So I’ve got this coffee mug (pictured at left) that has adorned every desk I’ve occupied during my 15 years in the professional world. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time until this past Friday, when I gingerly wrapped it in newspaper and packed it into a box with the rest of the junk from what I hope was my last corporate job.
The mug had become much more of an ornament than a drinking vessel in recent years, so it was gathering dust high on a shelf at my last gig. There was a time in the late 90s, however, when it supplied my daily dose of dirty hot water, er, office-grade java. (So I’m a coffee snob, sue me!)
The mug was a gift from my mom when I got my first “real” job as an intern at Business First in 1998. Despite the fact that it was a hand-me-down, I was so touched that she gave it to me. I found out later it had been one of her favorites.
The mug was originally a gift from one of her coworkers during a short stint at a miserable accounts receivable job for an appliance manufacturer back in the mid-80s. This coworker is still a confidante and close friend to her, all these years later.
(Side note: that was the one and only corporate job my mom held during my childhood, and it didn’t last long. She’s been self-employed ever since, which tells me I really AM turning into my mother. God help me.)
The illustration of the frazzled woman on the front of the mug, along with the caption, “Please, I can only do 12 things at once!” is such an accurate depiction of both me and my mom. We are masters at multitasking and juggling a million things at once. We are also both very conscientious and reliable, which means we’re easy marks -- the people around us keep piling it on because they know we’ll somehow get ‘er all done.
Basically, Mom and I not only identify with the woman on our mug, we frequently ARE that woman. Organized and OCD. That's us.
I’m pretty sentimental about the mug for a few reasons. One, because it was a gift from my sweet mother, who has always been very vocal about her faith in my abilities. That mug is a tangible representation of the love and support she has always shown me in my career, and in my life.
That silly little mug also has been the one true constant throughout my entire career. It was there when I learned to use a Macintosh computer and lay out pages of the newspaper for the first time. It was there when I wrote every single one of my columns for that same paper (all 350+ of them.)
It was there in my cubicle when I broke down into sobs on a particularly stressful day – one of only two times I cried at work, ever. (The other was the day I said goodbye to my friends and left that wonderful paper. I’m so thrilled that my new freelance career is allowing me to reconnect with them again! But I digress.)
My 12-things-at-once mug sat by the pen caddy and paperweight in my very first office (with a door) at a local nonprofit, which was also my first foray on the “dark side” of journalism. It was there beside me as I learned grant writing, event planning and hands on public relations. It also traveled with me for a short stint at a global corporate machine.
And after six months in that job from hell, the mug journeyed with me to the position I just left on Friday, doing media relations and web content development for a physicians practice that is literally changing the face of medicine. I am fortunate to now count that medical group among my freelance clients.
I brought the mug home with me on Friday for the first time. Well, that’s not 100 percent true. It had been home in between jobs each time I transitioned, but it never came out of the “office” box, because that box eventually was transferred, in its entirety, to my new "off-site" office space.
This time, the mug came home AND came out of the box. I washed it and put it in my cabinet with all the others. And guess what? This morning, on my first day as a self-employed freelance writer, editor and media consultant, I poured a cup of coffee in that mug and gleefully carried it the 10 feet from my kitchen to my desk.
I mean, it’s only fitting that this mug was christened on my first day as an entrepreneur, right?
Nope, no more drafty office buildings, modular furniture or aluminum bookshelves for you, little mug. And, ahem... I am pretty damn happy to be able to say the same for myself!
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.