I visited the past today. And boy, what timing.
I wasn't going to go, but I did. Tonight was the reunion of my old company.It's my favorite company that I've ever worked for and I compare all others to it. I haven't been able to find a place or caliber of people whom I've enjoyed working with so much, nor where I did better work.
I had a therapy appointment in Beverly Hills (yes, I know that sounds so L.A.) and the reunion was at the Westwood Brewing Company in Westwood Village. Westwood Village is a shopping, restaurant and movie theater district that is surrounded by the UCLA campus. It's a mile or so from Beverly Hills, and on the way to the freeway from my appointment. It was only when I approached the street and actually made the turn, did I know I was going to go. It's been two years since I'd seen most of the people from work, and I was nervous. I was nervous about being able to socialize and smile. I wondered if I would be able to approach people, or be able to laugh. Or, if I would visibly bear the scars of over a year of depression that would make people politely shy away from me and meander to other circles.
I paid $5 to park in a lot across the street and hoped that I wouldn't see anyone that I knew on my way in. I just wanted to be able to walk in the room and scope out quietly where I wanted to go. When I entered the room, I wondered if I was making a mistake to come. There were a lot of unfamiliar faces and I saw Steve the CEO. Then, I saw Samrod and Mateen, two programmers who worked together when I was there. Both still had jobs, Samrod with some other employees were spared unemployment after the company folded when Gannett, one of our parent companies needed operations here in Los Angeles. They stayed in the same building, just two floors down. And they are still there two years later. What they are doing for Gannett, I have no idea. I just know that it doesn't require any content people because I've asked several times. I walked toward them, and at that point, I started to relax and just let the evening flow.
There were probably about 40 people there, and I noticed that most of them were quite reserved. Though there was a lot of talking, it wasn't as animated as CareerPath usually was. As I made my way around, it became obvious that many had been through a rough ride in the last two years and that I wasn't the only one who had taken a retail job at some point. I learned that some people had not worked since CareerPath's closing. Others were in jobs that they were not happy in, and some were phasing themselves out of their current positions to take on their own endeavors. Those who said they were freelancing I guessed were not working. When the question, "what are you doing now," came toward me, I said honestly, "trying to decide what to do." That pervasive question of the evening, "what are you doing," was not one directed at being comparative. People wanted to hear good news, that someone was surviving the fall of our industry. As far as I could tell, no one was really thrilled with what they were doing, but were damn glad that they had jobs. Except I think, for the Gannett folks who seemed happy at work and that they managed to stay together.
Most importantly, the reunion let me know that this quest for "what are you doing" wasn't my battle alone. I wasn't the only disenchanted worker who was wavering. There were many good people who were having a tough time as well. Smart, talented, and good human beings who only mean well in this world. A lot of us are trying to find where we fit right now, and it was important to see that I'm not alone in that journey.
I spoke to Ben, a wonderful, kind person who had been the second in command at CareerPath and has been of great help to me when I needed a contact at certain companies. It was refreshing to see someone dressed in a suit and he looked great. He said something tonight that helped me understand part of what I might be going through. I mentioned that September 11th had affected the job industry in many ways, and he said that it also helped him come to the decision to leave his current position at the Getty Museum. He wasn't really happy there, and that day brought it home that life is too short to be sidestepping your happiness. I agreed with him, saying that since September 11th I just can't seem to get it back together, and I think it's because I'm much less patient with the crap or with spending time doing something that I'm not really thrilled about. The cost is just too great. The thing is, I'm trained at finding jobs like that and hoping for the best. Now that I can't do that, I'm having to feel around in the dark without a cane.
That day had such an effect on me, and is a gnawing persistent memory that won't let me just "get back to the old grind." September 11th follows me everywhere. I wake up with it and go to bed with it. Since it happened I can't sleep as well. And, it was a stark reminder that life is unpredictable, and that it is precious. There is a great saying that says, "Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with that talent is your gift to God." I couldn't agree more. It's perhaps why I can't get excited about just any job that falls within my realm of skills and industry because it pays well. And now, my staying power for "sticking it out" is greatly reduced. It has to be the right one. I'm even considering graduate school to take a whole hearted stab at nourishing my creative voice again.
September 11th really did change everything for me, and it's hard to know how to appease this new mindset. I guess, like a pair of shoes, I'll just keep trying things on until they not only look good, but are a comfortable fit that allow me to stride at a good pace.
Maybe then, September 11th will allow me some days off.