074. A warehouse divided
Reminiscing on an alternate universe
The startup I worked at was based out of an old warehouse in Brooklyn. It was a co-working space already inhabited by a handful of creative professionals who had all known each other for years.
After my company moved in, I got to know some of the creative folk better over bagged lunches and hanging out after work. One ran her own graphic design studio. Another was an artist who specialized in hand-lettering for major name-brand clients. Yet another was a freelance web developer who had designed websites I had actually seen/used before. They were all funny, laidback, and had great taste in film, music, etc.
Their friends/colleagues would drop in to say hi, and they had go-to spots in the neighborhood. They were living proof that you could develop a tight-knit community as adults, something I struggled and failed to do myself after graduating.
However, as my responsibilities at the startup grew, I hung out with the non-startup people less and less. I grew irritable when they were goofing around during the day (why aren’t they working like I am??), and I began to wear noise-canceling headphones to drown out their fun.
Months later, my coworker invited everyone in the warehouse (both startup and creative folk) to his housewarming party in Lower East Side. It was the first time all of us had hung out in a while. I was more my usual myself in the informal setting, chatting and cracking jokes with everyone.
I ended up hanging out afterward with some of the creative folk at a club next-door, and they confided to me that they were seriously concerned with how antisocial I had become recently. I was surprised to hear this. I didn’t realize my behavior had affected them and hadn’t considered that they would even miss hanging out with me.
There isn’t a happy ending to the story.
Regardless of my behavior, the creative folk gradually decided to leave the warehouse in the following months; they no longer felt like it was the same community it once was before my startup arrived. A few months later, it didn’t really matter how anyone felt; the pandemic landed on the East Coast.
Looking back, I see that the warehouse was divided into two universes: my siloed full-time tech startup one and their communal creative one. For a brief moment in time, I inhabited both at once. I could have stepped across that threshold, but I was so focused on my chosen path, I never even considered the possibility.
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