Over a decade ago, Jillian and I found ourselves working the night shift as content moderators at an image hosting company in Denver. Our role, essentially, was to cull the site of barbarity (that is sexually heinous, gruesome, brutal content) and in doing so we experienced the sort of camaraderie that only comes from suffering something unexplainable together.
In the years since, there have been multiple articles illustrating the psychological toll of spending your working being exposed to the Internet’s panoply of literal garbage, but at the time we coped as best we could.
“Anathematization of the world is not an adequate response to the world.” ― Donald Barthelme
This quote always reminds me of our little community; no matter how much emotional or psychological damage each work day demanded, we seemed always to find the beauty in art and literature and each other. In the office we were meme connoisseurs before the word “meme” existed; we watched gross-out videos while eating gas station foods; we stood up for one another— we learned what it meant to show up, too.
While I can still pretty vividly recall the exact video that made me quit, the years have made my thoughts of this time in my life more gentle, more palatable… Memory is a weird thing though, isn’t it? It regularly omits the parts that ache and instead bloats us on sentimental slumgullion until we’re fat nostalgia and want for the past.
And maybe in this case that’s alright.
I was just a kid when I started that damn job. It took me until this trip— it took me ten whole years— to realize just how much space Jillian made for me in her life and how much patience and indulgence that must have cost her, considering my ignorant and admittedly basic AF upbringing. When we know better, we do better, am I right?
In 2009, or thereabouts, Jillian moved back to Philadelphia and I went on to work a handful of other ridiculous jobs. We lost touch over the years, connecting briefly with social media likes or follows or comments. When she asked me to shoot her wedding I was overjoyed, but actually being with her on her wedding day was an experience I’ll cherish my whole life.
Being in Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens with Jillian, Ryan, their family and friends (as well as a handful of other past coworkers) all was such a special thing and I don’t know if I’ll ever truly find the right words to thank her for inviting me to be a part of it. The whole weekend was overwhelming in the best way… to be able to wade through the accretions we’ve all endured, yet look upon each other with a sense of knowing familiarity.