Synchronicity: the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
Since there’s not much activity going on in Boquete these days, I’ll take this opportunity to reflect on past events in my life. There have been at least two major cases of synchronicity that I can recall. There are probably more, but these two series of events stand out as being major turning points.
The first is when I started my desktop publishing business in 1988. This was just after “personal computers” became popular. I had been working for my friend Bill Eudy in his commercial appraisal business for about four years, where I learned a lot about word processing and graphic skills (typing the content, drawing floor plans, labeling photos, producing the finished report, etc.).
My husband at the time drew a cartoon for a woman who was the editor of a health-related section of the Oklahoma Gazette newspaper. She broke away and started her own newspaper called The Public Medical News, and needed someone to set the type for the paper. Kinko’s (now FedEx Office) had recently installed some of the first Macintosh computers in their stores, which were available to rent to customers.
The newspaper owner struck a deal with Kinko’s to trade advertising space for computer time, and with my skills in word processing, I went to work creating columns of text for the new publication on their little Macs – sometimes for eight hours a day. I was there so much that the employees threatened to give me a name tag and work apron! Kinko’s printed out my columns of text and the headlines, and the owner of the paper, a friend of hers, and I pasted up the newspaper manually every two weeks.
After a couple of months of this, I decided I needed to buy a computer and start doing this at home. So the newspaper owner wrote a letter stating she would use me for a certain dollar amount of work each month, and I took this letter to several banks to request a loan for the equipment. On the strength of her letter, a bank loaned me $15,000, and I was in business! I named my business Precision Typesetting and bought a Macintosh computer, scanner, printer, and several software applications (Office, Pagemaker, Illustrator, Photoshop), and still had a bit of money left over for operating expenses.
A bedroom in my house was converted to an office (for me) and art studio (for my husband). I knew nothing about how all that software worked, and there were no classes available at that time to teach the applications, so I just jumped in and learned the software (and journalism practices) on my own. I typed the articles, created the ads, and laid out the paper electronically, printing each page on three overlapping sheets of legal-size paper. I’m proud to say that we never missed a deadline, even during that transition period! The newspaper owner recommended me to those she sold advertising to, and they also became my customers.
After nine months of working from home, I decided to rent an office. My first office was on the ground floor of a six-story building near my house, so I had a very short commute. One day, a guy wandered into my office. He had a friend whose office was upstairs, and when he saw my sign on the door, he was curious as to what I did. I showed him some samples of my work, and he said he might have some work for me. He wanted me to print labels for his PC users group, to put on the diskettes they made each month. I found this hilarious – “You want me, on my Mac, to make labels for your PC users group?” His reply was, “I believe in Macs!” We became friends in that instant, and kept in touch.
A couple of years later, that friendship showed itself to be very valuable. This guy worked for Seagate (computer hard drive manufacturer), and one of his good friends there was the head of the Publications department. Seagate had just inherited a Macintosh computer from their office in Minneapolis, and they wanted their graphic artist to learn how to use it. Also, it was the only Macintosh in an office full of PCs, so no one was familiar with the computer itself.
So my friend recommended me to come in and teach him. Their graphic artist was in his 60s, and was a brilliant pen & ink artist who created isometric drawings of hard drives for inclusion in their product manuals – but he knew nothing about computers (and at that point in his career, I imagine he had little motivation to do so). After about three lessons, he told me that he had a relapse of leukemia and could no longer work.
They asked me if I’d be interested in the position, and asked me if I could create an isometric drawing. My reply was, “I don’t know – I’ve never tried.” So I ran to a used bookstore and found a technical drawing book that defined what an isometric drawing was, then went home and drew my little one-piece Mac and a portable CD player. I took those drawings to the manager, who sent them to his boss in California, and they had to admit that I could indeed do the work.
For the first couple of months, I worked half a day at Seagate and half a day at my own business. Then I notified most of my customers that I would no longer be able to work for them, and kept a handful of my best customers after I went to work full-time at Seagate. I worked there for almost 10 years, until they had a massive layoff. It was the best job I ever had, and I enjoyed it very much.
So here’s where the synchronicity came into play:
- If I hadn’t worked for my friend Bill, I wouldn’t have had the graphic arts skills that I had
- If my husband hadn’t drawn a cartoon for the Gazette, I wouldn’t have met the woman who started her own newspaper
- If Kinko’s hadn’t had their Macs available to rent, I wouldn’t have had the hardware to work for her
- If she hadn’t written the letter of recommendation, I wouldn’t have gotten a loan to start my own business
- If I hadn’t moved my work to an office in a commercial building, I wouldn’t have met the guy who worked for Seagate
- If I hadn’t met that guy, he wouldn’t have introduced me to his friend (and my future boss) to teach their graphic artist
- If the graphic artist hadn’t fallen ill, I wouldn’t have been offered the job that provided me a good living for almost 10 years
If even one of those steps had been omitted along the line, my life would have undoubtedly turned out quite different than it did. When I started working for Bill, I had few marketable skills. By the time I left, I was proficient in an area that was just beginning to come into its own. There were few companies that provided desktop publishing services to small businesses that couldn’t afford the big advertising agencies. I did a lot of work for companies who were just getting started and needed logos and stationery to make them look professional. I derived great satisfaction from helping the “little guy” look legit instead of rag-tag.
I recognize that I have a certain intelligence level and creative talent, but going from no viable job experience to working for a large multi-national company and making good money in the space of a few years was a remarkable journey, and one that I still marvel at today.
So that’s the first major episode where synchronicity played a part. The second series of events helped bring me to Panama….