The Day Job

Most writers have day jobs. Many teach, some wait tables, some build things. I have none of those skills. I work in the public sector. That’s not meant as a corollary. It just means that in the same way that I stumbled upon writing as an avocation, I stumbled upon Project/Program Manager as my occupation.

After collecting degrees in zoology and education, I selected a graduate program through a process of elimination. Technology and business were definitely out. Humanities as an avenue to employment seemed doubtful. Public Administration—it sounded (oxymoronically) vaguely concrete. That is, I didn’t exactly know what it was, but it sounded practical and real-world—like I could actually get a job as a result. Which I did in the Recycling and Environmental Section of the Solid Waste Division of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. How’s that for a bureaucratic mouthful?

Speaking of mouthfuls, I’m in a profession where impact and implement are used frequently as verbs. As in implementing the project will impact the budget. I do my best to avoid the jargon since it can impact the creative writing project I happen to be implementing during my evening hours.

The job suits me, though. There is a sense of comfort inside a cubicle. A little marked-off territory that is my own with desk, chair, computer, file cabinet, bookcase, recycle bin, droopy plant, and a bit of clutter suggestive of the multiple projects I juggle on behalf of the public.

In the public sector, you’re accountable to lots of people out there, so you get the work done.

In my office we are a hive of workers, honeycombed in our individual cells. Our telephone voices hum through the cubicle partitions, our fingers clack at our keyboards, our postures flag with our focused efforts despite our ergonomic chairs (which is why I drop and do push-ups next to my desk every so often).

I admire my coworkers. They’re a dedicated bunch, motivated by a deep concern for the environment. It’s a passion, really. And that’s where I may not measure up.

I believe in what I do. I’m competent and caring. The education program I manage recently won the Recycler of the Year Award for Youth Education from the Washington State Recycling Association. But when it comes to passion, I reserve it for writing. Otherwise, I couldn’t get it done each day after the day job.