At work Thursday night, listening to two young men debate the meaning of a word and why meanings change as people misuse/misapply words, I revealed that I’m an editor.
One wide-eyed kid stared at me and demanded, “If you can do that, why are you here?”
I laughed. “Because this pays the bills.”
He nodded, and went back to stacking boxes.
This is pure speculation, but I think he asked because he’d learned earlier in the shift that someone else received a promotion for which he’d also been a candidate.
I hope, though, he can see stacking boxes as a stepping stone and not as a dead end.
For me, it’s exercise I might not get as a writer, and it’s a means to an unrelated goal. The job has nothing to do with the career, if that makes any sense.
Stacking boxes, stocking shelves, climbing ladders, walking untold steps every day — those may seem mundane activities taking me away from editing and writing. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they leave me too exhausted to do what I want to do.
But after four years of literary employment, the romance of a royalty check is diminished, and the steadiness of a regular paycheck is desirable.
Some of those royalty checks are very nice — don’t get me wrong! — but some are so small the publisher rolls the money into the next month’s check. That means I have to dive into savings to pay the bills.
At forty-something, I’ve seen enough life to realize the joys of a simple job. I used to hate physical labor when my dad made my brother and me haul and stack wood or do other chores. Then, in my thirties, I experienced injuries that could have crippled me. Now, at last, I’m able to move without pain. I express gratitude by working.
I hope that young man can view his job with a wide lens, one that sees past the slights and disappointments — even the monotony — of the moment; a lens that prevents him from transposing a job over a life, but uses work to give himself a life.
I hope he knows the joy of good work done well. There’s no better rest than a deep sleep after a day of good work.
And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt if he, too, became a writer. 😉