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I AM hanging on (and stop calling me Sloopy)


Last week, I used this column to complain about my job. Well, there's more.

Now, lest you think I’m an unappreciative cad, I am very grateful to have had a job, especially during a time when so many were losing theirs. But frequently, the increasing mind-numbingness of the job overpowered the gratitude. I was making money, but it was killing me on the inside.

Well, that second prepress person they hired left about three years ago to do freelance graphic design, so I was back to doing it all on my own again. Fortunately, they didn’t wait so long to hire a replacement, although it did take a few months.

Finally, about two and a half years ago, they found someone, a very nice, personable guy with experience. I trained him in our procedures and he settled in, again taking some of the load from my shoulders.

It was during his time that the automation system began to be set up. It was a long process, over the course of a painfully long time, with modules being gradually installed, workflows being written, and all of it being tested and retested. While all that was happening, my new coworker was getting personal, one-on-one training in this new system while I – you guessed it – was kept busy with all the daily work.

After several months, the system was ready to go online, and I finally started receiving bits and pieces of on-the-job training in this system. I couldn’t get that one-on-one training when it was going on, because somebody had to do the work. So this learning process was, for me, grueling, minuscule yet overwhelming, and frequently maddening.

Sometime during the last ten years, I rediscovered a past love of mine. Pictures of me back in the olden days before color was invented, in a lot of them, I had a pencil in my hand. I was drawing before I could read, but once I learned to read, I started writing. Even more than doing artwork, I loved to write.

I found a couple of the stories I had written years before, reading through them, recognizing some of the things I had done wrong. I began a diligent study of how to craft a good story, how to build interesting characters, how to put words together in such a way that they didn’t just tell the story, but created visuals in the reader’s mind.

I became fascinated with the process, and it gave me something to focus on, something to look forward to as I struggled through the daily drudge of my job. I began working on my first full-length novel, and in less than a year, it was complete.

I hired an editor to look it over, and I polished it up, and I designed a cover for it. All that creativity was making me giddy! I had great plans for my life as a New York Times bestselling author, maybe seeing my creation adapted to the big screen.

Alas, it didn’t work out quite that way, but at least I had some creative outlet. During the past nine years, I ended up writing eleven novels.

Unfortunately, the contrast of the feeling that writing gave me just made me resent the I’m-so-bored-I-could-gouge-my-eyes-out drudgery of my job even more. I looked forward to retiring, and not the kind of retirement where I die of boredom six months later. I anticipated a retirement in which I would finally have all the time I wanted to be able to write, maybe do some traveling.

Only problem with that is that by the time most people are able to retire, they’re old and tired and worn out. I didn’t have much of a nest egg saved up, so I was anticipating having to work a lot longer than I had hoped. I had a 401(k) from my job that was slowly increasing (or decreasing) with the whims of the stock market, but it wasn’t enough to support me for very long in the style to which I had become accustomed, let alone allow me to do any meaningful traveling.

Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion to this first chapter of the rest of my life.