It occurred to me this afternoon at around 4:15 when I wrote down my daily assignments for my job that I had ten articles to write by next week. Five or so days until deadline, two of them the weekend, and I would literally be leaving empty space on a paper that goes out to thousands if I couldn’t handle it.
I realized today as I recapped my schedule that I was playing with fire.
I should explain myself. I do some things I have yet to report here. Beyond the Beyond the Binder, I spend five-and-a-half hours every day sitting in a big building in Northampton, MA, that used to be an A&P, writing articles for a local newspaper called the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
I’m a summer intern there, which means I give them about 80-100 hours of my life in exchange for experience and all the coffee I can pay $0.75 for per cup. It’s a good gig.
Technically, the job is only given to college students and recent graduates, but I found out that that I’m accidently very good at networking and that saying basically that I enjoy being in over my head was a good way to get this kind of unusual exception made for me.
It all worked out and I’ve been published about a dozen times and made hundreds of phone calls to people I have never met.
I’ve made some observations about office life in general while I’ve been there, and I thought they would be good to share:
There is nothing more gratifying than putting $0.75 into a vending machine to buy one coffee packet and watching two fall out. This happened to me today and I honestly wasn’t nearly half as happy when the Sox won the World Series all those years ago. I punched the air and sort of bounced around for a minute before realizing that the last time I had glanced to see whether the break room was empty was almost a minute ago. I was lucky. Nobody saw my expression of unadulterated joy.
As soon as you realize that you’re not allowed to check Facebook, or YouTube, or Tumblr, you will feel an absolutely crushing urge to visit that site. This desire can only be overcome by visiting sites slightly related to what you are working on or by researching the last 200 years of history about your news topic on Wikipedia. I now know more about the Boy Scouts of America than I ever thought possible. Also tape measures. I know so much about tape measures.
If you have an ethical stance that is different than What Is Done at the office, it will change. I discovered this when I was told that the Oxford comma is not to be used in the paper. You will also rebel as soon as you get home and will find every chance, reason, and excuse to reassert your ethical value whenever possible. You will experience ennui when you find that value changing not only at the office, but at home as well.
Music is really good to have and forgetting earbuds happens all too often.
You will develop some sort of organization system for your assignments and actually keep to it for the first time in your life. If you do not organize well in this kind of environment where technically speaking you are out of your depth, you will have a snowball’s chance in Death Valley. Or elsewhere. You will be organized because you must be organized. You will not continue this trait in other parts of your life, sadly.
You will somehow manage to complete ten articles in a matter of days, writing what turns out to be thousands of words without breaking a sweat. Hopefully. When this is complete, you will still be sane.
As always, you will want to do nothing more than see someone reading one of your articles in a Starbucks and say with a knowing grin, “hey, I wrote that.”
After describing something from work to friends for the eighth time in an hour, you will think to yourself, “this is how it feels to be a bore, isn’t it?” You will end your story as quickly as possible.
You will want to tell stories from work eight times every hour, not because you are a bore, not because it has eaten up your life, and not because you feel like you need to validate all those hours you spend, but because you are proud of your work and honestly find what you do fascinating. You will want to share your passion with the people you care about. Perhaps I have been using the wrong pronoun this whole time.
I like writing and I always have, but more importantly, I like being a part of something that all those thousands of people see and learn from on a daily basis, informing the populace as they deserve. It should be no surprise to you readers that I love throwing one-sided conversations at people I can’t even see. ; )
I have now used up my emoticon limit for the year. Apologies to all.
I’m going to keep with this job, out of my league and surrounded by college students and people twice my age. And you know what? I’m going to love it and I’m going to do a fantastic job. If only I can meet those deadlines. Oy.