IF YOU'D TOLD ME ONE year ago, when I started the current job, that in 6 months, I'd survive one round of layoffs, the departure of a key subject matter expert from the editorial staff, and the announcement — on my half-year mark no less — that my immediate boss was likewise giving notice, I'd probably say, "Well, I do work in publishing."
I would probably not be surprised to hear that, within the next few months, the final member of the editorial team I was joining would soon, herself, leave. To the news that such an evaporation of staff would give me chest pains, I would surely be horrified. But I suspect I would react with genuine incredulity were I to learn that day in July 2007 that this incident would be followed by the reconstitution of the editorial team several states away, along with a shift of leadership away from the managing editor who had spurred the staff exodus.
And I would count myself as a prophet if I somehow got the inkling, while digging through the usual first-day HR forms, that this wave of hiring in the remote office would presage a mass transfer of jobs from my office to that one, including the entire art staff.
That last bit took effect Wednesday. After two rounds of layoffs, and all my teammates bailing, the halls now echo. And the old managing editor (ME) is officially no longer working on the title. Despite the muttering and grousing of the old coworkers, she turned out to be very effective in a pinch, if occasionally reluctant to admit delays (which, with only two editors working on the title, were inevitable). She was also tremendously generous, thanking me and the artist each issue during our crisis period with some sort of substantial gift. The ME also proved to be the only person in the company who remembered my birthday. (Nobody else in the office did, even though I always bring something in for others' birthdays; I felt it to be in poor taste to trumpet my own upcoming date. The ME, by contrast, sent a gift card, which beats simple/junk carbs any day.)
I've no idea how I might have anticipated the surprises, challenges, and even the absurdities to come. What I have learned since then is not to lose track of what matters amid such crazy shit: health, family, friends, and the overall career, sight of which sometimes disappears behind smoke if all you're doing each day is stomping out fires. For now, the conflagration is dying down, and with any luck, I'll be able to recognize blue sky when I see it again.