Twenty years ago, I cut my journalistic/public relations teeth in a job I wasn't much prepared for at another St. Paul college -- my alma mater, at that. I was all of 26 years old when I started, and I think I made a grand sum of about $16,500 a year. I had been a golden child as a student: honors in English, a practically perfect G.P.A., faculty who showered me in adulation. What I didn't know: They'd treat me like crap as soon as I joined the administration. And the place ran like a harem with PMS. Three presidents, three bosses and seven years of loyalty later, my job -- and my salary -- was sheared by half in a fit of cost-cutting. That was the beginning of the end of that journey.
But along the way, I had worked with some really lovely and talented people who, like me, needed jobs to survive and endured no small amount of abuse to put food on their tables. One, Barb, a graphic designer, had a houseful of kids ranging from teens to preschoolers. She was enormously talented and, of course, she could hardly wait to get outta there. After she lost a child in an auto accident and her husband to a heart attack, she designed books for a small local press. Today, she paints. After unspeakable tragedy (she doesn't remember most of it, she says protectively), she still smiles.
I had lunch with Barb today -- our first in 20 years. We're going to do it again. Life is short, so I might as well spend it with people I really, really like.