As I stand in the little kitchen of an old Victorian factory-turned-office building, scooping the remnants of coffee beans out of the bottom of a cafetière, panic overcomes me. I know now more than ever, that what I want to do in life is talk about books and get people to read them and rush off busy trains holding a cup of hot tea and a paperback under my arm. I want to walk around London at 5.30 in the evening when everyone’s concluding their work day by huddling in front of overcrowded pubs with a pint in their hands or hoping that that one pair of TopShop boots which made them feel like their 10 hour day was worth it really is still in store as they’re making their way to Oxford Circus. I want to feel like I’m part of something.
Arguably, that ‘something’ is a romanticised capitalist fantasy of a twenty-something anyone above 30 will sneer at, but it’s my fantasy nonetheless. There is an irony in realising what you want to do with your life. On the one hand, there’s the moment you fall in butterfly-inducing electric love with an idea/a career, a ‘Finally, this feels right’ instant when relief sets in because for the first time you know for certain what it is that you want to do. On the other hand, there’s the fear that shrinks your nails, the voice in the back of your mind, the chorus of many conversations you have with your parents: that you might never get what you want.
The past week I had the chance to dip my feet into publishing. Jumping at the chance to get an insight into the industry, I responded to a tweet advertising an internship place that became available last minute at an independent publishing house in London. A day and an email exchange later, I was rummaging through my closet on the lookout for anything that would qualify as or slightly resemble ‘smart/casual’, only realising that I had in fact not even a single pair of tights without holes in them. Thankfully, after making the mistake of wearing heels to work on my first day without bringing any backup flats, the office dress code turned out to be more nice jumpers and dark jeans than dresses and blazers.
Suffering from a strong case of impostor syndrome and generally expecting that everyone will eventually get sick of me, I was surprised that I got through my first day without embarrassing myself. (That is if we ignore the fact that I did get stuck between two locked doors at one point waiting for someone to appear to release me, and also had to ask someone random to help me find my way out of the building.)
Anyway, while there are so many little fragments and details I want to note down about this internship so far, tips I’ve picked up, tasks that might make a future employer not just throw away my CV at first glance, free books (!!), what I’m really trying to say here is, for the first time I feel like a path that is presented to me as a possibility doesn’t fill me with dread but makes me want to work so much harder and inspires me.
When I pointed out how excited I was about the fact that I can see the towering tops of the Central London buildings in the distance from my little desk, someone in the office said jokingly: ‘I know, it’s almost like we work in London’. And yes, it was almost like I work in London. And although that desk will be someone else’s in a week, their heart picking up its pace as they are glancing out the window, catching a glimpse of the Gherkin in the grey sky on a foggy day, I got a taste of what it all could be. And that is enough. That is enough for me to try. I want to be more driven, more creative, braver. I want to try. Because I will never forgive myself if I don’t even allow myself the chance to maybe, possibly get what I want.