Re-visiting places that you use to inhabit, such as schools, homes, and playgrounds, usually invokes a sense of warmth and wonder. You gaze at these old surroundings, noticing the changes, while ghost-like wisps of memories long past flit about in your mind. Some of the memories are only able to come back as vague emotional imprints: Joy here or Sadness there. Some memories come back in full Technicolor. For me, that’s usually the embarrassing memories; the ones where I did something stupid or careless and ultimately humiliating to myself or someone else. When it comes to guilt trips, I can set one hell of an itinerary.
Re-visiting places you have worked may or may not hold the same traits, or if they do, they might bend more towards the dark, malevolent shadows instead of ghost-like wisps and the vague feelings of joy replaced by fear, hate, or anger.
I bring this up because moving back to Alaska has meant coming back to a job that I mostly loved, but sometimes despised. My job here is as a “Computer Operator”. A glorified button pusher is what I am. I operate the computer-controlled targets on the MPTR (Multi-Purpose Training Range), IPBC (Infantry Platoon Battle Course), and sometimes at the ISBC (Infantry Squad Battle Course) and the Shoot House, which is a one floor ballistic block construction divided up into rooms for units to simulate CQB (Close Quarters Battle). Most of the people I work with are like me, former military service, disillusioned, dissatisfied, and most of us, “disabled” in one way or another. Despite the variety of “dis-es” we possess, we are a free-wheeling, fun-loving bunch. We all have PhD’s in BS, enjoy laughing at each other and have no problem laughing at ourselves.
I love this job for the obvious reasons, it’s a fun atmosphere, the work is incredibly easy, and it pays better than any other job I’ve ever had. I despise it because it’s not the kind of job that relates well to any other position anywhere, offers no real advancement either professionally or educationally, and because the job, combined with my general lack of motivation, is a trap. The worst part of it all is that I can feel myself no longer growing. This job is the professional equivalent of “stasis”, which alone is not a bad thing. However, when coupled with the fact that I have yet to embark on a serious career, it becomes particularly unsettling. When you find yourself asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, not out of curiosity, but because you need ideas… it is not a good time to be finding yourself in a position with no advancement or transferable skills.
That being said, the memories that came back to me as I arrived on my first day of work were almost entirely pleasant. Since I had only been gone a year, most of the memories are still fully intact. Most of the players are still here and their roles have hardly changed. The work, just as I remembered it, is still easy; the pay, even better than before. Yet, with all this familiarity, I cannot help but feel a sense of dread, an unfortunate effect of needing a job more than it needs you.