Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Trader Joe's Experience

A year ago, I uprooted my life for a 10 year career and moved to Dallas. There are lots of things that happen when you have a sudden life shift. Lots of firsts. Lots of new faces. Lots of learning. And, no surprise, lots of stress.

A month ago I had a pretty severe nervous breakdown. In truth, it had been building for some time. The adrenaline high that you get from moving into a completely new environment can only last so long. Eventually, if you're not taking care of yourself and paying attention, you're gonna crash and burn.

Fortunately, I've been bouncing back pretty smoothly (albeit, it's felt like a slow crawl out from under a rock). A large part of my so-far recovery has been because of great support from family and friends, and great advice: starting with getting out more.

We live in an age where technology makes it possible to never leave the house unless you're going to work. I think that can be a detriment to your mental health after a while.

So, breathing in fresh air and accepting my own failings, I stepped back into the world - and in this journey found myself inside a Trader Joe's.

In truth, I don't know what my great expectation was, short of feeling out of place (and I did). I frequent Kroger (or wherever is closest that honors coupons). I was astonished that TJ wasn't the overpriced, hyped let-down I envisioned. And what was especially telling was just how ordinary (and generic) it was.

The food? The selection was minimal and in truth I could get the same at Tom Thumb or Kroger. The size? I could get on board with a smaller store compared to the mega Kroger just a few miles from my apartment. The wine? Alright, I'll admit the price was pretty damn good. The people?

There's the most interesting part. The tribal, familial, clannishness of the sandal'ed (and in one instance, socked) feet, Hawaiian shirt (or sun dress...and maybe a fedora) attire, and that airy tone of mall-girl meets hippie when discussing kale and beet salads. Quirky, friendly, and a little bit flaky. It's the flavorful people that make the Trader Joe's experience worth taking, with the goat cheese coming in at second place.

Am I a TJ convert? Probably not quite, but it's given me the strength to go forward and explore Wholefoods. Food and grocer pretension aside, it's a grand thing to pull yourself out of your own comfort zone and challenge yourself. For some, it may be chasing ghosts. For me, it's encountering food snobs in grocery stores. So far, so good.

On to the next! - Stay tuned for an update from a trip back home + other huge changes!

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