PersonalPaul McAleer

Poison Pen

PersonalPaul McAleer

In the early days of my career, and at the tail end of college, I harbored a rebellious streak. I was in my early 20s! I was going to change the world and do amazing work on the web. That was the plan.

I started applying for jobs before I was done with school, figuring that companies would love to have me. After all, I had been working with the web for a few years at that point, and that was building on my decade plus of being professionally published. I mean, surely, this would matter.

But it did not.

My first job was a good first job. I was a webmaster, of sorts, at a credit union. I lived and breathed Flash and the emerging practice of using W3C standards. I had my own place in the suburbs, and a new car. I was doing just fine.

In 2001 I got exposed to, well, a lot more of life. I took a hugely personally important trip to the Twin Cities to meet up with a friend and learned about so much. I mean, I was sheltered; I had no idea Whole Foods and veganism and all of that existed before that trip. I got introduced to Adbusters and absorbed an anti-capitalistic vibe. I wanted to do things that meant something. So I remember taking that same attitude from before school – it'll be fine; just quit. Just quit. I was miserable in my job, and felt like it wasn't going anywhere.

So I quit. And I had no job lined up. But I figured that wouldn't be a problem.

And a little over a week later, September 11th happened.


I remember going through a set of interviews with a large financial publication in Chicago that targeted rich investors. The job, by the looks of it, would have been boring as hell. But it was a job. I had none. And still, I wanted to be picky.

I distinctly remember that after an interview, I unloaded on the recruiter via email. I remember telling him that I didn't want to work in a cube farm, someplace where I was pushing numbers around for rich people and making them richer. I was acting like a privileged child. And, I was a privileged child.


I don't regret it. It's not the path I would choose at 39.