My tech support guy was looking for malware and viruses and instead he discovered a path back in time. Determining that some old documents might be responsible for issues with my Mac, we opened a few of them and I saw–maybe for the first time since I’d written it, 20 years ago–a piece I’d done about a Silicon Valley professional friend who had died.
When I read it I was immediately transported back in time to the days when I worked in northern California tech companies. I saw the jobs, the offices, the people. I felt the feelings. It was as if I’d stepped into a time machine and was re-experiencing everything I’d lived through back then. And I saw my friend, Phil, now gone more than 20 years. How is that even possible?
I saw my friend and the countless others, some gone, some still here, ghosts who were part of one of my yesterdays.
I chose to leave the tech industry and move to Florida for a consulting job. But really, I was escaping the sexist, male-dominated corporations in the Valley, where I knew I could only go so far because of my gender, but also because I wasn’t willing to play games. Every so often, but not too often, I wonder what would have happened had I stayed. Where I’d be now, at my age, long past the age when tech workers are in their prime.
For a while in Florida I missed the industry terribly. The dot-com boom started just after I left and I couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing something big. Even if that something big was 21-year-old executives who often drove their companies into the ground.
Still, the piece on loss and discovery brought home to me the way it was still possible to have warm, real friendships in the Valley, even if those friendships began professionally. It was a club back then. Still is, I guess. And I belonged in a way I never again belonged to an industry or a company or even a job.
Same old song
For a long time I was pretty happy with my work in Florida. Recruiters would call and ask, what would it take to get you to leave? and my answer was always nothing. I was self-actualized, so why would I leave?
Eventually, though, same ole, same ole. I worked in a city run by old white men and in a company run by aging white men who failed to earn my respect. I could say more, but I won’t. Fortunately, as a consultant I ran my own book of business and it was pretty significant. Until it wasn’t. And then, true colors came out flashing neon.
When the opportunity to move on came, I took it. The fact is, I faked it, marking time and paying my mortgages until I could leave. I admit: I manipulated in the interests of a paycheck. But when the time came I was thrilled to leave.
I don’t miss it. Not one bit of it. And I don’t miss them.
When you see the dirty underbelly it’s hard to ever see anything else.
I made some friends in Florida, a few good ones, a few that went by the wayside in ugly ways. It’s human nature, I guess. I’ve seen my share, both good and evil.
I know many people who have lived fairly linear lives that unfolded sequentially, but that wasn’t my life. Not by a long shot. I moved around–jobs, husbands, relationships in some strange form of ADD.
What might have been
It’s curious, though, to think of what might have been– to step back into one of my yesterdays, to relive it or even to see how life would have turned out had I made other choices.
As we age, all our yesterdays mount up and our history lays behind us, a crazy quilt of all the decisions we’ve made for good or not so good.
Those pangs of nostalgia when we think of friends who were so important to us back in the day, now gone, or gone on to live out their own histories, of which we are no longer a part. The whatever happened to… wonderings that lead to internet searches and maybe even a surprise or two.
What is …compared to what might have been. I could get lost on those musings.
How about you?