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April 5, 2000

Packing up and moving out. If that's all I'm writing about these days, it's because it's all I'm doing. And as appealing as the prospect of living elsewhere seemed only a few days ago, I have to confess that the actual details of moving generate somewhat less enthusiasm.

It's not as if anything has gone wrong so far. I called the utility company, and the entire transaction took less than five minutes. Gas and electricity are being switched at both the old and new locations exactly as I requested. Today I rented a post office box for the Company, and got exactly what I wanted.

There's been some discussion about mail with the Boss. I asked him if he had any strong feelings one way or the other about whether the Company needed a box, and at first he didn't. As usual, though, he thought it over and came up with a different conclusion.

I was a bit conflicted myself about it. A box would mean I would legitimately get out of the house at least once a day to collect the mail. On the other hand, a box would mean I'd have to get dressed, put some shoes on, fire up my 1988 Honda Civic, and drive once a day from my new rustic retreat to the nearest postal station at least once a day. I'm weighing the convenience of having everything delivered to my door against the excuse of being away from the phone and the computer for a brief daily respite. There was no clear advantage either way, in my mind.

The Boss didn't care, he said at first, but then he thought it over. The next day he told me that he thought it would be safer for me if we had a box. Why should my address be part of the public record, so that anyone looking for the business could find out where I live and come knocking at my door? There's no reason for that, when there's the optional shield provided by a post office box.

I had to agree with this assessment. I framed it differently, though. To me, the real reason for a level of removal from the Company's mailing address is that the Boss tends to piss people off. I mean, really piss people off, to the extent that they come looking for him, with havoc and mayhem on their minds. It would not be a good thing for them to be in this frame of mind, looking for the Boss or his nearest representative, and find me, at my home in the country, unprepared for either havoc or mayhem. I wouldn't want to be afraid to answer the door.

So today I found the post office nearest my new home and rented a box. They had what I needed, and the clerk who helped me even recognized me. She had worked at my current post office for some time, and we remembered each other from there. It was actually the Company's name that triggered her memory. Before she saw that, she knew only that I looked familiar. I get that a lot.

Tonight, I went through the drawers of one of my dressers and sorted out clothes that I never wear. One pile will go to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul, the rest will go to rags or the trash. With Mom's help, I'll be shed of all the unusable belongings I can find time to examine. As I was looking over this stuff, I found some journal pages, written in pencil on loose leaf binder paper, from the distant past. Nothing interesting, except to note how little my life has changed since then:

October 26, 1977. I have this sinking feeling that at 28 it's too late for me. What a revelation, to know that the things you should have done in high school (but didn't) can come back to haunt you ten years later… Every so often I resolve to get out among people more, but it would be so much easier if I knew where to start… Many people are nice to me, but not many want to spend time with me. And I find myself hedging against that possibility anyway, since I don't have the self-confidence to believe that I am capable of sustaining someone's interest.

I'm almost sure I thought I would eventually overcome these insecurities and have a circle of friends who would fill my life with warm companionship. I couldn't have believed it was "too late" at 28. I'll admit I hadn't grown up much since high school, and I was still searching for the same acceptance that I never found there. I wanted a relationship, and I wanted to be part of a group. But that fall of 1977 was actually one of the best times in my life.

I'd just started a new job, working with people who became a second family to me. I was selling children's shoes. Whatever that sounds like in the abstract, to me it was a valuable service that I was performing. The man who taught me how to fit shoes also taught me that the responsibility of the salesperson was to see that the customers got what they needed. He had a strong belief in the products we sold and the importance of keeping people's trust by doing the right thing for them, even if it meant turning them away without making a sale.

The exhilaration of doing something I believed in lasted until the store's new owner cut me loose without a second thought eight years later. That was the biggest shock of my life and my true winter of despair, that time from December of 1985, when I was abandoned and unwanted, until the Boss saved me in August of 1986. Is it any wonder I've been so intensely loyal to him? He gave me a new start at 37, when I'd forgotten how to hope. As much as I sometimes complain about my job, it's the rock that I cling to. I've let it define who I am because, aside from my family, it's been the most constant thing in my life.

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