This isn’t how I thought it would end. I figured there’d be maybe one more promotion, a successful number of years, a retirement party with an ice cream social.
I thought I’d defy the odds. I didn’t.
Eleven years ago, right around this time of year, I asked for a work-study job at the press on campus where I was studying for my master’s degree. A woman who was also studying at the School of Theology was the managing editor; during one of the orientation events, I walked right up to her, introduced myself, and said that I’d love to work at the press. A few days later, I sat in the director’s office, nervous and worried and not knowing a darn thing, and asked him to give me a job. He did.
When I called my mom to tell her that I’d successfully gotten a work-study job, she said, “You’re going to stay there forever.” “No, I won’t. Well, not unless they give me a full-time job, but that won’t happen.” “Wait and see.” It did.
In 2008, Liturgical Press hired me full time, as my mom predicted. Later that year, the economy changed, people were let go across the country, retirement accounts were lost, bad things happened. But I was lucky. The Press was a place I could be while I decided what to do with my life. A PhD was on the horizon, I figured. At that time, there were still jobs in the academy for theologians. Then, quickly, there weren’t. And I just stayed put.
Two years after I was hired full time, in 2010, my uncle Shaun committed suicide. My coworkers were there as I navigated these murky waters of grieving and being alone and not knowing what the hell was up or down anymore. They watched with concern as I stopped eating, grew more and more agitated, closed my office door to nap. In the midst of this, the Press reorganized, and I applied to be the managing editor because the one who had first been involved in my hiring was taking on a new product we were launching. Twenty-six years old and grieving, I became managing editor. I’m still not sure why they bet on me. I’m grateful they did. In October that year, my boss was in Frankfurt for three weeks for the book fair. I crashed and burned. When he finally returned, he looked at me and asked the question that needed to be asked: “Are you grieving your uncle or your dad?” “Both.” And then the healing began.
Almost seven months ago, my uncle Ryan committed suicide. My husband came to find me on campus. A friend in my department was with him. We cried. Well, they cried. I yelled, “FUCK,” and curled up in the fetal position in the hallway of the Quad. I walked through the Press stunned as I gathered my things to go home and begin the grieving all over again. That first woman I met: she held me as I cried and could barely speak. The director: he also hugged me. I phoned my boss, who had already been called by the director: “Do what you need to do. Go where you need to be. I’m so sorry. You are so loved.” And I know that my boss has been watching me these months, asking occasionally how I’m doing, how my mom is, how my family is. He’s making sure I’m staying above water. And I am.
They haven’t seen only the bad. A few of these people were at my wedding. They saw my husband and me wash each other’s feet. They danced (or refused to dance) with us at the reception. They drank wine and ate wonderful cake. We’ve talked about books and movies, language and food. We’ve argued about things that are meaningful and petty. I like to think we’ve challenged each other to grow. In many ways, my coworkers, not necessarily the Press, have become my second home. They have seen me grow up, get some grey hairs, mellow in some cases, become more stubborn in others.
And later this month, I will be leaving them. The Press is reorganizing a bit again, and this time I wasn’t lucky. On Wednesday, the director came to my office to give me notice that my position will be terminated. It was not easy for him; that was very clear. It was not easy for me, despite the fact that—since Trump’s election and Ryan’s suicide—I have been pondering what life would look like if I left the Press. I will now find out.
I have a plan: I am going to be a full-time freelance editor. I will work from home (and maybe occasionally the coffee shop), which is more appealing to me than I ever thought it would be. I’m surprisingly excited for this adventure. My time with the Press, and these people who have been so tightly knitted to my life, is not over. I know that. But this is big change in the midst of a year of big change. And the emotions that go with this letting go are immense. It will take time to sift through this move.
I am ready.