Inevitably, whenever you meet someone you're bound to ask, "What do you do?" In New York, this is an integral part of a conversation when you first meet someone. New York is a town that's focused on networking and many who live there are career driven. So, when you ask someone what they do the subtext is usually can we do business together in the future.
In Portland, people really aren't driven by their occupation. Here people work to live not live to work. Rightfully so since most people leave work at around 5pm and most restaurants close about 10pm. In New York people usually don't get out of work until at least 7pm and typically don't head to dinner before 9pm. So yeah, I would say that's a bit of a lifestyle difference.
When I would first meet people here I really didn't ask them what they did because people were never really talking about their jobs. As I had noticed in my early days, Portland was the kind of place that needed an ambition bomb dropped on it. Unless, of course, your ambition is to cover your body in tattoos, then my friends, you have come to the right spot. That's an achievable ambition.
People in Portland tend to talk about their "art." There are constantly art shows going on and the ability to exhibit a piece of art in one of those shows isn't hard. You just have to know someone who is putting a show on. After I realized that I started asking people, "What do you do?" To my surprise this was a welcome question and the answers I got were all about art. All kinds of art: knitting, quilting, photography, woodwork, stencils. You name it someone works in that medium.
That got me thinking: "Well, what is it I do?" I write. Never really comfortable with the term writer I always shied away from mentioning it and ultimately shied away from practicing. Now that I find myself saying it more, I actually do it more. I even managed to find a writing group, something I sorely missed when I left New York.
The moral of the story here is that both New York and Portland are a place where ambitious people congregate, the difference is the focus of the ambition. I, for one, am happy to be nourishing my creative side again and look forward to doing it more in the new year.