On chasing dreams (all of ’em).

I was 10 when I decided I wanted to publish a book someday. That became The Dream. While I was learning how to read in first grade, I was simultaneously falling in love with words. How they worked, how they sounded, how some just fit better than others in certain sentences. I loved learning new vocabulary and I was obsessed with being a good speller (fourth grade bee runner-up right here—I missed “inadequate” with “inadequit.” The irony was not lost on me).

Words were my kind of magic. Sentences were math I could wrap my head around; puzzles to be played with and perfected. I wanted to fill my brain with all the beautiful words, twirl them around, and pull them back out to create my own stories.

14423849_10100664461735658_1708275144_oNot many pre-teens can say they completed half a manuscript by high school, but that was me. Unfortunately, I worked so long and hard on it that too many years passed and it just … died. As I grew older, my writing style changed and so I kept diving back into old chapters, re-writing and editing and re-editing until the story was almost unrecognizable and I just ran out of things to do with it. It’s one of my biggest life regrets. Long gone are the days of Creative Writer 2 and so it sits, a massive stack of papers held together with binder clips, in the dark recesses of my closet. A computer file with almost 100 painstakingly crafted pages doesn’t even exist. That fact occasionally worries me … if I ever lose those papers, that huge chunk of my childhood is just gone.

Some kids have drawings and doodles and macaroni art to bring back that innocent nostalgia—I have haikus and short stories and vivid diary entries. I started writing creatively when I was 8 and never looked back. My poetry made it into our local paper when I was in eighth grade and the thrill of seeing my name in print sparked a blaze of ambition. As a high school sophomore, I signed up to take “Introduction to Journalism,” a new elective, and that was it. Most teenagers don’t map out their entire careers at 15, but I did.

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As I dove headfirst into journalism—working on my high school paper, my college paper, a magazine internship, a newspaper internship, another magazine internship, and all the other odds and ends of my post-grad career—the part of me that loved literature sort of shrank into the shadows. There’s this interesting dichotomy between literary writing and journalistic writing and since I’ve dabbled in both, I’ve been straddling that line for most of my life. One side typically has to take precedence over the other and I’ve always been confident that I chose the right side for myself. There was a reason I didn’t major in English Lit—though I did minor in it and happily took fiction workshops, poetry workshops, and nonfiction case studies. I wrote screenplays, essays, and an in-depth analysis of Shakespeare. But being a word nerd has limits and since I never had any desire to teach English (and because I became utterly addicted to life in a newsroom), journalism won. Continue reading “On chasing dreams (all of ’em).”

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On “leaving” journalism.

captureThis past Thursday, my new team members and I all went out for lunch. (Sushi buffet. If you know me, you know I was pretty stoked about that. And it was delicious.) I’d already met each of them in my initial orientation, but this was an opportunity to get to know them better now that we’ll be working more closely together.

On our drive back to the office, my new manager asked me a bit about my background, what jobs I’d had before this, etc. I started to explain my history of jumping from magazine internship to online reporting to editing newspapers. Then she asked:

“So did you purposely leave journalism?”

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And that struck a deep, deep chord, man. I fumbled with my answer a bit, saying I wanted to do something with my career that was a little more reliable and paid better, while still allowing me to write and also bring me into a cause I’m passionate about (helping the cute and fuzzies of the world). It’s the explanation I typically give people who ask why I made this particular career move. It may even be the explanation I gave in the job interview. And yes, it’s the explanation I tell myself when I wonder and hope that I made the right move. (I have very limited experience with marketing, after all.) But did I purposely leave journalism … that question stuck with me throughout the rest of the day. And I’m clearly still thinking about it, so I came here to hash it out.

Have I left journalism? Continue reading “On “leaving” journalism.”

On going home again.

thomas-wolfeYou know the old saying. Well, you probably know some version of it anyway. The idiom’s origins date back to a 1940 Thomas Wolfe novel and the sentiment has been widely debated by literary snobs. And Bon Jovi. Clearly you can throw millennials into that mix as well. Who the hell are you to tell us we can’t go home?

I spent Labor Day weekend back in PA. I was starting to miss my dog so much that I felt an unpleasant twinge whenever I thought about him. So I drove 200 miles from Rockville, MD (population 64,000) back to Nazareth, PA (population 5,700) to do absolutely nothing but read Harry Potter by day and lie in my sister’s bed watching Stranger Things (my second round, her first) with her at night.

I purposely put off going home for a while. I wanted to wait at least a month, to settle into my new life, to avoid this all feeling temporary. It happened so quickly, I need it to feel real. Everyone at work who hears about the total whirlwind my life was in July—how I permanently moved down less than 24 hours before I started the job, how I uprooted my life and came from out of state to join the cause—asks me if I’m homesick. The answer is always no. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

And in going back and staying in my old room out of a tiny suitcase, going through the motions of yet another boring weekend home with no plans and nothing to do, I realized just how stagnant my life had become over the past three years. How very long overdue this life change has been. How the one emotion that struck me when I arrived back at my apartment (my apartment) Monday afternoon was relief that the worst is finally behind me.

This new chapter has been such a long time coming.
Continue reading “On going home again.”

On rolling with the punches.

In my first week or so with The HSUS, after I really started getting to know who everyone is and what they do and got to see firsthand how the different departments work together and how easy it seemed to be to get to try new things and move into different roles, I thought … OK, this is really cool. Is this web thing really what I have my heart set on, nah, but it’s kind of fun and I’m learning new things and I get to do a ton of copy editing. Maybe after a year or two of doing this and coming out on the other side of this awesome redesign, I’ll start looking into moving around. Social media fiend that I am, it could be really fun to do that for a while. Or maybe a spot will open up with the magazines. I could be here a long time testing out all different roles and departments. Sweet!

Turns out, I didn’t have to wait long at all before that happened.

I hesitate to call it a promotion, per se, though I did blast that out over Facebook because it’s easier than explaining the actual situation. (If my salary goes up, it will be, technically!) I’ve been reassigned.
Continue reading “On rolling with the punches.”

On asking for help.

My dad (with a plethora of tools) was here for the past couple days, beautifying my apartment. I came home from work Friday afternoon to find my bedroom decked out in the exact same shade of rich teal that it had been at home. It went from feeling like a hotel room to my room almost instantaneously. We hung my curtains, some shelves, some posters and knick-knacks, and now I smile every time I walk in. (The living room is another story—no frills, no furniture, just my TV and a love seat I bought on clearance. That’ll be a work in progress for a looong time, but if you can’t relax in your own bed, that’s a bigger issue.)

Rapunzel-PaintingA friend of mine scoffed when I said my dad was painting my place. (Whatever, Jen!) And I get it—you get the big girl apartment, you should do the big girl home improvement by yourself—but I think it’s fair to know your own limitations and me plus a ladder plus nine-foot ceilings and the potential to make an obscene mess would just be the worst combination ever. Plus, I suspect my dad has been secretly waiting for me to get my own place just so he could come be Mr. Handyman. 😉 Right, Dad?

Asking for help is hard. I certainly struggle with it. Sometimes it’s a matter of pride, other times it’s about hating feeling like a charity case. When I need—and receive—financial help, it usually drives me to tears because it’s an uncomfortable mix of overwhelming gratitude and bitter resentment that I had to ask in the first place. I imagine feeling this way isn’t all that uncommon. I think people who struggle with it, like me, are the same type of people who struggle with feeling a sense of failure. If you have to ask for help, it means you couldn’t do it yourself. There’s no worse feeling to those of us who are fiercely independent. And as someone so attuned to that feeling, it’s sometimes really hard to follow my own advice, but I’m about to give it anyway—in this industry and this economy, you just have to get over that shit. Continue reading “On asking for help.”