Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Do Miss Something About Corporate Life

When people ask me if I miss anything about Corporate life, my answer is only the steady paycheck. But the other day as I was lunching with a former colleague, I realized that was not true. If you think I am about to add having an expense account to the short list of what I might miss I'm not. I do miss that, but more so would be the people.

When I say, the people, I am referring to that group of individuals who over the years became more than my colleagues, they became my friends.

I was lucky. No matter how crazy Corporate life got, I was surrounded by co workers who made it easier to get through the day. Many of them I worked with for most of the eleven years I was at my last stint.

Together we saw children born, others off to college, parents age. We attended birthday parties, weddings, and funerals. We laughed more than I can remember, sometime at each other, often at the absurdities of what we witnessed every day. We cried when we lived through the tragedy of one of us dying too young, sat in a conference room and watched in horror as that plane hit the second tower. We felt the fear it might happen again the day of the blackout. We saw the dot com boom and crash along with the stock market. In between it all, we did our jobs.

You can get to know people pretty well when you work with them every day. Some you don't want to know any better than you have to. But if you're lucky, as I was, alot you do.

There are not many of that group that are still there. A combination of time, moving on to bigger and better ventures and downsizing are responsible for that. The ones still left know who they are. So if you are reading this, and you think I don't miss anything about that world. I do. I miss you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Dad, 23 Years Later

My Dad died twenty three years ago today.

For a long time after I could not remember the exact date. I just knew it was the end of September. My mother generally reminded me. She remembers dates. Birthdays. Anniversaries. And yes, the dates that those closest to her died.

Not me. I wouldn't remember a birthday, outside of my own, if it didn't show up in my Outlook.

For a long time, I kept trying to remember the exact date, but I refused to write it down. It seemed rather morbid. After a while I gave up. Because really, why did I even need to remember such a thing?

I prefer my memories to surround the happier times, the laughter, the jokes, the love, the smiles. Why remember the date he died?

So I could relive getting that awful call from my mother's neighbor telling me I should get home fast, that my mother was going to need me? Or that drive up I-95 from my apartment in downtown Philadelphia, trying to convince myself this was just another ER visit? He was OK? Even when I knew he was gone already? Or that terrible moment when I went into that little room with no windows where my mother and brother were waiting for me and I knew before the doctor came in and told us the awful truth?

I only remember the date now, because a few years ago I made the connection it was also my friend MaryEllen's birthday.

There are those defining moments in our lives when everything becomes the way it was before and the way it was after. Those times when you can't imagine the world will really move forward. Collectively it is moments like the day JFK was shot or the day the planes hit the twin towers. September 27 became one of those times for me. Life before my father died and life after.

The day of my father's funeral, my mother sat me down and told me that it was going to be OK. That I would go on and have a good life. I'm not sure at the time, even though I knew I wanted to believe her, I did. But she was right. No matter what happens, we always do move forward. But that never stops us from looking back and remembering.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Mornings

Even though it has been over a year since I have done the 9 to 5 routine, I still think Saturday mornings feel different than the rest of the week. There is something in the air that says it is not a work day. It sounds different outside. It is quieter. There is less hustle and bustle. The gym has different hours on Saturdays. Even Starbucks does. I always thought the sun shone slightly different on Saturday morning. Perhaps because that was always the one day I was sure to take the time to notice.

Even though the days can run into one another when the only structure is self imposed, I still get that thrill out of knowing it is Saturday and the weekend is in full swing. It doesn't matter that I sometimes get my best writing out on a Saturday, often working more than say a Monday. It doesn't matter that I know that nap I can take in the afternoon is one I can now do any day. There is still that anticipation of two full days ahead of me that I can do whatever I want.

Saturday is that day to give permission to read the More magazine that has been sitting on my desk all week, stroll down Columbus Avenue with no destination in mind, allow myself the day off with absolutely no guilt.

Unless the muse strikes. In which case, it doesn't matter that it is Saturday morning. My keyboard is where you will find me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

97,690 Words

Seth Godin discussed in a blog this week, that we are entering a time where we all have our own media channels. An author, if they want to be successful, must own their own channel. An author no longer has to rely on a publisher to be heard or to gather a following.

If anyone who reads this is not sure yet, my intention is to be one of those "successful" authors. At the moment the media channel I own is this blog. And if that is all true, this channel has been dark for a bit. In fact this is the longest I have not blogged since I started blogging last November. In the olden days, before 24/7 television, a test pattern would go up on a dark channel. But those days are long gone. Content is continuous. If there is no content you run the risk your readers or viewers go elsewhere.

I hope that didn't happen. Because there was a reason I was not blogging. A very good one. I was finishing the end of Draft #1 of my second novel, working title, Seduced by Corporate America.

For a while I was trying to do both. Blog and finish up the draft. But I found that when I was blogging, I got sidetracked, away from the plot and my characters. So I had to make a decision. I threw all my creative energies, all the words there were there, waiting to pour out of me, into the story.

I didn't think about blogging. I didn't read other blogs. I did not check for comments or obsess in Google Analytics over how many readers I was getting with no new content or where they were coming from. I even kept my Facebook/Twitter status to a minimum.

It worked! Last night I finished. 97,690 words at the moment. The story will still need a lot of accessorizing but the plot line is done. I like to think of it as I know what dress I am wearing to the party, but still working on which shoes, hair, jewelry and makeup work best. While I'm figuring those details out I will be blogging. So stay tuned.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'd Forgotten

I'd forgotten that today was September 11. When I first woke up and heard the wind blowing , the rain beating against my window, I turned over and went back to sleep. It was Friday. There was nothing on my schedule but writing plus I had a late night. So I decided to take advantage of the fact that I am my own boss and do what I could have only longed to do when someone else determined my work schedule, stay under the warmth of my comforter.

I'd forgotten. For the first time in eight years I did not wake up remembering that picture perfect September New York day when it seemed the most unlikely thing in the world that tragedy would descend in just a few hours. I did not reflect on exactly where I was, far enough north of ground zero to not be in the thick of it, but close enough to see the looming clouds of smoke look as though they were about to spread and encapsulate all of Manhattan.

I suppose if I was still on that old work schedule where my alarm would blast the radio and quickly switch to Pat Kiernan on NY1, I would have been reminded. But I don't wake up like that anymore. I ease my way into the news, logging onto the Internet first to see what the headlines are before I decide if I am up to stomaching more. I'd forgotten. Something I said I would never do. Something I never wanted to do.

Even now as I write this, and a thick grey fog outside my window blurs the tops of the buildings I have to dig deeper to remember that yes, it did really happen. And then I know I did not really forget. It was just the blessing of a day that looked so opposite that caused my delay. I did not forget. I never will.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Back To School Message

I am troubled today. Not just by the uproar over whether the President of the United States should be allowed to address the future of this country as they start a new school year. As if in this day and age with 24/7 news, Twitter and Facebook any parent can completely control what their kids hear and read. No it is more than that.

I am troubled by a recurring conversation. I have a lot of friends whose kids are in or about to start college. Many of which have true passion for writing or acting or art. Yet their parents are encouraging them to do instead what they can “make a living” at.

Which is understandable. We all need to earn a living. But why is the idea of doing what you love and earning money deemed mutually exclusive? And why is it if the passion the young adult has is in medicine or law or in building machine guns it is deemed acceptable but in the arts not?

And why would they not encourage their child to at least try? Why at such a young age would we reinforce the idea that you don’t get to do what you love in life? Instead you get to do what earns a buck and only, if you are very, very lucky will you love it too?

Now I am not a parent, so I suppose some would say there is something I just don’t get. But I was a young adult once who heard the story about making sure you always had a job, whether you were happy or not and were earning money. I didn’t think work was ever about finding joy. It was something you did until, if you were lucky enough, you got to retire.

Turns out not many of my generation are going to see retirement any time soon. But if you are doing what you love, it doesn’t matter. There was a clip on CBS Sunday Morning this week in which Bea Arthur, before she passed, had been asked why she was still working. Her response was that only people who are in jobs they don’t like retire.

So here is my Back to School message. Do what you love. Find out what that is. It may be what you love is a lot easier to earn a living at than what someone else loves. But in any case, go for it. Try. If your passion is as strong as you believe the money will come. And if not, you will find another passion.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Taking Note: Lisa Genova

While I am still more in a vacation mode than a blogging one, I just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova and am compelled to write.

I learned about this book because of the circuitous way in which it was published and achieved acclaim. Lisa Genova had written this moving story about a fifty year old Harvard University professor who is struck with early onset Alzheimer Disease. For a year Lisa could not get an agent to represent her, much less an editor to publish the book. But Lisa believed in the importance of this story told from the perspective of the woman who is losing her memory. She believed so much that she contacted the National Alzheimer's Association. The group, after reading the manuscript, endorsed it and asked her to write a blog for their Voice Open Move campaign that was launching at the end of that month. Which was all wonderful news, except for that one little problem. The book was not yet published.

Lisa Genova made what is a difficult decision for any author. She decided to self publish. She already had a website, because, in the true spirit of anyone who has a dream, she was already acting as if.

The book not only generated great sales through Amazon, it received an enormous amount of positive press which led to an agent soliciting her. Funny how tables can turn. The book then sold at auction to Simon and Shuster for just over a half million dollars.

I am struck by Lisa's story. She did not pay attention to the doors that were initially slammed in her face. She believed in herself and that her novel was important enough to be published until eventually those doors swung open.

But beyond this story of publishing success I am also moved by the importance of the work. Alzheimer's is one of those frightening diseases, to those who succumb to it and to the families and loved ones of the victim. While my tendency here is to write about books that are inspiring in their tale and entertaining, this one is different. It is heartbreaking and at times frightening to imagine. Nevertheless is one that should be read, whether the disease has personally affected your life or not.