Ann Arbor Theater Vixen: Jenn McKee's Blog

{July 20, 2009}   More newsroom blues

I didn’t have time to fill in my theater calendar today, because I was struggling to write my last-ever article for the News – a restaurant review – while co-workers across the newsroom emptied desk drawers, tossed out files, and stripped photos and clips from the short walls of their cubicles.

Despite knowing for months that this was coming, it’s all become so much more real in the past two weeks that I think we’re all numb. As I told our (fabulous) photographer Leisa Thompson, who’s putting together a video with employee testimonials that will post on MLive on Thursday, the experience has been similar to being pregnant. Even though you know, in the end, what’s coming – a person will exist that didn’t before, or, in this case, the News will stop printing – the whole thing seems so abstract and impossible that until you reach the finish line, you don’t quite believe it will really happen.

But it will, of course. And even those of us with definite plans post-News are having emotionally tough times.

For Leisa’s video, I had vague notions of addressing how this job, for me, had given voice to a young woman who never spoke up in college classes because she figured what she had to say wasn’t worthwhile. My job at the News gave me a public voice and connected me with the community in a way nothing else could, and I can’t tell you how much, on a personal level, that means to me.

I also talked about how wonderful everyone in the newsroom is to work with, and how much I’ll miss them. I struggled to not openly weep during both segments. As with writing, saying things aloud suddenly makes you realize more viscerally that a huge change is underway, and it’s something you have absolutely no control over.

So although it’s been months in coming, the News’ end suddenly seems to be happening at a lightning-fast pace. I’d planned on taking a video camera to work a couple of times, so that one day, Lily could see what a working newsroom was like and “meet” some of the people I worked with. But now, my workspace, along with everyone else’s, is nearly bare and looks nothing like it has all these years, and everything’s a scramble.

I waited too long. We all wait too long, and we never learn this lesson, no matter how many times we go through a change like this. We cope by way of denial, and then when the end comes, we feel overwhelmed. In a way, it’s just too fitting that I recently saw “Our Town” again, which gets this concept right more than most other works when Emily Webb says, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” as well as, “We don’t have time to look at one another.” Indeed. It seems we never, ever do.


Erik Kuszynski says:

“I waited too long. We all wait too long, and we never learn this lesson, no matter how many times we go through a change like this. We cope by way of denial, and then when the end comes, we feel overwhelmed.”

The good news is that, while many people live in denial, it doesn’t have to be that way. Denial and procrastination are choices. People (especially in Amreica) tend to put off uncomfortable decisions until the last minute. The funeral industry exploits this tendency every day, and make a tidy profit on it!

So don’t wait to do your taxes. Don’t wait to write your will. You can choose to do it today. No, it ain’t easy, but the sense of relief of knowing you’re ready for life’s changes is worth it.

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