There are certain places one works where the "we are a family" mantra is actually real. From age 16 to 23, I worked for Nordstrom and my first chosen family were my group of coworkers at the Rack. George was one of them, the sweetest and the silliest known to many of us for his eye roll at the annoying things we'd see, his super fashionista vibe and of course, the one who could holler at you from the end of the block in such a way that you could NOT stop laughing. We danced, we sang, we worked late cleaning up after slobby customers, we were this little family at work that was the foundation of what I expected in my career - yet only rarely saw again after those years. We stayed in touch after I left Portland (this photo from a reunion evening of sorts in the mid 90's at the now-legendary Berbati's) for a while but like many friendships in life, everyone gets caught up in their own thing and drifts apart. Sometimes we find each other years later (I ran into one friend several years ago, found another via Pinterest of all things and we're in regular contact, and reconnected with another during my corporate tech days and consider both a good friend and 'big sis' of sorts).
Nordstrom was more of my high school than high school was, I suppose, in that it created memories and a foundation that impacted my career and my expectations for the world. The Rack was the most female-led and culturally diverse environment I've ever worked in, with The Seattle Times coming in a close second (and also on the 'rare' end of the scale for work relationships and overall culture), both teams led by strong, independent-minded women who marched to the beat of their own drums and guided and inspired, rather than dictated. And because of these experiences, I felt okay to be myself and to grow and evolve over the years with them, and am so grateful for the friendships I made. Sadly when I worked in tech, I never found that 'tribe' that I had in my first two important jobs that took me into my late 20's. Some really great people, yes, but a culture that made people want to stick around and valued all the wonderful ways that made each person unique? Nope. And I am so sad that this is the way for so many of us, working in environments where we don't get the emotional investment from leaders or the tremendous benefits of racial, gender, age, disability, and thought diversity. I think about who I've worked with and wonder,
The other night I was looking up George's name after describing a particularly funny memory of him to my husband, wanting to see where he was these days, and was devastated to instead find his obituary, from late last year.
While I've lost a few colleagues in the past, as well as having experienced the devastation of my own personal losses, reading about the loss of George broke my heart in a particularly unique way. Maybe because of how much younger we all were back then, with so much ahead of us, before things sent us all down such different roads. I'm so grateful to have those memories of George, and of everyone I worked with way back when, and it reminds me to think about life in a way that embraces that two word mantra I first grabbed hold to back then: carpe diem.
Seize the day, folks.