Friday, May 28, 2010

Career Is Dead, Long Live Career

So, I lost my day job. From the inciting event to the wrap-up of the terms of my "retirement" (to which terms I acceded yesterday) took exactly three months. And what a quarter it was.

I got sick in the early throes, immune system no doubt depressed, a brief flirtation with death-by-sepsis that followed an inflammation of my--who knew?--carotid artery sheath. I take that to mean "heartsick."

And one month into it all, before there was any hint that it might end this way, I celebrated my 30-year anniversary on the job. I remember saying to the group of writers and artists gathered for the party that I didn't want my remarks to sound like a retirement speech, but that, then again, "you can be about to retire and just not know it yet." Nailed it!

30 years of fun and creativity and collaborating with some of the coolest people on earth and maybe caring just a bit too much, and it's over. So. What's next?

I don't know. I have another consulting job in June. I'm working on a book, a couple of scripts, and taking, as they say, some meetings with bona fide literary agents and publishers. So I hit the ground running. But now I'm skidding through 30 years of accumulated office detritus. A few of my darling co-workers stuck around after hours last week to help me box it all up. It filled a friend's pickup truck (seriously, getting the last box in was like playing Tetris®. Now with profanity!™). There was no time to sort while packing, and my home office was already pretty crowded. Now it looks like something out of Hoarders.

I had a manila folder for every one of those 30 years. Back before I started storing stuff on hard drives, I kept copies of everything. Thousands of jokes, little verses, names for products, sell-lines and slogans, new business ideas, memos, thank-you notes from editors, consumer letters, goofy poems to read aloud at people's birthdays or milestone anniversaries. The early stuff is either hand-written or typed on a Smith-Corona (and then on an original Mac, saved to flexi-disks I can no longer access), so unless it got accepted and applied somewhere, the writing only exists in these photocopies or on scribbled 3x5 cards. And I'm jettisoning almost all of it. I put eight grocery bags of paper out for the recycling truck yesterday.

It's weird, but the handwritten-ness of some things makes me unable to pitch them. I found two pages that I evidently submitted for a 1990 assignment to predict the next decade's big changes. If it were a Word document, I'd just pitch the hard copy. But it's the only existing version of this thing. You can see some of it here, with a couple of jokes from the brainstorm bowl AND a "modest proposal" I wrote when writers were asked how we could help the company save money back in the mid-90s.

Since Blogger loaded that photo sideways and you can't read it anyway, the cost-cutting proposal starts out, "Kill people." And it goes on from there in Swiftian mode. My predictions included environmental trends, "rampant religious fervor," musings about computer networks (I was still moonlighting at CompuServe in 1990), and "I would also like to mention desktop publishing." The 3x5s say, "You gotta laugh at your problems, cuz let's face it, that's what everyone else is doing" (a little Cope & Encouragement workin' for ya there) and, under the title, "NATURE & YOU: A Poem," this beautiful Message of Love:

If I had plants
instead of thighs,
you'd make them

Hadn't heard that rhyme before, and haven't heard it since. I should do a Wikipedia entry on it.

There's a long to-do list before I get to that. It's a big world out here and I want to do big things in it. Not sure if I'll have time for blogging along the way, so there may be even less to see here than usual.

But never doubt my love, O faithful few readers, commenters, lurkers, and drive-by glancers. Hold me close, ya tiny dancers. You know I dig you like clams.

Yr humble,
Jas P Howard

Available for parties, partnerships, and odd jobs befitting a guy besotted with words, words, words.