Dear Mia: From, Your Lack of Experience
It’s just my luck that something exciting happens on the one day I’m late to work. Usually I’m the first one here and I get a good half hour to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for when the lights turn on and I have to be on top of my game for the rest of the day.
But this morning, my alarm clock didn’t go off. Most likely because I didn’t set it last night. After having one too many glasses of red wine, I’d fallen asleep on my couch while watching The Sound of Music for the thousandth time and ended up oversleeping, only to be woken by the sound of hammering being done on the building beside mine. Seeing the clock read that it was past eight provided me with the jumpstart I needed and after the world’s quickest shower and change combo, I was sprinting down the street to the bus stop.
It seems me being half an hour late is going completely unnoticed, though, because the office is abuzz with excitement when I come to a skidding halt beside my desk, panting and out of breath. Taking a moment to shrug off my coat and return my breathing to a normal rate, I call over my closest friend in the office, Casey, speaking in a hushed tone once she’s hurried over to my side. “What’s going on?”
Her expression is still light and joyous with whatever news she’s received and she’s practically bouncing as she speaks. “The entire office just got invited to a party!”
“A party?” I lift my eyebrows, intrigued. “Whose party?”
“Sony? Universal? I don’t remember,” she shrugs, not bothering to try and remember, because it’s not really important. “The important thing is that we’re all invited.”
I can’t help but let out a soft laugh. It’s pretty hard to be anything but happy around Casey. “What’s the occasion?”
We work for Glow, the most popular lifestyle magazine in the city, so our executives get invited to glamourous events all the time, but it isn’t often that the regular staff get to attend.
“To celebrate the new year, of course!” Casey replies, looking a bit concerned that I had to ask.
“Right,” I blink, collapsing into my desk chair and leaning forward to pull my work laptop from my totebag. “I forgot.”
She ignores that comment, continuing on, the rate of her speech becoming faster with each word. “Apparently a bunch of celebrities are invited. You know, trying to strengthen the relationship between the press and the famous in case there’s any important scoops in the future.”
That’s fairly typical. Although Glow isn’t a tabloid, we do album and movie reviews, and good ratings from us can cause a lot of buzz, so celebrity agents were always sucking up to our chief editors.
“How exciting,” I muse, turning to face my desk so that I could log in to my computer now that my laptop was powered on.
Casey is not at all amused by the lack of energy in my response and crosses her arms over her chest as she fixes me with a stern glare. “You know, you could at least try to sound a little enthusiastic.”
“Sorry,” I wince apologetically. Normally, I probably would be more excited about getting to attend a party with celebrity guests, but I’ve got a lot on my mind this morning. “I’m just a little tense.”
Because she’s at least part angel, Casey immediately relaxes her posture, her expression changing from mildly annoyed to completely sympathetic. “Is this month’s column not finished?”
I write an advice column for the magazine called ‘Mia Knows Best’ where I go through mass amounts of emails and handwritten letters and select questions to answer in the monthly physical issues of the magazine, while everything else is answered in a blog I run online. To be honest, I still find it a combination of utterly flattering and completely hilarious that anybody would ask for my advice, considering how much I still had no idea what I was doing with my life.
But it all kind of happened on accident. I’d started as an intern for the magazine while I was in college and once I finished my journalism degree, they hired me on as a full time copy editor. At the time I was just happy to be in the business at all, so I jumped at every opportunity they gave me, including filling in for the resident advice columnist when she went on maternity leave. When she didn’t return, I was asked to assume her position full time and that was that. It was strange at first, trying to find solutions to people’s problems that were beneficial as well as eloquently phrased, but after a couple months, I got the hang of it. Apparently it’s a lot easier to solve other people’s issues than deal with my own.
“No, the column’s done,” I shake my head, tapping my nails against the top of my desk, “but I’m pitching a new idea to Lilian and I’m nervous about it.”
Casey nods in understanding. “Because it’s got absolutely no relation to your column?”
“Yep,” I reply. It’s not as though my boss, Lilian, isn’t open to suggestions, but asking her if I can write a feature article for the magazine’s next issue is a big deal. “Is this a crazy idea? Don’t get me wrong, I love being an advice columnist, but I feel like at some point in my career, I’m gonna have to try something new.”
The column is all I’ve done since I started working at Glow and I’m beginning to think I’ve been playing it too safe. I’ve never been particularly good at stepping out of my comfort zone, but it’s about time I try. Because before I know it, my entire life will have passed me by and I’ll never have done anything remotely thrilling or adventurous.
“No, it’s not a crazy idea,” Casey assures me, leaning against the side of my cubicle, “And you should definitely go for it.”
Feeling automatically calmed by her words, I smile gratefully, only to tense again three seconds later when I notice Lilian has entered the building and is currently on her way to her office. “There she is. Wish me luck.”
Winking at me, Casey watches as I pull the draft of the article I’d written from my tote bag and inhale deeply before pushing myself out of my chair and striding towards my boss’s office, the speed at which my heart was beating getting faster with each step.
It’s not that Lilian is unapproachable, per se, she’s just very accomplished and impressive, which is in turn extremely intimidating. In the fifteen years Lilian Adler has been the Editor in Chief of Glow, the magazine’s readership and popularity has grown exponentially. She took a publication that the parent company was thinking of axing and turned it into the most widely read and subscribed to magazine in the state and I could only dream of doing something so amazing in my own career.
I pause outside her office door, waiting until she’s hung her coat on a hook and powered on her computer to make my presence known. “Lilian? Hi, can I talk to you for a minute?”
She’s a bit startled by the sound of my voice, but a warm smile stretches her lips after a few seconds. “Sure, Mia. What’s up?”
Stepping into her office, I take a moment to calm my nerves before I speak. “I have an idea for an article and I was wondering if you’d read it.”
“You have an idea?” She blinks at me, looking confused, as though no one has ever come to her with an idea before.
“Is that surprising?” I know I’m surprised. In the time I’ve worked for the magazine, Lilian’s been nothing but completely encouraging and helpful when it came to my column, so I was a bit caught off guard that her response to me writing an article was so drastically different.
She immediately looks apologetic, shaking her head as she gestures for me to take a seat. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for that to sound condescending. What I meant was, you’ve worked here for five years and you’ve never pitched me a story before.”
That’s true, so I suppose I can’t fault her for being bewildered. I smile with as much confidence as I can muster as I slip into one of the plush leather chairs in front of her desk. “I guess I figured it’s about time that changes.”
Smiling slowly, she perches herself on the edge of her large rolling chair and holds out a hand. “Alright, let me see.”
Letting out a sigh of relief, I hand her my draft of the article I’d written on the city’s best New Year’s Eve parties and tap my nails nervously against my thigh as she reads, feeling my heart drop in my chest when she finishes and shoots me a sad look. “You hate it.”
“No, it’s not bad,” she assures me automatically, setting down the papers on her desk, “it’s just…I can’t feel the emotion.” I must seem confused, because she continues, “Look, Mia, you’re a fantastic writer and an excellent advice columnist, but just because you fix other people’s lives doesn’t mean you’re living your own.”
“I don’t understand.” I’m sure she’s right, but I’m not sure what my lack of life has to do with the article.
She softens her tone, leaning towards me. “If you’re going to write a full length article, I want it to be about something you actually experienced, not something you observed from afar. I want it to be heartfelt and gripping and I want to feel as though I’m right there with you. You need to go out and immerse yourself in the world and then you’ll find your story.”
“Okay. You’ve given me a lot to think about,” I nod slowly, not entirely sure how to feel. “Thank you.”
She keeps smiling warmly as I lift myself from the chair. “You’ll find your story, Mia. I promise.”
With one last nod, I exit her office, pausing by Casey’s desk on my way back to mine. She crosses her ankles beneath her desk and leans back in her chair. “So…what did Lilian say?”
“That I don’t have a life,” I reply, less offended and more saddened by the fact that Lilian’s right.
It’s not as though I actively shut myself off from the world. It’s more like…I have a routine. Every day, on my way home from work, I stop at the market by my apartment building and buy the ingredients to make my dinner. The half hour after I arrive home is spent following along to a Pilates video as best I can before I make my meal. After dinner, I switch off between reading, cross stitching, playing my violin, and watching television, or sometimes do all four.
Which I’m starting to realize is extremely lonely.
Even Casey, who’s always understanding when I tell her I want to spend the evening alone, scrunches up her nose apologetically before she speaks. “You have to admit she has a point. I’m pretty sure the last time you had any fun was before man set foot on the moon.” That seems like a bit of an exaggeration, but I don’t argue. She scoots towards me in her chair and reaches out to grab my hand. “Come to the party, okay. It’ll be the start of your adventure.”
I’m not sure that one party is suddenly going to change my entire outlook on life, but it’s worth a shot. After all, it’s a party which will be chock full of celebrities, which means that at the very least, I can write an article about what it’s like to be at the same party as someone famous, even if I don’t get up the guts to actually interact with any of them. So I inhale deeply to keep myself from shaking and smile as widely as I can manage and agree. “Okay. Adventure, here I come.”