It’s true—I was the type of teenager who asked my mom which outfit she liked best. It’s also true that I sincerely wanted her opinion. Likewise, it’s true that as soon as she said which one she liked best, the other one inevitably seemed way cuter. (For better or for worse, though, I am a fairly transparent person, so it probably didn’t take too many of these interactions for my mother to realize that she should always lie; then, when I picked the other outfit, I’d actually be wearing the one she secretly preferred.)
So it is no surprise to me that, since the National Fibromyalgia Association has moved into snappy new offices, and I have a room of my own—with space for a desk and a computer cart and a filing cabinet and a chair and for walking around, and a window with a tree outside and today there were crows inside the tree which made me very happy—that instead of being merely thrilled that I can say whatever stupid thing I feel like to whoever’s on the phone, and no one can mock me because no one can overhear me; that I can read features out loud to make sure I’ve edited out all the imperfections, and I will annoy no one; that I can turn off the irritating fluorescent lights and sit in the comfortable green gloom of the tree shadow and no one will flip the lights back on; well—I am thrilled about all that, but it’s also kinda lonely in there. Sure, there’s people next door and all that jazz. But I’m just used to a roommate. (I’ll get over it! I was an only child for a very, very long time before my ittle brother came along. I’m sure I can easily revert.)
So yesterday I saw an email in my inbox; the sender’s name appeared to be that of the editor of a major national magazine I’ve pitched several times. When I opened the email, it turned out it was from the editor of a major national magazine I’ve pitched several times. She referenced my latest pitch, and said that while the pub isn’t interested in that exact story, my intriguing lede had, you guessed it, intrigued her, and she wondered if I’d be willing to write an essay on that particular subject. She then went on to reference my latest blog entry, and I flipped out a little. Someone I didn’t know was reading my blog! (I did realize, even at the time of the minor flip-out, that that is kinda the point of having a blog in the first place. But you see, the point of this entry is how contradictory my reactions can be. Just hang in there—you’ll be fine.) So I immediately went to that entry to see if, in the course of being myself, I had written anything inflammatory or super-obnoxious. But no, everything was just regular obnoxious. Whew!
A similar thing happened last week. A nice elderly man had left me a voicemail regarding a story I’d run in the publication that’s my newest gig. He wanted to know if I had a contact person’s name, and an address, because he wanted to mail a $10 donation to the people in need who were the subject of the story. (Is that the most touching thing you’ve ever read? Somehow way more touching than if it were $100. Don’t you think?)
When I phoned him back, he was very, very grateful, which was sweet. And then he told me that he’d also liked the story I wrote elsewhere in that issue of the publication. And again, my breath stopped for a moment.
I mean, how stupid is this: I’m a writer. My name is on stuff. People see that name. (Most people ignore it. Right? It takes a writer to notice a byline.) But as soon as someone makes a comment like that nice elderly man, it feels vaguely stalker-y. (Yet more contradictory-ness: in high school, my friends and I spent many an hour driving up and down the streets of the boys we liked. Also calling them and hanging up. [Thank God caller ID hadn’t been invented yet. The empty, empty hours that would have left us!] And if that isn’t stalker-y, I must be reading the definition wrong.)
So there you go: an office of my own, a good-paying assignment, and a compliment. Sometimes life is just so hard!