The past two days have been decidedly calm and overcast in my neck of the woods. Without the sunshine to egg him on, the guy one street over who installs car stereos in his spare time hasn’t bothered to crank up the volume even once, and the folks who room together in the duplexes on Ledgewood have taken their perpetual street party indoors. The loudest sounds have been the occasional squawk from a blue jay or grackle against the soothing background of cooing white wing doves.
I don’t work, so my days are entirely my own to do with as I please. I have had 669 of these days in a row, now, and I’m still not bored. There is always something to do, always something to think about.
I don’t know how many days, in total, I will have like this. It has to end, probably soon. I’m actively looking for work, now, and actually had two job interviews last week.
Knowing that this is temporary makes my daily routine — makes all of this time — ever more precious to me.
I have a clock I keep in the kitchen. It’s just a plastic rectangle with two eyeballs in the front. The eyeballs roll as time passes, which seems appropriate to me. The clock makes a soft ticking sound, and every second of every day I hear that sound. I hear time passing. This complete ownership I have of my days, right now, is passing.
I have to admit that the longer I’ve been away from a working life, the harder it has become to focus on any one activity for very long. It takes a lot of drama to capture my attention. I don’t concentrate as well as I used to because I don’t have any hard deadlines of any sort. If I start an activity and get distracted, it rarely seems very important to maintain my focus.
Today, for instance, I kept getting distracted by fleeting memories of my youth.
At first, it was the sudden realization that 90% of the bloggers I follow on Bloglovin are in their 20’s and are young enough to be my daughters. Then it was the realization that the same could be said for 90% of all of the women I see on the Internet, political topics excluded. I wondered where all the women my own age are; surely we would all prefer to read copy from our peers?
And then it hit me: When you are reading the copy of a 20-something and seeing pictures all over the place of women who are 20-something, you forget that you are not, in fact, 20-something yourself. In fact, your years of being 20-something happened before many of these women were even born, but you don’t think about that when you’re reading their blogs. On the Internet, we are all in our twenties.
These thoughts drove me away from my computer and from the job hunt I had intended to pursue again, which has to happen digitally these days because that’s the way the world works, now.
And then I thought: when I was in my twenties, the world was not digital.
When I was in my twenties, the world was much easier to navigate.
It was much easier to get a job, when I was in my twenties.
The future rolls in like a perpetual tide. I hear it in the eyeball clock’s ticking. I see it in the changing weather, in the migration of song birds through my back yard, in the way the whole world changes every night while I sleep. Sometimes, I swear, I feel it around my ankles and it drives me backwards for fear of drowning in it.
I was watching the end of a television show, tonight. Sophia Bush and her male co-star were about to get it on. She was sitting on the edge of something and he was leaning in to her. She wrapped her little legs around his waist and he carried her off to the bedroom. End scene.
I remember that, I thought. I remember nights when I was tiny and my legs were long enough to wrap around my lover like a pretzel. I remember nights when sex was … I remember. The passions of my youth.
When I was younger I didn’t know that women ever lost that. It would have been unimaginable to me, at any rate. Passion was such an intrinsic part of me when I was in my twenties, driving everything forward almost faster than I could steer, or so I thought.
Something truly surprising happened a few days ago.
I started my period.
Between a sinus infection that turned into bronchitis, and a broken shoulder after I tripped and fell, I’ve seen several doctors and nurses in the past few weeks. A general practitioner. An emergency room doctor. An orthopedic surgeon. Each visit began with the same question: are you still having periods?
I started getting this question a few years ago. Initially, the question startled me, because how could I possibly look old enough to even qualify for that question? And, initially, the answer was “yes”.
But not for long. Pretty soon the answer was, “sort of”.
And then, as of a couple of years ago, it was “I don’t think so.”
Most recently, the answer was a simple “no”.
And then this. This surprise!
Maybe my menopause really was a pause! I thought to myself, hopefully. And then the quiet of the overcast day and the cooing white wing doves overtook my thoughts, and I let myself get lost in their soothing noise.
This little hormonal surge is meaningless. Just night sweats and tampons. Just the shedding of one last layer of the girl I used to be. But it might be a reminder, too. I will never be younger than I am right now. The clock is ticking.
Something about my day made me wish for an electric typewriter. I think it was all the thinking I did about living without the Internet. If I didn’t have the Internet I would still want to type, and there is no more satisfying typing experience than the one you get on an IBM Selectric typewriter.
So I eBay’d it.
Angling for the IBM Selectric. The hated self-correcting typewriters. Changing ribbons. Typing envelopes. Typing letters. White out. The utter excitement of the rare “Prestige Elite” element ball. Typing tests. Temp jobs. Typing file folder labels. Filing. Answering phones. Decorating the front desk with my cheap clothes and bleached blonde hair and red lipstick and black pumps from Payless with a low heel, and heel caps perpetually worn down to the nail.
There was a time, when I first started out, when the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my horror at the thought of having to work for the rest of my adult life when all I wanted to do was be home, alone, thinking, writing, my time my own.
There was a time in my career when all my pent up ambition looked to the future and saw nothing on the horizon except some horrid executive secretary position at some point years in the future after I had more experience and skill. A time when job interviews sometimes led to nothing more than a proposition; a time when I probably would have been desperate enough to sleep my way to the top if the top had been almost anything other than clerical.
At some point, typewriters gave way to word processors, and word processors were the gateway to computer operating systems, and I found a new career path to follow. I was 27 years old when I put everything I owned in storage and moved back home so I could find a job in technology.
When I was 28, Price Waterhouse hired me as a tech support person. When I was 29 they paid to move me from Denver to Austin, and here, with a few brief expeditions out of town, I have remained.
When I was in my 20’s I couldn’t see a future without typewriters; a future where I would be the Senior Global Project Manager for IBM’s official launch of their Cloud marketplace. It was unfathomable.
I have to remember that: when I was in my 20’s the future was, truly, unfathomable.
Sometimes I look out my kitchen window and see blue sky above the trees and flocks of birds weaving in and out, up and down and all around the yard. Some days beckon, and I open the windows and step outside.
So often I think “If I was younger I’d have on shorts and a bikini top and I’d be digging up the flower beds or stripping down and jumping in the pool, or running around town finding music and people and things to do. But now I’m too old.” So often I generally just step outside and take a few deep breaths, before retreating once again from the tide, from the future, back to my computer and my sewing blogs.
When I look outside I think I’m really trying to find the horizon. I’m trying to look forward and all I see, all I imagine, is foreign to me. I see a shell of my former self, stripped of passion and collagen, ditsy and scatterbrained, trying and failing to keep up with all the technology that runs the world.
When I was in my twenties the future never scared me. Sometimes what I thought I saw as my future pissed me off, but I never shied from it. I faced it head on and discovered that it wasn’t what I thought it would be at all.
The IBM Selectric typewriter was beautiful. It was the iMac of typewriters, and every office wanted one. They used to be made right here in Austin. I even worked in one of those buildings for awhile. They were torn down a few years ago to make way for some fancy, high-density live/work development called The Domain.
IBM sold that land because it evolved. It found tremendous savings in sending it’s workers home, and I was one of them. I started working from home in 2002.
They were really good to me. IBM is a fantastic place to work in so many ways.
I was lucky.
But I earned my place in that timeline.
I believe that tomorrow I will change things up. Tomorrow, I will go.
To Town Lake, for a good, long walk.
To my old haunts on South Congress.
Tomorrow I will find a coffee shop downtown and I will sit in the city and be in the middle of a bunch of people while I look for a job in earnest.
Tomorrow, when I come home, I will open all the windows as wide as they will go and I will let the future wash in around me.
And I will wade right on out in the middle of it, and let it come.