Approaching 40: I was brought to my senses

After graduation, I moved back to my parent’s house. They lived in Northridge, California, but the earthquake earlier that year had forced them out of their house and into a rental nearby while their house was repaired.  I worked most of that summer of that summer doing computer work for the dorm cafeteria at UC Riverside. I would commute out there several times a week. It was about a 90 minute drive, but what made the time go by so quickly was the OJ Simpson murder trial, which was broadcast on the radio, and which was sweeping the nation at that time.

I applied half-heartedly for a few other jobs, but I really had no idea what I wanted to do. With a degree in political science and journalism, the main object would be law school–but I had no interest in that. I’d been doing computer work, and that was interesting to me. There was an ad for a computer specialist to work at a “help desk” at a company in Santa Monica, so I applied to that, not thinking much of it. Eventually, I was called for an interview and I went on my first real post-college job interview on September 7, 1994. It was a grueling, all-day-long interview and included lunch. I think I got to the corporate offices at around 8:30am and didn’t finish up the final interview until 4:30pm. When it was all over, I was wiped out. I didn’t want to talk about it.

And then, nothing happened. It was as if the people I’d interviewed with went into a black hole. For more than a month, I’d heard nothing. I’d sent thank you notes to the people involved with the interview, and I think I might have sent a follow-up or two. It wasn’t until early October that I found out from the people in the dorm cafeteria offices that they’d been called for references. I took that as a positive sign, but still nothing happened.

It was about a week later, sometime around October 10, 1994 that I got a call from the person in charge of hiring to offer me a job. It was a salaried position as opposed to the hourly positions I’d had until then. There were good health and dental and retirement benefits. And I got 20 days of vacation each year. I remember thinking how odd twenty days was–just a day shy of three weeks. When I told this to my mom, she laughed and said, “It’s four weeks of vacation. You don’t count the weekends!” Well, what did I know.

I accepted the position and my first day was on October 24, 1994. On October 24, 2012, I will have been at the company–the only job I’ve held since graduating from college–for 18 years.

When I first started, I was still living at my parents rented place in Northridge. It meant commuting from there to Santa Monica every day. I’d cut over to Topanga Canyon and go through the canyon to the ocean and then head south down the coast highway to get into the office. At the time, I was listened to Sting’s latest album, Mercury Falling, and there was a song on the album called “I Was Brought to My Senses.” Each time I hear that song, I am reminded of my very early days on the job, and my morning commute through the twists and turns of Topanga Canyon.

It’s a bit hard to imagine that I’ve been at the company for 18 years. The first 8 years I worked out the Santa Monica office and my office overlooked the West Side. But I could lean back in my chair and peek across the hallway and see the Pacific Ocean spread out before me. In 2002, I transferred to the Washington, D.C. office and I’ve been in that office ever since. 18 years is a long time. Four more years and I’ll have been at the company for half of my life. Or, put another way. If I’d been born on the day I started with the company, then I’d be heading off to college this year.


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