Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My New Desk & Its Seattle Calendar

I got a new desk today.

Well, not like "hey, I went to Ikea and bought a sick, awesome desk that holds things and stuff," but more of a "hey, I moved to a different desk at work."

And, for whatever reason, it struck me funny and made me think about things. It made me think of my last job (and only other real job) at Entrepreneur Magazine when things were very, very different and so was I.

The window at my new desk reminds me of how I use to keep a running tally of planes and helicopters I saw from my giant window cubicle at Entrepreneur. My desk looked like Mardi Gras back then. It was practically a colorful fort. I had everything from papers for my fake sexual harassment lawsuit to games, threats and wanted posters. I even printed out a picture of a co-worker's head and turned it into a piggy bank. It looked like one of those desks they show employees at gaming companies or animation studios having in documentaries or magazines.

But, today, I packed up my desk and realized that the only personal item I had was a small Seattle calendar. And, this morning, I sat down at my new desk and pinned up my dinky calendar that means too much to me to actually mark up and stared at it until I spaced out, looking out the window at a sky that looked like the world's ceiling. Then, I thought of what it was like when I was laid off in March of last year and how it took me two or three boxes just to carry my personal items to the parking lot. I remember my girlfriend, who helped carry my stuff, asking me if all of it was "really necessary" and I didn't know how to answer her.

Months later, when summer of last year rolled around, I disappeared into the tame wilderness and wild commerce of Seattle with my buddy Chris (who was also an unemployed writer then). By the time autumn came, I had moved back to Southern California and was still jobless. But I was a remarkably different person. Last summer changed me in a bunch of crazy ways and it's hard to argue that it wasn't for the better across the board. I do think of myself as less exciting now though.

Just before I left Seattle, Chris and I finally went to the Space Needle and I bought the dinky Seattle calendar. Chris asked where I was going to put it up a calendar so small and I told him that I would probably hang it up in my cubicle at whatever job I ended up getting and sighing out loud every time I looked at it. We laughed a small laugh there in the gift shop, but it's pretty stunning how accurate that sentence has become.

My very bare desk today is a sharp contrast to the messy chaos of my previous job's desk, the desk at my first "big boy job" at Entrepreneur Magazine. Back then, I was generally unprofessional, but they still had me write this oddball business blog for whatever crazy reason. And it all made me very happy. I realized it spoiled me, that job. I was relentlessly content then, but I was too obnoxious and inexperienced to appreciate it.

The entire thing now seems like a dream that I have a hard time remembering in full. I never dreaded a day of work or even minded it. I probably would've worked there for free. It was like a playground inside of a classroom. There were pranks, debates, projects, adventures and a laundry list of distasteful inside jokes and day-long e-mail threads that became bigger than they really were. Days were everything from sitting in an office arguing The Clash's London Calling song by song to making a face puppets so we could do impressions of each other. We ate lunch together, went to happy hours after work and then parties on the weekend. It was such goddamn delirious nonsense. I mean, we worked and put out a magazine, sure, but...I don't know, it was like working on yearbook or the newspaper in high school.

And now I wonder, as I move to my sixth desk at my current job, if it would be possible now. Not even considering the others, I mean that I wonder if I would be the same. I wonder if I would tolerate such insanity in my job performance. I wonder if I would share as much personal information as I did then. I wonder if I would be as much of a force to be reckoned with instead of...whatever I am now.

Let's say I came into that editorial assistant/blogger job next month (as a calm and collected 25-year-old) instead of June 2007, back when I was loud and vulgar 22-year-old with little regard for professionalism and career talk. Let's say I took that magazine job as whoever I am this year instead of the young guy who wore ripped jeans to work and drove a messy Delta 88 Oldsmobile that looked like it housed a homeless person inside. Let's say I was hired now as a reasonable man instead of the hungover fully-bearded boy who ate Del Taco and microwaveable pizzas and never exercised. Could it really all be the same if I wasn't the smug and mouthy asshole who had an entire drawer full of candy bars?

Really, I consider myself now and notice how I think of a career and compare it to when I didn't consider showering or brushing my teeth a priorities and lived in a house that my friends and I were destroying with our bare hands. Christ Almighty, The Madison is another story (or book) altogether.

I wanted to fight yuppiedom in such a manic fury that I somewhat devolved in a mutant-like hurry. I liked the idea of getting paid salary while looking like I didn't care. I wanted people to look at me and think, "That guy doesn't care about or value anything." For whatever insanity that floated through my brain as truth, I thought that it was charming to be totally careless and I saw it as my lone wolf way of fighting maturity. I didn't want to be a 9-to-5 adult yet and I fought it with every ounce of craziness I had in me. It was like a movie where I was being dragged into a chamber kicking and screaming, so I then started shouting wild promises that didn't make sense and I couldn't keep anyway.

And, altogether, it was pretty goddamn stupid.

So, instead of wishing I could go back to all that, I admit that it wouldn't be the same. And I say that now considering where everyone is these days, from San Francisco to New York City, from grad school to real high-end career paths. And I'm happy at the job I have now as a copywriter with a sparse work area.

I look back fondly on my time of what seemed perfect and realize that it wouldn't be the same if it came about now. Even if everyone else was still as awesome as they were then, I just don't see me playing the same character I did then. I liked what I contributed then (I like to think of it as "furious immaturity with moments of charming sincerity and absolute clarity"), but I wouldn't like it now. I don't have the energy in me to be that reckless and I don't have the ego to be that offensive. I care what the higher-ups think of me and I've lost any sight of fighting any "good fight." I want to work and I want to show up for work ready to work. I try my best to understand what is expected of me at work and anticipate what is coming at me.

The strange thing is that I never saw this coming. I always hoped I would evolve into an adult, but I just didn't see it happening without a lobotomy. I just never saw myself being quiet or keeping to myself in any form. Old Jake has shown some light over the months, in very fleeting or mildly off-putting moments, but I still don't have the drive to really decorate my cubicle or say much in meetings. I don't try to organize anything social and I'm fine with everything just...going.

But, here and there, I look at my dinky Seattle calendar to think of last summer (easily the best summer since I was 15, when nobody had to be anywhere) and think of the transformation from Old Jake to New Jake and I sigh a little bit.

Today, I thought of my job at Entrepreneur and missed what I had, but I appreciated it for the epic party it was and what insight it provided me with. But then I quietly went back to work.


jason daniel said...

I'm digging your vibe right now.

Jake Kilroy said...

Reflective, yet tall?

Celeste Hoang said...

Oh Jake, such a great post. Our adventures at Entrepreneur were truly the best of times. And even though you might be a more mature guy working in a more professional atmosphere now, you'll still always be the creepy/crazy/kooky Jake the Flake I know.

And for the record, I have a huge box full of Entrepreneur notes, pictures, doodles and whatnots, and yes, they are 100% necessary.

Eyvette said...


(great post.)

athousandscreamingrabbits said...

It's cathartic to be introspective. To consider, fondly or otherwise, memories from another place. Well said Jake.

And p.s., Eyvette is damn wrong. You have no soul. Nor do I! :)