Working on an architecture magazine as an editorial assistant
This job made me realise that I have to do something that I can in some way be passionate about or intrigued by. I know that many, many fine people would see this as a great job, or at least a great industry, but it's just not me.
I was more intrigued by sewage treatment in my next job (corporate PR) than I was by high-end architecture. The houses were stunning, but they didn't make me feel anything. They were so detached from my life, and most people's lives.
Writing copy for an engineering magazine, at least no one expects you to find it fascinating. (And actually, translating extremely technical concepts into plain English and tangible outcomes is an immensely satisfying challenge.)
Editing pretentious, utterly humourless copy about buildings and their oh-so-stylish creators is not especially challenging.
Maybe I am being a little unfair. I also hated this job because I was unexpectedly bad at it. My copy about building materials and household appliances for the advertorial supplement was riddled with errors and inconsistencies (to my initial shock).
I was called into the director's office and told to be more careful, asked why my work was so much less than he'd expected from my interviews and sample work.
I was terrible at this job, at least partly, because I was deeply depressed and going through one of the worst times of my life. My personla life was a confusing mess and I wasn't coping. I was on antidepressants and I was messing with my doses and my mind was operating at 100kph. Erractically so.
I couldn't produce consistent work because my mind wasn't working consistently.
So I quit after a month, with no job to go to. I just couldn't face being so awful at a job I didn't even like. And I didn't know when I'd be any better.
I went to Adelaide instead, escaping my personal problems and (a little bit) the question of what to do next. I slept on my dad's couch, and I went to Adelaide Writers' Week every day, where I sunned on the lawns with a friend. And I cried right there on the grassy slopes, with big black sunglasses and a big black hat for shelter; because I was a f***-up and I had Blown It.
Then I heard an inspiring young writer I had never heard of talk about his life in an Israel-under-siege. He was funny and clever and eloquent and politically balanced (difficult in Israel) and I really wanted to write about him.
So, from the depths of my existential despair, I rang the editor of a magazine I liked, and asked if he would publish an interview with this author, if I could get one.
He said yes.
Slowly, from there, my life began to pick up again.
And I don't regret quitting that job at all.