Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing has shifted my attention back to many recent deaths in my own life. A neighbor, a close friend, my martial arts sensei, an old roommate, a close friend’s mom, my great uncle, a long-term ex, and a high school friend have died in the past year. Until RBG’s death, my financial and professional fears overshadowed my feelings about losing people close to me. Now I am forced to consider if finding a new career path is avoidance or my way of finding myself through the chaos.
I am becoming aware that I avoid directly facing death, and that I find it easier to ugly-cry over former students and RBG. While I process my own professional rebirth, I can’t escape the past. I want to blame my inability to face death on the COVID quarantine, but that is too simple. Fact is that grief is hard and I want to avoid it.
I feel like I did four months ago when I received my 2 weeks’ notice. I feel numb and angry. As in June, cleaning my home office and integrating 20 years of my university office stuff is part of my mourning. Through the archaeology of everything in my home office, I have been revisiting my memories. The old newsletters with poems and art by friends from UC Berkeley’s Chicano Studies program illustrate how far my friends have come. The image of my high school friends from the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement) program reminded me that in high school, I dreamt of working with computers. Because of the MESA program, I taught coding to other high school students; I learned dBase. In 1987, I was one of the first to own a laptop, a Toshiba T-1000, because I majored in engineering at UC Berkeley for 3 years before graduating with a BA in Chicano Studies.
So by applying for jobs outside of academia I am not avoiding but connecting to my past…a past I have continued through my side business, http://thisbridge.net. This week I started applying for web and database administrator jobs after, within days of placing an “open to work” notice on my LinkedIn profile, a tech recruiter contacted me. I confess, to my easy comfort, with the idea of working at BioWare, EA, Adobe, Netflix, or Google. I imagine learning new skills and meeting new, smart people with enthusiasm for their work.
Looking back, I am finding myself through the chaos of unemployment, the pandemic, and death. While losing is a part of growth, it is still too soon to accept the loss of RBG 44 days before the 2020 election. Like others, I am enjoying the memories of RBG; the old tv clips and photos help me process the loss. RBG is also a model of working to overcome whatever comes. I absolutely need to worry about work, but I still need to make time for grief. finding myself through the chaos: grief is hard