I felt like death. My world, as I had known it, was gone. It was like I had lost everything that had made me anybody.
I considered pitching a fit. Shouting, cussing, throwing stuff. But such a reaction requires spontaneity, and I have even less a supply of that than empathy. I would need to plan ahead so I would know exactly what to shout and what to throw. Also factoring in here is my emotional make-up that is decidedly non-confrontational. Acting out would call attention to myself and that would be bad.
So no pitching a fit.
I went into the worst depression of my life. I didn’t feel like working out. I gained weight. I withdrew even more, avoiding the gaze from faces who wanted to know why I didn’t have the column any more.
I made half-hearted attempts to find other lines of work, but nothing clicked. It was pretty easy to figure out why. I have no friends. No contacts. No one to put a good word in on my behalf to HR.
Many columnists enjoy basking in the afterglow of their paragraphs. I know a guy who goes to a bar where his buddies pat him on the back, and express their good fortune to be in such close proximity to such a riveting wordsmith.
Not me. If there is a bar where everybody knows my name, I would drink elsewhere. Every day I donned blinders and tried to craft the perfect 550 words. I would let a week pass and reread a piece that perhaps made the grade. I always found a phrase or a transition that needed work and was re-challenged to try even harder.
Writing the column was the perfect job. If I talked with somebody, the process took about an hour and I was gone. The person on the other side of the coffee table gleaned absolutely nothing about me. The spotlight was squarely on the person across the table with not even a glimmer on me. If the piece was written off the top of my head, it usually took about four hours. I spent this time alone. I didn’t go to staff meetings.
When I had my space in the newspaper, I knew exactly what the work week entailed. The planning and execution of five columns.
After August 24, 2007, I had no idea. I attended the required meetings, but rarely participated. I couldn’t wait until the door opened and I could go back to being alone.
Sometimes I was asked to do a long-term project that interested me, but most days I sat at my desk and moped. The high turnover rate meant fewer supervisors and less efficiency. I did what I was told and counted the hours until I could retire. For the first time in my professional life, I didn’t do my share. For the first time, I didn’t care.
The print newspaper business today largely consists of editors going through stacks of PR releases to decide on the day’s news. Reporters report on what story subjects posted on Facebook or Twitter.
I’m glad I’m done. The industry doesn’t need me any more.
Originally published on Medium.
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