A note from Parisleaf CEO Chad Paris: This time has been crazy for all of us at Parisleaf. Throughout the past couple of months, we’ve been encouraging our team to be as real, raw, and vulnerable as they need to be. Our web developer, Kyle, does just that in this piece. I’ve been so proud and inspired witnessing the strength, resilience, and growth of our team during this time of uncertainty. This is what purpose looks like when it’s put to work.
I feel awkward writing about my experience over the past few months. I don’t have good answers when asked about the future. I keep telling myself we’re in the midst of one singular chapter in humankind’s long saga. But this feels less like a straightforward narrative than an ongoing dream. My perception morphs from one moment to the next; feelings and so-called realities are elusive, slippery even, and they often mean more than one thing. Like a dream, surreal images and ideas infiltrate my consciousness. I sometimes feel like I’m stuck in a circular loop. How do you tell a coherent story of a claustrophobic world on pause?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about memory – specifically, its credibility. For example, I remember 2012 being a turbulent time in my life. There was a tough breakup in January and the sudden passing of my grandfather, who also happened to be my closest friend, in February. I was disillusioned with my job.
I began writing a lot around this time as a way to quell the air of malaise that enveloped me. Writing was exploratory and purifying, the best way I could find to untangle my thoughts when nothing made sense.
In August of that year, I traveled 3,000 miles from my home in Florida to study abroad in British Columbia for the next 12 months. I didn’t know a single person in the country. The move may have been a response to my ordinary 20-something ennui or my best effort to write my own next chapter. I can’t recall.
I spent the next year often homesick and vitamin D-deprived, studying programming and design, riding public transportation, and feeling alive.
I passed hours on end devouring the city and getting to know myself better than ever before. I made friends with beautiful people from all over the world. I stayed in the computer lab from 8 a.m. until midnight some days, eating junk food and self-hosting coding benders after class. Time and again, I worked myself to the point of complete burnout. It was always cold and rainy. Toward the end, I couldn’t wait to go home.
That’s what I remember.
I don’t know if memory is worthless, but it seems crazy to value memories alone because they’re so capricious. Recollections are like chameleons: always shifting and influenced by the modern habitat. To remember something is to revise a story again and again. Memories become the product of retroactively injecting emotion into scattered mental remnants, and eventually, you just decide how you feel about the past. At least I do.
I can revisit what I wrote and created during that time in Vancouver and fit again into my past self’s shoes. Back then, it all felt so hard if not significant. Parts of it were miserable. Now, I consider the period among the best of my life.
The great fictional ad man, Don Draper, while journaling his way through his own existential crisis, wrote: “When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere. Just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there, how he forgot where he was going, and that he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel or dreamt of being perfect. We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”
It’s difficult to think about the time before life as we knew it ended, but I miss things I didn’t even know I cared about. Years from now, I’ll reflect on this moment (currently confusing, suffocating, and ostensibly conclusive).
Experience tells me I will remember it fondly. I’ll conjure up images of pianos, Sunday nights with Michael Jordan, working outdoors to the lo-fi groove of wind-fanned palm fronds and neighborhood children on unlimited vacation. I’ll remember my introvert’s paradise. Going on hikes. Watching the sunset over Paynes Prairie.
In my recent interview, I spoke about the value of creativity during a tough time like this. When history is written, data is mined and statistics are presented to help us understand what happened from a quantitative perspective. But the real yarn of history is usually spun from qualitative snapshots of ordinary lives. First-person accounts ultimately become treasures.
Whether diary entries, hand-written letters to loved ones, drawings, or newly developed photos taken on a disposable camera app, these artifacts will remind us of who we were and illuminate who we’ve become. In a time when living can feel more like simply existing, keeping this in mind helps me stay present and continue flourishing.
When remembering how things were at Parisleaf during this time, I hope I don’t call to mind having felt helpless and guilty that I couldn’t make everything right for everybody else. Instead, I want to look back on the compassion and understanding Chad and Alison have displayed as leaders, and the tireless efforts they’ve made to ensure my safety, wellbeing, and happiness.
Instead of thinking about how I couldn’t make hilarious jokes or talk music with Jessica, I want to remember her talent and patience as she tackled our Coronavirus Q&A Series and offered her musical expertise in helping me compose a track for The Percy EP, a series of instrumentals produced for the upcoming Parisleaf demo reel.
I don’t want to think about how much I missed working and laughing alongside Elisa and Kendyl on Production Row in the office; I want to rejoice in the fact that our bond grew stronger despite physical absence.
Rather than lament the natural strain put on my day-to-day communication with my project managers, I’d like to recall Gretchen and Abbey going out of their way to be my advocates, protect my sanity, and ensure my continued success.
I don’t want to remember worrying about this time when Matt, our creative director from whom I learn so much, is busy scrambling on a range of projects and so our time to collaborate is scarce. I wish for my memory to be of our wonderful one-on-one conversations and the night he and his daughter, Savannah, dropped by my house to deliver a quarantine care package, filled with cookies and a lovely piece of art – a relic of our time in history.
During this era of confinement and infinite unknowns, I challenge you to think about how you hope to look back upon this moment in time. Take note of the ways in which you’re growing – they ought to be meaningful one day. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that your mind can play tricks on you. How you’re feeling now may not foretell your future takeaways.
And there’s something comforting, and magical, about that – about all of this.