Wednesday, January 7, 2009

you're gonna make it after all

I spent a long time organizing the cooking section of my store on Tuesday. I love the cooking section best of all. It's not that I don't love Fiction/Literature, with the tall, long racks of classic and modern literary fiction, or Travel, neatly laid out in a horseshoe and organized by an illogical geography, with Ireland next to Cuba: no, it's simply that the books in cooking are so ridiculously pretty. One of the perks of my job is that as I reshelve books I flip through them or look at the back. I worry about this a little: after all, I'm not really paid to browse through books, but my clever (and true) rationale is that doing so makes me a more informed bookseller. Plus, my job would be really boring if I didn't. 

Anyway, so I was recovering the cooking section the other day (I love that term: "recovering."It implies a recent disaster, which is what customers are for the organization of bookstores) when I came across this book in food reference: 

"While Phoebe Damrosch was waiting for life to happen, she supported herself by working as a waitress." That's how the book describes itself, and I thought about it the rest of the day. Is that what I'm doing? "While Haylie Swenson was waiting for life to happen, she supported herself by working in a bookstore." Am I also just waiting for life to happen? I don't love working at Borders. I love books, for sure, and I love making recommendations and helping people find something new. But that doesn't happen very often: mostly, I spend my time at the register or by helping people to find the latest short lived, badly written bestseller. This, obviously, isn't what I went to college for. 

I was discouraged--am discouraged still, sometimes, when I compare myself to my more successful friends and family. But then, suddenly, like a vision, I pictured the opening sequence to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, that part where she flings her hat in the air. Honestly? That's pretty much the only part of the show I remember (that and, inexplicably, the part where her boss asks about her religion in the first episode). I used to watch it on Nick at Nite, and I was always terribly impressed by how independent she seemed, how joyful.  

That's when it occurred to me: I'm not just waiting for my life to start, any more than Phoebe Damrosch was waiting for her life to start when she was waiting tables. After all, she wrote an entire (New York Times Notable) book out of it, right? So it couldn't have been that bad, although I'm sure she felt like she was wasting her time, too. Mary had a terrible job (I seem to remember that, too), but she still managed to throw her hat in the air at the beginning of every show. So here's to the Phoebe Damroschs and the Mary Tyler Moores and everyone else slogging away at a job for which you are underpaid and overqualified. 

And please: next time you're in a bookstore, put your books back where you found them. 


jessiker said...

Cheers, Haylie. I spend my days answering phones at the moment, but I'm just not sure what I want to be when I grow up. Here's to you, sticking it out till it gets better!

Nicole said...

Hi Haylie. I found your blog and am enjoying reading through it. I especially love the picture of you and Ross by the fountain. Good stuff.

dallas and Kim said...

I can't wait to read your bestseller someday, Haylie. You are a wonderful and talented writer!

molly said...

Mary Richards was an associate producer of the news at WJM. Not exactly the worst job ever. But yes, my dear, you are going to make it after all - dee dee dee dee DEE! [insert beret toss here].

Heather said...

I'm a friend of Katie Higbee's and came across your blog. Waiting for life to happen...
What is that other saying? "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon) IMHO, (hee hee) it's all in having a grateful heart, then we can reeeally see our life.
and P.S. I looove books too.