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Featured Diary: On Missing Muncie

This week on the Everyday Life in Middletown blog we introduce a new feature. We are giving you one of our volunteer diaries in its entirety, unedited, and with just a short introduction that underlines some of the things we find interesting about it. We plan to do this frequently in the future as a way providing a glimpse of the rich, intriguing, and often moving detail about our everyday lives that the dairies offer.

Diarist C48 is copywriter who, at the time she kept the diary (April 27, 2018) was living in the San Francisco Bay area and planning to move back to Muncie. (She has since done so.) We picked hers as our first featured diary mainly because it provides a view of Muncie from someone who feels rooted here but is viewing our city, in the moment, from a distance. Her homesickness for Muncie, tied up in her temporary separation from her daughter but softened by the knowledge that she is coming back, is expressed in both practical and poetic terms: she looks forward to quieter nights and more affordable living costs; she also looks forward to hearing the train whistles in Muncie at night, which—compared with the electric-spark whine of the BART trains in Alameda—sound to her “old and tired and wise.”

The diary also engages with some of the ways in which everyday life is transforming in our historical moment. Our diarist has a full-time, professional job but works mainly at home, writing her copy and communicating with the office via text messages on a “chat app” and conference calls. She is thus taking part in a large restructuring of the nature of work, which is less and less anchored to physical spaces like offices and, correspondingly, less segmented into standardized work shifts. The boundaries between work and home and between work and leisure have become more fluid, and are being negotiated concretely in the everyday lives of people like our writer.

Her day also illustrates the ways in which both vast, structural economic conditions and the political debates around them play out concretely in people’s lives, as she frets about and performs tasks related to paying her medical bills.

Finally, the diary is beautifully written and rich in details, testifying to the value in paying close attention to the everyday.


April 27, 2018

7:00 A.M. to 10:30 A.M. PST

I wake up in Alameda, California, where I’ve been living for three weeks per month. The last time I saw my daughter, the last time I was in Muncie, was over a week ago. I’m already looking forward to going back to Muncie on May 13th to be with her again, to take her to school at beautiful [School Name], to be with my two dogs, to wake up in the deep quiet of Indiana (not the cars and busses rushing past my bedroom window here,) to fall asleep to the distant sound of the trains.

I don’t want to be awake yet. I’m tired, even though I woke up naturally, and not to an alarm. I’ve been getting an average of 6 hours of sleep per night, and was hoping to get some extra rest this morning.

But I wake up, because my nose is stuffy and my head hurts, and I had to pee, and my pillows were uncomfortable, and the light was pouring through the bay windows in the room I share with my fiance. Pouring right onto my face.

“I miss waking up in my dungeon-dark room in Muncie,” I think to myself.

Then I remember, my fiance loves waking up to the sunlight pouring in. He can snooze, even with all that California sunlight. How? Beats me. Once we’re back living in Muncie in June, we’ll have to figure out how to compromise on that, won’t we?

(Side note: Our rent in the Bay Area? Over $950 per month. Each. Oh, that’s split 3 ways, too. It’s a 1- bedroom we transformed into a 2-bedroom. A friend of ours takes the other room. Total for this 1- bedroom apartment in an old Victorian just one mile from the beach: almost $2500 per month.And that’s a good price. The mortgage on my 3-bedroom house in Muncie is just $550 per month in comparison.)

Every time I wake up, my nose is stuffy and I have a headache. I’m grouchy when I wake up today. I practically stomp out of bed. My fiance is already awake, and I feel a little guilty, because he tends to not like when I’m whiny, complainy, or grouchy, especially in the mornings.

I get it. I do have a tendency to whine a lot. I’m trying to be better at it—trying not to always focus on, or notice the negative.

I didn’t set my coffee-maker’s timer last night. I was way too tired. So, when I get to the kitchen, I’m annoyed that I have to make this pot of coffee bleary-eyed. “Stop being so grouchy,” I tell myself, as I pull my huge jug of sugar-free french vanilla creamer from the fridge.

I go to the bathroom to pee, and sit there rubbing my eyes. My head hurts so much.

I go back to the kitchen and pop 3 ibuprofen.

I think of my best friend who lives in Indy. She has terrible scoliosis. I think of the x-ray of her spine she showed me once, the sharp s-curve. It was shocking. She told me yesterday she takes upwards of 10 or so ibuprofen per day, but she’s started vaping CBD oil and it’s helped her pain tremendously. I think about how much I wish there was something I could do for her—she doesn’t have health insurance, and works at a grocery store. Even so, she can’t find a doctor who will properly treat her spine, and she doesn’t have the resources to get surgery or recover from the surgery she needs. I think about the fact that here in California, we could get weed delivered to our door.

We aren’t weed-smokers at all—not at all—but my fiance used to be. Just last year, just to feel the feeling of having legal weed after having spent years getting it covertly in Muncie, he got a medical prescription for it online (easy to do here, in just a matter of minutes.) He then placed an order for a few joints on an app, and had weed delivered to his door, right here in Alameda, within the hour. That was before I moved here. Again, we aren’t smokers, so the joints still sit in his closet. Now, I’m thinking about what we’ll do with them when we move back to Muncie in June.

As you can see, I have a very, very busy mind.

I go back to the bedroom and stand in the doorway. My fiance is waking up, laying in bed, checking his phone.

“I’m so tired. I wanted to sleep more,” I tell him.

“You look like you could fall back asleep,” he says. “You should try.”

There’s something about his tone of voice, the look on his face—I can tell he wishes I wasn’t sounding so whiny right now. He wishes I could snap out of this, get into a slightly better mood.

“I can’t,” I tell him. “My head hurts too much.”

“You should definitely try some allergy medicine,” he suggests. He’s right. It’s worked before, so I should give it a shot. It’s just expensive.

I think about my daughter’s allergies. She takes Claritin every night to keep from having a runny nose constantly. I’ve never been a particularly “allergic” person, but now at age 31, I’m starting to think maybe I’m sensitive to dust, or pollen, or something.

I head back to the kitchen where I take my morning medication. Buspar, for anxiety, and Vyvanse, for my ADHD. I drink them down and think about the documentary I saw a few days ago, “Take Your Pills,” about the ADHD medication epidemic among college students and athletes. It made me feel bad, because the documentary didn’t even touch on people who actually have ADHD. I’ve been on Lamictal and Buspar for over a year for depression, anxiety, and what my psychiatrist in Indy believed was some bipolar, but it was my ADHD medication, which I started back in September, that 100% completely changed my life.

Swallowing the medication down, I think as I do every morning, about the number of stimulants I’m about to ingest. The Vyvanse. Coffee. And nicotine, which I vape. Just 3mg, the lowest milligrams of vape juice you can get before 0mg. I had quit nicotine all together last year, but started up again when my fiance quit smoking and then started vaping. I’m proud of him for quitting smoking, but it kind of sucks that I’m hooked on nicotine again, myself.

By 7:45 or so, I’m settled onto the couch with my coffee, my vape, a blanket, and my phone.

Normally, it’s about 5:30 A.M. when I do this. Every day is a bit different here, for me. I only go to the office in San Francisco 3 days per week. Our whole office works from home on Fridays, but I requested an extra work from home day because after years spent working from home, it’s just what’s been best for my productivity and mental health. I am glad my employer let me do that.

My fiance is up and getting ready to leave to go into the city (San Francisco,) where he’ll be going to class at the [Art School.] We always take the San Francisco Bay Ferry into the city for work and school—a 10 or 15 minute boat ride across the bay, followed by a 15-minute walk. All together, the commute is about an hour for me. From the ferry boat, the city approaches us, tall and towering and glittering, like a sleeping, sparkling giant. Not unlike the massive cargo ships we pass en route as well, or the sky-high Bay Bridge the ferry glides beneath. It’s definitely not a Muncie-style commute. I admit, it’s beautiful, though I’ve stopped noticing the beauty since I hate going into the city for work with a passion.

He leaves, and I start looking at my phone—the only time during the day I really check social media. I wait for all my stimulants to kick in. (I should at least ditch the nicotine, soon.)

I start reading about owning rats. We’ve talked about getting a couple of rats when we move back to Muncie. There’s a rattery in Alexandria. I text my fiance and he agrees, we should look into it when we move back. I’m so glad he loves animals as much as I do.

I check my “On This Day” on Facebook and see old posts I made, and a video of my daughter when she was a baby.

I read and scroll, read and scroll.

I should start working at 9 A.M. I have one thing I need to do, but I’ve worked so hard all week—really, really hard, actually—that I’m going to allow myself to slow down. The perks of working at home are that things can move just as slowly as you may want or need them to. As an introvert, and a really, really staunch one at that, it’s what I need. I love the silence.

Around 8:45, I start getting hungry. “I hate getting hungry,” I think. I always get hungry right when I’m in the middle of something interesting.

In the kitchen, I decide to make avocado toast. My first time ever making it. It’s really good. I text my fiance about it. “That’s your first avocado toast?!” he says. “You should try it with cheese.” I sprinkle some feta on it. It actually is really, really good.

Great. Breakfast down. Hopefully I don’t have to deal with being hungry for awhile. Don’t get me wrong. I love food. But I get very busy during the day. I love my job, and I love all the little projects that I carry on (like researching and planning on starting different internet businesses) so getting hungry and needing to stop what I’m doing to eat can be a bit of a nuisance.

It does force me to pause though, which I need to remember to do from time to time. The perks of loving what you do.

I text my two best friends—one in Indy, the other in Chicago, having just moved there from Indy, both of them being originally from Muncie—and tell them about my fiance and I getting rats when we move back home.

“There are lots of rats in Chicago that you could have for free!” one friend texts back.

It’s already 9 A.M., but I still haven’t checked Reddit yet, my favorite social media to check. I figure, I’m at home, I’ve worked hard, I’m going to have a late start today. Then, I’ll start my diary for the Middletown project.

This late start has been worth it.

But as I type this journal now, it’s approaching 10:30 A.M. The familiar pain in the right side of my neck and my right shoulder are starting.

Yes, I do love my job as a copywriter, but all these years of typing, typing, typing, and looking at screens, is taking a toll on my body. I tend to pull my right shoulder up while I work. I gotta quit that. And, again, the nicotine…

Time to get to work! I will be building a mock up presentation deck today. I’m on a creative team of 3 at work—me, a graphic designer, and our communications manager—and we’re creating a presentation to explain to our company’s founders why we need to invest time and resources into branding the company. I love branding.

Okay, now, really…time to work.

10:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.

Two hours passed—so much for work. I did respond to some messages on Slack, the chat app the company uses to communicate all day. We’re doing a homepage refresh, so I wrote some new copy for it, and handed all the copy I wrote over to two of our employees, one being the marketing communications manager.

They picked their favorite new headlines for the new homepage, and it felt good to be told there were lots of “catchy options.” The marketing manager said she’d give it to our founders so they could pick one, but assured us there’d be some pushback, because there always is.

“AKA, [myname]’s life,” the manager says jokingly.

She knows I’m used to writing copy that gets scrutinized by leadership, not because they don’t like it, but because they aren’t copywriters themselves, nor do they really understand the work that goes into using language to connect with audiences. They tend to get hung up on wanting to tell potential customers more about what the product is, rather than communicating what the product is while also inspi ring interest, intrigue, and an emotional connection with them.

“No worries, I’m used to it,” I say.

And I am. I actually like responding back to the founders or the leadership to explain my choices. They learn something, and they always respond positively.

Plus, I love that I don’t have to make final decisions with 90% of what I do. I hate making decisions—I just like helping people get what they want.

The other employee writes back: “why the pushback, though? i totally understand checks and balances…but, like, we have a certain [myname] for a reason! *eyeroll, winky-face*”

That makes me feel really good. I’m so critical of my work. I want people to like me, especially at work, and I need more praise than I know is reasonable to expect. Which is okay, because in spite of my self-criticisms, I’m also decently confident, and getting more confident with age and experience.

The next hour and a half or so, I spend on the phone with the IRS trying to work out payment for my taxes. I’m always nice on the phone, so I’m surprised to be met with a very rude IRS employee.

“You just said you were calling to set up a payment plan 2 seconds ago,” she tells me, “But then you read me a letter that says you already have a payment plan set up with the IRS.”

I eventually get off the phone, no questions answered. I feel bad for her, though. I’m pretty sure I was nice, which makes me think about what kind of things a person has to go through to be so rude and snippy with a nice person.

I don’t understand her troubles, but, oh well. I learn that my IRS debt will only be subject to a late fee of about 50 cents if I don’t get my things in on time, so I let it go and choose to worry about it again later.

I hop into trying to pay some medical bills and am surprised to learn I owe over $360 to one of my doctors—not including the $140 I just paid moments ago. I had some gynecological procedures done after a bit of a health scare last year. All’s well, but damn—how does some lab work cost over $600?

I think—fuck this stupid country. Fuck big corporations and big insurance and big banks and big pharmaceutical companies. It’s not fair. No one should be charging anyone so much money to not die.

I’ve been trying to save up money for months. The move back to Muncie in June will cost about $3,000, and our wedding another $3,000, half of which goes to a photographer and my mom’s travel costs out of Houston. Looks like I won’t hit my savings goal this month.

In the end, a phone rep for the Indiana hospital I owe says I can pay $50 a month. I tell her I’ll pay up in July, so thankfully, I don’t have to pay the full $368 today.

I make minimum wage for the Bay Area and couldn’t afford to live on my own here if I wanted to. But in Muncie, I feel pretty loaded. In spite of all these money issues, I try to focus on how grateful I am, even if my paychecks seem to be getting smaller—mo money, mo problems. No doubt.

I’m confident my fiance and I will get it all sorted. He says he is too.

“Don’t worry—when I get my tax refund, I think we’ll be okay,” he texts me back.

I feel bad for texting him all my money troubles. I’m trying so hard to only text him positive things today—too many of my texts to him are about this annoying thing that happened, or that frustrating thing I learned, or all the thoughts in my head about things we need or money we need to save…


My ex-husband, my daughter’s father, who is currently living in my home in Muncie, texts me to see if we can get the lawn mowed. I reach out to the guy who mows my lawn all summer, and he lets me know the rate’s increased by $5 this year for mows, and he does monthly payments now.

My grass in my backyard in Muncie grows really fast. Really, really fast. Not the front yard though. My dad—well, he’s really my ex-husband’s dad, but since I don’t have a relationship with my dad, my ex-father-in-law basically adopted me—told me once that they planted grass meant to feed horses in the backyard. That’s why it grows so fast.

I set things up with the lawn guy, but I’m reminded that’s an expense I haven’t accounted for.

Ugh. Can I please just keep some of my money?

Gratitude. Be grateful. Stop whining.

Also, I’m feeling a bit off, physically—been downing water since around 10:30, but I may have overdone it on the vaping-of-the-nicotine. I get mouthy when I’m thinking, or when I’m anxious, and fail to realize how much I’m sipping on that vape. Wish I had some gum, just to keep my mouth busy. Stupid oral fixations. Now my hands feel funny, which happens sometimes when I vape too much. Bit sweaty.

Right shoulder is pulling up while I write this.

It’s now approaching 1:00 P.M.

I have a clock on my desk here where I live in Alameda that’s set to EST time, so I always know what time it is in Muncie, and always feel more connected with my daughter.

1:00 P.M. in California means my daughter is now out of school—it’s 4:00 P.M. there. I always start thinking of her right away, once I notice that it’s 1:00 P.M. here.

I start thinking—“Is she happy?”

“Should I call her?”

“I need to work…I haven’t done much work…but I want to call her. But I should work. If I work instead of calling her, will she be sad?”

“She’s probably just playing with her friends right now. She’s not even thinking about me, which is actually good.”

“Or maybe she’s at home on the couch, watching videos on her iPad.”

I miss her. I work so hard to make sure she knows that Mommy is thinking of her, Mommy wants to be with her.

I decide: I will work for an hour to get some of this project done. It’s due today. Then, I’ll call and check in on her.

I have at least 14 library books right next to me that I haven’t read to her yet. I hope I can read some to her tonight over Skype.

I love imagining her playing with her friends right now, laughing.

Actually, before I work, I think I’ll check in on Roblox. It’s a game we play online—you can build houses and avatars, kind of like Minecraft. She’s built a lovely house in one of the games. I’ll see if she’s online.

Then…then I’ll work.

God, I really need to work.

I check in. She’s not online.

Okay, I’ll work.

I open the document I need.

But now, I’m hungry.

Okay, I’ll eat first.

But I really do need to work.

But I can’t work if I’m hungry, right?

Of course not.

1:30 P.M. to End of Day

I’m ready for bed now. From the moment I woke up, until around 1:30, my creative juices were flowing and I enthusiastically felt and remembered every last one of my experiences through-and-through. It happens. It especially happens to people who write for a living.

I did get my work done. Thankfully. By a nose.

Then my fiance got home, and we shared a weekend beer in the kitchen before heading out to a little outdoor restaurant here on the island. (Oh, did I not tell you? Alameda is an Island. Yes, I live on an island, and I’d still rather be in Muncie right now.)

We laughed. I had a cheeseburger. We watched children play with their parents. He bought new wiper blades. I got a tres leches cake, something I long for but can’t get in Muncie.

Now, laying down to bed, more tired than I think I’ve been in awhile. The sleep deprivation is catching up with me. Did I mention, I’m sleep deprived? It’s my own doing. And the sunlight that pours in way, way, too early.

We marathoned the First 48 and lounged on the couch until even the couch couldn’t hold my exhaustion anymore.

I’m glad it’s bedtime in Alameda. But I’m sad that I’m too tired to go over the details of my conversation with my sweet daughter that I had earlier with the same zeal that I might have when all those stimulants were fresh in my head.

She’s happy in Muncie, and I miss her so much.

In Muncie, when I lay down to sleep, the silence is deep. The trains blare in the distance and rattle my house a little. My dogs snore in the living room.

Here, the B.A.R.T. trains squeal by fast, at least a 15 minute drive away in Oakland, but I can still hear them—seriously! I can.

And I think, what forcefulness this city has, or this region, that I should hear a passenger train coming from at least 2-3 miles away just by the volume of its speed? A train pedestrians can watch whip by their bedroom windows? I can hear that. I can hear that from the island when it’s quiet enough.

But in Muncie, the train just 4 blocks from my house chugs by politely, one long horn to excuse itself, and perhaps it would be quieter if it was legal for it to be, but it can’t be. So it shouts en route across Tillotson. Compared to the B.A.R.T. in Oakland the trains in Muncie sound old and tired and wise.