It’s funny how the things you do have a ripple effect. I was reluctant to return to work after being away from the work force for almost seven years. Several people encouraged me to go back to work and I’ll always owe them a debt of gratitude. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. That was a powerful motivator and I learned something from them. I learned that I can be an encouraging motivator in the lives of others. In the past I used to joke that what I really wanted to do was work with teenage boys. After my family joined the local YMCA I took my children to various classes and lessons. My oldest daughter likes to climb the rock wall, the guys who worked there were patient and they taught all of us more about rock climbing. As a parent on the sidelines I sat and watched my daughter’s progress. I listened to what the belayers were telling her. I introduced myself to the people who worked there and talked to them when we were waiting for our time to climb.

At that time there wasn’t a manager for the rock wall. One of my good friends taught swim lessons and basketball. She’s naturally very athletic but it’s the way that she teaches other people that makes her a valuable employee. We hung out together and I had to laugh when someone stopped me in the hall because they thought I worked at the Y. Pretty soon I knew all of the guys at the rock wall. I was there, I like to chat, they were interesting and they had problems they wanted to talk about. I didn’t know what to expect when I went back to work. Currently I manage an ice cream and smoothie shop. It’s not glamorous, a lot of the time I’m lonely and that’s why I’m looking for a new job. Right now I’m the general manager which sounds more impressive than it actually is. I have four assistant managers. All four of them are nineteen year old boys who go to school together. They're every bit as cool as the guys at the rock wall and one of the things I think I should get credit for is how I’ve trained my staff to handle things.

My mother-in-law was down two weekends ago. We went shopping and we went to the mall I work at. I introduced her to some of my friends. On the way back I was telling her some of their stories. We were almost halfway home when I got a call from one of my employees. She was calling to tell me that she was taking her mother into urgent care and wouldn’t be able to work. I told her to take care of her mother and not to worry about work. I didn’t want to go to work but if that’s what I had to do then that was what I as the manager was going to have to do. I called the guys who were working that day. The phone rang four times before I hung up so I knew they were busy. A couple minutes later I called started calling cell phones. I asked the first guy who answered if he could stay late. He had plans to take his girlfriend out. It was one of the reasons I had scheduled him to work in the middle of the day. I fully expected that I would have to go in to work that day. I was annoyed at the inconvenience but the girl who called in is a good employee who has never called in before.

One of the things I do is delegate things to other people. When I’m gone my assistants are in charge. They leave me notes and I tell them to call me if they need something. One of the coolest things about my staff is the way they react to difficult situations. Saturday is one of the busiest days we have. By the time I got off the phone with the girl who had called in sick the two guys who were working had put together a plan for how to run the rest of the day. I ended up not having to go into work at all. I thanked the guys who had covered for the girl who had called in and I let them know she was willing to take a shift for them.

I have an awesome group of people that work for me. They’re clean cut, reliable, hard working and they are a ton of fun to work with. My standards are high. I expect a lot out of those kids and I have given them raises as they have taken on more responsibility. I know what’s going on in their personal lives, we communicate well, they know what they can expect from me and I try to make the journey to the next level as pleasant as I possibly can. I don’t worry about work when I’m not there because I can trust the people I work with to handle whatever situation arises. It is time for me to find something new because the boss I had is going to take over a different store and I don’t get along with her brother the way I did with her. She taught me a lot about being a good boss. I have a box for time off requests. The last time I opened that box there were notes from two of the guys I work with. One of the notes had a smiley face at the bottom and the other one was a detailed explanation of how one of my employees had handled a difficult problem he had encountered.

During my last job interview I was able to tell the woman interviewing me about my staff and the way I ran things. Two of my employees won’t be with me for the summer. They’re two of my best crew members and I already know about their plans to leave. These are nineteen year old boys and I am going to give them credit for being fabulous people that I will miss working with. When I leave I’m going to keep the good people I worked with in mind and I’m going to try and take as many of them with me as I can. I haven’t gotten a new job but my last interview went well. I met with the woman in charge of Human Resources. At the end of the interview she had a two page list of notes and I had a much better idea of what she was looking for. Before the big group interview I was talking with a friend of mine. He knows I want a new job. I told him I was nervous about the interview and he told me that they would meet me and know that I was the perfect person for the job they were trying to fill.

I was interviewing for a position in inventory which wasn’t ideal but I was willing to take it if it meant getting my foot in the door. We were sitting by the coffee shop when I saw a girl who works at the bank walk past. Several people walking past were people I recognized. The woman interviewing me told me she was on the fence about hiring me for the inventory position. She mentioned that they had a new position that hadn’t been implemented due to the economy and budget constraints. At the end of the interview she told me she would like to have me in that position if and when it becomes available. Right now I don’t want to be working where I’m at. It’s hard to motivate myself to go in to work but once I’m there I put a lot of time and effort into making sure things are the best that I can make them. I couldn’t do my job if the people who worked for me weren’t of the caliber that they are. This is my salute to them because people in the mall know who we are, they come and see us even when they’re not working. They bring their friends in to meet us and we’ve even had employees from some of the other ice cream places at the mall ask me for a job.

I don’t want to forget the lessons I’ve learned from working where I do. When the time comes to part ways I will be sad to go. The people I work with are my friends and I’d like to think that I’ve helped them become better people. I’ve watched them grow and I’ve seen them respond positively to changes in the power structure at work. They were on my side when I got a new boss and it was pretty cool to hear some of the things they said about the way I ran things. I don’t know what the future holds for any of the people who are in my life right now but I don’t want to lose touch with any of them. They’ve helped me, they’ve taught me things I didn’t know before and my definition of node for the ages is writing about people who have touched my life for the better. This node is for those people. I love you guys and I couldn’t imagine life without you. You guys rock. Keep up the great work no matter where you go and I know it’ll be far because I know you. I believe in you and some day the dreams you have will become a reality for you.

This is for all the people I work with who will probably never read this. Here’s looking at you kids.

At various times I have written about my good friend Chris, and this is another of those tales, but not really about him.

Chris and his wife Kim have five children, whom they love passionately. They're all pretty sweet kids, the youngest are all honor students. Eldest Beth is a sensitive girl who is actually starting to make a little money writing short web profiles, and loves books. Joel is the oldest, in high school and a nice kid, but the past few years have been marred by a major case of Teenage Boy Disease. You know what i mean, smart kid thinks he's smarter than everyone, including his parents and teachers. Random self destructive acts of defiance. It's a common illness only cured by years of butting heads with Reality.

Joel has a friend, another outcast student who spent about six weeks living with Chris and his family. The reasons are many, but he went home only one day when he missed school and the school called to ask where he was. And if they even knew where he was.

They had not seen their son in six weeks and did not care. Nor do I blame him. When a kid says "Wow, it's really great sleeping on a bed," that's prima facie evidence of a problem. So is the fact that you can smell their house from the driveway, or the fact that the lawn is three feet high, but no one dares mow it for fear of beer can shrapnel.

Oh and they got mad at him once and cut up his clothes. All but two outfits. at least that's all he has.

Chris and Kim really don't know what to do. The kid has a year and a half of school left, but he's 17 1/2 and is now a good time to get him into the Children's services system? They're willing to take him in too, but their house is pretty full. They would have to move him to the basement, and that would meen putting in an egress window, a $4K option they don't really have. And who knows what children's services would do. The closest relative is in Buffalo, and has never come to visit. Not that i blame them, I'd have to sterilize anything I wanted to sit on.

And they say he's basically a good kid, not a troublemaker when he has every reason to come out truly messed up. That's probably one reason Children's services aren't involved already. He doesn't stick out quite enough for someone to realize how bad things are at his home.

I have seen some really bad parenting in my day, and some really good parents dealing with problem kids. In a way this kid has been good for Joel because he's finally seeing what a truly dysfunctional family looks like. Someday this boy will probably have a family, and he will have no idea what one is supposed to look like. I think they know they have to get Children's Services involved, but both Chris and Kim realize that once that call is made things will spin out of control. The boy may end up with no one who cares about him, and no home. For him to stay with them would be the best possible outcome because they both are gifted parents who love children and find the time to be with and listen to them. They would show him what a family is supposed to be.

I hope he gets that lucky, because the boy is certainly due.

Introspection is a mind-altering substance. Introspection while on a mind-altering substance is a dark and sinister thing. You feel like you're alone in a labyrinth, with only a thin line clutched in your hands to guide you back to reality, and a minotaur lurking somewhere in the suffocating walls of the maze, ready to devour you like a Mahi Roll at the local sushi place.

Life is a bewildering blur for a young man going from a shitty situation in life, a childhood not worth remembering, a yawn-inducing adolescence, to something completely alien to him: feeling like he has become the man he always wanted to become. This young man is someone who spends twenty years of his life wishing he could be somebody, and when he finally becomes that somebody, he has no idea how to handle it. He spent too much time wishing, and not enough time actually planning things out as though they might actually happen.

He welcomes the never-ending conveyor belt of problems in adult life, because it makes him feel like an adult, and not some pudgy teenager hiding in his bedroom, wondering when he'll need to start shaving. Paying bills, opening up bank accounts, scheduling doctor's appointments, worrying about taxes --- he drops these problems into daily conversation, because it makes him feel like a grown-up.

But he feels more regret than anything else: part of him wishes he could regress, hang out forever with his stoner friends from high school, instead of fleeing to the sanctuary of grown-up life. The problems these days are far more abstract than he's used to dealing with. He's not broke. He's not friendless. He has a degree, and some sort of marketable skills that will land him an acceptable job, until he feels the urge to move on at some point in the unforeseeable future. He's not working 40 hours a week while trying to keep awake in class the next morning. Life, by any objective tallying, is good.

But he's lonely and bewildered. He has no idea where he'll be in ten years: it could be across the country, it could be in an entirely different country. For all he knows, he could be dead or in jail. The strutting young man in him puts on a wall of reserve and calculation, but deep down, he still wishes he were still in his senior year of high school, when everything was certain and you didn't need to exert any effort to maintain the illusion.

Life is distractingly complicated. He's afraid that if it gets any more complicated than this, he'll be so gawk-eyed in wonder that he loses track of everything. Work is boring. Women are complicated and beautiful. One woman in particular. School is almost over, laughably easy, and the degree is in the mail. Work is exciting again, because his boss is relying on him now. And the present and the foreseeable future are gratifyingly hard, and that's his insurance policy against inattention.

What will happen if life gets easy, and he stops paying attention? What will happen when he gets the wife, kids and mortgage he feels he's supposed to want? He prays it will never happen, and goes to bed.

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