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Sunday, March 07, 2004

The Accidental Therapist* 

A woman who once worked for me hated the way I laughed. If I had liked her at all then, I might have had some sympathy for her – after all, in our tiny shared office, we were cooped up rather like factory-farmed hens. But I didn't like her: she was a trial, my own personal tribulation, a pestilence raging at biblical scales on a private stage. After 9- or 10-hour days working with her, I often went home to my family in tears asking, "What could I have done to her?" To her credit, after over 2 years of torturing me for reasons that had nothing to do with me, she apologized.

Long before her apology, I practiced a releasing technique of sorts without realizing that that's what I was doing. Every morning before I opened our office door, I stood for a second outside the maelstrom, took a deep breath, and imagined myself swathed in a protective force field of white light. I didn't know anything about the New Age mysticism surrounding "white light", or anything about this particular type of meditation technique. All I knew was that the little quieting ritual helped me keep my sanity until Dustan came along.

Dustan was a pre-med student employed in a clerical position by a nearby group. He occasionally stopped by our office to use our printer. Eventually he started chatting with me about printers and computers. His curiosity and excitement was a welcome contrast to the resistance I was meeting in my office. The woman I shared the office with never missed an opportunity to tell me how much she hated computers and that they were a passing fad in the graphic arts field – a sentiment shared at the time by a great majority in the graphics field, including the faculty in U of I's school of Art and Design.

The student interns I was getting from that school were so resistant to new technologies that they couldn't seem to grasp basic concepts such as how to retrieve their files from our file server each day they returned to work. Dustan happened to stop by the office the day I was frustrated to my breaking point. Without the typical portfolio review or interview, I offered him a job as a graphic designer, and, a bit dumbstruck, he accepted. Later he went on to become an Art Director in NYC at companies like Forbes and AOL. But the year he worked with me, his energy helped remind me of the reasons I'd first gone into graphic design.

* Apologies, Anne Tyler.


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