It had already been a full day at work, but it wasn’t over yet. I drove to the university campus and parked, placing a permit hanger on my rear-view mirror before stepping out into the warm air. I took off my tie and threw it on the passenger seat, rolled up my sleeves, and grabbed my notebook. It was finals week, the last week before summer and the campus was already sparsely populated, I saw the occasional cap and gown as graduation ceremonies would be going on into the weekend. I thought of Sierra for a moment, sometimes I wondered what I would do if I ran into her, she was still a student here after all, but for how long? She was young, so it’s possible she still had a year or two left. Chances were one in a thousand of running into her anyway.
The air inside the building that housed the college of business was cool, I took the stairs rather than the elevator to the top floor, listening to my steps echo through the empty hallways. The building was older, probably built in the seventies, I was somewhat surprised to find the office suite I was going to had been heavily updated. I felt I was walking into the office of a tech startup, it looked liked they’d lifted a page from the office layouts I’d seen at Google and Apple. The place was largely empty except for a man in his late thirties wearing a t-shirt and jeans reclining on an organic-looking sofa with his sandaled feet up on an equally organic-looking communal ottoman idly swiping on a iPad Pro.
“Hello, are you Jim?” I asked glancing around the office for anyone else, figured this had to be my contact.
He sat for a moment as if he hadn’t heard, then got up and glanced over his iPad as if I was an old colleague coming to pay him a visit.
“Yes, you Jason?” He asked calmly.
“Yes, pleased to meet you.” I said, shaking his hand.
“Come on back, let’s get started.” He said walking back to a small corner office.
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when I accepted this consulting job. It was only a part time position at the university, just barely manageable in addition to my full time job, but the salary and benefits were generous for the number of hours. I figured that now that I was single, this would be a good use of my extra time.
I also wasn’t quite prepared for dealing with IT in an education setting. It certainly was different from the more formal, professional business environment I was used to. Jim’s office doubled as a small server closet with a floor to ceiling rack lit up like Christmas. It was messy, disused parts littering the tables and floors. A flight log sat open on the table indicated he was probably an amateur pilot. And against the far wall leaned an Ibanez electric guitar, and near the window overlooking the manicured campus lawns and trees was a set of effects pedals hooked to an amplifier gave some indication how he probably spent a few of his breaks (or perhaps some of the time he should have spent working). Against one wall was his workstation, 4 monitors hooked to a Mac. He pulled up a OneNote notebook that was the mother-lode of information for this project, I was a bit taken aback at the lack of organization and operational security. In one file here were plain text admin passwords for a dozen servers I’d soon be managing, all of which lacked any apparent naming convention and were just esoteric or mundane proper names, including a misspelling of a Greek deity (ahhh, the students of today, the future of America). Chances are, they were just named whatever popped into the student/researchers head at the time the server was hastily brought online for a research project. I was happy to have Jim to say the least. He inherited an even bigger mess than he was bequeathing to me. My first task was the risk and cost/benefit analysis of this entire shebang.
By the time I left Jim’s office the sun was sinking behind the mountain to the west. I paused in the stairwell to text with Her for a bit. Things were going well, our hearts only seemed to grow closer with each passing day, but with that, the longing grew to be with her. While I wouldn’t trade my relationship with Her for anything, long distance relationships are poignant beasts, they make you even more aware of your loneliness in some ways. I was beginning to sense that I was entering a new chapter of my life. The world seemed wide open in terms of opportunities for relationships and career, but it was also far more lonely, I had less reason to go home than ever; probably why I had taken this second job, a few extra hours a day hardly seemed to matter. My spirit hungers, but I’m unable to see anything that could satisfy it. For so long, being a Christian had lent purpose to my life, being a father, a husband, a spiritual leader, and teacher. Life used to be one big journey to heaven with all my friends and loved ones, but what was it now? I felt I’d left my place of comfort and been thrust into a wild, forbidding, empty wilderness. I felt a continual deathly, hollow silence in my life, like those empty hallways in that school building let out for summer.
Guess I can always ask The Boss.