There was a time when my job had me travel all over the world. In style. I’d be jetting to all the nice places in the world, often receiving VIP treatment. That had nothing to do with my stature as a human being but was a reflection of my role in an industry that deeply regrets the good old days of travel more than anyone else. The airline industry.
A few years ago I had my fill of that life and quit my job.
The timing wasn’t perfect as we were at the peak of the credit crunch and there wasn’t much work. Still, I got lucky and got a job at a company where I made a deal with my boss. He would do the travel and I would mind the shop. He was as delighted as I was.
That company went bust last year; the credit crunch finally got me.
I then picked up a few consulting contracts and spend a lot of time developing Genetic Fractals, which as you know – if you have been to this blog before – is both a mathematical model of the things this world is made of as well as the pretty things I create with it.
Then, at the start of this year, over lunch a friend asked me if I could do an interim replacement. Sure. In the Netherlands. Eh…OK…
This is where it gets weird. I am Dutch but for the last 30 years I have mostly lived in France close the Geneva just across the border. The office I was asked to work in just happens to be in a town where I grew up. I accepted the job of course; a job is a job is a job. I negotiated that I would work Mondays and Fridays in Geneva (Switzerland) and Tuesdays to Thursdays in the Netherlands.
This sort of euro commuting is quite common now. On Tuesday mornings I get up at 4:15 AM, drive to the airport, board a flight to Amsterdam, take a bus to the town I work and then pick up a bicycle. So at 9:30, I cycle in to work and make myself a coffee.
As this is the town of my childhood, I still have a sister there. She kindly puts me up every week; home from home.
When I traveled before, I was the VIP boss that graced the kind locals with his presence. Now, when I cycle into work, I am just another Dutchman. I carry sandwiches in my bag for lunch and for the first time since 30 years, I speak my own language at work. As I sit behind my desk, my brain occasionally flips. Do I really live in France, with a family? Does all that really exist, or, was it just a long dream and I’m just a guy who never left his home town?
Last night I walked the streets of my youth. My parents – who never left this town – have both passed on and none of my old friends are still here; it is a small town. As I walked past my old house, past street corners where we used to ‘hang’, past a canal where we’d go fishing, my spatial memory took over. Sights I had long forgotten popped back into my head before I saw them. A fence, a white house, a row of trees. This long atrophied part of my brain came alive again and swapped out the life I thought I had. If I had bumped into my best friend aged 17, I wouldn’t have blinked. (In reality this best friend married young and dropped off the friend’s map. Last I heard he walked out on his wife and daughter and is “enjoying” a post-midlife crisis with a woman half his age).
As much as I love cycling into work to do an ordinary days work, this job won’t last. I have no intention of becoming a hardcore euro commuter and most likely this interim job will lead to other things. But when it does, and I go back to working in Geneva and may well start jetting all over the place again, I shall miss this bizarre time travel from one home to another of two versions of the same man. And it reminds me that we are never one person. Not only do we evolve and change, we are all that we were and that we will be at the same time.
There is something fractal about that.