Something Else Entirely

Found some old writing in my dropbox; thought I should save it somewhere. Un-edited, barely read. Maybe I'll come back to it

My tickets were booked to India, but my spirit of travel was elsewhere. In twenty four hours, I was catching a cab to O'Hare where I would hop to Delhi, and then to Pune, Maharashtra. Or else, I wasn't. My visa hadn't arrived. I could only assume that the my spirit of adventure and wanderlust must be floating around the postal machine with my passport and visa, possibly also mishandled by the insidious, obfuscated 3rd party processing company hired by the Indian consulate.
Or perhaps my sense of adventure accidentally was packed in my other suitcase left at my boyfriend's apartment where I was just a week ago, or packed away in my newly leased storage unit in San Francisco. Maybe it was stuffed in a drawer at my parents where I was staying over Christmas, in my childhood bedroom blue from head to ceiling and chock full of old things I've left behind. The past month found me leaving so many bits and pieces of myself and my life strewn across the country.

I pretended to read a tech book as my mind wandered. My knock-off keurig cup of coffee was poor and didn't warm my soul much, which was unfortunately what I needed on this cold Chicago night. On the eve of big change, one really must attend to the warmth of their soul. Mine seemed a little cold and dull that night.

Outside, the Chicago River shimmered with the reflection of lights and ice chunks. The 28th floor hotel room presented me with a great view of Chicago. The half constructed sky scraper next door gave the construction workers a great view of me. By this time of night, they had all climbed down from their cold high purchases and vacated the premises, leaving me in peace.

The cellphone vibe growled from my desk. I saw my sister's face on the screen and took the call.
“Hey what are you doing for dinner tonight? Kevin and I were thinking about Dry Hop.”
“I'm not sure but that sounds good.”
“The Red Line is closed going South so plan on taking the Brown line home tonight. Let us know when you're on your way.”

So I bundled up and trudged out into the evening.

Starting a new job is hard. Leaving an old job is harder. Being sure you made the right decision is impossible. Being paralyzed by indecision is unnecessary.

My first job was impressive, but I remain uneasily impressed by names. Fortune 500 companies enthrall graduates, luring them in straight out of college with slightly higher salaries and the promise of prestige. Fresh and shiny engineers flock to John-Deere-Boeing-BP-Caterpillar-3M-General-Mills-and-the-giant-that-is-industry.

On your first day, you're given a t-shirt and a matching water bottle, with the company name and slogan. We're bought for so little.

I refused to drink the kool-aid but I didn't refuse the hand-outs. I was moved to California, expense-free. I was living by the ocean. I was benefitting from all the things a 40-year old dreams of: health benefits, 401k matching, a stable job and a trusty, comfortable apartment. But I was 23 and I was bored.

Day after day I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway, to sit behind locked windowless doors, working on old systems, slowly hearing my speech turn into strings of three-letter-acronyms for which the aerospace industry was known for. I strived for challenge, wanting to suck every bit of knowledge from that company like marrow from bones. It was a sad, slow realization that this skeleton of a company dried up. I spend my days now watching, waiting for it's collapse.

My two friends there had nothing in common but both knew I had to get out. Scott said it. Dave never did, but I could tell he felt it. Scott seemed young for the aerospace industry, but he was older than he seemed. As I was getting in, he celebrated his five-year anniversary. We would go out drinking in WeHo and say poisonous things about our workplace to each other. We messaged each other on IM to make the slow days more tolerable. He told me about cross-fit and the paleo diet. I criticized both. About half way through my stay, he sold his soul to the devil, exchanging more time at the company for PhD funding. He'll be a doctor someday though, and I never will.

Dave was Eeyore come to life, and my saving grace. I'd blather on to him about my weekend plans and my newest schemes. He'd harrass me for not doing nearly as much as I'd hoped. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach. He never let me live down the time I bought 23 bell peppers from the grocery store and ate them for 2 weeks after.

Dave had two kids. Dave had a wife. Dave had a beautiful new house in Huntington Harbor and a house he was trying to sell elsewhere. Dave had a real life whereas my life felt more like a one-woman traveling gypsy caravan. My leaving ended up saving Dave's job. That's not the kind of company I want to work for. I'll never be able able to thank fate for that gift. Through no particular action of my own, by chance I was able to give a man his livelihood for another two weeks, or a month, or another few years.

Good news arrived as an e-mail over our dinner of beer and burgers.

To: Tamara Bartlett
From: Ryan R.
Re: Visa Nightmare
Subj: Great news! You're going to India! Your visa is in. Swing by the office first thing in the morning before you head to the airport.

As I relayed this information to Molly and Kevin, my mind began fast forwarding through all of the worries, apprehensions, and preparation-type-think that I should have been doing for the last month. Whispers of anti-malarial medicine, typhoid fever scares, street-food-induced parasites, and rabid dogs pulled at my heartstrings. The reality of the fourteen hour plane ride loomed. Molly and Kevin, still sitting in front of me had been simultaneously set at a distance, shrouded by haze as they relived their times in India.
“You'll have a great time...” “new friends...” “drinking Old Monk and Kingfisher the entire trip...” “frogger across the roads...”

I nodded. I made a concerted effort to focus but the room slipped away a little.
I'm not ready for this.I thought.
The panic rose a little in my throat as I ticked off all the preparation I had avoided, all the reading I didn't do. I know nothing about these people, this country, this city.

As the night drew to a close, I trudged towards the Brown line southbound.

The biting Chicago cold wished us farewell that morning. My dried out hands scraped my suitcase as I hefted it into the waiting van. We eight Americans, destined for India together, clumped in groups of two and three, counting and recounting ourselves. We obsessively, repeatedly patted ourselves down, feeling out passports, phones, itineraries through our in unpredictable pockets hidden by uncountable layers.


She goes to India.
She misses her grandmother's funeral
She returns

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