It was my birthday last week.
This one is a strange one.
I am the same age my father was, when he died. It messes with your head, I’m a young guy.
When I look in the mirror, at first glance I see myself in my early 30’s
When I look deeper, I see grey around the edges. The beginnings of that awful “Chicken Neck” thing that happens in some of my family. Some blotchiness in my skin, a bit of sun damage and crows feet. My beard and goatee aren’t nearly as youthful as they once were. I take a moment in the steamy mirror to contemplate the changes and decide either due to reality or my ability to delude myself that I’m still not “OLD”.
The grey at my temples doesn’t look bad, the sprinkling of grey throughout my hair is still easily hidden with a shorter hair cut and even the slight recession in my hairline isn’t a disaster.
Then I flash on Dad lying in the hospital bed. With a little imagination I can strip away the ravages of disease and I see a guy that looks remarkably like me. It’s strange and disconcerting to think that If Dad was alive today he’d be in his 70’s and probably still spry and active. He’d certainly be able to hold his own in a political discussion.
What would my Dad think of things as they are today? Would he be pissed, or would he have just given up; realizing that the battles he’d be trying to fight have already been lost?
Oddly, and something that spooks me deeply is that my life has mirrored my father’s in many ways.
Dad made his own way, he started businesses and generally was successful. He had a nice home, nice cars and a successful business when I was a child. He decided to “Check Out” of the ratrace in his mid 30’s and moved to Tennessee. He built a beautiful home, (or so I’ve been told) I never saw it completed. The house burned and Dad was back to square one.
Unfortunately, for dad, time passed and he’d missed a large transition from discrete electronic components to IC packages. This meant that he had a lot of catching up to do if he wanted to return to office dictation equipment sales and repair. I don’t know if he was ever successful in making that transition, we lost touch with each other for a while.
The next I heard he was in Florida again this time putting together an custom office furniture business where he built all the furniture. I lost touch again then heard from him when he told me he was in Sarasota building and selling houses. Again I gather that he was pretty successful, he must have been in his late 40’s by then.
Next I heard, he was in South Carolina. He was living with his Mom and starting another business. This time in cabinetry, That’s where his time ran out.
Resilience is one word I think of when I think of my father. He did all he did with a high school education, Navy training, determination and raw smarts.
In the late 70s I got into computers. By the mid 80s I had been kicked in the teeth, done a bankruptcy, and was clawing my way back up the heap. For the most part I was successful, I was working in an industry that didn’t care what school you went to. All they cared about was your ability to fix shit, make shit, sell shit, or support the shit that had already been made, or sold.
I did quite well for a long time and never thought about going back to college. After all experience trumps book learning any day of the week right?
Well, it did… back in the old days. By the mid ‘90s those of us in the industry were beginning to notice that H1B1 visas were taking positions that we would have recommended our friends for. Often we didn’t even know there were openings in the department we were working in.
Jobs got harder to get.
California entered a slow death spiral that continues to this day. Suddenly your college pedigree was the most important thing regardless of how much experience you had.
Then the layoffs happened.
Like my Dad at this age, I’m trying to find and create a new place in the world for myself. College? A new career? A complete change, or only a partial change? Do I want to return to the tech rat race, or would I prefer to do something more interesting?
I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m running out of time.
I’d expected to retire from the last tech company I was working for, maybe I was retired…
Must’ve missed the memo.
Lately, it seems that nothing I’ve tried has worked out as expected, perhaps “as needed” is a better description.
I’m not the only person in this situation. I’m still hearing about friends that are bailing, either out of their careers, or California.
I’m starting to get over the weirdness of this birthday,
I’m at a place in my life I’ve been before… It’s the “fuck it all, cinch up my bootstraps, and start kicking some ass” point.
I thought perhaps I didn’t have the strength to do it all over again. I’m tired, I’d grown sick of the bullshit in corporate America, but it’s all I know. I’ve wanted to just give up, to allow myself to just be swept aside, to accept that my fate was not my own and be a victim.
Then I think of Dad, he didn’t have the time to reboot his life.
I think he’d understand what I’m feeling now, then I suspect he’d say “Now that you’ve gotten that off your chest, GET OFF YOUR ASS!”
OK Dad, this one’s for you…