The library seems so far away, now. I mean, it’s only been two weeks, but the difference between an academic library and a huge advertising agency is, as it turns out, fucking huge—similar to the gulf between the two salaries. Who would have thought it? I wouldn’t have thought it. I would have been amazed and alarmed, if you had come to me six months ago and whispered in my ear, "libraries and ad agencies have nothing in common." I would have accused you of being a dirty communist who was trying to corrupt me. Why, libraries and advertising agencies were practically the same thing! I would have cried, and then slapped your momma and called you a whore. But only because working at the library for five years had made me really, really crazy.
Okay, so I would have believed you. It’s the reason I left, isn’t it? Because I couldn’t deal with everything that made working at an academic institution so unbelievably soul crushing. Maybe "soul crushing" is overstating it a bit—which is so unusual for me—but it had gotten hard working there. Despite how, on paper, it sounded like the perfect job for the laziest person to ever roam the earth (i.e., me). Get your work done in approximately 45 minutes, and then spend the rest of the day surfing the net? Sign me up and pay me a pitiful salary, please!
It was pretty perfect when I was in grad school, and I needed those remaining 7 hours for schoolwork and reading and writing and decompressing from all the rage that filled my soul when I thought about the limitations of what talent I have and also about all the papers that were due that week. The library was a job that kind of absorbed those emotions, and diffused them, and let them sort of spread and sink and disappear. A delicious creamy pudding onto which you pour molasses, or maybe some kind of really old dish sponge.
There was something about the place that encouraged the most laid-back, laissez-faire, bon temps roulez kind of feeling. We showed up late, we forgot how long our lunches were, we put our feet on the desks, we threw paper clips and packs of Post-its and shot rubber bands, and we dressed funny on Halloween (see picture, above). We sung ’80s ballads and did the Charleston and jogged through the stacks and hid under our desks and we did our work, and well, in the middle and in between and it was like being in a co-ed dorm that had been sprayed down with vodka, sometimes.
And sometimes it was slow and quiet and I took off my shoes and curled up in my chair and wore a scarf wrapped around my head as a turban or assembled sticky notes across the top of my head and took care of my own stuff and no one seemed to care, and everyone was just as weird and casual as we were, clomping around in bedroom slippers and wearing wool hats and bathrobes and wandering the halls in search of a red stapler—just to have.
Sometimes I didn’t bother to shower before I came into work, and sometimes I didn’t bother to change out of my workout clothes after I ran, and I don’t think I ever wore makeup after my very first day there, when my co-worker at the time said, "Aren’t you fancy?" and I wiped off my lipstick and I had been happy ever since.
It was the perfect job for the pack of weirdos we were—are—and it is still that kind of perfect job. But I got restless, and antsy, tired of days that could sometimes seem endless, tired of being more or less useless, and also of being poor. I wanted, instead of vague and amorphous days that stretched out forever and ever, to have a point and purpose, an in-box and an out-box and a steady stream of work that would keep me busy and useful and happy. I wanted excitement, adventure, really wild things. An atmosphere charged with ambition and go-getterism, and people wearing shoes. And not only shoes, but really, really nice shoes. I wanted to feel like a grownup, I think. And wear really, really nice shoes.
Every time I freelanced at the agency, I thought, how different! How exciting! How different, and exciting, and look, they are all wearing slacks and proper grown up shoes, and they all look so fancy and expensive! It was very exciting to freelance there, because I would shower especially for the occasion, and pick out something nice to wear, and pull out a pair of shoes that I enjoyed immensely but had no occasion to ever wear because really, what’s the point when you’re sorting periodicals? And it made me so happy to hang out with grownups and wear lipstick and get paid a whole lot per hour to do actual work.
It’s been two weeks of lipstick and nice shoes and that in-box, out-box lifestyle of busy importance, and after my 100th retail ad of the day, I want to shoot myself in the eye most afternoons. But otherwise, so far and so good. I had these nagging doubts, when I accepted the job—everything that went along with those beautiful blondes I’ve mentioned before, their tiny little bodies, their beautiful clothes, the sense that in being forced to elevate myself to this level of fanciness and daily advertising-casual dressing on a daily basis that I would start to feel pressured, phony, ugly, inappropriate, inadequate, dumpy and ridiculous.
That’s entirely possible. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and the only thing I will want to do is put on a night gown and a pair of flip flops and forget to comb my hair and wander into work and say fuck all y’all, to the haters in their $300 jeans. Maybe I’ll develop an outraged sense of personal integrity and protest silently against the fashionista/os and show up every day in the same pillow case with unbrushed, yellow teeth. Or maybe I won’t get tired of what feels, to me, like taking care of myself. I haven’t bothered to really worry about my appearance in a long time, to think about what makes me feel good to wear, and how I want to present myself to the world. Maybe it will start to feel shallow, in awhile (around the time I’m so hungover and late to work and really, really don’t want to take a goddamn shower or wear pants), but for right now, it’s what I needed.