Posts Tagged ‘reunion’

Firework Wait

31 July 2010

Dear J-

The fireworks are going off over SeaWorld as they will all summer long, though they’re not a patch on the 4th of July or Disneyland, for that matter (given the relative cost of admission and frequency, though, it’s nothing to sneeze at).  It seems churlish to complain about free entertainment, but that’s how it is:  this is one of the neighborhoods where, with enough altitude, you can watch the sky burn from the comfort of home.

My brother’s high school class reunion is taking place this weekend — like me, he missed the 10th year, and like him, I have no drastic plans to go back for 20 years; one of our teachers said that 10 years is too soon, but 20 years is a good time to head back.  I dunno.  When you’re graduating, twenty years in the future is longer than you’ve been alive; it seems impossibly distant, and yet we’re here.  Time is slippery, and perceptions change; where waiting an hour (for fireworks, for dinner) was an eternity before, it’s come full-circle, where gadgets made it bearable (thank you smartphones!) and now figgy makes it impossible again.

In the middle of congratulating myself for actually leaving the house Saturday mornings just me and figgy, I inevitably run into parents with mobs of well-behaved children in tow.  Seriously, that’s the potential stuff of nightmares, and I’m looking forward to steeling myself against those challenges.  We have some time before the Unnamed becomes mobile, after all, and that much more difficult to corral.

Mike

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Day 18: Now and Then

14 April 2010

Dear J-

Today we compressed eight years of my life into three hours: first a presentation from people I work with every day, and then one by the folks I used to work with. If they drag people from Worldcom in tomorrow I’m changing the locks; someone’s stalking me. The timing was poor — right after lunch is the sleepiest time for everyone in class — but I enjoyed being able to spend time with folks I hadn’t seen (or in some cases thought about) for at least four weeks. I’m always asking if I have enough motivation to return and wreak change; I think I do, I think I am. The topics are important, but unfortunately don’t necessarily affect everyone every day. Procurement sinks back into being a black box for the rest of the plant.

I guess I’m just sort of champing at the bit at this point; the end is in sight, after nearly a month in class, and I’ll have a chance to find out just how stubborn I can be in the face of resistance. The nice part is that I’m coming back with a bag full of tools (shiny and new, but dull and untested, so bear with me as I work through these issues) and I’m confident I can make it happen. Drive that bus over here, wouldja? We’re out to change attitudes, which is something we can’t do alone; seeing folks I know brings that home to me: trust and respect, that’s where we have to start and finish.

I know that I’ve said at some point that I now more fully appreciate the supervisor role and its challenges; at my first job in Worldcom, I made supervisor after eighteen months, as that was more in the nature of a very-competent person — give them the tough jobs that no one else understands, and they’ll get it done. Learning how to do things, that isn’t the challenging part of a career; with enough knowledge even I can get better at doing things — it’s the art of leading people that demands practice. Are you ready?

Mike

Day 16: Old Reunion

12 April 2010

Dear J-

The schedule has been shuffled a little and we’re doing the job familiarization guide week this week; if the first day is any indication, the difficulty of coordinating speakers scales exponentially with the number — today we had six different divisions scattered throughout the day. The schedule was in shambles after the first couple, and we ended up taking multiple extended breaks as a result. If there’s one thing I’ve leared today, the one segment you don’t want to fall asleep in is Fitness for Duty, which deals with substance abuse, criminal arrests, and the euphemistically-named inattention — fatigue.

Because my background at the plant is in budgets and procurement, I’ve already managed to meet a pretty good slice of the plant management. It doesn’t necessarily help out, though; I know what a Survivor nut the one manager is so our discussion of course centered not on the work he does, but how patently transparent Russell’s antics are on the latest season (we both concluded that he won’t be able to get anyone to trust him should he choose to return to yet another season; this one works only because of the short hiatus between seasons, where no one was able to catch his Act I). Yet that’s part of the art; if we relate to each other across silos, that makes those walls feel even more artificial.

Plant royalty is coming to us this week; the important lesson I’ve already learned is that they’re not royalty after all, but just regular folks. We’ve lifted the curtain on the work of our leaders and it’s starting to make sense. Of course it does. If we didn’t have rules to follow and common-sense logic to lead our fellow humans, no one would willingly follow. I’ve got the time to find my voice and raise it beyond the limits I chose for myself.

Mike

Daytime Nighttime

16 November 2006

What does it pay to play the leading lady
When, like the damsel in distress
Daytime nighttime suffering is all she gets– Paul McCartney, Daytime Nighttime Suffering

Dear J-,

They should have had the first reunion at fifteen years. Ten isn’t quite enough time to forget faces, and twenty, well, no one wants to be facing forty without making some kind of an effort. Fifteen is enough to have had some perspective, not just on high school, but on your life to date. Plus you’re at the point that those folks being born when you got your driver’s license are now menacing the elderly you on the roads.

Nothing quite like seeing all the significant milestones of your life fall to kids you remember baby-sitting to force you to grow up, right? I met someone today who confided his excitement in his first grandkid at one turn and the dismay of “finally having to grow up” in the next. Time moves ever forward; if I’m already afraid of tomorrow, how can I enjoy today? What is it, exactly? When do you give in and say that you’re getting old? The first white hair? Done. Music gotten too loud? Years ago, now. I’ve always thought that the baby boomers (and here I go tarring all with the same brush, just as I get slotted somewhere between Gen X and Y) were self-absorbed image-conscious youth-seeking idiots, but the older I get, the more I understand the truth behind “Age is just a number.”

We cling to the idealized memories of youth, not remembering living someone else’s life, those first fumbling attempts at love, waiting always waiting for changes pointing the way forward. I remember the delicious anticipation, the night before handing out the new trimester’s schedules and hoping that I’d have the right mix of folks — someone to crush on, someone to talk to, someone to keep the lonely away. How can you possibly know at eighteen who you are, let alone who you need? I’m in awe of childhood sweethearts who make it work; they remember the wonder of the new, the bloom of youth, the steady pace of life, the joy of every wakening.

Everyone dreams of being out on their own without thinking twice about what it might mean. I had roommates in college up until my last semester of senior year, and even that wasn’t so bad because I was semi-officially living with theVet by then (maintaining separate rooms for the public’s sake). Loneliness is coming home two thousand miles from everything you remember to the unheated house you rent from the landlady upstairs. Loneliness is the last bus of the night, riding past Fenway Park on game night and hearing the distant cheers. Loneliness is reading the “personalized” messages left when you asked for more signatures in your yearbook to reduce the desperation inside. Loneliness is realizing why you wrote and saved so many letters knowing you never followed up on them, all the while listening to something suitably nostalgic — let’s say the first album you bought alone. Alone.

Even though the overwhelming memory of Jamaica Plain is of that isolated loneliness, I still want to go back and wander through the Arboretum by myself; I want to wander, and then return and remember how lucky I am to have known so many people to call, so many people to write letters to. Nights I’m alone make it so much easier to be grateful.

Mike