A few days before that, I'd had to interview someone who wanted to work for my future former employer. She was bright-eyed and eager and seemed impressed with everything about my job -- even my colorless, impersonal desk -- because it sat under the glow of the three letters printed on posterboard and attached to a concrete column in my office.
A few weeks before that, a guy wrote to me on my personal e-mail to say that he had found my address on the Web and wanted my advice because he wanted to find a job just like mine. I did the best I could to help him and the interviewee, not only because of their earnestness but because they represented the hopes I used to have. I remember being like them, wanting to work for a major news organization or media outlet and thinking it would be the greatest.
Now I've worked for at least three major media outlets, in a capacity I never could have forseen when I was in college. When I went from undergraduate school to the job market, the Web as we know it didn't even exist. How odd to find oneself earning a living from a word that had no meaning for you as a child. Even for me, a kid who got some tutoring in BASIC at 8 years old and grew up with video games, the evolution of the InterWebs was unforseeable and blindsiding in a way that was simultaneously exhilarating, perplexing and depressing.
The exhilarating and perplexing aspect of the World Wide Web Revolution was that it seemed as if our generation was being handed the chance to define something, to shape not only our individual jobs, but an entire medium. We were doing something unprecedented, or at least it seemed that way.
The depressing aspect came with the realization that the thing you built today might well be obsolete next year; that other generations often saw your work as either confusing, or unimportant, or both; and that when it came to content, much of what was being created actually was not unprecedented but rather quite similar, and often inferior, to its "old media" counterpart.
Still, getting into Web work put me in a relatively Good Position, as good as could be expected for a girl with nothing but an undergrad English degree and an average work ethic. I had some very cool experiences and got to work for at least one journalistically respectable outlet. So why wasn't I happier? Why was I always nosing around on job and career sites, looking for more?
It was a bit like dating: I'd have a shot with some guy, a good guy that many women would love to have, and I'd be sitting there trying to twist my mind around being particularly glad about it.
Most normal people in this situation think, "Oh well, I tried this [job, man, whatever] out and it wasn't for me. Time to move on." In self-esteem-challenged people such as myself, it evokes the response, "There must be something wrong with me if I'm not into this. After all, [company, man, whatever] was nice enough to like me -- I owe them something. Maybe I'll keep trying for a few months longer and see if I can become the right person to match this situation. Or better yet, why don't I find something that's slightly different but more or less the same, and torture myself with that for awhile?"
Ultimately, I never became that sought-after version of myself, the one who wanted to advance up the Web media ladder and have the company-issued Blackberry or "director" in my title. Instead, I got comfortable in my discomfort. For awhile, I stopped trying to imagine something else for myself. Whatever ambitions I had within my field atrophied completely. I was stuck.
Now I'm taking a pay cut (something, I feel compelled to say, that would be infinitely harder without being married to someone who is supportive and makes enough to float the difference) to go work for a tiny company that throws cooking parties. It has the potential to be fun, challenging, yummy, busy, social, frustrating, boring, disappointing, tiring. But the point is, it has potential. I've been separated from my own career for a long time now. It feels bittersweet, but I'm finally completing the divorce.