These two songs bring back some vivid memories. Nervous, sweaty palms sitting in my soon to be beloved RAV in a furniture store parking lot. I hadn’t had a lot of interview experience and I just remember leaning back in my seat, breathing deeply as Rob Thomas and Sufjan Stevens washed over me, wandering what 9am would bring. Agoura Hills was grey and cold as traffic whizzed by on the 101, blurs through the tall wire and I desperately tried to remember everything I had read about the company. Little did I know then that I was a few minutes away from a two and a half year journey. A journey that seemed to last a lifetime at the time but now seems to have only lasted an incandescent moment, one that was one of the most rewarding, most frustrating, challenging and difficult experiences of my life.
Looking back on it now I wonder if I did the right thing, walking away from it all. Of course you tend to remember the good and forget the bad as with anything in the past. I know I wouldn’t give up that experience for anything but it still wasn’t quite for me. The team was mostly great, DD and MC providing their endless encouragements and patient leadership, CD with his erratic brilliance, SM with her mothering, SR providing the musical background, MD with his surfing tales and understated humour, DS being the most demanding boss I have ever had. I still remember sitting in my office and dealing with the unfamiliar sensation that I would miss most of my workmates when I moved on, a feeling I hadn’t had thus far in my working life.
The location was brilliant as well. Climbing the hills of Malibu, the ocean breaking in the background, golden sunshine breaking down the Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon drives past the houses of the rich and the famous. The chaparral and bush of southern California, the red earth roads and hard rocks of the trails I hiked. The characters were varied and interesting, Bob the contractor, gruff, father Christmasy but hugely knowledgeable, sweet talking the ladies at the City to get what I needed done, trying not to punch out the assholes at the City and County who were holding up my projects.
It was a great trip for those couple of years, being a bright shining star in that team, topping the company in productivity and earning quick promotions, closing out tough projects under pressure. Of course those are the good memories. And it takes some dredging to remember why I left. The 12 hour workdays, the constant requirement to keep running at high speed and keep billing out with no end in sight, the unyielding pressure to meet your minimums, the stress when there were a million things to do and the worse stress when there weren’t, the financial under appreciation and those hours stuck on the 101 in congealed traffic.
Most of all I remember the panic attacks in the morning, the nausea and insomnia, the drugs and pills to take the edge off living the American Dream. I think I made the right decision. Given the uncertainties I face now in making a living, I have my moments of doubts and weakness. But that trip in the end was not sustainable, it was not my niche.