Friday, December 19, 2008


[This story involves some names and terms that will give me away to all the wrong people, so I'm going to do some creative invention...]

When I was in junior high and high school we used to have an award ceremony every year with certificates, school letters and pins, honoring top scholars and athletes. I didn't go to a big school (my graduating class was 40-some people), but I was pretty good in my small school, albeit alone for much of my pre-college academic career. I enjoyed reading even then, but writing was second-nature to me, and at a pretty young age I was composing poetry and writing some elaborate essays, and moved into journalism the first chance I got. In my senior year of journalism I was pretty much allowed to design my own course, as long as I read literature and wrote pieces that I might publish someday.

I didn't think much of my writing gift--it's not that I didn't like my love of writing, but that I was so much a writer that I thought everyone was a writer. I am always surprised when people ask me to critique or proof writing of any kind. This practice began when I was in high school--a classmate of mine asked me to critique some of her work, and I did, with a open and loving heart. I liked my classmate and I loved words and it seemed the perfect friendship for a bit.

In my sophomore year, however, my classmate took the English award for best writer. The teacher who awarded my classmate said that my classmate had "surprised and delighted her with (my classmate)'s development of writing skills over the past year."

I couldn't believe what I had heard. Suddenly it felt as though someone said, "Oh, by the way, your right arm there? That's really mine." I wasn't so much angry at my classmate for using my teaching to gain a prize. I was stunned that a teacher I had hadn't seen my whole being. I was stunned that that teacher hadn't looked at me and seen "CLASS WRITER."


I had a knack for imitating voice in writing too--to the point that several times I was questioned for it. In elementary school a class I was in was asked to write a fantastic fiction as if it were a newspaper story. I took the assignment so literally that I printed, in perfect penmanship, a fictitious story in newspaper style and in a newspaper story shape, with the columns and everything. (Poor Sadie--my mother's pet name for me--she lived on a farm and had VERY LITTLE entertainment.) The teacher was blown away. I wrote an essay in sixth grade about a sandwich that ended all other stories about sandwiches. I wrote a short story in high school about a woman who the reader thinks is in Nazi Germany boarding a pogrom train when she is really in the US facing a bunch of bigoted Americans. That story was the start of too good--I was asked if I read any books to prepare for the story. I presented all of the books. Not one had a short story of any kind in it--they were all non-fiction and history. The teacher apologized, but, even better, she saw me. AS A WRITER.

I even had an IM conversation once completely in Shakespearean English.

But when I was in college I had a fierce time in history courses at the university level. For some reason, the writing there stopped making sense. While I made solid A's at English and Lit courses, in History courses I could never get beyond B, even to get to a B+. Nevertheless, one professor summoned me to his office one day and said, "Sarah, I have to say that this essay is the best I have ever seen a history student write."

I thanked him. "No," he said, "You don't understand. There's no way a writer like you could have written this. Where did you steal it from?"

I took the accusation to the Dean of the History Department, whom I also had as a teacher that semester. He read the paper and shrugged. "It's not that great. I'd give it a B. It looks like your other work." I took it to my advisor in the English department and asked him what he was give me for it, not explaining the circumstances. He finished, pushed it back with satisfaction as though it were an empty plate, and said, "I'd give it an A. Why do you ask?"

Oh, what the hell.


Over the past four months I have been trying to learn how manage to the style of my current employer and trying to do the job of three managers, one of which is managing another branch until next month, and the other who searches for reasons to leave the branch. The searcher is one who is continually asked to meetings and presentations to give his input, while I drown to make him look good back at home.

Meanwhile, there exists a group of people at my employer's payroll that I will call "Mini Me's," or MM's for short. They can do everything that someone like me can do, only they are hourly. The latest push by my employer is to move these people from an hourly position like theirs to a salaried position like mine. Through a series of self and manager evaluations, these people will be analyzed in terms of talent and desire.

Five people who are at this level I have worked with. All five wouldn't take my job if you doubled my salary.

It's not so much the desire. It's not so much the talent. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PR, STUPID. Public Relations are what make the English teacher pick the classmate. Public relations are what make the English teacher pick the A while the History teacher thinks it's a B. And public relations will keep the silk purse (the Mini Me) from turning into a sow's ear (which seems to be my job right now).

This is why I gave notice on Wednesday. My boss asked for more time and then abused the priviledge by turning the whole thing over to me to handle.


No thanks. I'd rather be a writer. I am who I am. And I am not a manager. I am slave labor trapped in promise clothes.

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