And the livin’ is easy…
I’ve been working at the Bulletin for about 4-5 days now and it’s been an interesting new position. Since I’m not getting paid, I expected to be a workhorse typist–so far, I haven’t been. What I am discovering is how much I hate staring at a computer screen. The Bulletin isn’t a large newspaper but it has a fair-sized circulation considering the cirumstances of the town where I live. There are probably about 10 paper staffers (editor/writer side) and I happen to be working the Accent section (weddings, local cooks, soft news, etc.).
My original intent was to learn layout–particularly the use of Quark–as it seems to apply to just about every job I look at. Holly, the Accent editor, is really great, but her desk is literally 2 feet deep in a mosh pit of papers and pictures. She can’t find anything and neither can I. The first two days she had me sit beside her in a horrible chair and just watch her zoom through a 4 page spread. My eyes hurt. Quark at the MB is used on a Mac computer–one I’m not terribly familiar with and one which uses a lot of computer keyboard shortcuts which I do not know. In addition, you’re playing with cenimeters a lot and that just annoys the heck out of me as a non-detail-oriented person.
Today, I got to work on my first spread–the SUNDAY EDITION! This is a pretty big deal because some people ONLY buy the Sunday papers. I put out about 4 pages of Summer Event News which basically highlights all the camps, evening activites, and classes for people to do. Then, I spread the engagement photos. This was a very scary thing to me because I just kept thinking how upset the people would be if I messed something up–I quadruple checked that thing!
The weird thing is, I’m beginning to learn a thing or two from doing all this Accent reporting. Like Martinsville actually has a lot of stuff to do (which I no longer have the energy to do because I’m exhasted) and that many of my high school peers are now married or having kids. This isn’t exactly a thriving area, but I’m beginning to respect it more and more.
A Peice of Paper…
Having just received my Master’s degree, I’ve gotten smacked in the face a few times by how little that really means in the scheme of things. The other night we went to my favorite local restaurant called Dixie Pig. It is just as much of a diner as it sounds. I love this place because it still has the same 70s style seating and racing memorbilia it always has–and the same pig tray that oinks when you take a piece of gum.
I’ve been there a few times since a former high school classmate started working there and always felt a bit awkward to be served by her at a restaurant where the best BBQ in town is still just $1.95. I knew she couldn’t be making much. This night, she was chatty, asking how I was, talking to my family (we rode the same school bus together so we know intimate details about the others’ life that were never spoken between us). I sat, embarrased as my mom and grandma bragged about my shiny new degree to which she explained she had failed at getting her own GED, but hoped to try again soon. We chatted about old classmates, her marriage, where I was going (DC was still a foreign idea to her, I think). As she brought our final check, she put her hand on mine and said very honestly, “Ashley, I’m really proud of you. You’re smart, I knew you would go far.”
I didn’t know what I should say in return. Telling her I was proud of her too would be an insult because we both knew she had accomplished little since high school. She had recently married her boyfriend of 7 years, so I simply told her congrats and left it at that.
I worked hard for my degree; there were enough sleepless nights and cramming sessions to know that. But tonight, as I sat at another local restaurant and pondered the people around me–ruddy faced locals with mullets, racing t-shirts, adorable babies, far too much cheap jewelry, and happy smiles–I couldn’t help but feel a sentiment that I still can’t put my finger on exactly. It isn’t pity–yes, I’m sorry they will struggle financially and will physically work themselves so tired that all they can hope for is a soft chair and cold beer when they get home–it isn’t guilt–I worked harder than anyone I know to get my college education and I paid for every single semester on my own–it is a kind of transient sense. I’ve been where they are but I’m unlikely to go back again. I’ll never quite leave behind the tradition or that coupon-cutting quality, but I have had a thirst for knowledge and curiosity and culture for as long as I could remember.
There is a certain kind of quiet resentment I harbor for my friends who turn up a snobby nose to people like this. While I love you all, I can still hear the echo of friends’ voices as they hug their purse a little tighter or laugh at the person with the holey jeans. Most of them would never think of picking up someone walking on the side of the road, but my own dad walked a solid 15 miles from work some mornings when we couldn’t afford to get our car fixed. All this just helps me know that if I settled into an easy job, one which doesn’t mean much to anyone and which I’m unhappy with–well, I’m doing all those people an injustice. And I’m trying my damndest to do them proud.
Seeks Words for Writing Stories
There are hard moments when I’m reminded of the reality of the world. This week I went to see Mark Warner give a speech at the local Ruitan club to ask for money and votes as he pushes of his campaign for the Senate race. The topics weren’t easy: gas prices, immigration, the war, religion, marriage. He dodged the bullets charmingly but fairly ineffectively. I love paying attention to politics–I usually enjoy CNN and NPR (yeah, those stations at the end of dial with the mono-tone voice). But this week, three things happened which made me look at life-reality differently.
–This morning, I saw Stacy. My best friend from home–skinny little girl–is pregnant. She was beautiful. She had this little tiny tummy and she was already keeping her hand over it, protectively. I was kind of mad because I had to share this moment with another friend from high school who was tagging along. But lately since I’ve been really questioning my own desire to have kids, I was surprised by how much I couldn’t take her off my mind. I’m SO happy for her. It is such a miracle I think we often take for granted.
–I started reading a book called “My Year of Living Biblically.” This is a humorous book (with a pretty remarkable cliff notes of the Bible) about an agnostic man who decided to live the Bible to it’s most literal points for one year. Has given me perspective on religion which I will write more about when I am done. I also picked up the Koran at the library (who knew that would be there?) and plan to at least give it some cursary glaces so I can see what the big fuss is about.
–This week was an enormous week of letting go. It’s not something I really want to talk about. I was feeling pretty miserable about myself and some future things I had really wanted. Perhaps on the worst possible day of crumminess, I am waiting for my new cell phone to arrive in the mail, when I get another package from my best friend Lauren. I knew it was a graduation present, I opened it up joking to myself, “Hope it’s not a paperweight!” It was. Only it was the best paperweight I’ve ever seen and perhaps had inscribed upon it the most meaningful 6 words in my life: Seek words to tell our stories.
There is a commentary on the Sex and the City DVD about a necklace that the character Carrie Bradshaw wears from time to time. The necklace represents her when she is most vulnerable and in need of getting back in touch with herself. She wears it when she must focus on her growth.
Seeks Words to Tell Our Stories is my necklace.