Not quite the view we’ll have, but close

Thirty-six hundred and change

It occurred to me a couple of days ago how much my life has changed in the last ten years, so I started pondering it a little more deeply.

In the last ten years, I have

  • lived in five cities across three states
  • held three jobs, each in a wildly different industry from the previous
  • moved seven times
  • bought two new cars
  • had three wireless phone numbers on two different carriers
  • experienced great financial freedom and worrying financial instability
  • had four main email addresses
  • fallen out of contact with both of my parents

Not remotely comprehensive analysis of the decade, but certainly some of the high (and low) points.

Here, then, some details to illustrate life’s unforeseen adventures.

Ten years ago tonight, I was at a New Year’s Eve party with my then-fiancée. I was sober and would remain so until at least 30 minutes past midnight because I was on call in case the Year 2000 bug actually bit the managed-care company where I worked at the time. I was supposed to be near a phone with my pager on my person so I could respond instantly if the midnight rollover resulted in the hideous crashing of the claims systems or whatever other problems might have cropped up.

All of this assumed that Y2K wouldn’t manifest itself most directly as a failure of major communications like telephones and pagers, but we had business continuity plans in place for that eventuality as well. For that night, the backup plan was for me to drive to the office if I didn’t receive a page or phone call by 00:30 MST informing me that everything was fine (or at least nothing was spectacularly wrong) and I was thereby released from Y2K on-call status.

We all watched on TV as the ball dropped in New York City, but by then we had a good idea we weren’t going to experience any nasty problems due to Y2K because, well, the ball drop isn’t broadcast live when you see it in Salt Lake City, it’s already two hours in the past, and we’d had no word of massive problems as the change from 1999 to 2000 marched westward across the globe. So when the ALL CLEAR ON-CALL ENDED page came at 00:30, it was massively anticlimactic and I was already a 6-pack or behind in the celebrations.

By March 2000, my fiancée and I split, though we spent time together frequently over the next several months. Right around this time was also (but independently) the first point in my life where my thought process changed from “Is it payday yet?” to “Oh, we got paid today?”—I had been lucky to experience a couple of years of job advancements and my income was vastly outpacing my regular expenses. It was a great time.

Then in late 2000, I was promoted to run the entire help-desk operation for my company, and I got another sizable income bump. Overnight, I had staff in four cities across the country, and I started traveling frequently for work. Went to cities I might not otherwise have visited, or at least not at that time: Chicago, Houston, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Scottsdale. I visited them several times each over the next two years. A great way to see the world, traveling on the company’s dime. I was racking up airline miles on airline tickets I didn’t buy and earning hotel points on rooms I paid for but was quickly reimbursed. I had paid time off stacked to heaven’s basement because many of my work trips felt like play, and even though I was taking at least two weeks off each year for personal travel, I could never seem to get below about 4.5 weeks of accrued vacation time.

• - • - • - •

I was in Chicago on business starting Monday, September 10, 2001. I planned to fly back to Salt Lake City on Sunday, September 16. My work would be done that Friday and I was staying in town for the weekend to be a tourist, because though I had been to the Chicago area half a dozen times by then, I had never been in Chicago downtown, and I desperately wanted to experience it.

And then the September 11 attacks happened, and simultaneously my grandmother’s health took a turn for the worse. She died Sep 15 after a long illness. I was thousands of miles away from my friends and family at a moment of enormous national and personal distress, but the airports were shut down and I had been busy with work matters that week, and so the same day my grandmother died, I was standing at a window on the 90something-floors-up observation deck in the John Hancock Tower, gawking toward O’Hare International Airport because every tourist on that observation deck that day thought the same thing: What if one of those airplanes turns toward the city?

I had chosen to stay because I couldn’t change what was happening to my grandmother or to the country as a whole, and I wouldn’t have arrived home in time. Instead, I worked and then played tourist and in the space of four days became a regular at a brewpub close to my hotel.

When I got home on September 16, I went from the airport to my apartment just long enough to drop off my bags and change clothes quickly, and then we were off to family gatherings in my grandmother’s memory. I was back at work a few days later, reveling in the familiarity but still in that same state of shocked dismay over the terrorist attacks and somewhat at loose ends with the world. Those emotions started a thought process that led me to a couple of fairly major decisions.

First, in October 2001, I bought my first brand-new car, a 2002 Saturn L200. Loved that car, a nicely geared 5-speed manual with all the options I had wanted. I put nearly 70,000 miles on that car in the not quite four years I owned it.

Then in March 2002, I left the managed-care company after 7 years. I wanted to leave Salt Lake City, and I wanted to continue working for that company, but I also wanted to live in the Seattle area and the company had no operations in Washington. So I decided to move to the Seattle area to see what life would bring me.

• - • - • - •

I moved from Salt Lake City to Bothell, Washington, and lived off savings for a few months before I went to work in an environmental laboratory. It was menial work, a simple shipping/receiving clerkship really because it turned out that while my skills at running an internal help desk for a managed-care company were admirable, the technology industry in the Seattle metro area was in no short supply of middle-management types, most of whom had already been in the industry here for years. I got several interviews but no realistic offers, so after those first few months, I took the lab job as a stopgap and ended up staying there two years. By the time I left in April 2004, I had worked upward a few spots to the client services group, handling data reporting and such, but I was ready to move on again. And so off I went, to the Phoenix area in pursuit of a return to the company I had left in 2002.

I lived in Glendale, Arizona, for just six weeks. The job opportunity didn’t develop the way I had hoped, so only a few weeks after I had finished UNpacking my life, I packed it back up and retreated to Salt Lake City. The city I had wanted so badly to leave just two years earlier now was a welcome refuge for a time. In June 2004, I moved back into a one-bedroom apartment on 12th Ave, the same apartment where I had lived for a short time after I broke off my engagement but before I left Salt Lake the first time around, and I got a new cell number for the second time in less than two months. It was like I had never left, in a strange way, all familiar surroundings, but still nothing the same.

I spent the late summer, all of autumn, and the holiday season in 2004 installing a point-of-sale cash register system in my mom’s gift shop, and training the hospital volunteers who worked there on using the system. In those five months, I learned more about the gift industry than I ever imagined I would know. I heard teddy-bear salespersons prattle endlessly about the charmingly made-up backstories of the bears they sold, and I learned by repetition how to recognize certain manufacturers’ wares, and I scanned probably 12,000 separate bar codes into the register system and did data entry for pricing and item names and all the fun that goes along with POS conversions, flashing back to my time at Kmart all the while.

I also got two cats in September 2004. I’d resisted getting any animals for years, partly because the house was practically a zoo the entire time I was engaged—oh dear God the lizards and rats and crickets, but the dog was cool except when it ate the sofa—and partly because I had this idea that hey, no family or animals, I can pick up on a moment’s notice and go anywhere in the world. And then I realized, I rarely DO pick up on a moment’s notice and go anywhere, and even if I did, I have family and friends who would cover me, and Annie and Flex came into my life.

Much of this time I was also seeking admission to the University of Utah to finish my degree work because I thought I wanted to be a pharmacist. I had done pharmacy tech work for the last couple of years of my time at Kmart in the 1990s, really liked it, but had fallen away from it when I first joined the managed-care company (in their pharmacy benefits section, since I had retail pharmacy experience). I had to track down transcripts and fill out paperwork by the cubic meter, and in late September 2004, I got the word: I was admitted for the spring 2005 semester.

But then I traveled to Seattle around that same time, on a combined vacation/work trip. I was here to visit my sister, Katharine, and I was here to meet the retail equipment sales company’s representatives and get final information before we selected the register system we would use. And while I was here, the environmental laboratory director asked me to stop by his office for a few minutes, there was something he wanted to ask me about.

Turned out he wanted to offer me a job, a significant raise, and a moving allowance to relocate to Seattle once more and start up the lab’s electronic-data department. As more and more clients wanted their data in electronic formats, and the various electronic data standards were starting to jell, the lab needed someone with an IT background who also knew at least the fringes of the lab business to handle it, and I fit that bill perfectly. And so I ignored my acceptance to the University of Utah and found myself committing to return to the Seattle area and to the lab in January the following year.

The 13-hour drive from Salt Lake City to Mill Creek, Washington, took 23 hours that day in January 2005. We ran into nasty weather at every point on the trip, and my belongings, in a moving-company van, needed another week to catch up to me. I slept on the floor of my new apartment for that first week, and then I ended up in a townhouse in the same property due to a leasing snafu that worked in my favor. Shortly after that, I changed my cell number for the last time—even if I end up in some other part of the country, it will be a cold day in Hell before I change phone numbers again.

And I was back at the lab for almost two years, but management and ownership changes finally resulted in my abruptly leaving in October 2006. Within a month, I had landed at Microsoft on a one-year contract gig to work with the MSN division, supporting the content editorial and production staffs via the content management system they used.

• - • - • - •

Six months after I returned to the lab, I traded in the Saturn on a 2005 Ford Escape, which to that point had been my dream car (as much as I had an ideal vehicle in mind at any point in my life). That’s my car to this day, 76,000 miles and counting.

• - • - • - •

In early 2007 I decided I had lived in the ’burbs long enough. I wanted to live in Seattle proper, and I found a great apartment on the west side of Queen Anne Hill, overlooking Elliott Bay. I gave notice at the townhouse and started the initial steps of packing up once more, and then I found out the tenants who were leaving the Queen Anne apartment had decided not to leave after all, and the apartment search had to start all over again with just a few weeks’ notice.

That’s when I found the building where I live now. I was on the first floor the first year I lived here, enduring the noise and inconvenience that came with a building undergoing a full remodel and my graveyard work schedule, but I had a 180-degree view of Seattle from my patio that included the Space Needle just six blocks away. I was loving it, and then a one-bedroom unit came available on the 4th floor, and I’ve been there since, enjoying the idiot tourists who don’t know how to use their digital cameras well enough to turn off the flash when they shoot the city at night.

• - • - • - •

My dad disappeared from my life in the late 1990s, when he experienced a classic midlife crisis, split from my mom, and moved into an apartment of his own. The last time I spoke to him directly was in the summer of 2000 when I saw him at a memorial dinner for his sister, who had died in May of that year. He was an unmitigated jackass about several longstanding issues he had (still has, I presume) with the way his life had played out to that point, going so far as to give a farcically insulting toast at the memorial dinner. In the first few years after that, I received a couple of random emails and a few instant messages from him, all small talk, nothing substantive, and in about 2004 he just fell off the face of the earth so far as we were concerned.

My mom and I had a falling-out in August of 2008 when she was visiting Seattle for a combined business and pleasure trip. We’ve since exchanged a few emails, sent a few birthday and Christmas cards back and forth. I imagine mentioning that on this site isn’t going to do much to help repair that rift, if it’s even possible to do that, but it certainly fits the criterion of “major life development” that spurred this post at all.

• - • - • - •

So then.

As 2010 starts, I’m still at Microsoft, though also still a contract vendor, which means none of the one-year contract limits and enforced three-months-off craziness that goes with some types of contract arrangements here. Much better for the sense of stability.

I’m single, haven’t been on a date in... God, I don’t know how long now, but not particularly eager to change that anytime soon.

And though there’s light at the end of the tunnel, I’m in a financial downturn, back to the “Payday is HOW FAR AWAY?” line of thinking, following pay and benefits cuts my contract company made earlier this year.

• - • - • - •

But the best part is:

I’m home.