Today’s blog is brought to you by the ever lovely and hilarious storyteller, Rachel Mullen.
My senior year of college, one of my best friends got me hooked on Lost. You know, that show where a plane and a bunch of people crash on a mysterious island and a bunch of weird things happen (oh, and Matthew Fox. Better-than-Party of Five-Matthew Fox).
One of my favorites is Episode Five, Season Four: “The Constant.” It’s been called one of the greatest television episodes of the century, and for good reason. In “The Constant,” Desmond, one of the Losties, starts flashing back and forth in consciousness between 1996 and 2004, the present. TIME TRAVEL, PEOPLE. But, his brain is short circuiting from switching between times, and pretty soon, he won’t have anything consistent in either time to keep him stable, will lose all sense of self, and perish (classic bloody nose lets us know, “It’s a matter of hours!” until imminent brain aneurysm). He must figure out some way to anchor himself. How say you? By finding a constant—something he really cares about that is present in both 1996 and 2004.
Hi, I’m Rachel Mullen. It’s nice to meet you! I’ve been a member of the NP Denver tribe since 2016. And, I’m sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t going to be a blog about time travel. But it is going to be a blog about constants.
It’s been a weird year, team. I’ve had a lot of change and instability, leaving an amazing community I worked with for 4.5 years, then departing a different role after only one year (supervisors/anyone who is employed/people of the Earth: please be good to one another). I found myself working remotely for an awesome-sauce education-based organization as a project manager and educational consultant. Remote! “WOW!” you say. “You. Are. So. Lucky. Entire days in PJs, no commute, just you and your dog all day? Sign me up!”
Yes, it is Smokey and me all day, but he’s not the greatest co-worker. While he has won multiple international awards for snuggling, he’s a horrible conversationalist, and as of late, has been dropping death farts while he lays at my feet in my home office.
I am appreciative to say that I’m writing this blog to you from a place of a heckuva lot of privilege. I live an amazing life! I have so many friends, can afford my bills, and I have something called free time, not to mention a million other things that make my life great that so many other people don’t have (even death farts from your dog, because, hey, I can at least afford to have a dog).
And yet, team, this year has been weird, because straight up, I have been lonely. Working from home has its perks, but, overwhelmingly, I have been not been able to get past feeling lonely. It’s a nuanced word—I’ve heard people say being lonely is a state-of-mind. And, that you can be lonely even when you’re around a ton of people. It’s different than being alone. And, truthfully, with the endless Colorado Winter of 2018, it’s probably been a little bit of both—me working alone, and, that state-of-mind of not being connected. I miss SO MUCH the electric energy of being in the presence of others, making things happen, creating things together, and sharing a community for the 8-hour work day. Sure, I Skype with people for my work, yes, I’ve tried coworking spaces (not for me), and I do things almost every night after work with friends and my partner, but I’m Rachel F’ing Mullen, and I’m a HUGE extrovert. I LIVE for being with other people.
I get it that our world is moving more towards work like this. And, everyone is different—some people thrive in a remote work environment! Call me old fashioned, but even if the latest trends say we can lower costs and be more efficient working from home, I think we still NEED connection. Studies show this, too. We need each other. We need constants when life throws us curve balls and instability.
In Lost, Desmond enlists this super nerdy scientist named Daniel in 1996 to help him with his constant problem.
Daniel Faraday: …Every equation needs stability, something known. It’s called a “constant.” Desmond, you have no constant. When you go to the future nothing there is familiar. So if you want to stop this, then you need to find something there, something that you really, really care about, something that also exists back here in 1996.
Desmond Hume: This constant, can it be a person?
Daniel Faraday: Yeah, maybe. But you have to make contact. Didn’t you say you were out on a boat in the middle of nowhere? [Desmond picks up a phone and begins dialing] Uh, who are you calling?
Desmond Hume: Calling my bloody constant.
Because your constant can be OTHER PEOPLE, Desmond shows up at his long-lost love and ex-girlfriend Penny’s house in a 1996 time travel moment and tells her not to change her phone number, because he’ll be giving her a ring in 2004, and she HAS TO PICK UP, otherwise, he’ll die. Good thing she hasn’t bundled her internet with her cell phone, guys, because 2004 Desmond gets a satellite phone to work momentarily on the island, calls her on the number he told her not to change, and after several rings, Penny picks up. He remembers who he is, stops having nose bleeds, avoids death-by-time-travel, and we’re all reduced to a puddle of tears. You can watch it all go down here.
And me, who keeps showing up as my constant? I’m lookin’ at you NP. I’ve felt like I was on a boat in the middle of nowhere sometimes this year. But, NP has been the one anchor constantly, consistently, keeping me afloat. Because, in the end, like Desmond, NP is people, and people are my constant.
In my own kind of unstable time warp, the great people of NP have reminded me of who I am, have offered help, and have been my community. My face-to-face, close personal relationships have come from coffees with you, burpees until our arms fall off, and even working with you (holla NP Remote Working Women group for getting me out of the house). The mental and emotional challenge of spending my working days without community this year has taken a toll on me. I mean this sincerely—NP has made all the difference. The electric energy I’ve missed of doing things with other people, in-person, comes right back every morning I show up to NP.
It doesn’t matter what your constant is—it could be your church or your knitting club. There are people out there, like you, who wake up at 5:50a.m. every Wednesday and Friday for funzies. Find it, use it, rely on it. Life is about relationships. Show up, even if it’s hard, even if you’re late, even if you haven’t been in a long time. You’ll leave more anchored in who you are and where you’re going. Also, hugs. Lots of them.
Is remote work for me long-term? Probably not. I hope soon, I’ll be able to join an in-person work community again (and, if your company is looking for a super-organized project manager who gets things done and is great with people, let’s talk). Smokey will miss me and I’ll miss him, but I won’t miss his farts.
Until then, I have you NP. And I’ll have you when I’m back in my stable place, too. And, again, when life inevitably throws some instability my way again. You’re my constant. So, don’t you change your number, EVER NP. I’ll be calling you years from now, anytime I need to find that anchor. Because I know you’ll be there for me.