Assumed Audience: People interested in my career shifts—whether out of personal interest or technical interest.
This is a huge change for me: I’ve been at Olo for almost exactly three years now1 and it has been the best job of my career. The people I’m leaving behind are fantastic, and I’m going to miss working with them day in and day out. This is the best team, and the best culture, of anywhere I’ve been so far. Granted a small sample size—Olo is only my third full-time job since I graduated college—I’m still comfortable saying that it’s unlikely to be topped in that sense any time soon.
With such a significant change comes a big blog post, in two parts:
I. On Moving From Olo to LinkedIn: the part to read if you’re just curious about what prompted me to move on from a company I have spoken so well of.
II. On The Experience of Change as An Adult: the part to read if you don’t care about the details of my career as a programmer, but are curious about my thoughts on these kinds of changes as we all experience them.
II. On The Experience of Change as An Adult
That strange mix of emotions is the topic of the second half of this post. Life changes like this are simultaneously momentous and strangely quiet. When I was younger, I expected large shifts in life to have some sense of their importance: a “big bang” feeling to them, and a feeling of finality. It would seem that days like yesterday—as I wrapped up everything that was on my plate and even had a little (all-remote!) hang-out to say goodbye—would lend themselves to just such a sense of import and finality. Instead, it was mostly a day like any other, and at the end of it I was left only with a lingering melancholy.
I recall feeling much the same at every major event in my life since I graduated high school—save three: my wedding, and the birth of each of my first two daughters. Graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree, starting my first job, quitting that job and starting my second job, moving across the country to start seminary, quitting my second job and starting my third (at Olo!), graduating from seminary, moving back across country to live nearer family, and now quitting my third job to start my fourth: each of these seems like a major moment in life. In many ways they were major moments. I can mark important shifts in my own history with them. None of them quite felt like I expected, though.
Much of adulthood is like this, I think: where stories train us to think that life is experienced as stories, with rising action and climax and denouement and clarity about which is which, life as we actually experience it is more self-contiguous than that.
When I was younger, I found the end of The Lord of the Rings rather curious in many ways: Sam’s response made sense to me, and Frodo’s… didn’t, exactly. A truly momentous thing has happened in the world, with his efforts at the center of it. Yet he returns home and finds things not as he expected: the world has changed, and he has changed, and he enjoys his life and goes on living it for quite some time, but with a deep and lasting sense of melancholy. I wonder now, having lived through nothing so momentous as the War of the Ring—or Tolkien’s own experience of the first World War, which was itself an event deserving of the word “momentous”—if part of what Tolkien was painting there was his own sense of life as it simply went on and he found that both he and the world had changed. Though the events we experience do inevitably mark us, they mark us in slower and subtler ways than we imagine as children.
More: the marks they make come not at the moment so much as in all the moments afterward, when many things are just as they were before but so many others are different (and even those, often in ways so small we don’t notice them all that much at first).
I have at times found this actively disorienting. When we moved across the country to be nearer family in late 2017, I kept expecting to feel… something: to have some heightened experience of difference. That wave of emotion never came. My days went on just as they had before, just with a different local time for the meetings courtesy of changing time zones. That there was no obvious half-empty page at the turn to a new chapter left me feeling off: shouldn’t there be?
Yet a year and some months in, my life in North Carolina feels a lifetime away. My friendships are different. My rhythms and routines have all shifted in little ways, pushed on by everything from differences in my family’s schedule to the differences in the weather. I feel the difference the more keenly (if still in that melancholic way) now than I did when I expected to most. It comes out and batters me with grief in surprising ways and at surprising times; and it comes out in little joys at times as well.
I am sure the same will be true of this transition in jobs. These relationships I have built up over the last three years will shift and change. Some of them will fade; others (perhaps surprising ones!) will endure and change but for the stronger. My daily routine will be subtly different, and the particular sources of frustration and joy will shift in kind with the differences in task and the differences in my company culture and all the myriad small things that will be different—and I will not really be able to feel any of those, I think, for quite some time.
This is, I find, much of what it is to be an adult. Life is full not so much of the big moments we expect (and even, to some extent, experience) as children; but rather the slow accumulations of change, the long melancholia, the slow-built joys. Life is sediment, slowly forming something deep. The mighty eruptions that are a marriage or a child’s birth are few; and thankfully so are the earthquakes that are a loved one’s death or other such griefs.
The 18th was my 3-year anniversary, so it’ll be just under three years and one week!↩