Talking Workaholism with Redbook Editor

christinaapplegate_redbookI met Holly Hays, senior entertainment editor at Redbook, last year at a conference in New York City. She looked over my resume in a mock interview after we were paired up by Chandra Turner from Parents. Over the summer we kept in touch and I invited her on campus to speak to our ED2010 magazine networking group about breaking into the magazine industry.

Holly is this cute, sub 5-foot peanut, with the kind of laugh that makes you want to laugh along, and the kind of personality that puts you immediately at ease. Even though we’d kept in touch, I was still slightly nervous to be her host at Newhouse, because if you’re showing around the senior editor of a major magazine, let’s be honest– you absolutely can’t screw up. Right when I picked her up at the airport at the beginning of the day, however, I felt like an old friend she hadn’t see in a while. By the end of our day, she gave me a hug and made me promise to keep in touch.

After her presentation before I took her back to the airport with Leah, my fellow exec. board member, we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall pita place to grab a quick bite. While we sat in this dingy little restaurant small talking with this top magazine editor, we somehow, ironically brought up workaholism in relation to the American and European magazine industry.

Holly, Leah and I shared our own experiences living or traveling abroad–Leah in Madrid, me in Italy and northern Europe and Holly in Barcelona. Each of us agreed that in the magazine industry we are so brain-rackingly busy that when we have a spare hour to stop and think, we think about what we should be doing. Can’t catch a break.

Giggling between bites of her pita, Holly told us about when she used to work at Marie Claire–the frenzied American fashion editors don’t get clothes from European fashion companies during the month of August because designers take a 4 week vacation. Most of Europe shuts down. The fashion team would go into freak-out mode at the end of July trying to plan the November issue with a minimal working wardrobe. Maybe only to a magazine nerd like myself it’s funny, but I found myself reflecting on how our pita conversation applied to my own life.

Last year, I used to have absolutely no problem sleeping in on a Saturday until noon. This year, my brain is trained to be so busy that I automatically wake up at 7 every day (including Saturdays) with a racing heart all jump-started to work work WORK. Yesterday I submitted an application to an internship that took the better part of the last two weeks to complete. When I handed it over (and kissed it for good luck) part of me felt an immense weight lift off my chest. Another part of me went into freak-out mode at the sudden absence of… stress..? work? cover letter writing..? I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was totally lost.

I caught myself trying to immediately fill this void with anything to feel busy again. What’s that paper due next week? When is my next class..? Do I have time to run to the library and get some reading done? But I remembered my conversation with Holly, and determined not to be a workaholic, as weird as it felt, I forced myself to take a break. I bought a cup of hot chocolate, sat down and did literally nothing for 25 whole minutes.

The first four minutes were weird and uncomfortable because I felt like I was wasting valuable time. The next 10 minutes were somewhat bearable although my mind ran through to-do lists. The last 11 minutes were effortless. I let my mind wander, go blank, relax. Europeans do it all the time but in our culture we don’t ever stop just for the sake of stopping. Holly was totally right when she laughed about the American fashion departments predictable August freak-out and warned us to keep our lighthearted sense of humor. I never thought it took work to relax, but I suppose that’s the ticket price of becoming a professional adult in American society.

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