One thing that happens when you have big news is that you hear from people you haven’t heard from in never. For a shut-in, this is a nice change from the usual inbox garbage. It’s pleasant to be thought of, isn’t it?
If it’s someone I once knew, it’s interesting, archeologically speaking, to read the correspondence that preceded this one. That’s how I came across the farewell letter I had e-mailed to colleagues at TIME magazine when I departed in 2009.
Let me set the scene. I had worked on staff at TIME for eight years, and before that at Money for four. Which means I’d called the Time-Life Building my work home for 12 years, minus the two I spent in the Tokyo bureau. I knew everyone in the building, including the guards and the daycare workers. (Time Inc. had emergency daycare. I know!)
I loved my job as a staff writer at TIME. I still believe it was one of the last, great jobs in journalism. (Not to mention the emergency daycare. Come on!) And yet, it was time to go.
For the last few of those years, I’d had my own blog on Time.com, one covering work-life topics called Work In Progress. It’s fair to say it had become the highlight of my job. It’s even fair to say that in writing the blog, along with my first book, I learned how to sound like me.
I had no flipping idea what I was going to do next. The TV drama I had been developing had gotten pitched and sold by my producer—without me. I had a flurry of offers—one of them, inexplicably, an on-air gig at CNBC—each for a whole lot less money, each requiring a whole lot more work.
Meantime, a lot of life stuff was going on. I’d just had my second child. Then my mother died. And my father was on his way.
What could I have been thinking, quitting the cushy job with which I kept my growing family off government cheese? What kind of farewell letter would such a desperate slob have written?
This, it turns out, is what I wrote:
“I want to let you know that I volunteered for a buyout from TIME. I shall now answer your FAQs:
Q: Why are you leaving?
A: A staff writer post at Time Inc. is one of the last, great journalism jobs, and I had a 12-year run. I’ve written about wacky funerals (which led to this book) and fried-chicken empires and how I find environmentally correct behavior a huge pain in the butt. I’ve tried absolutely every item in the cafeteria salad bar. It’s time to venture out of Rock Center.
Q: What will you do next?
A: I have one skill: writing. That’s it. I can’t add. I can’t tap dance. I can’t lift heavy objects. I’m hoping someone somewhere will pay me to write something. Limericks. Eulogies. Subtly poetic menus.
Q: What about your blog?
A: “Work in Progress,” my beloved if under-appreciated Time.com blog, shall not be reincarnated as “Out of Work in Progress.” If you’ll indulge me, I’ll send another shameless promo when I find my new blog a home.
Q: How should I contact you with congratulatory food stamps or suspiciously lucrative opportunities?
A: Please write me at lisa dot cullen at gmail dot com. If we are not Facebook-linked, please friend me. I need friends.
I’m wishing you a very healthy, happy and rewarding 2009. Your friend, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen”
That was it. Phew.Tweet