In my last office, it rained on my desk sometimes. It was a beautiful room in a renovated old brick building; beautiful, but with “character.” As in, one-layer-of-brick character, with gaps juuust wide enough for mice to get in, and winter wind to blow straight under my desk on chilly days. There was a busted refrigerator, and a front door that held water after a storm, so that the first person who swung it open without thinking would get doused. I can’t even describe the piles of paper, or the accumulated rolls of drawings, or the stacks of file boxes I had to move out from under my desk when I moved in.
My desk was stacked with Linux computer manuals from the early nineties, and useless software textbooks written by people who have never, ever had a conversation with a human being face-to-face. I moved those, one by one while the boss wasn’t looking, to an empty shelf in the back, and I vacuumed up the mouse droppings and hung up concert posters and travel photos. It helped, but I was still always sitting, unsheltered, in an office full of crazy.
It took the first month of being unemployed to regroup, during which time I continued to get multiple calls each week with computer questions from the one remaining person left to close down the office. Your worst nightmare, if you hate Linux as much as I do, is to have to answer questions about Linux, via telephone, FOR FREE. I made a personal vow never to set foot in that office again, never to entangle myself with that wretched computer system again, never to have to sit in an office full of crazy all day again.
The second month of unemployment was much more fun. I panicked for exactly ten minutes a day about whether I would ever find another job, but became master of the daily to-do list. I started running again. I took Dawg on long walks every day. I hung out on patios, repainted two rooms and seven pieces of furniture, and reorganized my house. I Got Things Done, in the middle of the working and the waiting.
I had a bunch of interviews. Some ended with “I need someone with a little more experience,” or “You’ve been working on Linux? For real? Um, thanks for coming in.” I almost cancelled one interview from the parking lot of the North Raleigh office park it was in. Another interview had me driving around Hillsborough for two hours picking out my perfect $80,000 bungalow in case I moved. None of those options were a perfect fit.
At the beginning of month 2, someone aggressively networked for me against my will, which resulted in a call from a kindhearted client from the old office. “I can put you to work right this minute!” he told me. “Nobody can extract anything from that computer system. Why don’t I set you up with a short-term contract, and you can go back to your old desk and work with your old colleague and get back on those computers for us?”
There are few things I hate worse than a captioned cat photo, but this summed up my response to that phone call. My daily ten minutes of job-related panic stretched to twenty that day. I politely deferred and said I’d be in touch.
I was waiting for an interview with my dream employer when another job, one I didn’t know existed anywhere, popped up out of the blue. I sent my resume. They called me at once. The interviewed me. They made me an offer immediately. They encouraged me to go ahead to my other interview, and think about it. I did, and I knew within minutes that the dream employer would be great, but the position would not. I accepted the surprise offer.
I’m a creative writer/researcher for an architecture firm, y’all. I’m getting paid to be a writer. I may or may not decide I want to go back to interning some day, but I know for sure that my days of drawing caulk details are behind me. This position is unheard of elsewhere. I can’t believe it fell into my lap.
This afternoon my new boss showed me where my workspace would be. I was expecting a little cubicle in an office suite, but we turned a corner and she showed me into my gorgeous office. Ten foot wide window. Seventeenth story view, looking west over the train tracks high up above Raleigh. A giant wraparound desk, with space for like five people, and it’s all mine. Two blocks away, I can see the rooftop of my old office. It’s bittersweet, but it’s nice to see it now from a completely different perspective. I can not believe my good fortune.
Better still: I don’t start for a couple of weeks, and now that everything is fine, way better than fine, I’m leaving in a few hours for Merlefest, my personal happy place. After that, Dawg and I are headed for a nice long drive along the Mother Road.
We’ll send you some postcards.