05 June 2013

Letter No. 22

Next week, I'll be leaving Special Features for a spot in the Editorial department, so tonight, I'm treating the writers to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants nearby. It's not so much a goodbye as, "I'll just be down the hall."

I've kept this under my hat for a while, partly because I was waiting for the official announcement at work, and partly because I still haven't really worked out how I feel about the transfer. It was my decision. Everyone says it's a good career decision. People are giving me their congratulations. Still, it's going to be something new, and a new thing for someone who has been doing the same kind of work for four years is scary. No wonder people with 10- or 20-year careers at one job go nuts.

Also, thinking about leaving Special Features feels like a door closing, maybe even another childhood ending. Mikko asked me about it over lunch one Sunday, and I somehow came up with, "I like who I've become since college, and I did a lot of that becoming in Special Features."

Sometime between last year and the year I joined BusinessWorld, I stopped seeing my life as a sad city story. I started to believe I could be good at being alive. Going to work every day stopped being a drag. I was learning and making new things. I had made my peace with the city. I was coming to terms with who I was to my family, and who they were to me. And, I had found a love better than anything I'd imagined for myself.

Somewhere along the way, the meaning of growing up changed. It isn't no longer getting to be the child you were. It's keeping that child happy while teaching her to not be childish when life gets scary and unfair. It's seeing yourself at 5, 10, 16 years old and being able to say, I am still that person, but I am more that person today than ever. It's being able to recognize yourself more clearly with every year.

My high school science teacher told us in freshman year that people are like pots. Life molds and fires them, and they're set by the time you reach 20-something.

I've come to think of people as a certain kind of place. In certain places, trees will grow, be cut down, or die; buildings will come up and fall down; people will move in, move out, be born, live, and die; and grass will grow, be paved over, and grow again, but the places are unmistakably still those places. It's sort of the same starfish recovery I had in mind when I started this blog, but less about moving on through suffering, with a little more lingering on the suffering than necessary, and more about just being yourself.

The day I realized this "certain place" thing about Kalsangi was the day I stopped worrying that it would somehow stop being my home. The day I realized that my family was the same way was the day I stopped worrying about change. It wasn't long before the day I realized that about myself. The more my life changes, the more clearly I see my own shape. And the day I can no longer see Kalsangi, my family, myself, or Cris under whatever surfaces we've assumed will surely be the saddest day ever.

However hard it got, working in Special Features was part of a process. It was especially hard in the beginning, but it helped me to grow up, which is to say that it helped me see that growing up did not mean what I thought it meant. I saw that I could find an anchor point in myself as long as I could see where I fit in the world, if I wanted to. And at a particularly low point in my life, when everything else suddenly went to shit, working here kept me from dissolving into someone I wouldn't be able to recognize.

To those of you who've worked with me, thanks for being part of that — and for putting up with me when I got absent-minded or weird.

I guess it's all this that's going to see me through whatever's waiting for me down the hall.

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