Wanted: A Millennial who knows what the f*ck she’s doing

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I talk (write?) a lot about my job on this blog and how hard it was to get where I am today (currently on my bed, watching bob’s burgers, in a blanket burrito). But it’s not like I spent my childhood dreaming of being an agent’s assistant, or even working in publishing. My quote-unquote dream job changed fairly often as I was growing up and they all spanned a multitude of subjects.

When I was very little I wanted to be an illustrator. I always loved drawing, requesting sketch pads and crayons every Christmas. I remember one weekend, where my sister and I sat at my grandmother’s dining room table using water colors to paint, thinking that my sister was going to write books, and I was going to draw things for them. But I soon realized that my talents were never going to get any better than my third grade hand.

Once I realized this, I shifted focus. Dolphins had recently become my favorite animal and getting to spend days splashing around with them sounded like absolute bliss (reminder this was a pre blackfish world we were living in). This desire to train sea animals lasted throughout most of middle school until one day my mom took me to the Baltimore Aquarium to see an actual dolphin show (to help support my interests – thanks mom!). During the performance, one of the trainers talked about how one becomes a trainer, and listed the many books and courses one would have to read and take – and though I’m not proud of this, the  thought of all that work just to play with dolphins soured the whole process. So naturally I switched to a much more manageable career.

Not. Around the end of middle school/early high school I was reading a lot of non-fiction and was also getting into my family history. Not to mention, my immediate family and I were always into shows like The West Wing and NCIS. All of this contributed to my desire to be a spy for the CIA. My maternal grandfather had worked for the CIA and I was intrigued by international travel and the excitement of a high stakes environment. So, to once again foster support for my budding interests, my mom took me to the International Spy Museum in DC and bought me a memoir written by a former agent. But after this and my own extensive research it became apparent that a life of a spy was much harder and a lot more boring than I originally had thought. And I was slowly becoming much more interested in talking to “interesting people” than actually being an “interesting person” myself.

This was the beginning of a hope for a career in journalism. In high school I got super into music and subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine. I loved how the editors covered any topic under the sun and weren’t afraid to tout controversial ideas (this was about ten years ago when legalized weed was still a pretty controversial issue). I learned all about the history of music and politics and Hunter S. Thompson. I found new and interesting people to follow on budding social media websites. And this interest eventually led me to other quirky outlets such as McSweeny’s Quarterly Concern. All of this showed me that anything can be a story if you tell it interestingly enough. And it seemed like all the writers in these magazines got to sit down with the “most interesting people in the world” and ask them questions about why they do what they do. Nothing sounded more fascinating to me.

To this day I am still fascinated by it. Though my focus in college shifted from journalism to history, I still wanted to write and talk about interesting people and social trends. But what changed is the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell. In college I realized that I didn’t just want to be a mouth piece for something or someone else. I wanted to create something new – by myself, for myself. Once I realized I wasn’t going to pursue a journalism career, I started looking at avenues that would allow me to think about and work on stories every day. Thus when I graduated, I started to look for jobs in publishing.

Today I still don’t necessarily know what my passion is or “what I want to be when I grow up.” I know that I have always wanted to perform and draw and act and express my self visually. And I know that I have the skills and connections to navigate an industry that can be unrelenting. But I wish I wasn’t so timid about expressing my passions no matter what they are. Sometimes I am afraid that my lack commitment to any career or idea, will result in me never finding something that truly fills my soul.

But perhaps, I won’t ever need to figure that out. Barring some lack of inherent talent, I knew that if I worked hard enough, I would be capable of pursuing every career listed above – and maybe that’s all that matters.

But No, My Mother Wanted an Alpaca

A new month, and a new challenge. In February, we’re going to assign each other topics instead, and see what we get out of it. This week, Kelly wanted me to write about my top three favorite TV shows and what they have taught me about the world and myself. Two out of the three of these are going to be pretty obvious to anyone who has known me for any significant length of time. The third one, well, I haven’t even figured that one out yet so I think its going to surprise all of us.

tumblr_nxkypiRty91tf41sio1_500The West Wing: I like to think that I was a pretty good kid – there wasn’t a lot I was bratty about. But I did tell Kelly she wasn’t allowed to watch the West Wing with my dad and me. It was our thing and I didn’t want her anywhere near it, especially when I was taking guitar lessons on Wednesday nights and we had to race home to catch the next episode. I could tell you about how the West Wing taught me about optimism, the ability to pick up and keep fighting even at the end of a really bad day. I could also tell you about how the West Wing taught me to value my intelligence, not to hide it, even when people were weird about it, because smart people are going to save the world. I could also tell you a bit about how the West Wing inspired my civic mindedness, my belief in government, but you can just read about that in this Vanity Fair article. All of that stuff is true, and all of it has stuck with me but I think the most important thing the West Wing taught me was this – complexity is not a vice. The world is complex place, and its questions have complex answers, when they have answers at all. Don’t be afraid of it.

“Every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren’t very many unnuanced moments in a country that’s way too big for ten words.”

Veronica Mars:
My first year in college was rough. I wasn’t happy where I was, I wasn’t happy to leave home, and I did all the things one usually does when one is unhappy. I didn’t eat much; I id in my room and did a terrible job making friends aside from my wonderful roommate, who was forced to put up with me because she had mono (Hi Jenny!). So I was in the right place in my life for deep, immediate, and irrevocable attachment to a fictional narrative.

519-4346-1-PBI started watching Veronica Mars at my friend’s house over Christmas break (hi Megan!) and by the end of it I had probably spent more time at her house than wit my family. We drove out at 10 pm to go buy the second and third season from Target. And then I spent most of my second semester of college unable to sleep because I was so fixated on the cliffhanger they’d left us with. Over the next few years I’d introduce the series to new friends and old friends, write fanfiction, and then finally donate $100 to the KickStarter campaign that would bring the series back to life for me. When I found out they would be making a movie, I cried a little.

So what did I learn from Veronica Mars? It’s all twisted up with my first year of college – but I learned that you can get through the things that seem unbearable. That time keeps passing. That sometimes letting yourself be loved can be the hardest thing in the world, but that it’s almost always worth it.

Gilmore Girls: Okay, I decided. So Gilmore Girls is a fantasy – and a fairly white, privileged one at that. As I am a fairly white, privileged person, it’s easy for me to identify with. I don’t have a good story about this one, or a plethora of lessons. I can’t even tell you about the hard times that Gilmore Girls has gotten me through, because its been almost every minor crisis since I started college. There’s something about a character on television who was known for being smart and quiet, for reading too often and too much that warmed my heart. There’s also something to the fact that Rory ends the series about to start a great job, with no boyfriend in sight. People who live their lives in stories can also have their own.

Okay, so maybe there was a life lesson in there too. I think there’s something to be said about he fact that all of these shows celebrate strong, smart women, and that I watched all of them when I was at that age where being a strong, smart women was pretty hard. I was pretty lucky growing up. There were real people in my life that celebrated strong, smart women. But I’m really glad I got to see it on TV too.

(But also Supernatural, guys. This is SO HARD)

(image source)

The West Wing and a (Crisis) of Decisions

tumblr_nq16tga3lh1u1hog5o1_540Over the past few months I’ve been doing a rewatch of my all time favorite show IN THE WORLD. The West Wing (about the personal and political lives of a group of White House elite) first aired in 1999, and a few years later I began watching it on Wednesday nights with my dad. Bravo also used to play reruns of it for about 75% of the week, including late at night when I was supposed to be asleep. Even after I stopped sneaking out of bed to watch it, I would still hear Kelly leaving her room about half an hour after we were supposedly asleep, checking to make sure I hadn’t gotten up without her.

(Sorry, Kelly!)

Suffice to say, The West Wing was pretty formative for me. It’s how I passed the AP Government exam. I drop West Wing quotes the way Kelly drops song lyrics – casually and abundantly. And for a long time, it was where I found my career goals. This was not uncommon in my age group. Vanity Fair did a whole story on it.

When I was little, I went through all the regular aspirations kids go through – teacher, marine biologist, astronaut. But from about seventh grade on, I wanted my life to look like The West Wing. I studied international relations. I wanted to advise the president. I wanted 18-hour days, and heavy conversations. I wanted to fight the good fight.

tumblr_nrz1101FbV1qc6ukro6_500This doesn’t exactly explain how I ended up with a Masters degree in English Lit, living in Boston and working in a children’s book/toy store, but fourth year of college, I loaded a bunch of lit classes into my schedule. After I graduated, I started temping and ended up with an office job. Bored and infinitely restless, I applied to PhD programs and instead ended up in a partially funded Masters program at Boston College.

I had a lot of reasons for changing direction. Some were good, some were really stupid, some of them even still stand. Much of it was fear. But I don’t necessarily regret it. I’ve met some phenomenal people in Boston, read some incredible books. Become a much better writer.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this shift as the right choice, but really, it wasn’t good or bad, right or wrong. It was a choice I made, and through it I lost some things and gained some others. I like what I’ve gained, and I miss what I lost.

The West Wing keeps me up for all the usual reasons. Right now it’s keeping me up because I haven’t actually watched season 5 since it aired. But The West Wing also reminds me how powerful stories are. It’s a vicious contradiction, because all at once it validates and makes me question my life choices. And now, as I once again float around in the post-graduation haze of no fucking clue what I want out of my life, may not be the best time to do a rewatch. But maybe it is. Maybe it reminds me that there is more than one way to get what you want out of your life. Or that its possible to make changes in the world from wherever you stand. Or that you have to keep going, even when the show gets bad – uhhh, I mean when the going gets tough.

Or maybe it’ll just remind me to read the newspaper. I’ll let you know tonight, when I’m still thinking about it at three in the morning.

(Choosing the image from this post, source here and here, I just liked everything in the west wing tag on tumblr. This is my life)