November 27, 2012

a case for doing what you want



I'm quitting a really good job. I am. Here's why.

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to work at a magazine. I was five when I pleaded with my parents to get me a subscription to Highlights (hidden pictures puzzles were the bomb). When I got old enough to read grown-up magazines with grown-up stories, I got into the real heavy-hitting stuff, like stories about domestic violence, about rape, about female genital mutilation. I think it was upon reading these kinds of stories that I wanted to be a writer.

So I finished high school, left Halifax for Toronto, got a four-year-long BJ (that's a Bachelor of Journalism, you sickos), and landed a job as a production editor at a publishing powerhouse. It wasn't a writing job, but it was a magazine job in which I held sole responsibility for hitting our print deadlines. I was freakin’ terrified when I got it because the role description went something like:

"Must be willing to work late nights until eyes bleed."
"Must be one helluva badass enforcer."
"Must be able to withstand weight of job on puny shoulders for it will crush you vertebrae by vertebrae."

Okay, maybe not exactly, but that's how I read it at the time because I was a.) 21 b.) in no way authoritative, and c.) twenty-freaking-one. Was anybody going to take me seriously? Cue Cher Horowitz: AS IF!

Then I walked into the intimidating empire and things turned out to be more geraniums and gumdrops and less grenades and guillotines. Everybody was so nice, so professional, so talented. Surprisingly, I found myself fitting snugly into the grooves of this strange little niche of magazine professions.

But after two and half years, I quit. Why? It wasn't the stress. It wasn't the late nights. It wasn't even the mediocre cafeteria soup (why call it chicken noodle when there was never any chicken in it goddammit?!). I quit because even though I got a thrill out of being a production editor, I was reminded of what I should be doing. Every day I got to watch my co-workers turn empty pages into beautiful somethings (with words, imagery, design, whathaveyou). It made me itch to use my own talent, to create my own beautiful somethings. I did freelance writing on the side, but I couldn't devote my entire heart and mind to it because my job was like a needy brat that kept tugging at me for attention. I knew at some point I'd have to switch the attention back to my first and favourite child: writing. I needed to grow as a writer and I needed this growing to have a space and a time of its own.

My last day is Dec. 14. What next? Buy a one-way ticket to Thailand, obviously. I'll be writing for an English magazine in the breathtaking hilly city of Chiang Mai. I'll write more on this later, but the hard part is over, the part where I have to leave a job that's been good to me. It gave me insurance, a free cell phone, the cheapest gym membership of mankind, and the coolest bunch of people. (Did I mention the cell phone came with a fully paid for plan? Yeah. I know. Awesome.)

Am I crazy? My mom thinks so, but she also thinks Pierce Brosnan is the best Bond. In times of doubt, I bring myself back to some advice I received a couple years ago. I was honoured with a magazine writing award for a feature I wrote at Ryerson. Mike Sager, a writer/novellist/like-Hunter-Thompson-but-way-more-likeable, was the judge of the award and wrote this to me: "Whoever you are, you have an extremely bright future. Keep up the good work. And get out of the office." Dear Mr. Sager, if the powers that be have brought you to my little nook of the internet, I did what you told me and got out of the office. Now can you get me a gig at Esquire or what?