“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
The other day I strolled into a place that had once been my second home. I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I had stepped through its front door.
I was 23 years old and I walked into a one-room office filled with short-walled cubicles, people talking loudly on the phones, wall-to-wall old carpet and an extremely large Belleville News-Democrat decal strung across the front windows. I felt so young; looking back on it now, I really was that young.
For financial reasons, the News-Democrat shut that satellite office more than eight years ago. I had left journalism just a few months before word came down that they were closing it. The Madison County family of reporters, one photographer, advertisers and admin staff were going to be shipped to the main office in Belleville, to be split up on separate floors where often no one mingles with others from different disciplines.
The shuttered office sat vacant for years. It always made me sad as I drove by it time and time again. Recently someone purchased and transformed it into a juice bar. As I entered, I was taken aback by the newly painted orange walls, the trendy tables and chairs and the upbeat owner who took my order. Equally disconcerting was watching her go back into what used to be the conference room and is now her “kitchen” to put my order together.
Throughout my life, I know I’ve changed – physically, emotionally and mentally. How could I not? But what is sometimes hard to imagine are the places where you spent so much time change just as much as we do. Each one of them— your childhood home, high school, college, even the places you worked, is a part of who we are.
While I sat there eating my lunch in the old newsroom, I thought about what it used to look like, where all the desks used to be and who sat where. I imagined all the faces I had become so accustomed to seeing every day, the sounds of telephones ringing, laughter, the never-ending conversations, even bickering. I could recall how the room felt when an intense news story was breaking. For what seemed like forever, I stared at the back corner of the room where my desk once sat. It seems like a lifetime ago when I was that bright-eyed reporter who wanted to write about what the world had to offer. One word at a time.
As far as changing landscapes go, the News-Democrat office wasn’t my only former office to change. My first “real” job out of college was as a reporter with the Suburban Journals in Belleville, located in a very sad, rundown building on Illinois 159. It has been transformed by an electronic security company into a very high-tech office space. I also worked out of the Collinsville Herald building, which has now stood vacant for more than a decade.
After the News-Democrat, I left journalism to work for the United Way in communications and public relations. While working in that office in Wood River, I taught myself an abundance of skills that have served me well throughout the rest of my career. I also made friends I hope I never lose. But shortly after I left, the office was moved to a smaller location and the building is now a Hertz rental car location.
At Saint Louis University, I came on board as the new Development Marketing Associate, a newly created position whose purpose was initially unclear. With an inkling of direction and the help of my coworkers, I molded the job into what I thought it was intended to—
and should—be. Then after nearly 2 ½ years and after making it into something strong, I decided to leave. Since then, the department was restructured, people have moved, the office has been relocated and my former position now has more structure and definition. I loved my office overlooking the SLU quad but, regrettably, all good things must come to an end.
Most recently, the architecture firm I left hasn’t changed much other than a few less people in the office. Familiar faces, laughter, inappropriate jokes, warm hugs, friends – that’s what I come back to when I walk through those glass doors.
Every time I have accepted a new position, I have done so with the idea that it a part of me is finding a home where I can kick off my shoes and plant my feet with the hope that I’m here for good. While the actual places I’ve worked are just structures, it’s still hard to see them change. Each one of those front doors become another entrance to another home away from home for me and for so many others. We spend so much time with our coworkers that our lives become intertwined. If walls could talk, they would tell us about the laughter, tears, friendships, love kindled, secrets, hurt, triumphs and disappointments.
As I opened the door to leave the juice bar the other day, I felt a tinge of nostalgia for the years I spent in that one-room office – the people I met, the experiences I gained, the friendships I forged, the person I became. I thought of all the things that happened while I worked there: losing my dad, falling in love, getting married… it is hard to believe that one shabby old room could hold so many memories for me.
Obviously, a building is much more than a building when it holds all those moments of who you were that have made who you are now.
“Life is about moving on, accepting changes & looking forward to what makes you stronger and more complete.”