Memoir 1, a rough draft essay.
Did I Just Become An Adult?
One afternoon I finished temping!
I got a job, a proper one!! A nine-to-five, go to work every day, I have my own desk, JOB.
The American Dream, or so I’d been told. A future passed in front of me in Technicolor. I would have a presence. I would settle. My parents loved that word. They liked boxes. To be lived in or ticked off.
I was so proud of myself. I was thinking routine, a check and colleagues, and an office that didn’t smell of cocktails and smoke. I would be grown up.
It didn’t last.
I had returned from my third summer in Europe and started temping again during the day and cocktailing at Marriott nights, but I got burned out and I wanted stability, or at least a steady paycheck, one I knew the amount of week to week.
My last job with a temp agency was at Activision, and it started a fantasy life of me as an adult. Throughout the years I grew in age, not necessarily in maturity.
I had been working for a brief time as a receptionist and “coder” for their growing Consumer Relations department. One afternoon they offered me a full-time position, and I accepted on the spot.
Activision was one of the big names in the video game industry in the 1980s until it took a plunge in the video game crash. It was a shitload of fun before that, though. Young serious workers, camaraderie, a growing company, and Friday nights.
I made a name for myself there. Not necessarily a good one.
My perception of myself as important to Activision’s success was way off base. These grandiose ideas of worth would follow me through my many “careers.”
At first, I was the only other employee for the department, working under a manager that befriended me. We ducked out for long lunches with gin and tonics or glasses of wine. And she became a confidante and introduced me to the work of a self-help spiritual guru whose name I can’t recall. She was powerful in molding better you’s.
I had thought little of careers when I was at Santa Clara University; I was just trying to keep my head above water and often changed majors trying to sneak through.
So I didn’t have a quest or a vocation. I knew I had to have one to be worth something in life. That thought was drilled into me. Jobs gave people value.
I was naïve and believed I could accomplish much more than I could. I let my mind create my own scenarios. I was a businesswoman. I was respected, and I had my ego stroked. Soon after I joined the company, they featured me in the Activision newsletter, welcoming me; the newcomer. Another salute and fuel for my ego. It is funny how reality and wishes can intersect in a Bipolar mind.
A few months later, another position opened in the department and I pulled my best friend into the company. I knew she too could thrive. My manager and the two of us became the three musketeers as we read thousands of letters a day from Activision’s fans trying to earn their patch for high scores. It didn’t take a rocket scientist, but others in the company referred to our weekly findings for market information and quality control.
The department grew, and I was made a supervisor in charge of tracking the information and putting it into a weekly report. And my self-image kept rising away from reality. Computers programs were not even close to what they are today, so I spent my week counting comments on a yellow pad. And then using the computer to write a list of their tallied numbers and printing it out to be distributed. I didn’t have a market research background and hadn’t a clue about statistics, actually flunking that class at university. But in my mind I was indispensable.
I started buying “I am a businesswoman clothes” thinking the look would actually make me one.
As part of my job, I had to learn to play all the games. My hand-eye coordination wasn’t the best and my concentration faltered, but I could pass through the first layers, qualifying for an “expert” title. This allowed my inclusion on the roster for CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show, occurring twice a year. Winter in Las Vegas and summer in Chicago.
I was on business trips! Check that off of the “I am an adult” list. They opened another world for me. My energy was uncontainable. Movement, noise, and color worked me into a frenzy and I never slept. There was always someone else awake to latch onto.
I stood in front of a video game console wearing heels and pantyhose, playing the part. Look at me, I was in a suit; I had a briefcase. Sales reps would hover around me as I talked about our game terminology and showed them how to play recent releases. The pain of 9 hours on my feet didn’t break through my sense of exhilaration. The convention center was pulsing with a cacophony of noise, each business stall cranking music at full volume, smatterings of conversations weaving upward and then descending with a crash after bouncing on the center’s ceiling.
Parties, dinners, and a hospitality suite were like nirvana to me. I didn’t want to miss out on a second. I wanted to shine in the middle of it. So, I didn’t sleep at all. I felt like I could accomplish anything. I was having FUN! Beyond fun, it was dangerous, but I paid no heed.
When I entered the hospitality suite on my first night and found my promised land, there were so many people. The booze was endless, and I helped myself. If I wasn’t on the convention floor, you could find me here. I was wild, moving through a bubble as though looking down on myself, and all common sense left me.
The hospitality suite was always on the hotel floor with our sales department. Boy, those guys could party. But I had no problem keeping up and flirted my way around the room. One night I found myself in bed with one of them. He was married which was a bonus to me. I didn’t want to have the yolk of a relationship. It became a pattern, hooking up with the unavailable. On the edge, risk-taking.
When the week finished and I returned home I stopped eating, working, dressing. The hamster wheel I had been running on spat me out against a wall and I lay there in a puddle for days. This recuperation time didn’t endear me to my manager or the rest of the company. And when I showed back up to work, I was called in to have a discussion about my over-the-top footloose behavior. I was always being warned to act more professional, but the warnings were lost on me. I don’t think that was possible.
When I was on my don’t stop for a week roll, I had energy and spunk and could talk without pause. This seemed to be a bonus in handling sales party animals, so I kept being included. And if my employers were on the fence about my attendance, I just cried hysterically until I wore them down.
I went to CES shows four times and followed along the same path I had experienced before. The same conversations when I returned home.
Eventually, reality caught up with me, but first I passed through the initial round of lay-offs when the industry crashed.
At an afternoon company-wide meeting, half our workforce lost their jobs. The dog-eat-dog surfaced in my department.
I got knocked down from being a supervisor and given an option to return to my old role of a coder at the same salary. I had debts and no one else was hiring, so I stayed. That worked for a while, then it didn’t and my attitude had crossed over to the wounded victim. The other supervisor in the department who still had her job had taken to ordering me around and correcting me on a job I had been the first to do, and it always pissed me off.
Activision finally had enough of me and my attitude and gave me the option of being fired or laid-off to get severance. I may have been crazy, but I wasn’t stupid and the severance was the largest amount of money I ever had at one time.
The afternoon they let me go, I grew giddy, jumped in my car, grabbed a map, and started driving. Ending up in Mendicino late at night.
I found a lovely hotel with an ocean view and plunked down my credit card for their last room with a fireplace. I spent more than I should have, but there was a decanter of brandy on the bedside table, I was flying high with freedom, and I just didn’t care.
I thought of myself as resilient. Able to quit jobs by going out to lunch and not coming back if I didn’t like them. Thinking there would always be another to tide me over. And with each job, I would don a different persona.
This time though, Silicon Valley was going through a hiring freeze, workers were being laid off at a fast rate and people were getting desperate.
Even being a chameleon, I wasn’t getting a new job anytime soon.