On My Way to Unemployment


Pronunciation: \‘jōb\
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps from obsolete job lump
Date: circa 1627

1a: a piece of work; especially : a small miscellaneous piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate
2c: a damaging or destructive bit of work
3a: something that has to be done; an undertaking requiring unusual exertion

(Excerpted from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary)


Come August 28, the etymological root of job will not be the only things that is obsolete; my days as an editor at the Smithsonian American Art Museum will also be. On Monday, I gave notice, and boy does it feel good to have that off my chest. It’s been tough sitting in meetings about projects that everyone but me thought I’d be working on.

Am I sad? No, not really.

Much too frequently my job has been “a piece of work,” and the “stated rate” has been far too low. On occasion, it’s been “damaging and destructive,” making me want to tear out my hair or give someone a good piece of my mind (if only I were confrontational). And almost always, it’s been “something that has to be done,” not something I get excited about doing.

But of the three jobs I’ve had since I came home from Greece, it was probably the best. Being an editor is something I enjoy. I like working with words, trying to find the gem that is usually hidden inside a lot of junk and polishing it until it shines. I like working with authors and designers and publishers. I have friends at work whom I will miss. I am well-liked by my boss (which did make the notifying her of my intent to leave kind of awkward as all the “I’m so lucky to have had yous” made it feel a little too much like we were breaking up instead of sorting out my resignation). And I had the privilege of working for an esteemed institution, and I can’t deny that having Smithsonian Editor on my resume probably helped open a few doors in the writing world (and will hopefully continue to do so).

What I don’t like is the bureaucracy of working for the federal government. I don’t like having co-workers whose most common refrain is “That’s not my job.” I don’t like having to go to work and sit all day at a desk on days when there is absolutely nothing to do. And I hate that hard work isn’t rewarded while whining is.

But why linger on that? I have less than 30 working days left. Then it’s off to Sweden and then the world.

As we prepare to leave, I have no need to think of where I will end up next, but I can’t help but ponder it every now and then. At this point, I’m seeing myself moving into the world of freelance—editing, writing, etc. I’ve given the office space world the old college try, but I just don’t think I’m cut out for it. But who knows, maybe after a year of complete freedom, I’ll miss the working world. It will be interesting to see how my perspective changes over the course of this coming year. Will I come back even more determined not to return to the 9-5? Or will I long for the routine of office life? What do you think?

I’m putting my money on option one.