had a great laugh this morning out of a "webinar" advert forwarded to me by a friend. seems there's a salesperson at my company who's bs'ed their way into a speaking slot by entitling themselves "ambassador for green initiatives". too funny.
and while we're on the green philosophies, of reduce, reuse, recycle, i liked an email i wrote earlier this morning so much i think i'll reuse it here:
my friend had raised the existential question of "what do i want", and i'd noted in reply that one of the harder things i've noticed about my life these days (profession, marriage, kids, house in the burbs, etc.) is that it serves in almost every respect to cut me off from exactly that--"what do i want". the best job i ever had was working the parts counter at an auto parts store when I was just out of college. we were paid just barely over minimum wage, but we enjoyed immensely spending the whole day with each other, and then heading out after for beers and bands at the local pubs. (allston in the 80's was an incredible place for music). it all went downhill when my apprenticeship (indentured servitude?) was up, and i got my "good" job down at corporate headquarters as was the original plan. a black and white case of "careful what you wish for", and i've often wondered how my life would have been different if i'd have stayed with the "crew". (nah, you can never go home again...)
my second best job ever was working the phones for a software company in their support department. not nearly as close to minimum wage, but still way down at the bottom end of the corporate software pay scale. incredibly exploitative to the brilliant young minds assembled to answer the incoming idiot calls, but an incredible place to be young and smart. we'd bring beers in on friday afternoons, and play in the corporate softball league, and carry on as one big happy extended family of single up-and-comers. that one i wrecked to take the proverbial "plum" job and get myself married at the same time. lots more money, and lots less of everything that made me happy up to that point. can't complain about the rewards of family and children, and i never will, but while i contemplate what comes next, i have to realize that there's a blueprint out there for me, if only i'm able to find and follow it.
which brings us back to the cutting off part. my contemporaries are most often married with children living in single family houses and working at demanding professional jobs. water cooler confabs on the state of the red sox, or spontaneous decisions to "let's go grab a beer", or go bowling for that matter, are extremely hard to find or organize. everybody's so busy. everybody's so focused on their own personal everests they're climbing.
so how does one go about forging connections with others who are also effectively the social equivalent of self-induced-comatose, and doggedly resistant to wakening? the progress is incremental, and usually infinitesimal. just sitting down to fill out a loan application with someone with whom i might otherwise have a lot in common is an exercise in listing all of the reasons why there simply wouldn't ever be time to try it. drives an hour in from nashua
, commuting daughter to and from school on both ends, and spends evenings at second and third jobs to make the single mother ends meet. where's the life to be had in that???
the secret i think i found in the auto part aisles and on the phone banks was the simple coincidence of time and place. spend 50 or 60 hours a week with great people, and great things happen. add another 10 or 20 out of pure joy of camaraderie, and now we're solid into "makes me happy" for everyone. but, now, try that while juggling home mortgages and daycare/schooling and babysitting a grumbling spouse or other house/roommate, and what do you get? i'd say, the recipe for solitude standing.
while I was waiting for the real estate agent to return with the seller-signed copies of the P&S this past monday night, i situated myself in one of the local coffee shops and treated myself to a beer. all on my lonesome at first, but i was sooned joined by an 80-year-old guy named tony who had just been moved to lowell by his daughter so he could live in a nice condo and be walking distance from shops and restaurants instead of out in the boonies of eastport, maine
. he was a machinist in the war, and told me how much he liked to be able to meet people on the street and begin to strike up friendships again. i agreed that this was a very nice way to make ones life.
i hadn't been joking to the "what do i want friend" some months earlier when i told her i wished my building could be filled with people like her and so many of the others i treasure. add some old portuguese guys who like to head out to play soccer on weekend afternoons and follow up the games with a beer and linguica, and maybe even some software geeky types who'll ooh and ahh over my (potential) high-def projection tv
setup, and show me some of the cool gadgets of their own. the hardest part is realizing that nothing like this ever grows up out of whole cloth. it's got to be built one relationship at a time, and patiently, because nobody else has the freedom i have right now to redesign and define a whole life.
but at least i think i've got the thread now, and i can start to recognize and choose to nurture and cultivate the relationships that "fit". it's like building a soccer team: every weak link is doubly detrimental, because it neither performs, nor gives its place to a better alternative. and every strong addition is sometimes hard and slow to recognize for everything that it is, because it can only start to truly produce when it's surrounded by a sufficient number of other strong components. but when the "tipping point" is reached, and critical mass is more closely approached, real joy can start to blossom.
i'll start with the condo. begin collecting neighbors. work out the necessary sacrifices to do all that can be done for family and children. and dream of the day when a job can be taken on its own merits alone. i think i saw an auto parts place up the street from where I'll be living...