Sunday, December 20, 2009

tall, kind of gangly looking, doesn't talk much

My goodness two weeks can fly by, can't they?

Not entirely sure how that happened. I know there was this and that at work, but other than all that I have no real excuse. The ability to convince yourself that you've got something important to say can at times be elusive, I guess, and the wherewithal to sit down and start looking when it's not readily apparent is even moreso.

I'm going to set aside the facing-down-loss theme that we inadvertently stumbled upon for a moment and get into my week a bit. I work at a newspaper, you see, which already gives you a couple ideas about what my day-to-day can be like.

The industry, such that it is, is dying, a fact that by the simple virtue of your ability to read this or something else far more informative on an LCD screen makes you familiar with that, or at least a couple of its reasons. Thus, layoffs -- or, better still, 'rolling layoffs' -- have gone from being what were probably once considered necessary evils to combat economic downturns or some kind of claptrap have become A Part of Life, a semi-quarterly occurrence where first everyone is nervous, then everyone is sad, and then everyone slowly feels better though (of course) not as good as they once did until inevitably another rumor of layoffs comes to fruition.

This, of course, makes for shit morale.

I've been at my paper for just shy of 10 years. Ten years. I remember some 4.75 years ago I received a snazzy pin to commemorate my fifth year at my current place of employ, a pin I can probably dig out of a drawer if someone really presses me but may have accidentally willed into non-existence. I remember at the pin-presentation meeting -- which we don't have anymore -- I talked to a then-coworker (who shortly thereafter moved onto another, equally fucked company across town) and said something to the effect of, "If I'm here to collect my 10 year pin, please come by and shoot me in the brain."

I'd like to go ahead and retract that statement.

Because barring another layoff rolling across my desk between now and April (which is, of course, possible), I'll hit that 10 year mark. And it will, in turn hit me because while it's not me at the same job for a third of my life, it's quite close to a quarter.

Now, in my darkest moments my having the same job for such an unfathomable amount of time in this decade certainly says a few things about my personality -- i like stability, I don't go looking for change very much and, clearly, take a lot of comfort in "the devil I know." Given all the various slights, disappointments and blinding frustrations that have come with my time at the paper, it  hasn't been some joyless slog, and certainly it's improved from 4.75 years. I have Accomplished Things.

I came in a cog and will surely go out a cog, but the work has gotten less mundane, far less soul-crushing. I've written about artists who have meant a lot to me. I have enjoyed cover stories under my name (with varying levels of pride). I have taken in extraordinary shows and spilled my impressions of them to an unsuspecting world. I have been handed the reins of covering a style of music that has long meant a lot to me and recently published my silly notions of what the Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2009 in print -- a phrase that certainly shouldn't mean nearly as much to me as a journalism-destroying web journalist but it, still, does.

So now I've done that, and for all the time that's passed and minor milestones I've accomplished, I'm deep down still a Profit Depleting Unit in the grand corporate scheme of things, a feeling reinforced as I watched a ridiculously accomplished, gifted and hardworking writer who I had the pleasure to edit get shown the door because her name and skills didn't resonate with some balance sheet high above who makes these kinds of calls. It's not the first time I've watched this happen and, odds are, it won't be the last. For any of us in this warped little guild.

So despite it all, the accomplishments, the attaboys, the small little boosts of ego, it doesn't add up to all that much. My place of employ and I have a sort of abusive relationship in that I give it no greater than it deserves and they, in turn, keep a paycheck coming so I can try and be in as good a shape as I can when the hammer finally falls. This place, storied though it may be, is a paycheck. A frustrating, diverting, not as terrible as it could be but still a damn sight long away from its potential, paycheck.

Sometime in the last couple years, I've struggled to socialize at work, which is a little surprising as my cynicism gauge was practically pinned around the time I received the lovely and attractive 5-Year trinket. It's no reflection on my coworkers, really, they're still great people, but I think a good chunk of it is apart from a couple of people who I've known since the beginning everyone at work is part of this wildly malfunctioning machine, spitting parts and  debris all over everything it touches, occasionally clanging something heavy and painful across someone's chest and knocking them out of play. My goal when I arrive at work is to go home; I don't want to dig my hands into there any more than the required eight hours, and even those can be a stretch.

This, I realize, is not a good thing. I don't -- we don't, actually -- have enough time on this dot to be viewing hours as things that are to be ignored, sped through. Yet most of us do it, for about 40 of them every week, and I can't decide if that makes me strange for wishing that weren't the case or even stranger for thinking work in and of itself is anything but that, anywhere.

So we're at an impasse, the dayjob and I. It's capable of great things, even moreso in departments I'm hardly associated with, to say nothing of the great feelings I get when something falls out of my brain and onto a page and winds up being of use to somebody. But it's not my goal, it's not where I've always dreamt to call home like it has been for so many people inside its walls including -- all too often -- so many people who have been let go. Like this week.

So we're deadlocked. I take the money and accomplishment, keep improbably dodging the layoff bullets while I secretly hope to one day get tagged as I wait for a coconut to fall off a tree and conk me on the head with the idea of what I really should be doing. I have this feeling, like I've always had this feeling, it looks a little more like this at least as far as what I'm typing.

I'm not entirely sure if I'm right -- the burgeoning responsibilities of adulthood certainly make such an idea a terrifying one. But I'd like to hang out awhile and figure it out if there's any hope of it. That, I realize, is what this space has always been about.


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