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Monday, July 21, 2014

A man from my past

Like the air rushing out of an untied balloon, the Exploratorium emptied patrons onto San Francisco sidewalks at closing time. I was one of them, along with my children and my friends and their children. I heard “Suzanne” come from behind my shoulder, a man’s voice. It wasn’t a shout of certainty, but more a gentle question. I wasn’t even sure I heard it.

As I turned toward the voice, a familiar frame in a gray suit greeted me with a warm smile. It was my former boss from He was there with his wife, and father, and children. I suspect he snuck out of work early that Thursday afternoon. I haven’t seen him in at least 12 years. We introduced each other to our children, asked how the other was doing, made promises to get together at some point to catch up—which I hope we do.

But what struck me as ironic is that my old boss appeared—a physical reminder of my professional life all those years ago—as I’ve been holding a deep conversation with myself about the road not taken. The one where I went back to work after I had my babies and continued along with my editorial career. What kind of publication would I be working at now? Where would my name fall on the masthead? What jobs would I have used to leapfrog across the editorial pond? What magazines or newspapers would be coveting my skills and leadership with all of my years of experience?

My husband recently passed his 17-year anniversary at his job. And I’ve wondered what I’ve done for more than 17 years, aside from inhale and exhale. The list is short--I lived in the small town where I was born; I’ve lived in California, I’ve been a vegetarian. They are passive things, insignificant things. For nearly a year, my neighbor has been job-hunting for a full-time position after being out of work for more than a decade to be at home with her own babies. She's been facing the challenge of edging her way back into the workforce. It’s all so daunting and humbling and discouraging.

I’m not looking for work. I still have my book to finish—I’m so close! And I still have parenting to do. But it does beg the question.

It is strange to realize I’m so outdated. Instead of dwelling on the fact that the business world, the editorial world went on without me, I need to look ahead. My kids are growing up and I need to begin unraveling the mystery of what I will doing with the next phase of life. I’m certain I can do anything if I only knew what it was I wanted to do. In the meantime, I’ll follow up with my old boss and see when we can catch up.

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