Skip to main content

On my workiversary

An email went out to my entire organization today, congratulating me for 15 years of service.

[Let's pause. Let that number sink in.]

15 years?! Oh, no. How is this possible? I cringed. I contemplated running to the mirror to pluck gray hairs. I pictured 23-year-old me walking through the doors of that building, thinking it was temporary, because after all, who pursues a publishing career in Delaware? I thought of all the missed opportunities at other companies, mourned all those books I was going to write, imagined my younger colleagues pointing and laughing at my complacency and old-timey thinking. My stomach flipped. I spiraled.

Then my friend -- with whom I've worked for almost 13 years, and who has agreed to stick it out with me until they pick up the building and shake us out -- sent me this article titled "How I Learned to Stop Explaining How Old Things Make Me Feel." It's so darn perfectly, beautifully appropriate for this very moment. No regrets, no lamenting. Only learning and growing and becoming.

I certainly would not be the person I am today without these 15 years at one organization. I started as an assistant editor earning $18,000 a year (which was a jump from the $16,000 salary at my previous job), and I have worked my way through editorial, marketing, product development, and acquisitions. I've been riotously happy and dejectedly sad, sometimes in the same day. I have always been challenged, encouraged, and surrounded by really smart people. I have learned how to think strategically, how to negotiate, how to communicate with people from all backgrounds and experience levels. Most of all, I have learned perseverance -- I have learned that I can persevere, even when I am in a deep, dark professional valley full of pointy-toothed monsters.

And I hope that a few (hundred? thousand?) teachers have learned a bit from the work that I've done, and in turn, perhaps some kids have learned to read -- or even better, gotten excited about reading. That would be nice. In fact, it's possible that in the time that I've worked here, a few kids have graduated high school who wouldn't have done so otherwise. That would be really nice.

Without this full-time job, I would not be able to enjoy this comfy middle-class suburban lifestyle, driving my two blond babies around to their various activities in our gas-guzzling minivan. More important, this job has allowed me the flexibility to attend to the needs of my family -- to work from home when there's a Halloween parade at preschool or from the hospital when my husband was sick. I don't know many people who have the same luxurious holiday schedule or generous vacation time, either.When I started this job, I was just a girlfriend, not yet a wife or mother; I had no idea how crucial the flexibility would be to helping me find balance between work and home, but it is. Crucial. Absolutely and without question.

"Work is not supposed to be fun; if it was, they wouldn't call it work." My mom used to say that a lot when I was a kid, but I think that was mostly in reference to cleaning bathrooms and other house chores. My mother loved her job; she was an award-winning teacher who was passionate about her students and always an advocate for her colleagues. (She had been dead just over a year when I started this job; my father had just started dating the woman who is now my stepmother and friend. I was not yet married. I was so very young.) I think of my mom every day, over and over, because it's for people like her that I'm sticking it out, even through the last few rocky years.

My mom also said that only boring people get bored, and you make your own experiences what you want them to be. In these past 15 years, I have learned that all these things are true. And I have learned that work does not define me; work is part of me, but more importantly, my work helps me to enjoy my real life -- the life outside of the office.

Over these years, I have made deep and lasting friendships, I have traveled to new cities, I have met some of my favorite authors, and I have connected to hundreds of people all over the world. Also, even though 15 years seems like an extraordinarily long time, I still have about 30 years of working life ahead of there's a lot of time to keep growing and setting new goals and pursuing new opportunities.

So I've stopped spiraling. For now, anyway. Instead I'll be grateful for all of these 15 bumpy, sometimes ridiculous, occasionally rewarding, always interesting years. I don't know that 23-year-old me would appreciate this sentiment -- in fact she'd probably roll her eyes -- but what does she know? Very little, it turns out. As the blogger wrote in the article above, "Lamenting my age, at this point, even in jest, feels ungrateful. It's sort of an insult to the integrity of my intact life, without which I would not be sitting here. You pull out any of the pieces, however much I may have hated them at the time, and the results would be unpredictable. This is where I am, this is how long it took."

Amen. This is where I am, this is how long it took. And I am grateful.


Popular posts from this blog

Grace happens

Today Honey's roommate in room 364 at Maine Medical Center was discharged. Some other day I'll tell you about why Honey is in the hospital again, but this story is about the roommate because it's way more interesting. Let's call him Elton, because all I really know about him is he plays guitar in an Elton John tribute band and he's originally from the very northern part of England, bordering Scotland. (Or as Honey described it, "that place in England where the Roman Empire decided, nope, those Celts are crazy, and put up a wall.")

Elton was in room 364 before Honey arrived, and what struck me immediately, besides his delightful accent and soothing Liam-Neeson-esque voice, was his gentle, good-natured manner. He was going through heck from a botched surgery and compartment syndrome - pain and gore and fear of losing the use of his dominant hand - yet he spoke kindly and softly to every person who came into his room. Every time a nurse walked in, Elton gree…

Math lessons

I was really great at school as a kid...but I'm really lousy at school as a parent. And I was reminded once again of this while sitting at my son's conference yesterday.

Seventh grade has been hard on all of us. Beyond the obvious physical changes -- Happy has grown at least 5" since this summer and now looks me in the eye (yeah, remember I'm super tall!), his voice is weird, he can't get out of his own way -- we're all trying to navigate his ever-changing need for independence. His teachers want him to take more responsibility for his learning, which in theory sounds like a great plan for all kids at this age; they have to not only learn how to learn but also learn how to advocate for their learning.

In reality, though, when you're the world's most laid-back 12-almost-13-year-old who really only wants to listen to music, play drums, video games, and action figures, taking responsibility and advocating for your learning is not highest priority. In fact…

Happy curls?

I dreaded the passing of the peace each Sunday when I was a little girl. Every week the old church ladies would comment about my hair...
    "Shirley Temple curls!" they cooed; I didn't know who Shirley Temple was.
    "So soft!" they petted; I didn't want their wrinkly, gnarled fingers on my head.
    "I pay a lot of money to have hair like yours!" they exclaimed; I couldn't figure out why anyone would pay money for frizzy, fluffy, brillo-pad hair.

I hated my curls. I felt embarrassed by my hair -- it was short, kinky, cut badly -- quite different from the long straight hair my friends all wore at the time in my life when I just wanted to fit in. Oh, how I wanted a ponytail! Or a braid my hair on a Sunday morning with ribbons hanging down, that was a dream.

Today during the passing of the peace, I found myself next to one of the older ladies in our church. Every week I marvel at her elegance, the way the dresses, the slow and grace…