Personal Been 2(00)2

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

January 2002 kicked off the last semester of undergrad.  It was painfully bittersweet before we even got back to campus to start classes.  Just a few months before, everything in my life had spiraled in some way: family, relationship, and the world at large.  But at school, I was having the time of my life and didn't want it to end.

A friend of mine from freshman year was spending senior year in a house off-campus with three other girls.  Before the break the month before, she and the girls threw a holiday party.  I had known two of the other three and at the party I met the fourth.  Long story short (I'm keeping the names and details of past romances vague; I'd like Amber to marry me as planned), we started dating in February.

This was also around the time when, as students, the real world started seriously breathing down our necks.  It felt like lying in bed dying, as Death stands outside the door, waiting patiently, sharpening his scythe.  And it was 2002; the dot-com bubble had burst and the post-9/11 economy was in the crapper.  For the first three years of college, the class of '02 watched the real world bathe in money and opportunity, while we toiled in libraries, counting the days until our release.  But for those of us who decided not to jump the academic ship to invest in or to become a webmaster, we arrived at senior year with a pocketful of not-so-magic beans.

Fortunately for me, I had inadvertently learned a very useful career tactic: networking.  One of the full-time staff members at the computing center was dating a woman who worked at a local web development shop, and they were looking to hire.  The owners wife had just had a baby, and they needed someone to fill in at the 3-person shop.  This is one of my favorite personal accomplishments: when no one I knew was landing any jobs, while economies were in shambles, and people feared everyone and everything, I got my first real job - and two full months before graduation, no less.

Spring and summer were exciting and difficult.  I was about to be 100% on my own for the first time in my life.  As I watched everyone pack up and leave Ithaca for the last time, I looked for a long-term apartment, as I made my own journey from "student" to "townie".  It was a lonely summer.  The majority of American kids in the more populated areas of the country spend their first 18 years being incredibly social (whether they like it or not).  Many tack on another 4 years (if not more), and for many it's the apex of their social lives.  I had gone from hundreds of frequent, in-person contacts in high school, to thousands in college - to a couple of daily contacts at work and one or two outside of it.  It was a painful process but a great personal learning experience.  (For example, I learned that while I want to be left alone, I don't want to be alone.)

Early that fall, my girlfriend and I broke up.  She had been living in Boston while I was in Ithaca.  Long-distance wasn't working, but at the same time I wasn't in a mental or emotional place to move in with anyone.  It was a selfish decision, I'll admit, but as cliched as the line is, I just wasn't ready.

I had had a couple of friends who were a year behind me at Ithaca, so I got back into socializing a bit when they returned for their senior year.  I welcomed them with open arms.  My job had been going okay (I still had a lot to learn about 40 hour work weeks), but we were definitely having fun.  I had found a boss and a coworker with a very similar - if not somewhat dormant - ridiculous sense of humor.  By the time I got the hang of the job project managing, coding, designing, and getting coffee, I was coaxing the lols out of them.  Hard.


Eric Tabone is Operations Manager at the digital strategy consultancy, Undercurrent. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his awesome wife and two kick-ass cats.

All original opinions and commentary throughout this blog (comments excluded) are Eric's alone, and do not necessarily represent Undercurrent in any way.


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