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15 June, 2012

Raytheon is just a memory and a pile of dirt

Today, I drove down Route 20 in Eastern Massachusetts through a town called Wayland. About 18 years ago, I worked on this road at a company called Raytheon. I was an RF Engineer, and worked on various projects, mostly funded by the Department of Defense. That was my commute every day. First along some stretch of Route 128 (Interstate 95) filled with horrific traffic, and then along Route 20 the final several miles to work. Raytheon's Wayland facility, like many of their buildings, was very run-down and old. It was a brick building, with lots of concrete inside, a generally foul odor, poor fluorescent lighting, and an atmosphere that seemed to imply that there was a time where things were better to be there than they were during my time. I am not really sure when that time was though. Maybe during the 1980s?

So, when I drove down Route 20 today, I noticed that the buildings that were once Raytheon were gone, and what remained was the start of a massive construction site. But it was also evident that the lot had laid dormant for a very long time before this construction had begun, because several of the gigantic mounds were completely grown over with grasses. Raytheon had probably been demolished over a decade ago, I would guess. A quick perusal of the Google suggests that they were already working on cleaning up the former site as long ago as 2004, so I guess it was demolished even longer ago. It appears they're building a new Town Center, and I heard there's going to be a supermarket (Stop & Shop) there. It seems an interesting sign of the times that a former major defense contractor location becomes a town center. I am not sure what that sign is, but it's definitely a sign of something.

When I think about it, though, the remains I saw today were almost metaphorical to me of that entire chapter of my life. I had a career here in the Boston Area, an education in Engineering, and all these connections and experiences in this world. There was a fairly massive representation in my brain devoted to all that stuff. The mathematics and lore of RF Engineering, and a whole series of friendships and views of how things work. And then, I abandoned that site. Over time, the representation of it in my mind has become sort of like giant mounds of dirt, grown over with grass. A lot of it is gone. I have images in my mind from that building. Projects that I did, circuits that I built, people I talked with. As I type, some of the names fly back into my head just by association. There were a lot of good memories in that world. I remembered, driving down the streets today, of how we used to go running together at lunchtime and wander through the back roads of a very beautiful wooded community. We had time to slack. I don't think I ever had to work hard back then. We played softball after work. There are other, more mixed feelings, such as a very seriously complicated relationship I had with a coworker over the course of a couple of years. I look back on that time, though, and I feel like it was a different me.

In yoga, we often talk about how you need to let some things go, so that new things can take their place. I let a lot go from that time. I let pretty much everything go, actually. In fact, I sort of jettisoned it all. It's not the first time I have done something like that. I did it again, to an extent with my subsequent education in Neuroscience.

I look at people who have stayed in the same place their whole lives, same town, same job, same partner, children, friends, and sometimes am envious of the roots they have. They know who they are and where they are. Or so I would like to assume. I've also noticed that those who stay in one place don't (need to) devote a whole lot of energy to asking the question "Who am I? Why am I here?" Is it because I've moved through so many chapters that I am constantly asking that question? Or is the constant evolution the result of asking the question?

That's a good question, isn't it?

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