A few days ago, I went to a reunion of PW Communications, a medical communications company I worked for in the 1980s—a very unique and close-knit group of people.
I was just 23 and trying to be an actress in New York City, so I needed a paying job I could work at night. I perused The New York Times’ “Help Wanted” ads (does that work anymore?), and found a position for a freelance word processor. I fibbed about my ability to use a computer—one of the only fibs I’ve ever told when seeking a job, but it was one that paid off because they offered me training. It was on the Wang System—great name, huh?—an obsolete computer program that was kind of fun to use. Anyway, I took a typing test and got the job. (It always bugged me how girls had to know how to type. My first job out of college I failed a typing test and was forced to teach myself how to type. I covered the keys on a typewriter keyboard and every night I’d type away. Soon, I was typing in my sleep, typing the dialogue in my head of the words in movies I was watching, typing, typing, typing. It paid off, because I finally got a job, but I never knew a man who was asked if he could type. Hopefully, today, THAT'S changed since everyone now types on computers.)
Twenty-five years later, seeing some of the same faces I remember from so long ago, I realized this company had a huge influence on my personal and creative life:
1. I met several very close friends through PW, people who continue to be my friends today. I also met my career mentor, a man who taught me to value myself and the skills I bring to the table.
2. I discovered the concept of being a freelance writer, something that I didn’t even know about when I graduated from college. I’ve been a freelancer ever since, to the point now where I can’t imagine having a regular job anymore and sitting through meetings or showing up at a specified time each day! And thanks to the scores of people who left this company and went on to build their own companies, I’ve rarely had to pursue work…it’s typically come to me instead, so I don’t think I’ve even had a typical freelance career. Yes, I’ve gone out and made many opportunities for myself—pursuing consumer magazines and book contracts and speaking engagements and all sorts of things like that—but I’ve always had a great deal of stability and a fairly stable income. And I’ve never been laid off, something I am so thankful for today.
So when I get to thinking about how I "hate" my job, I try to remember how lucky I am to work from a home office with my faithful dog Zoey by my side, making my own schedule and picking and choosing among jobs offered to me.
And I think about my 10 years at PW. Funny, all those “older” people who seemed so intimidating back then turn out to be, well, just people too.