Some stories come out easily; Dignity, Always Dignity was written in a few hours. Others are painfully constructed over several writing sessions, with little corrections each time through and the occasional new sentence. I’ve begun to think “Oh, I should write about that!” whenever I remember something that happened, and my iPad is filling up with tiny text documents that contain a few words to nudge my memory.
“The hubcap incident,” one reads. “The whole everyone’s a salesman bit” is written in another. “Tarantula” is empty, the file name telling me enough to know what I’d wanted to write.
These all mean something to me, and I’ve grown curious about the machineries of memory. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to jot down the thoughts. In some cases my notes don’t even reference the main association I’ve attached to the story. What these messages to myself do reflect is the association I had at the moment a story occurred to me.
The file for Stasis Meeting, by way of example, included helpful sentence fragments that I didn’t need in order to remember what the essay meant to be about. The title came by way of a freudian slip while trying to say “status meeting”. It perfectly captured my feeling that such meetings put projects on hold in order to discover why they aren’t moving faster. None of the notes were as powerful as that title.
Then there’s the file simply titled “Thanks”. The title meant nothing to me, so I opened it. Inside was the following
6. “Thanks for fucking me!”
Among my finer moments, you will not find this one. Late on a Friday afternoon, the week before release, with my stress levels at maximum, while I was attempting to decipher a colleague’s configuration problem, management descended. I already had two extra people in my small cube, so my fight-or-flight nerve was twitching excitedly. Add two managers with a question about a bug that had just been filed, and — well, I’m not proud.
I cursed and stomped around the office glaring at everyone. Then I looked at the bug and discovered it was a problem of bad test data. Then I found out that they’d only wanted to me to estimate effort. Then I hid under my desk, figuring that I couldn’t be fired if they couldn’t find me.
It seems that this was a rejected section from I Wouldn’t Say That, a collection of unfortunate workplace conversations. I must have pulled it out but decided it might be salvaged for another essay.
Since the incident in the above fragment, I’ve gone over a year without a major blow-up. There have been rough patches, but on the whole I’ve regained the trust of many co-workers and a few managers. I’ve even been promoted and given more responsibilities. The pressure wears at me, but I’ve learned to handle it better.
This isn’t who I want to be, and it’s not what I want to remember. Probably the hardest part about writing autobiographical essays is determining what I’m prepared to admit about myself. As I described in my About page, everything but certain names is true — for a given value of truth. Memory isn’t perfect, so details may be erroneous. Sometimes too many facts get in the way of a good story. On occasion there are details that I’d rather not show. Or see.
Maybe I shared this because I’m depressed and want validation for my self-loathing. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been thinking about the events that don’t even have an empty file to mark them. I think if this blog is going to continue to help me, it’s time to open up just a little more and risk abandonment over what I’ve been hiding.
I’m going to stop thinking now and play some uke.