Turning the Page
My time at Main Street Magazine has been marked by long production weekends, InDesign frustrations and a lot of red pen. I’ve sat in a chair in the Newsroom playing with the InDesign layout on the same story for three hours straight. I’ve spent eight hours a day, each day of the weekend working on story after story, even before I officially worked for the magazine. But the frustration of being forced to function with a fidgety program does not even come close to overshadowing the satisfaction I got from doing work that I love.
When I express to people how much I love editing, I get some odd looks. And yes, I’m talking about the nitty gritty, keep it in parallel structure, no-more-oxford-comma kind of editing. That painstaking process of perfecting each word, sentence and phrasal structure. To some people, it sounds like hell. To me, it sounds like home. There is nothing more satisfying than taking a story with creative potential but poor execution and turning it into a fine-tuned model of the writer’s ability. I get to be the one to make the piece something to remember. To make the writer take it to their first English teacher and say, “look what I’ve created. This is the path you set me on.” Editors may be behind the scenes, but without our work the scene would fall apart.
I was never the kid who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. My brother wanted to be an entrepreneur, like our dad. My sister dreamed of being an architect since she could stack blocks. They each got set on their paths right from the start. Me? I waffled.
At the beginning of each school year, especially when you’re young, you get asked what you want to be when you grow up. My answers oscillated. “A teacher.” “A mom.” “I don’t know, I just want to travel the world.” Eventually you get to the point where, late in high school, you’re applying to colleges and picking majors and every damn adult in your life asks you, “so, what’s next?” I rolled the dice. I’d always loved language; I took three years of Spanish and a year and a half of German in high school. I had a knack for it, so why not stick with it? Isn’t that what they always say? “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It would be a few years before I figured out that the second half of that saying is, “because no one is hiring.”
I picked Spanish for a major and enrolled in a linguistics class for good measure. (Hey, if you’re good at some languages, why not learn about all of them?) A week into classes, I fell in love. With linguistics, that is. I switched to a double major and signed up for more language classes, sticking with Spanish and German and eventually adding French. I got my gen-eds out of the way early, so by the time I got to my junior year I had way too much free time. I wandered around U Day and that’s where I met Main Street.
I knew I wanted to get involved, but after the first meeting I realized that I lacked something the other writers had—ideas. When tasked with a topic, I can churn out the required 800 to 1,200 words in an hour. But I just didn’t have my own story to tell. I pushed out a few mediocre missives, but I was never really satisfied or proud of my work. In an effort to solve my frustrations and still be involved at MSM, I asked if I might be able to help edit. There weren’t any positions available, but the Editor-in-Chief at the time, Andrew, saw no reason I couldn’t help out.
I had found my passion. The answer to the age-old question of “what do you want to be when you grow up.” I found something in that Newsroom that I thought I might never find: drive. All I wanted to do was edit. We would spend day in and day out on production weekend sitting in that same claustrophobic room, shifting in our chairs trying to get comfortable after eight hours on our asses, but I couldn’t get enough. I wanted nothing more than to rip apart prose with my trusty (cliché) red pen.
I quickly earned a reputation among the more senior editors for being ruthless with my grammar corrections. It’s not something I ever thought I would be proud of—in any other circle, it would actually be very embarrassing—but here, it was a badge of honor. Any particularly tricky story got passed off to me. Nine times out of 10, I was the last one to look at every story before it was cleared. It took me my whole life, but finally I had found somewhere I was really needed.
I went from pseudo-editor to Content Editor to Managing Editor in my year and a half career at Main Street. Each role brought new challenges and—cheesy as it may seem—honest-to-god life lessons. I learned how to work to a deadline. How to stand up for myself. How to apply my newfound skills in all areas of my life.
I loved each job more than the one before. The last hat I tried on, Managing Editor, showed me that editing isn’t the only thing I’m passionate about. Being in charge of making that final product perfect, and managing the people who make it all happen, was something I really developed a love for. I had spent over a year being frustrated with InDesign, and it felt amazing to be able to pass on the knowledge that I had finally smoothed out. I was able to help cultivate the next generation of MSM, and these awesome people are going to kick ass. I wish I could take some credit for what they’ve learned and how talented they are, but I know it’s all on them. I’m just proud I got to be a part of it before I go.
I can edit for the rest of my life. But I can never again be a member of this team, with these people in this Newsroom. I’m leaving the life that I’ve known for the last four years and starting fresh once again. Graduating and moving on to the next chapter in my life. But there’s not a thing I’m going to miss more than my editors and this magazine, and that stuffy old Newsroom.