Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A weird sort of camelot


I saw an old friend today. Reminiscing with her reminded me that many of Todd’s and my friends happen to be people we met at an old job. The same job where, conveniently, we also met each other. It’s odd; I exchange Christmas cards with one lady I taught school with, I'm still close to a gal with whom I suffered through a year at a law firm…but I keep close tabs on about 10 folks from that one communications firm, not counting my husband, and I stay loosely aware of the whereabouts of at least 10 more.

Why? What is it about the time spent there that keeps us in overlapping social circles? Most of us have discussed how it’s unusual, and the only thing we’ve ever come up with as far as explanation is that this particular company hires great people. Not to sound smug, but they really do. I met some of the brightest, most creative people I’ve ever known when they were my co-workers at that firm. I still wonder how I made it through their doors. Desperation on their part, I guess. ; )

But it has to be more than that. I can’t help believing there’s a deeper reason for us to keep reaching out to each other, even now—especially when you consider that the vast majority of us are no longer employed by this company.

I have a theory, and I’ve decided to dub it “The Camelot Factor.” When I first joined the firm, and for about two years after that point, the company was profitable and popular; they made every effort to wear that success well. The leaders didn’t do everything perfectly, by any means, but by and large, they were generous and kind. There were numerous off-site meetings, some rather luxurious, and there were parties and celebrations for every possible achievement. Even when people left the company, they received commendations and a luncheon of some sort. There were funky, artsy clients that amounted to great freebies and discounts for us. There were a number of singles there, most of whom actually liked each other. The result of all this is that a great number of my work memories are of genuinely good, fun times.

But the Camelot Factor requires more than festivities, perks, and social outings to seal that bond between workers. It also requires a majority of folks who are comfortable with who they are and who they’re becoming. It requires a lot of people in similar circumstances, with similar interests. It requires a shared appreciation for hard work well done, and respect for each other. Maybe it even requires some shared suffering. But not just suffering—Lord knows I’ve suffered at some other jobs, and still never formed any lasting bond with my colleagues.

For me, the romance of the place remains rose-tinged because, even though it drove me crazy by the time I left it, I honestly started to like myself when I worked there. I started to feel as if I had something to offer, talents to explore, amazing people to befriend and learn from. When I first started there, I felt so blessed to be part of it. I wonder if my former colleagues recall the same sort of glow, in themselves and others they knew there.

Even now, having chosen to leave the firm years ago, I still carry that blessing, those friends, that wide range of experiences and lessons learned there. I still feel pride that I was part of it in its shiniest days. Stupid, misplaced pride, perhaps—but I can’t deny that it’s in me. Mostly, I am grateful for the many contacts from those days whom I still enjoy on an almost daily basis.

It certainly was no Camelot. And yet—it was quite a “congenial spot,” if not for ever-aftering, then for making memories.

6 comments:

chris h. said...

As part of the charmed Camelot circle (albeit before you), I agree. I did my best work there and was darn proud to be a part of the place. I will never forget sitting in the lobby (on those oh-so-artsy chairs) waiting for my interview and thinking, "I could never work here -- people who know how to draw work here." It was a great opportunity, and I feel so lucky to have been part of it. And yes, I made awesome friendships that 17 years later are still going strong.

Mel said...

glad to hear I'm not alone in my camelot-ing. see, it DID leave more than scar tissue! ; )

Facie :-) said...

And as someone who still works in Camelot, I can agree with most everything you are saying.

Since this is only my second job (12 years and counting, for the love of pete), and at my first job, I worked with people who were old enough to be my mother, it seemed pretty logical that I made many friends at this place. And I am lucky that I see some of those people (current and former Cameloters) fairly regularly (love of food and beer can do that). This, of course, reminds me that you and I have not seen each other in some time. But it really is about the people, including two of whom came back, for varying reasons, and several more who freelance here.

On Monday we are having our annual (apparently) company meeting, complete with some delicious hot lunch afterwards, so some things don't change, thankfully (still no return of bagel and donut days, though).

But if I ever do tire of Camelot, perhaps I can try Camelot East, the local university, where it seems as if half the former employees are now working...

chris h. said...

Oooohhh, didn't know bagel and donut days had gone away (it makes sense, given the circumstances over the years). They were pretty awesome. I can tell you it makes me feel good to walk in the place on the rare occasions I have to thse days and actually get hugs from former colleagus and bosses. That's rare in the working world.

Mel said...

Not sure what it's like these days, but it has become a place that has served me well in many ways.

Athelas63 said...

wow. never had a job like this. never kept in touch with ANY old co-workers. don't actually keep in touch with CURRENT co-workers. Weird. You guys either really hit the jackpot, or .... I don't know...