Monday, January 15, 2007


I have a dear friend who's an Editorial Ass. like myself who is in need of a new job (well, I think it would be safe to say that most of my dear friends are in needs of new jobs for various reasons, but I'll let them make those judgments myself).

Now this dear friend of mine has been in a gruesomely underpaid position (she makes even less than I do--shudder, horror) for a number of years (how many years I will leave her some dignity and refrain from saying) for a crusty editor who is nice enough (although periodically cranky) but is negligent of his assistant to the point of abuse. She has wondered on occasion whether he even remembers she is there, never mind if he notices all the invisible but highly skilled services she performs for him. My friend has seen only incremental pay raises that don't quite cover the rate of inflation and the one time she sat him down to discuss her promotional opportunities point-blank (a year ago November) he kind of rubbed his forehead and said she could still use some work on certain skills and they could talk about it again when she'd gotten better at those things. ("Those things" of course remain only nebulously quantified.)

Most days when we chat, my friend verbally abuses herself and tells me that she needs to find a new job, right now. But after all these years, my question is why haven't you already? She shrugs--it's hard to put her finger on--but there was that opening two years ago, and she was thinking about taking it, but then that one manuscript came in that she heard she was going to be allowed to handle, and she got hopeful that that assignation of new responsibility was a first step in moving her upward. There was a lateral move to a different company that came up, but in the end she thought that there was more hope for her being promoted soon at her current job than if she were to start from scratch elsewhere. After all, she's been at her job so long now--isn't it inevitable? Eventually?

The key word--the hole in the bucket--is Hope. We are miserable but we can't overcome that little modicum of hope, sparkling in the distance. Maybe I'm almost there this time? we think. Maybe? Maybe this time? After all my hard work, sacrifice, unpaid overtime, starvation budgeting, eye pain, papercuts, endured emotional abuse, unrecognized wit, good ideas that I allow my superiors to take credit for, now, surely, they'll give me that little bump that will keep me hanging on? How hard it is to know when to cut losses and turn out backs on that sparkling and seductive little mirage of Hope.

Are we foolish to hold out hope? Isn't there something to be said for old-fashioned steadfastness? Or is our hope that we will be duly recognized in good time really just a slow euthanization? An opiate for the Asses, as it were?

It's impossible to say. Well, it's not impossible to say, since it seems everyone has something to say about it. My mother, for example, has this to say: "You need to get out of that business. They're using you and they'll never pay you enough. You're worth way more money than that." And my boss has this to say: "You want everything right now; you have to pay your dues. You better get over your bad attitude or you'll never get anywhere."

And honestly--say what you need to--both those positions have merit. To the point that I feel like I'm disappointing someone no matter which row I hoe.

But whether or not the hope is actually real? Whether or not this industry is really worth it? Where is that infallible advisor (you know--a grown-up, a real one) who will tell me what to do? Who understand the ins and outs and ups and downs of every aspect of my situation but comes into the advisor role without bias or ulterior motive? Yes, it's taken me 23 and a half years to realize that person doesn't exist and that I have to make up my own mind about this one.

So the question--why am I in this business? The answer--I love books. And I still haven't figured out a better or more glamorous way (short of usurping the body of Michiko Kakutani) of carrying that into a career. And in my heart, I still want to be here. I do. And in my heart, I'm still hoping...

This is a dedicated post for you, Mr. W. Although to you, my dear friend who needs a new job, and to my other dear friends who might read this and relate to some degree, my heart also goes out. Ed.Asses, unite in foolish hope. I'm lighting the candle to the idea that there's still a candle to light (let's all crowd around and use it to read our after-hours manuscripts; maybe we can keep one another warm).


Bluenana said...

During one of our conversations with Nikki last week, it dawned on me that I completely forgot about hope, in all its incarnations, and that's just depressing.

Yes, yes, yes, I do relate to this. I hold out, a day, a week, a month, a quarter, a fiscal year, because there is always that glimmer of hope that my boss's boss will let the sun shine on this dog's ass for one day.

As much as I hate my job today, yesterday, and tomorrow, I am still that thing without feathers, hoping against hope that my day will come, and that I'll be ready to fly.

So, please shove over, and share the candle. I'll bring some extra matches in case Phil comes around and fans out the flame with his bag full of hot air.

jalexissmith said...

Your mother is right. But, who cares! You always have to listen to your heart. [insert some inspirational Jewel song here]