In five short months all of the local Adobe employees will move into a brand new office building. The new location is 20 minutes away from our current business park. Everyone’s commutes will change as a result. Some will be adding 20 minutes each way while others will be more fortunate. Right now my commute is only 5 minutes. I am planning to move closer to our new office in order to keep my commute in check. This will mean moving out of P-town. Everything about this is scary. I have lived in P-town without interruption for six years. I’ve even been in the same apartment complex for four years. Each year I let my roots sink deeper into P-town has been a year full of shiny new faces, cemented friendships, and constant transition. Much of the transition comes in the form of friends getting married and/or moving away. I do my best to follow along with their exciting new lives far away from P-town. It’s easy to be tempted to wander even farther away from my California home town as I wonder what life would be like elsewhere. But then one thought always stops me is, “My job is in Utah!”
That’s right, folks. My feet are pretty firmly planted. I think it’s in my DNA. My parents had the exact same jobs until I graduated from high school in 2001. At that point my mom got a new job working outside of the home and she has remained at that same law firm for 11 years. My dad stayed with his job until he retired in 2010 and totaled 34 years of employment with the same police department. (My parents definitely know a thing or two about commitment – they just celebrated their 42-year wedding anniversary yesterday!) When I was growing up I always assumed I’d dedicate my career to one employer because that was the noble thing to do. Of course that was before I knew anything about the terrors of economic recession and widespread unemployment. Now my loyalty comes from a place of fear of the unknown as opposed to confidence in a steady and thriving future.
Staring down a tunnel of future possibilities can feel like looking into a kaleidoscope. With one twitch of my finger the entire landscape changes. Since the future refuses to hold steady for me (or reveal itself, for that matter) I must instead decide what I want most. Up until this point I have strongly prioritized stability as a quality I want to have in my life. Last week I started thinking of two alternative qualities: fragility and agility. Maybe instead of building my future out of concrete I should build it out of glass or put it on wheels. At least it would be something different.
Yesterday I went on a tour of our office construction site. (Keep in mind that this new office building could very well incent me to stay in Utah for another several years.) After my coworkers and I donned safety vests, eyewear and helmets we set out to imagine what this structure would look like upon completion. The experience was foreign and enlightening (and even a little bit dangerous – double bonus!) There were fragile, stable and agile components all over the place.
We came upon a pallet of glass windows sitting on the ground waiting to be installed. Of course the shiny objects immediately drew my eye. “Okay,” I thought. “What if I want to model my life around being fragile? What would that look like?” After some careful consideration I concluded that a fragile life is all about pretty and shiny things. Fragile people do the minimum work to reinforce their internal structural support. They hollow themselves out and wring themselves dry trying to figure out how to keep appearances up. The motivation is to appear to have everything. In the end they barely hold onto anything. Much like a delicate painted egg they dry themselves out – almost to dust – as they wait for a wealthy patron to curate them and lock them in a fine glass display box in a gallery of forgotten treasures. Their lives are on display so everyone can see how much effort and time was put into their artful appearance. They don’t realize that their velvet perch is their final resting place. “Oh no, little egg, you can’t go outside. You’ll break. Oh no, little egg, you can’t see the sun. You’ll fade. Don’t be silly, little egg, you can’t ever change. You’ll lose your value.” Fragile people are eventually rescued and frozen in time or they fall so hard they can’t be put back together again. I think I’ll pass.
STABLE (not to be confused with Stabler)
Ah, now we’re in my element. Everywhere I looked there were thousands of cubic feet of cement ready to offer their undying support for whatever would be placed on top of them. Be it structural foam, carpet, wood, tile or sheet rock, that cement was ready to roll! Well, I guess it can’t roll. I guess it can’t go anywhere. But still – the firmness and steadfastness of it all had me convinced, “This is the way to be!” Offering yourself up as the foundation for everyone else to rest on is noble indeed. Holding perfectly still so no one else could fall would never get old, right? Promising everyone you’ll never change or falter is really no pressure at all. Or is it? Of course it is. Crap. Maybe in the end the “stable” approach only guilts other people into staying the same. Maybe the diehard concrete slabs become so heavy they sink into the ground to be forgotten forever. The general contractor told us the crane they used last year required a 60-feet deep foundation. Now that the crane is gone it isn’t practical to dig the foundation out. It will stay buried and hidden underground waiting for its next chance to be of use to someone. Talk about a depressing outlook.
AGILE (you know this one's going to win)
Near the end of the tour we wound our final path out of the building. The contractor pointed to a piece of equipment outside and said, “That right there is worth its weight in gold.” I don’t think he told us its official name but he aptly described it as a “giant suction cup thing.” It was made to lift panels of glass and glide them toward the building as workers guide them into the windowsills. A single piece of glass can weigh hundreds of pounds. The device (mounted on a small crane and adjustable with pulleys or something of the sort) has the strong grip and fragile touch necessary to lift the glass high in the air and then deftly maneuver it to its final destination. On top of it glass raising ability it can also zoom around to different parts of the construction site. (No 60-foot foundation necessary.) Now that, my friends, sounds like a quality I should strive for. It seems like in the midst of a construction site where odds and ends stuck out all over the place I was able to stumble on a machine to model my life around. Honestly I’d rather be worth my weight in gold than be covered in it. It seems more fun to be on wheels than to be stuck in the ground 60 feet down. My quest now is to transform myself from a rock into a set of wheels - wheels with a great big arm, powerful cables and “giant suction cup things.” It’s slightly strange but very true.
I have no idea if I’ll still be in Utah in the distant future but I have a pretty good idea of what this weekend looks like. Tomorrow my parents will arrive in town and we’re going to have a great time seeing plays, concerts, movies and friends. I am thankful for the examples my parents set for me. Their loyalty provided my sisters and me with a stable home life. I will always value that. I make careful decisions and I don’t plan on changing that any time soon. My roots are still deep with my friends and my employer and I would never sever them carelessly. I just need to figure out how to fit them into a giant pot and transport them to a new city where I can start fresh. Maybe everything about this is scary but I know I can’t turn my back on a perfectly good reason to move somewhere new. I won’t build a fragile life there. I won’t limit myself by being immovable. Instead I will learn to go with the flow, find a niche, and maybe wreak a little havoc. Movers and shakers always do.