I put my foot on the first step of a staircase and reached out to flip a light switch.
A simple gesture. One I had done literally thousands of times before. But, six years had passed since last I flipped this particular light switch. I stood on the steps feeling as if I was caught in Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time. I had been here; then I was gone; now I was back and it was as if six years of my life never happened. Time had wrinkled and I was back on the staircase leading up to the editorial offices of AntiqueWeek and The Auction Exchange. This had been my home for more than 20 years.
However, I left the job in 2011 to pursue a career in animal welfare as a dog trainer at a humane society. Through a series of unfortunate events (you can read more about that here) I became unemployed in October of 2016. I then started my own dog training business and am doing really well. I was not looking for a new job. I could pay my bills and was able to put money in my savings account.
But, when I got a text message from my previous boss at AntiqueWeek asking if I would be interested in coming back to my old job, I was intrigued. I was also conflicted.
Quite a few people gave me grief when I stopped job hunting and began pursuing my own business as a dog trainer and animal welfare consultant. But, Liam Neeson is not the only person with a very particular set of skills. I had a background in running a small business (antique shop) and I knew lots about marketing from my job at AntiqueWeek. I also had a strong relationship with six years worth of people in animal welfare who were happy to send clients my way. May 28 will mark the six month anniversary of my news business: Connie Swaim Canine Behavior Services.
I love my dog training business. I love the clients (well I love most of them). I leave every consult with the hope that a dog now has a better life because of me. And I’m good at it. I rarely toot my own horn; but it turns out the force is strong with me in terms of canine behavior problem solving.
Ah, but that intriguing text message asking if I wanted my old job back. When I left AntiqueWeek; it had nothing to do with being unhappy with anything specific. It was more of a feeling that after almost 25 years in the same place I felt stuck. I had traveled the world (well at least Canada, Mexico and England); I had hosted a party for the appraisers of the Antiques Roadshow. I lectured at conventions. My job let me travel to countless cities across the U.S. to cover antique shows.
The job was also heavily tied into my feelings about my parents. Mom and Dad were antique dealers when I first went to work for AntiqueWeek. They were ESTATIC when I got the job. Dad especially said he could not imagine a better job in the world. My parents and I went to shows together. Mom sometimes went with me when I traveled out of state to events. For 20 years my parents and their business partners owned an antique mall in which I had a booth. I also helped run the shop a few times a year. My Dad wanted nothing more in life than to retire; get an RV and travel the United States antiquing. When he died suddenly at 62; our antiquing world changed. Mom and I still went antiquing; but it was Dad who really loved it the most. Then when my Mom died; every time I stepped in an antique mall I thought of my parents. Suddenly antiquing wasn’t as fun as it used to be. I would see an antique teddy bear and start to buy it for my Mom. Or I would see an old cast-iron toy and reach for my phone to call my Dad.
I just felt lost.
When I got the opportunity to work in an animal shelter; I decided the time was right for a new adventure. I do not regret it at all. It opened up a new world for me. The culture was as far away as possible from my job at AntiqueWeek. There were no daily reminders of my fun times with my parents. I parted on good terms with the publishers of AntiqueWeek.
When I got the text message I could hear my parents jumping up and down for joy. Which is how I found myself on that stair switching on the light.
I have to say it is the weirdest feeling in the world to go back to someplace after being gone for six years. In a way it is as if I never left. Then, I will find someone new in an office who wasn’t there six years ago. Or I find that I go and look for something and it isn’t in the same spot. However, most people are still in their same offices and there are only about 10 new people who weren’t there when I left. The vending machine has become more progressive and carries iced tea now. But, when I open the computer I still see the same folders I created years ago when we first went digital. Some of the software has changed; but it is basically the same. The instructions I got turned out to the same instructions I had written out six years ago for my replacement. She had kept them and added in changes. She said she hoped I could follow my own directions.
I can wrinkle time and see myself at 26 climbing these same steps (although when I was 26 I could run up the steps, now I slowly pull myself up). I can see myself through the years wherever I go in the offices.
It felt good to be back. I even spent two hours in an antique mall and was happy again rather than feeling nostalgic for all that I had lost.
I am also keeping my dog training business. It turns out I can do both with a little flexibility.
I am truly one of the luckiest people in the world. I have always loved every job I had and now I get to do two things I love.
Time to walk up those steps.