conversation, it gets awkward so fast!

It is easy to call me out on possible biases – they are introverts, they are being professional, work isn’t for making friends etc. I am aware that my personality and needs might be different, but I often wonder if it is my expectation that is letting me down. Maybe today’s work environment is so competitive that it is easier to just work at work and unwind in a completely different setting with a different personal group. While keeping work and personal life often is the best way to go, it doesn’t hurt to bond a bit more with folks you spend 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week. Maybe, it is how the professional world is (and was for a while), it just caught me by total surprise.
It has taken me a good four years to get acclimatized to this work ethic. While my productivity and reading has shot up, I wonder if some of these anti-social traits are rubbing off on me as well. And before you call me lucky to get to work in isolation, it always seems grass is greener on the other side. While working alone has its upsides, it can get very solitary very quickly.
Workplace isolation and loneliness is a real thing. Just remember, someone warned you about this before you take on that next role and it is a possibility, it can happen to you.