I’ve been thinking about work recently.
This short week is leading to a little added pressure; I’m allowing myself a little slack in the number of articles I come up with because I’ve got extra background work to do before this weekend’s Expo. I haven’t really had time to think about what it is I need to do there, and haven’t had time to so much as think about packing. I’ve been preoccupied with my sets of interviews and conversations for the community magazine I’m responsible for. And so I’ve been thinking about work.
It took me a while to find a voice and a place for myself in this fledgling production. When I was first brought on board to the company, which runs all manner of online networking sites, and first given the task of shaping the new magazine, I was at a loss as to what direction to take. The magazine is, ostensibly, part of a dating site, yet the articles I posted, fluffy cosmopolitan bits about big-city serial daters, about how-tos for sharp profiles, about navigating that first face-to-face meeting, received only a lukewarm response. I tried for spicier. No luck. I tried more conservative. Nothing there either. My confusion grew. I was used to writing for a specific reader, yet this readership was too wide-spread to easily pitch anything to. It was impossible to please them all.
A few months into the job, still frustrated by the broadness of the audience and their seeming disinterest in any of the topics I approached, I stumbled across a member profile that sounded interesting. I wrote, curious about this woman’s story, and ended up conducting an impromptu interview about what turned out to be an extraordinary life. I shaped it into a quick feature article, posted it to the site with a link to her profile, and found, to my surprise, that the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
I’d found the answer. The site members, it turns out, love reading about their own. They love reading about the variety of lives, and the shared threads of emotion and growth and occasional loneliness they all experience. They love reading about other members who live in other parts of the world. And I love doing the work . . . I love scrounging around for intriguing voices (not always easy . . . the most banal personals ads hide the most incredible stories), and I love engaging them in conversation, and I love teasing out what’s most remarkable about their lives. I wrote about a woman who’d survived last year’s tsunami. I wrote about an Australian who witnessed the car accident that killed her long-estranged sister. I’m working right now on a short article about a former civics teacher who took up triathlons after he retired, and has now completed five Ironmans, including one in which he crashed and fractured three vertebrae in his neck. These people are all amazing; their perspectives on life are beautiful; none of this was mentioned in their profiles.
I love hearing these people’s stories, and I love telling them, and it’s funny, because when I took the job, I never thought I’d end up making the connections (and by this I mean the connections between others, not personal connections for my own ambitions) I do. I never thought I’d end up spreading these little seeds of community. It’s gratifying, and I’m surprisingly happy to be there.
After I commented, at lunch today, on this sense of satisfaction, one of my co-workers reminded me that it was my doing: I could have just kept on posting pieces about the perils of singledom in NYC, just as I was hired to do. Instead, I kept hunting for some way to engage. It’s funny how much of a difference making a difference (however minor) can make in oneself, and to one’s approach to work. I feel, now, as though the writing I do matters somehow: I give voice to the humanity behind all these searching faces. It’s small, but it’s something, and I’m happy for this.
I’m happy, too, that I’m being flown to Las Vegas tomorrow, to cover the Adult Entertainment Expo for another site the company runs. The AVN Awards are on Sunday. It’s not every job that gives you the opportunity to attend The Oscars of Porn.