Meet a Fellow Heartlander: Meridith Murray
By Carol Reed
Newly elected copresident Meridith Murray has spent the last eleven years doing a variety of jobs in a high school—computer lab technician, Language Arts department program leader, academic teams coordinator and coach, English Language Learner building coordinator—“any job that nobody else wanted,” she jokes. Meridith is also mom to five children, church organist and choir director, and until very recently, called herself a part-time indexer. Now that the kids are on their own, she’s decided to quit her high school job and start indexing full-time. She recently shared a little more with us about making that transition.
How and when did you initially get into indexing? “It was sometime in the early ‘90s; I was a stay-at-home mom and we were perennially short on money, so I was looking for something that I could do working from home. I took the two USDA courses and then started calling publishers and introducing myself. One publisher who was willing to take a chance on a new indexer had a small “niche” publishing company that serviced the infertility and adoption interests. Being a mother of five, I knew little about this field, but certainly learned a lot, as my first half-dozen or so jobs came from this source. I have since branched out but am thankful for the experience and knowledge I gained.”
You’ve been doing indexing part-time along with your other jobs. Has that created time management challenges? If so, what are your crunch-time strategies? “Actually, I am fortunate in that the nature of my current day job allows me to work on the occasional index in and around my other duties. Also, I do not have to bring any work home with me, so evenings are always my own for indexing work if I have a job in progress. My husband is very understanding if I have to let my usual routine around the house slip for a few days when I am working on an index. As a last resort, I can always take a personal day to finish an index.”
What made you decide to change careers? “My indexing work has been gradually increasing over the last couple of years without my doing anything specific to bring that about. I had settled into a comfortable part-time indexing routine, but I realized recently that if I were to actually spend some time working on building up my business and clients, I could easily justify leaving my current job and indexing full-time. My children have all moved out of the house as of last summer and I would like to be able to have more time to spend with my husband. It just seemed like a good time to make the switch.”
It doesn't sound like you have a lot of free time, but when you do, what do you enjoy doing? “I spend a lot of time reading, of course! Other spare time pursuits: cooking, gardening, knitting, music (playing piano and organ). My oldest son and I make pysanky Easter eggs every year (he makes the most amazing eggs that look like Greek pottery—mine are somewhat less ambitious, although this year I made eggs with everyone’s name in hieroglyphs!). I have a lot of animals (cats and dogs, all rescues), and they require a time investment as well.”
It seems a lot of indexers enjoy creative pursuits on the side. How long have you been playing organ and directing the choir at your church? What do you enjoy most about doing those things? “I have been a church musician most of my life; I am actually starting out a new job at a new church, so there’s a little bit of a learning curve there. My husband has a beautiful bass voice, and he is very supportive; it helps to know that wherever I go, I can be assured of having a bass that I can count on! Everyone has talents, and the thing that I am most thankful for about my own musical talent is that I can use it to enhance the worship experience for others. Also, I really enjoy cranking up a powerful organ and letting it all loose!”
What aspects of full-time freelance indexing appeal to you the most? What do you consider most challenging? “I really like the freedom to plan my own time and be master of my own destiny! I am pretty independent, so the idea of working for myself is very appealing. The challenge is going to be for me to keep busy, but I am fairly confident that if I devote the time and energy to this enterprise, it will flourish. (If you build it, they will come!) It’s a little bit of a leap of faith for me to quit my day job, but it just feels like the timing is right.
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