i woke up with the wisps of an imagined former office in my head. this is a regular thing: once every few months i dream up a version of the publishing world in which i return, usually as a freelancer, to my old magazine. the genial but distant boss who never followed up on raises for me was still there. my third editor in chief, the one who came in as a steely-eyed executive editor who bullied me into semi-factual cover lines and was pared away when corporate decisions maimed several of the women's-title mastheads this past fall—like polar bears that eat only seal blubber when food is plentiful—was still there. it's always at least a bit awkward; while i'm back in these scenarios, i'm always still formerly laid off. awakening, i'm never sorry that my job melted from beneath me, but my subconscious imagines rejection anyway. it loves to gnaw on old rejections.

i was never entirely sure if the way i handled my research department squared with the way other chiefs handled theirs, since i had exactly one senior editor walk me through my entry-level job and i spent my entire career rising through the same book. i saw other chiefs' guidelines, attended a few seminars with folks from other publishers, and sat through several of our in-house legal team's presentations on fact checking, but—especially as the team turned over and the women i'd known as a newbie dematerialized—i began to suspect that some, maybe many of the rules i'd inherited from my mentor were arbitrary. was it possible that we only needed to save physical files for three years' worth of issues because the sleek bank of file cabinets between editorial and the ad sales team...could fit physical files for three years' worth of issues? we used each manila folder twice; when i'd remove and discard the oldest files to make room for the ones i'd just created, i'd turn each one inside out, sharpie through the article title and date on the other side of the tab, and use it again. i still remember the pang i felt when my mentor's handwriting disappeared from the cabinet completely, when each folder was me and me, again.

i realized this morning that it's been more than three years since i packed up my cubicle and hit the pavement; even if some of the stories i'd assigned out for checking were bumped to future issues, there's a good chance that i've worked my way out of the cabinet as well. that i am a little sorry about, if we're being honest. my handwriting is probably as stylized as it is because i care more about being seen than i care, most of the time, to admit.


LPC said...

I've missed reading your writing. I love this. But sorry you keep dreaming this - seems like not being able to find the college registrar dreams, sign up for courses, locate my dorm room - except you have actual meanies to deal with which seems unfair. They should stay in their own recurring difficult dreams;).

furiousmuse said...

i've always loved your penmanship. so many notes passed in french class! recently, when a colleague commented that my cursive was "on point," i experienced a twinge of pride that lasted for several hours.

i wonder what i'll do if my job gets yoinked out from under me. thankfully, it's not an immediate threat.

lauren said...

i lived in fear of layoffs starting in 2008, when the first big round hit my magazine, and the jitters never went away. the purges tended to happen when i was on vacation - i would get these terrible "are you safe?" messages in the middle of trips - so i started associating leisure time with job loss, which was extra-lame. as i have probably said before, it ended up being a relief when it finally happened to me: at long last, i wasn't afraid. while freelancing is its own kind of drama, it's been pretty easy to turn down the occasional print-related full-time job offer, because i am NOT interested in that uncertainty again.

uncle paul said...

I see you!