I'm not a big believer in "signs." I don't think that, if on a first date, you see two doves together, it's sign that you two are "meant to be." I don't think that, if you're thinking of cheating on your significant other, that it's a sign that you two shouldn't be together. Doves are just doves and cheating is just cheating; anything else is just trying to impose meaning on something that is ultimately meaningless. That said, when you spend your entire day at work composing your own eulogy, well, that can't be good, can it?
I've been working for thirty-one years now, which is roughly sixty-five percent of my life. I do "restaurant information technology" and have for roughly as long as "restaurant information technology" has existed. I never really chose this field. I majored in philosophy for the brief period I was in college and waited tables when I wasn't in school. The money was pretty good but it dawned on me that the money would literally never get better. So, I decided to figure out the computer in the office. It was an old IBM 286 with a four color monitor. It ran DOS 3.3 and featured a custom word processor and spreadsheet because Lotus and WordPerfect were too expensive. Please understand that it was a very different time.
Thus, the extent of my plan was: "Hey, this seems to be a way to get out of waiting tables that doesn't require a degree!" Obviously, a degree would have helped, but good fortune makes a fine substitute for matriculation. This was the dawn of the personal computer era, so knowing how to navigate a command line was a relatively rare skill. "I'm not good with computers" was still a good excuse for not using one. Plus, this was an era in which men, by and large, did not know how to type. It sounds strange now, but back then, typing was woman's work. Because of this, I had a leg up. My handwriting had always been poor, even in grade school. Because of this, they put me in a special education class to teach me typing. So, when computers first started popping up in the workplace, I was several laps ahead of most of the gents I was competing with. Needless to say, many of my early computer-based jobs involved more women than men.
My career arc went something like this: Waiter-->Waiter-who-does-office-paperwork-->Help Desk for Restaurant Company-->Developer for Restaurant Company-->All Kinds of Restaurant IT Stuff. If, in retrospect, it seems like more a matter of inertia than planning, that's a pretty apt take on it. I just kept moving where the opportunities were rather than seeking anything in particular. I learned a lot about what I didn't want. I have never had any interest in management and my brief experiences in that role were painful. Firing people is the worst. Anyone who enjoys it probably ought to seek help.
Back at work today, it's all kinds of strange. It's the first day back after a three day weekend, so the rhythm is already syncopated. Add to that the fact that the song stuck in my head is an old Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd tune and it's a wonder I can concentrate at all. Oh, and there are going to be layoffs today. I guess that fact that I've been told means that I'm safe, but you're never really safe. I learned that twelve years and one month ago. I do know, however, that the person sitting next to me is on The List. It's so hard not to say anything, to give them some warning or advice (file your FMLA paperwork now!). I hate this. I hate business. I hate that I've become a business person.
My mother has lived in the central part of the U.S. for most of her life, but she did a brief stint in the San Francisco area. When a thunder storm rolled in to town, her co-workers were terrified. Apparently, thunderstorms are uncommon on the west coast, but my mother didn't flinch, as she was well accustomed to the sound of thunder. The layoffs were kind of like that. This is the seventh round of layoffs I've experienced, but for most of my coworkers, it was their first. You can see the fear in their eyes today, like something has fundamentally shifted in their worlds. It's kind of depressing to think that I'm so used to layoffs that my only reaction is "well, at least it wasn't me this time."
On an unrelated note, a friend and I were just talking about one of our high school teachers. She was, without question, my favorite teacher in high school. Unfortunately, all I can remember is how awful I was to her. I was disrespectful to a degree that the memory of it causes me to shudder to this day. And this day is a very long distance in time away from those memories. I wish I could say that I was a good, model student, or even one of those cool, rebellious types who just needed the right teacher to engage them. I wish I could, but I can't. I was simply a jerk to her. Usually, time erodes the rough edges away from memories, but I think, in order for that to happen, you have to spend some time with the bad bits. This is the first time I've thought of this teacher in a long time, so while the memories aren't fresh, they haven't been processed so they're still sharp and embarrassing. That's how it feels to me. I wonder if other people process memories the same way.