The end of the calendar year: a time for a rambling look back at what was and wiping the blackboard clean for the scribbles of a new year. It’s been thirty years (and some change) since I moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota. That was roughly half my life ago.
I realize the former is a city while the latter is an entire state, but L.A. is so much a place unto itself (call it a state of mind) that I really do think of the move that way. It took years to shed my West Coast cloak — that Los Angeles state of mind — but now I’m a full-on Minnesotan.
Looking back, those three decades form three distinct acts.
I had intended to write a 30 Years Ago post back in March to coincide more with the actual anniversary of the move. But last February it became clear my mom was in her final approach — she died in March — so I was grieving then.
But in order for the “30 years” thing to work, if the post is to be posted, it needs to be this year (I’m already much closer to anniversary 31 than 30). Considering I accepted the offer to transfer in January, the actual date is a bit spread out.
Bottom line, I moved in 1984. Now it’s (barely still) 2014. That’s 30 years. This might be a slightly belated post, but better belated than never, eh?
The thing that struck me looking back at my life here was how neatly that time divides into three distinct “acts” of my life in Minnesota. (In point of fact, back in Minnesota. I also lived here from 1960 to 1967.) As a lover of stories, a three-act structure naturally appeals to me!
It starts in 1984, but the seeds were planted in 1980 when I began with The Company (TC) as a Field Service Technician. My corporate masters liked what I did in the field and offered me a job at TC HQ.
I’ve never had a strong drive towards any clear destination. I’m more the sort to be a leaf in the wind, to see what life brings. I’ve never had a strong answer for the famous question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I still don’t. (And I’m retired now!)
In many ways I’ve been an observer of life. It’s all so interesting that it’s hard for me to stay on one thing or in one place. I’ve let life happen, and that’s been good and bad. Sometimes the wind blows you to strange, even nasty, places!
I was just shy of 30 years old when I moved back. There were two firsts as a result of that move: my first desk job and my first office romance. I don’t recommend either (especially the latter). In a lot of ways, I would have been happier (and outdoors!) digging ditches or building houses.
Or being a musician, which I would have loved, but which also I never believed I was quite good enough for. I know real musicians, and as much as I love music, and love to play, I’m just not in that class. Breaks my heart!
I mentioned three acts — each a decade long — of my life here.
The first is from 1984 to 1994. That act includes the disastrous office romance, the first desk job, and my showing TC what I could for them writing software (which — college minor — I’d been doing since 1978).
Again my corporate masters were pleased; they moved me into a software development role. Up to then I’d been supporting and training other field techs doing what I’d done. But by 1992 I was fully engaged in writing software.
That office romance was rough and resulted in a number of unfortunate rebound affairs. After a while I realized I needed to take a break from dating and get my mind working right again.
Act Two begins in 1994 when happenstance brought a Black Labrador puppy into my life. I named her Sam(antha) after a puppy I’d shared with a roommate many years ago (and because of a childhood crush on Samantha from Bewitched — witch, I mean, which is why that first puppy got the name).
That dog, more than anything else, got me out of my romantic funk. She also helped me get back into decent shape. By 1996 we were running 5Ks every other day. We were out at least an hour every morning and then out for 90 minutes or so every evening. And we played together a lot.
I decided to jump back into the romance pool. I met my wife-to-be on an early (homemade!) local dating site in 1997. We were married in 1998, almost exactly a year after we met. Huge mistake. We were divorced by 2003. (Her best friend married the guy who wrote the site, and last I heard they’re doing great.)
Sam died in 2004, and that was the end of Act Two.
That year was also the first time TC eliminated my job — my entire department, actually — so it’s hard to take that one personally. What was personal was the lack of, “Oh good and faithful servant! We can’t afford to lose someone with your abilities, so we’ll make sure we find another spot for you.”
It was more a case of, “Well, good luck with that.”
The last act, from 2004–2014, has been the worst of the lot in a personal sense. The position I found in 2004 was a good, even great, one, but in 2005 I realized I was averaging 12 hours of work per day. It took years to ramp that down to sane levels.
Worse, the department was in decline. (I never get “in on the ground floor” of anything — usually it’s more “the final days” sort of thing.) Despite my efforts to reduce the workload, at one point I was doing the work of three. Three others including my own.
I had to get out, and this is where things really went downhill at work. I found a new position in 2011, but it turned out to be one of the least best during my time at TC. Didn’t get along with my boss, and wasn’t really given anything challenging to do.
In 2012 that boss eliminated my position. Again there was no sense that TC placed any value on my abilities (which my clients would tell you are considerable). Again, barely, luckily, I found a new position.
And it was the worst of my career. I realized my sanity depended on retiring as soon as financially possible. Which I did in 2013, and good riddance.
I do not like the new millennium (Sam I am)! It’s brought me lots of grief but little pleasure.
It starts in 2001 with my new marriage turning out to be a mistake. Then there was 9/11 (I was born in NYC, so it affected me profoundly).
The marriage split up in 2002 with divorce becoming final in 2003. Then my department was closed and I barely found a new position in time. Then my dog died. By then I’d moved four times, sold my townhouse to move in with my wife, and in 2003 bought my current condo. (And then my dog died!)
And then work started to go downhill, plus the economy went into the crapper and work got really scary. Then work went even more downhill, and my job was explicitly eliminated, and — especially with the economy — I barely got situated again. And then work totally sucked so I retired early.
Hell of a millennium, gotta tell you.
On the other hand, I got through it with only a very shattered heart and a few assorted mental bruises. Could have been much, much worse. Many, oh so many, did have it much, much worse. People I know had it worse. Some of them are even dead.
So looking back I count my blessings, my fortunes, and my joys. Sorrows are remembered as shades that color my past, that give it depth and texture (and lessons — so many lessons). But it’s the joys and challenges and good times that matter (and those lessons).
That’s what I see when I look back.
Happy New Year, everyone. May the road ahead be gentle, but instructive, and may all your pains be “sham pains.”
You know, I don’t know how certain writers do it. It’s really hard to write when you’re inumbriated… inubriated… imenbriated… (D’oh!) drinking!