This morning I had a workplace dream so odd I woke up laughing, something I used to do often and haven’t done in years. I can’t keep it to myself because it was, as dreams often are, full of entertainment and insights too good not to share.
I was working at a large media company with a bird as the logo (not the one owned by a billionaire lunatic, the other one). I was sitting in a very grey cubicle in a very grey office in front of my computer when an email popped up. There was a huge layoff and reshuffling of jobs at the company. Most of the company had been laid off but not me. I still had a job and that job had a two-word description stated in the email: Christa Avampato – writes jokes. My boss was J Lo.
My colleagues, and now former colleagues, were a mix of people I knew from my many past real-life jobs and people who were either figments of my imagination or who I’ve yet to meet. Though there was going to be a big meeting with everyone who still had a job the following day at 4pm, I huddled in separate corners of our very grey office with my team, past and present to talk about the reorg.
With the ones who’d been let go, I expressed how sad and outraged I was, wondering aloud how the company was going to get by without them. I was very upset they were leaving. Ironically, none of them were upset and were all making plans to go to dinner to celebrate their departure. They asked me to join them even though I still had a job. Sadly the dream ended before that dinner happened.
With the ones who still had jobs like me, an odd shift of energy happened. We all sat around in a circle, and immediately began drawing up plans of how to move forward. They were all very eager to just get on with it and began drafting up new plans that looked very much like the old plans put together by our now-former colleagues but no one except me saw the irony in that. I asked why we would throw out the old for the new when the new was a replica of the old with nothing more than a shiny new package. “That’s the way it is, Christa,” I was told.
Then the de-facto leader of this little group asked if there were any questions. And if you know me, you know I always have questions and I always ask them. Apparently I’m as utterly myself in dreams as I am in my waking hours. I had two questions:
1.) Why was I, a person who thinks comedy is hands-down the most difficult genre to write and who is by full admission only occasionally and only situationally funny, tasked with writing jokes? If you asked me to tell you a joke right now, I’d draw a total blank. I am by nature a serious person, sometimes too serious.
The leader of the group (the man with the clipboard, pen, and glasses who I’ve never seen before in my life) said, “That’s the point, Christa. If it makes you laugh, then it must be funny.”
As an aside, in real-life, I find most things in life amusing and I am a very easy audience member. I pretty much smile and laugh the whole time. I know it’s damn hard to be really funny and I applaud and support anyone brave enough to give it a try, even if they aren’t funny at all (to me).
2.) Why is it that when companies say they need to cut costs and save money, they often cut people who actually do the work and rarely the people at the very top who do so little work and make so much money? Apparently I had done my research (dreams imitating real life again.) The CEO of this bird media company made $3,000 a minute. That’s roughly $375million / year. Why wasn’t he being asked to give up anything while my friends who made only a tiny sliver of that and did all the work were let go?
Silence from the whole group. J Lo walked by and didn’t even look at us.
My parting thought as I headed back to my grey cubicle was, “Man, they’re really going to wish they hadn’t put me in charge of writing jokes.” Then I woke up.
It’s a shame my dream didn’t include that 4pm company meeting the next day because I’m confident I would’ve had time to come up with some real zingers and I probably would have been fired in a really fantastic, dramatic way that could have made for good comedy. Maybe next time.
I woke up to write down this dream and then walked into the kitchen to make coffee. I’ve got a long day of writing ahead of me that unfortunately won’t include any jokes. (Though maybe some humor in the academic writing I need to do today wouldn’t be such a bad thing!) As I sat down at my laptop, I decided to write up this dream to share with you and a few insights from it bubbled up to the top. They seem worth sharing, too.
1.) Love the company you work with and the company you keep. No matter how long you live, life will always be too short to do anything else. Many of my now dearest friends (and more than one of my past romantic partners) I met through work.
2.) You can be and do lots of things, even those you aren’t particularly good at when you first begin, so long as you love the practice (comedy included!)
3.) Given my love of and belief in the value of practice, and lots of it, it’s ironic that I’ve worked with Carnegie Hall for almost 4 years—a storied institution where practice is so foundational that it’s been their unofficial motto for almost 100 years. It’s also ironic that this unofficial motto started as a situational joke. It’s credited to violinist Mischa Elman who was born the same year Carnegie Hall opened (1891) and made his debut there in 1908 at the age of 17.
4.) For years I’ve wanted to write something funny but always told myself comedy isn’t my thing. Leave that to the experts, to people who are naturally funny, I thought. But maybe this dream was meant to shake things up in my real-life. Maybe it was a message that funny is my future, or at least part of it.
If that 4pm company meeting shows up in a future dream, I’ll be sure to let you know. Maybe my new boss, J Lo, will run it. I sure hope so because I’ve definitely got some funny questions to ask her.