Often when I hang out with coworkers outside of work, they comment on how much I change. It’s not that I change, I have to explain, as an entirely different side of me emerges at the office.
Let me explain:
I studied English, Creative Writing and Philosophy in college because I was convinced I would have a career writing or editing. I wrote half of a novel I one day might finish. I have some shitty short fiction and poetry, some of which is posted in all of its awfulness on this blog.
But after graduation, I got a temp job at a book publisher as a sales assistant. I didn’t even know what it would entail, but I was desperate to get my foot in the door and move to the city. After a week, the VP decided I should meet the Director of Publicity and work in his department full-time. Again, I didn’t even know what book publicity was, but took everyone’s word that I would be good at it, and decided to jump ship for an editorial position as soon as one opened up.
Sure enough, editorial assistantships came and went, and I made myriad excuses for not moving. I was secretly content in my position. The editorial assistants were paper-pushers. They handled contracts, occasionally looked at the slush pile, and occasionally wrote jacket copy. They were actual assistants, gathering up meeting materials for their respective editors and quietly seething.
Meanwhile, in the publicity department, I was working on my own book campaigns. I was establishing relationships with book review editors, placing my authors on national television shows, and stalking book sales. I sat in my seat at meetings, analyzing numbers and biting my lip. I hired an intern. I checked my email when I got home, and before I went to bed. I was feisty and in charge. I was brash and serious and loud. I could never sit at a cubicle all day and edit someone else’s words. I needed to write funny emails, prove my point, deliberate on revenue.
After ten months, I was offered a job at Conde Nast, which I dangled in front of my boss as leverage for a promotion and a 20% raise. Six months later, I was offered another job for a different magazine. I graciously accepted, leaving my ten-person publicity department to act as the soul publicist for the publication, its sister magazine, and its website. It was sink or swim, do or die. I bit down hard on the meat of the job, sinking my teeth into the minutia. This time, I brought on seven different interns for myself and small marketing department, and now I check my email like a diabetic checks her insulin levels– Which is to say, obsessively and compulsively. I bark orders sometimes, and operate in a efficient whirlwind of accomplishments.
So when I find myself out with coworkers for a drink, casually sprawled across a plastic lawn chair and sipping my beer, quietly twirling a strand of hair that’s fallen out of my messy bun, they are pleasantly surprised.
Or, more to my actual point: the instance of lying in bed with an ex-coworker, kissing his shoulder when he tells me I am unexpectedly sweet. He never knew, he says, I could be so gentle and affectionate. I find this delightful. I never knew I would not be.