mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

Career Disillusionment, Part 1

What Is the Story?found in my notebook - April 2001

Yesterday I talked about the "loss of innocence" or "disillusionment" story. It not only describes the books that I always go back to, but also captures the essence of a story I'd like to tell about myself.

My recent brainstorming about "what next" got me to thinking: why not do a little video about my so-called retirement from the Institution? My life was one way; I got to a crisis point and made a decision; now my life is this other way.

It's been a topic I've avoided in my writing since my departure from "the Institution" in December, except for a few rants in my private notebook. Why pick at the pain and bitterness? My life is so much better now. Isn't living well the best revenge? But maybe if I weren't living well I wouldn't have the courage to probe into the history of how I got here. And maybe there are some universal themes that others out there could identify with.

Films must start with story, so I forbade myself from thinking of what visuals I have on hand or what sound bites I could easily get. Write the story. I decided to dig out my Robert McKee and use his advice to set up the structure. I walked away from my computer and email and news feeds to cocoon myself in the ground floor study with a notebook and colored pens. Scribble, scribble, scribble.

My initial premise was simple: What does it feel like to abandon a really good career and start over? It wasn't that long ago that I thought I had the best job in the world -- I could shape the work myself, the work tapped all my talents, and the whole effort was for the best possible cause -- children.

So what the heck went wrong?! This story is not really about the aftermath of quitting. It has to be about how I got here.

An insight: I never wanted anything more out of life than to give myself over to a great Cause. As long as the Cause gave me lots of work, lots of problems to solve, lots of ideas to sift through, I didn't need much else. I'm not a Cause Leader, but a Cause Worker Bee. So how could I quit just because the going got rough? Isn't that when the true heroes of the Cause hunker down? Aren't the "winter soldiers" the ones who stick it out through the worst of times?

But somehow, for me, the Cause got replaced by the Corporation. And the Corporation -- through the mechanisms of sycophants and suck-ups -- subtly becomes synonymous with the Executive Ego. It's not like I didn't know about that phenomenon. It just wasn't supposed to happen to me. Continued >>>

9.21.04

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