Monday, February 14, 2011

The Future Over the Horizon

This was a cross-country journey of purging. Like the rest of the country that did not die on September 11th certainly had life as previously known destroyed or at least irrevocably altered. I knew when the 2nd tower fell that my career was over and was furloughed as expected along with 20,000 other employees a little over a month later. After almost 20 years in the business I knew it would not recover anytime soon. The ones left behind to pick up the pieces and move on would surely be a wounded and entrenched set of dog-eat-dog survivors, grizzled veterans suffering drastically reduced salaries and benefits, clawing at each other in a world of infighting to simply stay afloat much less get ahead.

I packed up my life, moved in with family and then set out across the country to clear my mind, to push "reset" and figure out what I wanted to do next with the rest of my life. I had no desire to return to my previous industry; I had in fact been wanting to leave for years but the money was finally good and the personal rewards meaningful. As sometimes happen the push it takes to cause significant change is more traumatic than if it had been deliberately planned. Nobody saw September 11th coming but it was definitely all the impetus I needed to break the inertia and move on in a different direction.

The only question was where? A tank of gas and a pocket full of severance money to sustain me and I simply headed west. I did have a plan, though, for this trip and that was to see friends in Oklahoma and Texas then head in to the Rockies to explore parts of the country I'd never seen before and likely would not have an open-ended opportunity to visit again. I truly believed there was little reason to begin an immediate search for work in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Vestiges of the hiring practices used ten years ago remain in place today where professional employment required virtually an exact match to garner even one interview so short of unskilled labor I felt I had some time to rediscover myself and America.

The early versions of internet chat circa late 2001 allowed me to keep in touch with friends around the country while I traveled and managed to set up some windows of time when I might be in there part of the country for a visit or particular event. On this trip in addition to the Southwest and the Rockies I would ultimately end up in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia before winding up back in Baltimore where the rebuilding would begin. On this journey the scenery would range from the Rockies and the Badlands through the Texas Panhandle to the Louisiana Bayous, Central and Coastal Florida to see a shuttle launch and up through Civil War Georgia, North Carolina and finally Appomattox, Virginia.

Old friends, new friends and family along the way helped keep me sane and social and the scenery was fantastic, too, but really, truly, I needed time to find out who I was, what I had to offer and where it might fit in the new United States, a country few had any idea what it would be or look like. I had a boatload of skills and experience that my old industry no longer wanted and I wasn't sure about anyone else at the time or if those skills were even transferrable.
The only thing I knew for sure was that the tank was full, the car running smoothly and both the horizon and the future lay in front of me. Time to see what was out there.

Gotta go.

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