The people I work with are very creative. They pour their talents into their work but some also find outlets beyond the jobs to express their creativity. That is the impetus behind “Out of the Office,” a literary journal which will have its inaugural edition published later this year. It is the brainchild of a group of employees who want to present the work being done not at work.
The theme of the first issue is “Identity.” It is an obvious choice given the intent to provide an outlet to reveal who we are when we’re not in the office. Obvious but not easy. There’s a certain safety in being known by your job. It gives not just a title but security. It means that people don’t drill deeper. They don’t question who you are.
I have worked with some people at the company for over a decade. I have traveled with many of them. We have lived together in confined circumstances. I knew them before and after children entered their lives. Yet I don’t really know most of them. I don’t know what makes them happy or sad. I don’t know what they fear. Often I only know their wives, husbands, children by photos. I don’t know anything about their past or what they want for their future. I don’t know because they, and I, guard that information. To reveal too much is dangerous. No one wants their insecurities, worries and fears known. We don’t want to be or to be perceived as vulnerable by co-workers or bosses. We need to put on a mask and be the person we need to be to do our jobs. We leave one identity at home and take up another for forty hours each week.
I want to contribute to the journal but I’m hesitant to risk exposing myself to those I’m currently working with or might be working with in the future. How do you write on the theme of identity without grappling with who you are, without opening up? If you are coy and hide behind words, those words become walls not windows. Will a safe piece, one that perpetuates the camouflage, resonate? Will it be interesting?
I don’t know what I fear more, submitting something that is ordinary, boring, just good not great or something that is honest, raw and personal, thus exposes me.
I have just two weeks to decide. Will I contribute something that unmasks my identity or will I opt out all together? How brave will I be?