Iowa, New York, Illinois

December 20th – one month from today – is the thirty-first anniversary of my departure from the University of Illinois.

As with most transitions, this one was a bit blurry. I had my last day of classes; I took my last exam (my final final, as it were); I packed up & moved back home (to Palatine); I received my diploma; and the Big U took official notice of my graduation. These things all happened, but they were spread out over several months. Choosing a single date to serve as the End of College isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I tend to pick the day I moved out of the dorm & back to my mother’s house in Palatine. My involvement with the university didn’t end that day – one could argue that it still hasn’t, thirty years later – but my days as a student surely did.

The university had programs & facilities to ease graduating seniors’ transitions from the groves of academe to the dark, satanic mills of industry – i.e., to help them find jobs. But I was very much in denial, that last semester, and made no use of any of it.

I didn’t own a suit, I had no interviews, I went on no plant trips. When I arrived in Palatine, five days before Christmas, 1983, I had no job, nor any real plan for finding one.

After a month or two of idleness, I cobbled together a résumé & began sending out letters. (I didn’t invest in $2/sheet résumé paper, nor did I have access to a good typewriter or printer; if memory serves, I pursued employment with the Epson dot-matrix printer attached to my mother’s Apple II computer.

It’s a wonder anyone bothered even to read my letters, let alone respond to them or call me in for an interview. But a few did, and toward the end of June I landed a job with Northrop Corporation, at the Defense Systems Division in Rolling Meadows.

When I took the Northrop job, I still had a number of résumés in transit; one or two of them resulted in phone calls.

I turned down an interview for some kind of IT job at Grinnell College, in Grinnell, Iowa. It’s one of the great might-have-beens of my life. If Northrop hadn’t made an offer; if Grinnell College had, and if I’d accepted it – how very different my life would be, from what it is.

The thought of a life without Jennifer is rather troubling.

I also had a long phone conversation with an HR person from a company in Utica, New York. I don’t remember the company or the job, but I do wonder, sometimes, what life in upstate New York would have been like.

But the might-have-beens never were. I stayed in Illinois, held a number of jobs – and met Jennifer.