There’s a word for that

Am I on the way up?

Change is an awfully big place. And in its house are many windows with very different views on the world.

It’s been over six months, since I posted anything here on this blog.

Life has been busy. In the time since my last post, I went from a purportedly stable long-term contract situation at a nearby office of a Massachusetts-grown multinational… to a fantastic opportunity of a permanent full-time position at an even bigger Massachusetts-grown multinational with twice the commute… to being one of nearly 200,000 employees at two tech monsters which will be merging sometime next year, provided everything goes according to plan.

Of course, a better offer could come in. Or someone could change their mind. Or someone or something could intervene. The deal is not done yet (tho’ you’d never know it, the way people keep talking about it), and there are a boatload of unknowns. Most of what I know is common knowledge to everyone, courtesy of the tech industry press. But the consensus seems to be, “It’s happening” — so, there we have it.

I was a smidge unsettled for about 36 hours after the announcement, a week ago. What will become of us? What will happen to my job? Why did this have to happen so soon after I started? Does that make me vulnerable? What about seniority (which I don’t have at this company)?

It is unsettling. Until I realized that in 20-some years in high tech, this sort of uncertainty has been the norm. It truly has. Even at “stable” companies, there was constant upheaval. There’s bound to be, in any emerging industry, and for all its familiarity to us now, realistically, high tech is new on the scene.

Compare it to agriculture. Or manufacturing. Or the trades. Or hunting and gathering. High tech has barely had time to let its most recent coat of paint dry, so to speak.

It’s very easy to get caught up in existential angst, whilst everything around you shifts and changes. It’s easy to fall into thinking that the last situation was so much more predictable (actually, it wasn’t), or that a different opportunity would have had more guarantees (no, it wouldn’t), and then to sink into the malaise of thinking nothing stable ever existed in the first place. It’s easy to feel precarious, threatened, even disposable. Chaos. Shifting chaos. Served piping hot with two healthy sides of WTF? and Not again! It’s hard to see where it’s all leading — especially when you’re in uncharted territory (like getting swept up in the largest tech merger on the planet… ever).

And so, in the midst of all the upheavals and the transformations, I look for meaning in it all. I look for words that will describe what I’m experiencing — words that connect me to others who have been through similar situations.

We live in times when words are cheap. They’re easy to find, online and everywhere else, and we can get them in writing, spoken language, illustrations, songs, videos, paintings… you name the medium, we’ve got words.

And we’ve got them coming at us from every conceivable direction. Reading the news about tech merger developments, depending on the source, the reportage can be hopeful, chipper, cynical, or dire. Or it could mean something else. And the specific words that people use to describe the action can tell us a lot about what’s going on behind the scenes. There’s a lot being said. And a lot not being said. And a lot that people are trying to not say, but that gets revealed in their choice of words.

So yes, I am paying a lot of attention to words, these days.

And in the absence of stability, a dearth of confirmable details, I’m paying particular attention to the meanings of the words being used. As I sort through the veritable deluge of combinations of letters and sounds that act as containers for meaning, I often stop to ask: What does that word really mean? Not just what it means when a certain person uses them, but what it really means, in essence. I take words apart and whittle them down to their etymological origins, thinking about how the words came to be in the first place. What purpose did they serve? What needs did they meet? Why would someone back in 1387 need to use a word like this, and what the heck did they do before they had that word to encapsulate that concept? Did they not think about that concept at all? Or did they have another word they used instead?

It’s frivolous. It’s heady. It’s fun. And while navigating the shifting sands beneath disruptive technologies and evolving industries, the practice tosses an anchor into the far distant past to steady my proverbial ship and keep me moored in the truth that, while things may seem chaotic and dramatic and uncertain, that’s pretty much been the case for much of humanity for as far back as we have recorded history — probably even farther back.

They say, “Change is the only constant.”

I say, “And whatever you might be thinking at this moment… someone was thinking it, umpteen years before… and there’s a word for that.”

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About Kay Stoner

I'm an independent writer, editor, and trainer, specializing in helping people get - and keep - their jobs.
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