2006: a transition year?

The time around 1999-2000 was a transition period for me. A couple of elements that were so much of my life that they had become part of my identity were suddenly gone. For one, I quit teaching at the University of Memphis in May 1999. For five years, I had been “Professor Paul,” the computer literacy and math instructor. That truly was the best job I ever had. Nothing against my current job, but there’s just nothing like teaching.

The other thing was, the club where I had hung out 3-6 days a week for a period of about 9 years closed in early 1999. I had made a few close friends there, and a lot of acquaintances who it was good to see once in a while, shoot a game of pool with. When the club closed, we lost our common meeting spot. I found I had nothing to do but sit in my apartment in Midtown. Well, there was actually lots to do, but at the time I really didn’t know where else to go or how to meet people.

So around Summer 1999, I was really a fish out of water. Eventually I met a new group of friends to hang out with, and when the town’s first Starbucks opened a block from where I lived I started hanging out in coffee shops. In 2000 I bought my first laptop so I had a computer to play with while I drank my Frappucinos. (This was years before wireless Internet though – I had to bring my own fun.) The job situation didn’t resolve itself for a while, not until after I got fed up with Memphis and moved to San Diego and subsequently moved back.

Now it’s the summer of 2005 and I wonder if I’m on the verge of entering another transition phase in my life, where a couple of core elements of my identity are shaken up. Over the past few years, I’ve really found my place downtown. I can go anywhere down here and feel comfortable, and I have more friends than I’ve ever had before. A few of my friends have even referred to me as “Mr. Downtown” and I got interviewed for that Downtown Dweller piece in the Commercial Appeal. Trouble is, all the buildings down here are going condo. My apartment building is one of the last holdouts, and I wonder how much longer we have left. There’s no way in hell I could afford to buy my own unit if it were sold.

Yesterday I stopped by Otherlands in Midtown to get some work done on my laptop, and I was surprised that I knew so many people there. I spent more time talking than I did computing. And this morning I woke up and thought, “Yeah… Midtown… I could totally live there.” Now that I have a bike I could ride it to the bars and coffee shops. Rents in Midtown are definitely cheaper, which would not only benefit me financially, but it would also put me among a different set of neighbors, a younger crowd who wouldn’t be able to afford to live downtown. I tend to run with people younger than I am, so that appeals to me.

This Midtown thing is just an idea that has popped into my head. Believe me, when my lease is up in February 2006, if the building hasn’t gone condo I’m going to re-sign for as long a period as they’ll let me so I can stay downtown a while longer. But yesterday was the first time in a couple of years I’ve contemplated living somewhere other than downtown.

Then there’s another key element of my life that’s changing… Mpact. My term on the board ends in November. Although I still enjoy the organization, it’s not the same as it was in 2002-2003. Back then, if you had an idea for an event or program it was easy to run with it and make things happen. That worked well when there were 250-350 members. Now there are over a thousand, and with that many people having great ideas, the organization had begun to seem scattered, and it was hard to tell what Mpact stood for. So, they’re re-focusing their priorities, where the entire organization will be working on a long-term goal.

I think their strategy is absolutely the correct one. The group as a whole needs to stand for something, and it’s particularly important to be focused when asking for corporate funding. But I find I lack a little bit of the passion that I had for Mpact in 2002-2003. For me, it’s always been about the people. This week I ran into three of my favorite people from the group, people I hung out with all the time at Mpact events in the late 2003 time period, but none of them are active in the organization anymore. I miss them – it seems less fun without them. This year I’ve tried to move toward areas of the organization that are more people-based – the Membership Committee and the Social & Sporting Pillar (whose remnants will be reorganized into the Connection Committee, as I understand it). But still, it’s changing and I’m not sure if I’ll play as big a role in 2006 as I have in the past. Maybe I will, I just have to see how the changes will play out. At any rate, I’ll be relieved to be off the Board in three and a half months. At least then if I stay active with the organization, I’ll know I’m doing it because I want to and not out of obligation.

Anyway… it just occurred to me today that some big changes could be coming up in my life. Whatever happens, though, I know I can handle it. I came out of 1999-2000 okay, and I have tons more confidence and people skills now than I did then. My 2005 life would have seemed like a dream come true to the 1999 me. Makes me wonder where I’ll be in 2010.

So, for once, I’ve made a thoughtful, serious post. Hope I didn’t disappoint those of you who came here looking for “What the Bums Are Drinking this Week,” “Drunk Post #37469” and lots of stupid blabbering about tube tops. Don’t worry – this journal will morph back into the crap-fest that it usually is before you know it.