Photo: Anne Lawrence, my dog visiting me at the office, 2013

To my mind, the job was to be a functioning adult. That’s it. There was nothing difficult about it — just take care of things. As Office Manager and Marketing Coordinator, I was responsible for making sure the flashy drink display by the door always had the right mix of craft and popular sodas. Careful not to forget the flavored fizzy waters! I made sure time sheets were submitted on time and existing formulas for productivity and sales commissions were calculated correctly (cut + paste). I organized live events through Meetup and worked to develop a local community, but the Marketing department, located elsewhere, wouldn’t speak to me, so that remained a title only.

I had many titles over the five years I spent with this company. I migrated from Office Manager to Content Strategist to Lead Game Designer to Studio Director, as improbable as that path sounds. When I first joined, I had just quit another job that had lasted 88 days. I was happy to blame Mercury in retrograde for my departure. That made about as much as sense as my being there in the first place; it wasn’t a good fit even though it matched my background and industry. I wasn’t sure this new job was a good fit either, but it offered me something I desperately needed — a chance to do a job, get paid, and get on it with it.

The office was a historic building with red brick walls, concrete floors, an open floor plan, a conference room in a remodeled car lift elevator shaft, soaring ceilings, and banks of windows that looked out onto downtown. The light in the afternoon was searing, so the shades had to be carefully arranged. Managing the physical space and anticipating the needs of the people gave me a tangible output, but the real work was inside. I had to shed the person I was at the door, empty myself out, prepare the canvas for whatever that next step was going to be for me. I started a program of self-study, buying used books and building a small library: The Mythical Man Month, Crossing the Chasm, Start with Why. I pored over them, took notes, wrote out exercises for myself. I watched videos, took training courses on Jobs to be Done, Growth Hacking, whatever I could find. I was bored out of my mind, but I had to believe that this was all okay. Someday, I thought, in the future, I will figure out what all of this means and how to use it to change my life, but today, I will be an Office Manager. Snacks anyone? Did the sales guy like the protein bars? I really need to make sure we have baby aspirin because I’m concerned about the Art Director’s stress level.

Why did I stick with it? What was in for me? At 24 hours a week, this job paid more than I had ever received for any full-time job. It felt obscene that a job this meaningless could give me so much for so little effort. Nevermind the masters in art history, the professional and non-profit jobs, the adjunct and full-time university positions, and all of the side gigs I could hustle — my task was to put aside my pride, quiet my ambitions, and move through the days of the week.

Mondays, depending on the season, we either met friends and other babies at the Arboretum or the North Park library for baby bounce, stories, and picnics. Wednesdays, the local library was open late, perfect for browsing for new picture books. On Thursdays, we would head to the arts district. After playing in the museum and showing her my favorite corners in the galleries, (it’s good to visit old friends), we would cross the street. At the downtown park, she would race through the fountains, then we would pick up ice cream from the food trucks. Blue, if we could find it. Fridays, we were more likely to head to the local park for the slides and swings.

I could be an “adult” at the office, so she could be a baby. Even though, I didn’t have a choice about whether to work or not, I was determined that it would be worth every moment, until the time was right to push a little harder, find the spot that would give, find a way to make the change happen, build that future. But in those days, it was all about counting the moments until I could be with her again. That was enough.

Photo: Anne Lawrence, Klyde Warren Park, 2013

Writer, researcher, observer