When My Hands Start Looking Ragged, I Know I'm Killing It At Work

When my hands look like they've been digging for diamonds, then I know something good is about to happen.
Publish date:
February 15, 2013
career, writing, working

There are only a few movies that I will stop, drop and watch no matter what's happening off-screen: "Teen Witch," natch, and always my beloved, "The Devil Wears Prada." I don't care if it's cheesy and sooo mid-2000s, but give me ridiculously awesome clothes and Stanley Tucci fairy gay godfather realness and I'm done for the day.

Mostly what I love about TDWP is all the great career advice that I don't get from sitting on my couch and chilling with Miles (my Pug) all day. These are some of my favorite Nigel-isms:

Andy: No, I don't want to quit. That's not fair. But, I, you know, I'm just saying that I would just like a little credit for the fact that I'm killing myself trying.

Nigel: Andy, be serious. You are not trying. You are whining. Because this place, where so many people would die to work, you only deign to work. And you want to know why she doesn't kiss you on the forehead and give you a gold star on your homework at the end of the day. Wake up, sweetheart.

Oh, and then this one:

Andy: My personal life is falling apart.

Nigel: That's what happens when you start doing well at work. Let me know when your entire life goes up in smoke. Then it's time for a promotion.

Often I get caught up in the drudgery of doing what I do for a living, which is to say -- live. Writing as a career is all I'm good for (besides online window shopping) but that doesn't mean I'm good all the time. Complaining about the sometimes-icy roads that make up any given rat race is a favorite pass time for most hamsters. I do it often.

Newspapers are dying. Magazines keep downsizing. Someone buy my book! And then I look back and realize that nobody's listening save me, and the pity party ain't popping.

So then there's nothing much left to do but actually do stuff. Work. Type. Defend. Heal. Teach. Create. Whatever it is you're doing strange for some change. This is when my laptop starts working overtime. And that's when my nails start looking like this:

Unlike Andy, for me it's not so much my personal life that falls apart when I'm getting into the groove but more like my personal grooming. When I was in high school my mom could always tell when a big paper was due or a test was coming up. "Look at your nails, little brown-eyed girl! You look like Raggedy Anne!"

In civilized circles, I like to pretend that they fly off from the sheer force of my first rate typing. But what Miles' knows better than anyone else is that I just can't stand to see pretty polished nails while I'm in go mode -- genius banging my laptop in yesterday's PJs with my dirty hair in a crazy windmill. This is also why I can never again work in an office around actual people who take baths.

For me having your shit together at "work" means eschewing all the accoutrements of actually having your shit together. I've taken to calling it "werewolfing" myself in order to explain this imposed life lock down to the rest of the world, but still no one really gets it. I think it's Olivia Pope's fault.

What's really weird is that most of the time I'm not even aware of what's happening. I look down at the week gone by and notice for the first time that I 1) haven't washed my hair 2) no longer have nails and 3) have yet to find my "good stretchy pants," so I just roll for three days straight in my "gross stretchy pants."

But I'm OK with it. I'm fine with being a bit off kilter cuteness-wise if it means I can call myself a writer for a little while longer. My low hygiene standards are by no means universal field goals but it got me to thinking about how other hard working people unconsciously play out their own yardage.

I have one friend, a lawyer, who starts wearing fanciful socks to work whenever the billable hours start billing themselves. When another friend, a non-profit exec, gets very emotive on Facebook, I know she must be up for a promotion. And my tech friend just vanishes from the web completely, only to reappear with a new client.

I think we all have our thing, the thing that tells us (even when we have yet to tell ourselves) that we've done good job-wise. Mine keeps me locked inside, which makes a lot of sense.

So perhaps it's all very Darwinian when you think about it. Have you? If you had to stop and take stock of the stuff you do when you're working hard, does it make sense?