I’m a dramatic editor.
Don’t me wrong – my desk editors and reporters and columnists at The Appalachian are lovely and talented. But sometimes, I still click on a Google Doc and get so mad I forget to breathe. The article will appear on my screen with a source missing, or a blatant Oxford Comma, or 5,000 characters when 1,000 would’ve done the job.
It happens simply because I don’t manage a staff of cyborgs, but a very real and flawed group of student journalists and editors.
But sometimes I’m not good at remembering that, and I end up stomping around for 20 minutes, complaining about things that usually aren’t that big of a deal.
So now I have a new coping strategy: I get up and take a walk.
By the time I’ve circled the third floor of the library or the back end of the student union, I’ve usually gained some perspective. I’m really hoping this whole thing will reduce the number of angry phone calls and snarky g-chats my poor editors receive.
Anyway, though, I’m backing into my point. If this was a blog post written by one of my reporters, they’d be receiving a passive-aggressive g-chat any minute now.
The story I’m trying to tell is actually about tonight. I was in the library editing and I opened the story and there it was – I needed to take another of those calming walks. Immediately.
So I did. I walked into the stacks. On an ancient impulse – ancient in terms of my personal history, anyway – I buried my nose in the first book I saw.
I breathed in and the smell brought back a few truths I desperately need to remember – because it transported me back to the earliest years of my life.
When I was growing up, I didn’t really have friends. I read constantly. My friends were books.
And I was happy back then. That happiness left me by the time I was 14, and the happiness that returned at 18 wasn’t the same – it was exquisite but fragile. The happiness of my childhood was steady and smooth and solid. It was the last time in my life I really felt I had something to land on.
That firm landing was made of words.
So first I remembered, as I breathed in the tangy smell of fresh paper and ink, that I have stumbled into a career based on something I adore. I remembered that I was once in love with words and nothing else, and now I am in love with words and everything else, and I remembered that I’m lucky.
I thought about how thrilled 10-year old Meghan would be if she could see just one day of 21-year-old Meghan’s life. The newspaper! The friends! The independence! But most of all, the writing. The words.
I’ve had that thought a million times, but tonight it was almost real. I was smelling books and a little part of me was back in the Lexington County Public Library, breathing that scent and building a life on daydreams. It made it all just short of tangible, like I was 10 years old and watching a film reel of my 21-year-old library interlude. It was so clear how happy I would’ve been about my future – the one I’m living right now.
And then I saw it.
I saw that I have something lovely, something that I can’t really sum up even in my mind. Something I’d do well to remember when I feel like complaining.
See…I have never once felt about a person the way I feel about my career.
Well, of course I have. Once.
But this – this is something I can trust. I have been in love with words all my life – not just the utility of words but their shape and their structure and yes, their scent. I’ve been in love with them since I sifted through the primary-colored shelves at that hometown library – since I started smelling books.
I am passionate about words, about reading and writing and changing and discovering and manipulating them. And that’s something solid, just like the happiness of my childhood. It’s something I can hold for the rest of my life.
When I open that Google Doc and catch the misplaced modifier or the comma splice or the flipped inverted pyramid, it’s not cause to pitch a fit – it’s one more piece of proof that I made it. I am lucky enough to get paid for something I love – something I love enough to give up sleep and sanity and relaxation and even the free time it would require to read a book.
I love this extravagantly, and I trust it because I know I’ll love it forever. I understand that I might not always have it. My college degree and carefully-padded resume entitle me to precisely nothing. I understand that.
But even if I didn’t have it – even if I was working at McDonald’s and not getting paid a cent for anything I wrote or edited or assigned – I’d still be trying to get there again. I will always try.
And that’s the joy of it – and sometimes the curse of it, but mostly the joy.
For the rest of my life, I will have something worth waking up for. Because even when I don’t have it, I’ll be fighting for it.
That’s what I remembered when I buried my face in that book.