It’s thunder storming now. I’m glad my windows are sheltered because I’ve got them open wide to let in the smell and sounds of the rain hitting the street.
The thunder storm seems an appropriate accompaniment to what I’m thinking: that my life is continuing to shift around, shaken out of several years of a schedule, daily habits, complacency at the office. Yeah, me and my life are still adjusting to the new job and the new schedule; but we’re happy.
I couldn’t have imagined just how much the chopping out of two hours of daily travel would change that life, but the sense of relief as I put on my walking shoes every morning and afternoon – where less than two weeks ago I was moving amongst underground crowds and squishing onto trains and streetcars and buses – is palpable. And relief is the right word. Now going to and from work, it’s head up and smiling, taking my time getting home, walking different routes each day because that extra two hours seems like all the time in the world. Then, getting home and making dinner, deliberately and with pleasure, framed around an “I feel like eating this” instead of “I’m tired and starving and need something fast.”
Me and life are shifting around the job itself, too. New people, new ways of doing things, new ‘tools’ with which to do them; if starting a new job is less daunting than it was when I was younger, it’s no less consuming. I’m learning an industry I knew nothing about; reading and trying to grasp a lay person’s understanding of it at the same time I’m getting assignments to write about it. Well I guess is still rather daunting. But it’s all good. I feel supported and welcomed in my new gig, and I look forward to making my new job my own.
And then there’s summer. She’s a shy visitor this year – sticking her nose in the door a few times only to creep back out again. Mostly the last few weeks have been lovely, as summer came in, relaxed and kicked her shoes off. Especially over the weekend.
As did I. I’m finding it really hard to stay in.
And so I continue to be preoccupied by the shifting around of me and my life. But I’m starting to get my mind wrapped around all the change and new learning; thanks, I think, to the warm days and evenings calling me outside, telling me as only warm days and evenings do, to slow down and breathe.
At night I walk; when the changing air throws the smell of the lake across the road and into my windows. That same smell welcomes me home as I walk down into my street and it gives me comfort amidst the ruckus of the streetcars sailing by. Streetcars that I don’t have to worry about catching.
The smell of water, whether falling out of the sky or wafting off a lake – beautiful thing number forty-five.
One can become complacent about things. Just going about the task of getting to work every day and doing all of the things otherwise required to take care of one’s life, including those labelled fun and enriching, is busy.
There are a few reasons why I stayed in what was, for the most part, the wrong job for three and a half years. Mostly, it was because I was appreciated. I work in business development, and I’m pretty good at creating a good “face” for the company I’m representing. I created a fresh “brand” for our proposals and other documentation, and I was considered an integral part of the proposal development teams.
A good part of the success of any proposal writer is the ability to persevere under pressure, and spiking hours. I must say, I dig the pace of proposal writing; the constant turnover of projects appeals to me. I work better under pressure, and I love the feeling of producing something of a high standard under difficult conditions.
But I had no true understanding of our product (software solutions), nor the desire to, really. I don’t have a brain wired to understand this kind of technology. I didn’t really need to – it was the specialists that had to write up the solutions – they were the ones inventing them and had to be the ones describing them. It was cool to watch the process of a team designing a custom solution for a client – a creative process working in a highly technical environment. But I always felt outside of that, and thus not satisfied with my role in it.
They appreciated me, and they paid me to stay. My financial situation was substantially improved in my tenure there, but in the end, I don’t live for money. Job satisfaction is more important to me.
There were a number of times over the past three and a half years that I started to look for a new job, but complacency took over and I just carried on. I was “comfortable;” doing work that, while not satisfying on a personal level, gained me the respect of the company. Recently though, as recruiters started calling, it seemed the time for change was right.
The long commute had started to wear me down. My loyal blogland friends will know that the commute was often a source of inspiration for this space, and that lately it has become less so. The crowds of rush hour, and the inherent (?) rudeness, anonymity, unseeing, cattle-like behaviour just plain depressed me. I found it harder and harder to live the rule, “be the change you want to see” and I don’t want to be cattle.
So I’ve been entertaining opportunities presented to me by these recruiters that seem to have come calling all at once. There was an almost-hiring at Christmas. I was excited because the office was near to my home. But really, the work sounded much like what I do now – lots of coordinating, not much challenge. There were lots of opportunities opening up in the area where I work now, but what’s the point? Fresh job/same commute is only addressing half my problem.
But then, another recruiter called with another address that caught my attention. And then an enjoyable (yes, enjoyable) initial phone interview with my would-be manager, who described a job that sounded challenging and exciting – more writing, less coordinating. There was another in-person interview over lunch, just as enjoyable as the first. I was being presented with the opportunity to develop my own job (not previously held by anyone), and to help another company grow in an area where they want to expand. There is opportunity for travel, to develop my skills, better benefits and yes, a little more money.
And I can walk to work. I live in the heart of the city because I love the vibrancy, the diversity, colour, sights, oddities, action and surprises. You can't know how gratified I am for the opportunity to move out of the underground tunnels and up to the sidewalks.
The best part of all: two hours a day, formerly spent travelling to and from work, mostly underground, will be mine again. Two hours a day. That's ten hours a week, forty hours a month…
All the riches in the world can’t replace that.
This morning on the subway I sit by myself in a forward facing seat. A few stops later a man somewhere in his sixties, gets on and sits directly in front of me in an aisle facing seat. He is wearing a rainbow: orange windbreaker pants over jeans, yellow jacket, red gloves, black toque over grey hair – more colours poking out amongst his layers of shirts. He’s wearing tan runners with no laces.
He leans back and stretches his legs out in front of him as if to relish “taking a load off,” but he’s not relaxed; he fidgets. I wait for the unwashed smell of “homeless” but it doesn’t come – and I see that his clothes are clean – as are his hair and beard. Now and then he makes a gesture, jabbing at the air with his flat hand horizontal in steps down, as if pointing out the levels of something; his mouth moving subtly, carrying out some inner conversation.
Now and then he looks at my black tights-covered knee sticking out the top of my boot on the leg crossed over the other. As many men would – the knee/boot combination is a popular one, I think. Given his potential mental illness, however, I feel vulnerable about it and resist moving my leg out of his line of sight.
Some riders get on at the next stop and he moves his own legs back in and sits a little straighter to let them pass, still fidgeting, still looking around at people with a furtiveness – sort of looking without looking. I study his face when he looks ahead, his line of sight perpendicular to mine. He’s fit, vital and handsome, with eyes that crinkle a little at the corners. I’ve liked those crinkles that some men get ever since I was a child, probably because they indicate good-naturedness – when I was small I could read kindness into those kinds of eyes. Like now – those eyes compel me to like him.
His beard comes down off his chin in a gentle triangle, puffy and shimmery grey with white streaks; growing unruly from his neck beneath his shirt, but otherwise cared for. Perhaps it was admired in the mirror that morning. No doubt, if I met this man at a party I’d find him attractive.
Nevertheless I’m still a little uncomfortable by his jerky movements, haphazard dress and close proximity as he glances at my leg. Like most people, I’m conditioned to try and ignore people who seem to exist on the fringes in the hopes they won’t acknowledge me and threaten my personal safety – even if it’s just my dignity I’m trying to keep safe. But I don’t want this wall, and close the book and set it in my lap. The train has stopped at Bloor Station, and just before the doors close again the man stands and walks out onto the platform.
Feeling a little disappointed, I watch him walk away, waving to the odd stranger with a point and wave that suggests they are old friends. Like me, the strangers work hard to not acknowledge him. But I'm thinking that those strangers might be to him, like he is to me – something like friends, who find their way into your life for the purpose of adding colour to it.
As the train starts to pull away, I admire the colours of his clothing, getting the sense that a good bit of beauty had been sucked out with him, like a fine mist of light particles, when he exited the car.