My happy place

During my fifth year of college  … yeah, I attended one of those state schools that have a four-year graduation rate of a whopping 15 percent, so your point is?

Anyway, during my fifth year of college, I was editor in chief … yeah, that was the official title: Editor in chief. Sort of inflated, but I’ve always thought it was cool and important sounding. (One of my managing editors, by the way, was in his sixth or seventh year of college.)

Anyway, during my fifth year of college, I was editor in chief of the student newspaper. I was made for that job. If you can call it a “job.” I was paid a stipend of next to nothing. But I guess I was paid so it qualifies.

We published twice a week, and I remember many a Sunday and Wednesday nights when I would sit in front of a computer terminal to edit copy and puzzle together the edition’s design. To be clear, I didn’t do any of it by myself. The office was abuzz with people who designed ads, wrote headlines, developed photos and pasted together bits and pieces of news to make a newspaper.

On the way to our basement office, I would often stop at the deli and get a three-cheese bagel and a bag of Doritos to munch while editing. Despite my deplorable meal choices, I lost weight that year because I would forget to eat. I was engrossed in my work, and time meant nothing on those nights. We were there until the bitter end and we had the “we’ll sleep when we’re dead” attitude of a good group of 20somethings no matter how long it took so it didn’t really pay to watch the clock.

I was underpaid, and we worked hard, but I felt like I was doing valuable work. We were putting out the news. We were telling important stories.

This is how I judge a good day’s work, even today. Watching the clock or checking off an endless to-do list of meaningless tasks or sitting in tedious meetings or biting my lip during noisy conference calls is not important work. Telling important stories is valuable work and it is one of the reasons I love to write this blog.

Is my interview posted a couple of days ago with an 8-year-old who colors cats “important”?

Sure it is. It’s important to him. It’s important to me. It made some readers laugh. And it’s forever captured on the internet (which sounds eerily self-important like “editor in chief” but so be it). Roughly once a week, I nail it with a post like that. I capture someone’s interesting story.

And that’s valuable.

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8 responses to “My happy place

  1. What a good perspective on work.=)

  2. I love your blog. I get the message that you’re trying to convey, here, but I was left feeling a bit dejected about the job that I have. See, I’m one of those people that goes to meetings, checks off tasks, counts the hours (you have to when you’re not salaried), and then goes home feeling like I accomplished something. Maybe I’m not curing cancer, or making the next big thing… But I’m helping customers and employees and helping people makes me feel good.

    • minnesotatransplant

      Hey, Megs, I hear where you’re coming from. Every job involves a certain amount of busy work, and the only way to accomplish it is by thinking of and believing in the big picture. You’re on the right track. I am, however, strongly considering taking the road less traveled — the one where I’m not salaried and can call my own shots. If I’m calling my own shots, I won’t be curing cancer either, but the hours I’ll be counting will be billable ones. Stay tuned.

      • that’s an exciting idea! I adore your blog–are you going to be a freelance writer/author?

        If you are thinking of starting your own business, I highly recommend the website inc.com. I’m in college for my associate’s degree in business so we spent quite a bit of time exploring that site for one of our weekly assignments on small business. Good luck! I’ll certainly stay tuned.

        Oh, and I like the big picture I’m a part of… the company that I am working for is helping to advance electric vehicles, clean energy, and healthy work places. I’m on a committee right now promoting healthymagination. You can see more here: http://www.healthymagination.com/ and here: http://www.ecomagination.com/

      • minnesotatransplant

        Hmm… very interesting! Thanks for the leads. I’ll check them out.

  3. I love your blog and I feel like every story you publish is important.

    And as a college student who is graduating with a B.A. after 6 1/2 years (okay, 6 1/2 in August. I’m almost there!) I am glad someone out there can relate to how this feels right now.

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