Note from Mic: I don't know how I came across this, in fact, I find it odd that it popped up in my find on my computer searching for something completely unrelated during a meeting. I started writing these chapters not long after I returned from my trip in 2010. What I don't know, is how I've managed to never sit down and finish them. I have 4 unfinished chapters that cover up to and through my trip. I had originally meant to write these out, and publish them as I planned my return to the North the following year, but that would not happen, and now going on to the 5th year since I made that trip, I now look forward to planning my return in 2015. I hope to finish the additional chapters, but Chapter 1 was for the most part, completed. It may need some work, as this is just a draft, but I think after 4 years, it needs to be posted.
Chapter 1: To Force a Dream
In the late fall of 2009 while sitting at my desk at work, I composed an email to my manager that simply read
I will be taking time off in June, returning sometime in July to take a vacation. I will let you know the exact date I leave as I plan my trip.
The email was short, the message was vague, and I purposely omitted any mention of a return date.
The days, weeks, months, actually years that lead up to that email, were years of disappointment in myself as I put off a promise that I had made several years earlier.
I had in my early 20’s, told myself that I would take at least one trip that I could consider epic, one trip somewhere outside of the borders of the US, somewhere exciting and full of adventure before I turned 30.
I didn’t want to be in my aging years or even at that last moment before death welcomes me, regretting the decisions I made early on in my life, knowing I missed out on the opportunity to travel and see the world and experience the cultures outside of the Pacific Northwest, and the cities I travel to for work.
I didn’t want to have to wake up one day, and ask myself “Why Didn’t You?”. It is a question I would eventually ask myself, without ever really being able to formulate a convincing answer to persuade that part of my psyche that had willed me to adventure so much as a child and young adult.
Five years ago, I had planned that trip.
Four years ago, I had booked a flight, and made all the necessary preparations for a trip to New Zealand. Four years ago, I had set a goal on finally visiting one of the unknowns I have yet to experience.
As the departure date of February Third of 2007 crept closer and closer, I began to dream of the mountains and rolling hills of the country side.
The plans were as simple as picking a direction once I got there.
I was renting a small caravan, and would travel the Island for 3 weeks before returning back to North America.
This would provide me with shelter, a place to prepare food, and a bed to sleep in every night. It was the perfect vacation for me to experience, and I had spent a significant amount of time planning and preparing for it, and I was thrilled to do it, and everyone around me knew how impatient I was to do it, for as the date crept closer, my mouth would not shut up about it.
And then, two days before the Eve of Christmas, in the winter of 2006 while enjoying a cup of coffee with my parents while visiting for the holidays, I received a call on my phone.
It was Robert, our Company’s network engineer.
“I hate to do this to you now, but I was offered a job, and I’m going to be taking it” he said.
My heart sunk, and but I couldn’t blame him for the decision he had made. Our company at that time was rife with changes, enough to make anyone, no matter what position you held uneasy about their future career. I myself at the time was having second thoughts about this new job I had taken just 6 months prior as well, but the pay was decent, and it allowed me to continue with my dreams.
But there were moments where I had wondered to myself prior to that day, that I asked myself, what exactly had I gotten myself into?
It was only 3 weeks after my start date that the announcement was made that the company I had just started working for, a medium sized business located in the Greater Seattle Area of Washington State, was sold to a large, multinational corporation located on the East Coast.
It didn’t take long to see the changes come either. Within the first couple of months, budgets were frozen, staff was cut, and changes to business operation started to happen.
Your typical departments such as business development and marketing were eliminated, while others were downsized as what happens with most acquisitions.
I would know this routine all too well, as this would be my third in my IT career. Acquisitions, bankruptcy, and dissolution of corporations seemed to follow me wherever I tread, from my first job at the height of the web bubble burst, to the merging of telecommunications companies, and now this.
However, most went on thinking our department was safe, most of us just continued on with our day to day not really expecting much change. We handled a lot in our department, and unlike other business’s our size, we not only provided support for the typical Network, Server, and Desktop infrastructure, but we also had developers who developed our own proprietary software, and the support team for it.
But then it happened.
Our IT Department of 15 employee’s spanning from SQL Admins to Developers, from Network Engineers to Help Desk Support, was hit.
First it started out as a few people let go, mainly those who provided a redundant role to others within our department, even affecting our core support team, a part of the department that we felt was safe, as it was only 4 of us to manage everything from network to application support.
I remember sitting there, as the calls came in to our department from the executives to disable accounts, remove security access, and lock down computers.
We would hear the phone of a co-worker ring; they would stand up, and begin walking out of the department with fear on their face. One by one, they walked out, followed shortly by a call back to our department.
At one point, I thought my turn was coming. I had only been there a couple short months, and I knew at that point I was expendable.
And then it happened, my phone rang.
My heart sunk as it rang, my co-workers around me staring at me as I answered it “hhh-hello?” I said as my voice cracked into the receiver.
“Hi, my name is XXXX and I’m calling on behalf of such and such company”, it was a sales call.
I unexpectedly shouted “NOT NOW!” into the phone, and slammed it down to the desk, relieved that the call was not the one I feared.
Eventually our manager appeared, to let us know that what was done was finished, with no future plans of layoffs were in the immediate future.
This resulted in doubt among those who survived the cuts though, and not wanting to wait around to see what fate would bring them next, a few more eventually found work elsewhere in the industry over the next several weeks, scared that another round of cuts may eventually affect them.
From 15, we were now 5, and by the time this phone call was over, we would be 4 in only a couple short weeks.
A few minutes later, after the call ended, my phone rang once more. It was my manager.
He called to tell me the news I had already heard, and I could tell by his tone of voice, he was pretty distraught over it.
Nobody really expected this, not even I. But as it now stood, I was the last man standing.
In a few short moments, I went from being hired to provide support to servers, and shadow our engineer to provide backup on network support, to being the only data center support staff left.
As the phone call ended, so did my dreams of leaving in less than 2 months’ time for my trip down to the small Island off of the coast of Australia. I was now grounded from flight, even for work.
I was no longer allowed to travel, which over the last several months post acquisition, I had spent most of them in other cities providing integration support to new acquisitions, while in other cities we were removing our equipment as we shut down, or consolidated locations.
In a few short minutes, I went from an expendable employee, to a precious asset. I was the only one left who understood the architecture of our business’s proprietary network equipment, as designed and implemented by our engineer several years earlier, and when the phone call was over, months of research and planning had went to waste.
Above all else, I now owned some very expensive paper. My tickets were non-refundable, purchased nearly a year earlier during a Qantas Promotion that prompted me to take the chance to finally travel there and live out my dream and fulfill a promise I made to myself years earlier.
But the promise would have to be delayed indefinitely as February 3rd eventually came, and I watched it pass by from the comfort of my new office.
Over the next couple of months I played out my nonexistent vacation in my head, searching and reading about others trips to New Zealand, much like I did while researching it, until the dream itself finally died, and became a distant memory of things that could have been.
This would be the start of 4 more years of being tethered to my job. A day off, meant I was away from my office, but never away from my phone, or within a few hours of the business’s data center. I eventually grew accustomed to this arrangement, or I should say, I allowed myself to be depended on too well which fed the other half of my psyche that feeds on wanting to always be available to help when in need, which slowly overpowered the other half, until thoughts and day dreams of life beyond the concrete jungle, slowly disappeared from my day, and I became a drone of my own doing.