No one keeps official count of how many paid and unpaid internships there are, but Lance Choy, director of the Career Development Center at Stanford University, sees definitive evidence that the number of unpaid internships is mushrooming — fueled by employers’ desire to hold down costs and students’ eagerness to gain experience for their résumés. Employers posted 643 unpaid internships on Stanford’s job board this academic year, more than triple the 174 posted two years ago.
These modern female writers all desired to love deeply and intimately, to challenge themselves, to experiment with permanence, to create something that would outlast them, to never turn away from a human experience. Such are the qualities of motherhood, not “momish”ness—it’s not all nurturing and sacrifice, regardless of how our culture chooses to define and deify the maternal.
Such is the supposed dilemma between motherhood and a successful career–but I’m wondering if these questions reflect the internalization that women have to choose between the two: either have a happy career or a happy home. One will cost you the other. There’s an underlying judgment from society that says, Which do you value more? Yourself or your children?
I get the sinking feeling that writers are viewed as self-absorbed, negligent even (“It was not widely considered an ideal year to take an infant to southeast Asia, yet it never occurred to me to adjust the plan,” [Didion] wrote), but this type of selfishness and devotion to prose is what leads to compelling writing, stunning ideas. To think that our decisions to do what makes us happy, in this case writing, will lead to the loss of something with incalculable value is a little worrying, a little condescending , and frankly, quite a bit thought-provoking, especially for someone that hopes to be a published writer and maybe mom one day.
Once upon a time, motherhood marks the advent of maturity, says Ann Hubert, rather than the current orgy of anxiety. Anxiety to have kids, anxiety of giving up something intangible (youth? work? friends? sex life?). ”Do not have kids until you are ready. Or at all,” is something that I always hear my father say, having had me at the age of 30-something himself and my brother a few years later. As the most self-reliant, intelligent, yet commitment-fearing individual I know, I know he says it with the kindest intentions. The implication being that children can be a huge obstacle for the journey of self-fulfillment. As the child of a wanderer, I see so much of him in myself: the fierce desire to be independent, well-traveled, and totally open to any and new experiences and hardships, taking them as opportunities for growth and self-reflection. However, watching him move from one career to the next–military veteran, CEO, PhD candidate, professor of finance, now traveler and adjunct university professor–I notice one constant in his life, two people that he has created and can always count on to ground him, keep him company (when he wants it), and love him unconditionally: my brother and I.
In fact, this revelation intertwines family, writing, children, and happiness so closely and inexplicably–without us, there would be no him, in this moment, with all those choices that defined the life he has lived. He chooses to live his life with no regrets, making no excuses for what he’s done or hasn’t done. If he wants to do something, he does it. As my father, he will always hold my actions to a high standard, urging me to push myself mentally, emotionally, artistically. If I decide to become a mother, this won’t change–in fact, the standard will most likely be held to a higher degree, if only because he knows that motherhood is a daunting next step in my life, and I need to be prepared to do everything in my power to be a good mother, yet be true to my personal aspirations.
“Watch your eyesight,” says my Filipino mom, her intended meaning being watch your perspective. Watch your perspective–and adjust it, if necessary–is right. Motherhood will add a dimension to your writing that never existed before–an entirely new subject to reflect upon, vent about, form opinions on. Work with what you have. Writing about your children makes you no less of a writer, it makes you someone that writes about topics that are meaningful to you, topics that matter to a lot of people.
I don’t think that pursuing your dreams means that you will automatically be compromising your integrity as a parent and individual. Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, and Mary McCarthy were good people, the writers of our times, scrutinized mothers. To me, writing came naturally, motherhood was a learned trait. There is a way to negotiate being both, without losing one, or the other, or both. Having children does change everything, but it doesn’t have to change who you are or what you do. Demand time for yourself. Dedicate yourself to your craft and realize that if you feel like you are a shitty writer, it’s not because of your children–or your job–or your spouse or noisy people outside of your apartment at 3AM. It’s because of you.
With all the college graduations happening in the next month or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about my college readers who are feeling anything between excitement to fear and probably have no idea what they’re doing. I refuse to ask any graduating seniors, So what’s your plan? What are you thinking of doing? If only because when I was about to graduate and someone asked me that question for the 1000th time, my gut reaction was to punch them in the face. But I survived the questions and the release from college. And you will too. After a almost a year of living the post-grad life, I have news for you: not much has changed.
I’ve been reading Cheryl Strayed’s book Tiny, Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, a compilation of all her columns thus far as Sugar, and one entry in particular stuck out to me. Her blunt honesty and no-nonsense advice is something that we all need to hear sometimes.
May 5th, 2011
I teach a few creative writing courses at the University of Alabama where the majority of my students are seniors graduating in May. Most of them are English and Creative Writing majors/minors who are feeling a great deal of dread and anxiety about their expulsion from academia and their entry into “the real world.” Many of their friends in other disciplines have already lined up post-graduate jobs, and many of my students are tired of the “being an English major prepares you for law school” comments being made by friends and family alike, who are pressuring them towards a career in law despite having little or no interest in it.
I have been reading a handful of your columns to my students in an attempt to pep them up and let them know that everything is going to be all right. They have written like motherfuckers. They have pictured the kittens behind the sheetrock.
Our school has decided to forgo a graduation speaker for the last five years or so, and even when we did have a graduation speaker, often they were leaders in business or former athletes, and so their message was lost on the ears of the majority of 21 and 22-year-olds. So Sugar, I am cordially asking you to deliver a graduation speech for our little class of writers. While we might have difficulty obtaining you an honorary PhD, believe me when I say that among us are some extremely talented writers, bakers, musicians, editors, designers and video game players who will gladly write you a lyric essay, bake you a pie, write you a song, and perform countless other acts of kindness in exchange for your advice.
Cupcake & Team 408
Dear Cupcake &Team 408,
There’s a line by the Italian writer Carlo Levi that I think is apt here: “The future has an ancient heart.” I love it because it expresses with such grace and economy what is certainly true—that who we become is born of who we most primitively are; that we both know and cannot possibly know what it is we’ve yet to make manifest in our lives. I think it’s a useful sentiment for you to reflect upon now, sweet peas, at this moment when the future likely feels the opposite of ancient, when instead it feels like a Lamborghini that’s pulled up to the curb while every voice around demands you get in and drive.
I’m here to tell you it’s okay to travel by foot. In fact, I recommend it. There is so much ahead that’s worth seeing; so much behind you can’t identify at top speed. Your teacher is correct: You’re going to be all right. And you’re going to be all right not because you majored in English or didn’t and not because you plan to apply to law school or don’t, but because all right is almost always where we eventually land, even if we fuck up entirely along the way.
I know. I fucked up some things. I was an English major too. As it happens, I lied for six years about having an English degree, though I didn’t exactly mean to lie. I had in truth gone to college and participated in a graduation ceremony. I’d walked across the stage and collected a paper baton. On that paper it said a bachelor’s degree would be mine once I finished one final class. It seemed like such an easy thing to do, but it wasn’t. And so I didn’t do it and the years slipped past, each one making it seem more unlikely that I’d ever get my degree. I’d done all the coursework except that one class. I’d gotten good grades. To claim that I had an English degree was truer than not, I told myself. But that didn’t make it true.
You have to do what you have to do. You can’t go to law school if you don’t have any interest in being a lawyer. You can’t take a class if taking a class feels like it’s going to kill you. Faking it never works. If you don’t believe me, read Richard Wright. Read Charlotte Brontë. Read Joy Harjo. Read William Trevor. Read the entire Western canon. Or just close your eyes and remember everything you already know. Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far, guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits. Trust that all you learned during your college years was worth learning, no matter what answer you have or do not have about what use it is. Know that all those stories and poems and plays and novels are a part of you now and that they are bigger than you and they will always be.
I was a waitress during most of the years that I didn’t have my English degree. My mother had been a waitress for many of the years that she was raising my siblings and me. She loved to read. She always wanted to go to college. One time she took a night class when I was very young and my father became enraged with her and cut her textbook into tiny pieces with a pair of scissors. She dropped the class. I think it was Biology.
You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.
You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.
But that’s all.
I got married when I was in college. I got divorced during the years that I was lying about having an English degree. When I met the man to whom I am now married he said, “You know, I really think you should finish your degree, not because I want you to, but I can tell that you want to.” I thought he was sort of being an asshole. We didn’t bring up the subject again for a year.
I understand what you’re afraid of, sweet peas. I understand what your parents fear. There are practical concerns. One needs money to live. And then there is a deep longing to feel legitimate in the world, to feel that others hold us in regard. I felt intermittently ashamed during my years as a waitress. I’m the only one of my siblings who went to college. I was supposed to be the one who “made it.” At times it seemed instead I had squandered my education and dishonored my dead mother by becoming a waitress like her. Sometimes I would think of this as I went from table to table with my tray and I’d have to think of something else so I wouldn’t cry.
Years after I no longer worked at the last restaurant where I waited tables, my first novel was published. The man who’d been my manager at the restaurant read about me in the newspaper and came to my reading. He’d been a pretty awful boss—in fact, at times I’d despised him—but I was touched to see him in the bookstore that night. “All those years ago, who would have ever guessed we’d be here celebrating the publication of your novel?” he asked when we embraced.
“I would have,” I replied.
And it was true. I always would have guessed it, even all the time that I feared it would never happen. Being there that night was the meaning of my life. Getting there had been my every intention. When I say you don’t have to explain what you’re going to do with your life I’m not suggesting you lounge around whining about how difficult it is. I’m suggesting you apply yourself with some serious motherfuck-i-tude in directions for which we have no accurate measurement. I’m talking about work. And love.
It’s really condescending to tell you how young you are. It’s even inaccurate. Some of you who are graduating from college are not young. Some of you are older than me. But to those of you new college graduates who are indeed young, the old new college graduates will back me up on this: you are so god damned young. Which means about eight of the ten things you have decided about yourself will over time prove to be false. The other two things will prove to be so true that you’ll look back in twenty years and howl.
My mother was young too, but not like those of you who are so god damned young. She was forty when she finally went to college. She spent the last years of her life as a college student, though she didn’t know they were her last years. She thought she was at the beginning of the next era of her life. She died a couple of months before we were both supposed to graduate from different schools. At her memorial service, my mother’s favorite professor stood up and granted her a PhD.
The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.
I have learned this over and over and over again.
There came a day when I decided to stop lying. I called the college from which I did not have an English degree and asked the woman who answered the phone what I needed to do to get one. She told me I had only to take one class. It could be any class. I chose Latin. I’d never studied Latin, but I wanted to know, at last, where so many of our words come from. I had a romantic idea of what it would be like to study Latin—the Romance languages are, after all, descended from it—but it wasn’t romantic. It was a lot of confusion and memorization and attempting to decipher bizarre stories about soldiers marching around ancient lands. In spite of my best efforts, I got a B.
One thing I never forgot from my Latin class is that a language that is descended from another language is called a daughter language.
It was the beginning of the next era of my life, like this is of yours.
Years after I no longer lived in the state where my mother and I went to college , my first novel was published and I traveled to that state to give a reading. Just as my former awful boss had done in a different city mere weeks before, the professor who’d granted my mother a PhD at her memorial service read about me in the newspaper and came to the bookstore to hear me read. “All those years ago, who would have ever guessed we’d be here celebrating the publication of your novel?” she asked when we embraced.
“Not me,” I replied. “Not me.”
And it was true. I meant it as sincerely as I’d meant that I always would’ve guessed it when I’d been speaking to my boss. That both things could be true at once—my disbelief as well as my certainty—was the unification of the ancient and the future parts of me. It was everything I intended and yet still I was surprised by what I got.
I hope you will be surprised and knowing at once. I hope you’ll always have love. I hope you’ll have days of ease and a good sense of humor. I hope one of you really will bake me a pie (banana cream, please). I hope when people ask what you’re going to do with your English and/or creative writing degree you’ll say: Continue my bookish examination of the contradictions and complexities of human motivation and desire; or maybe just: Carry it with me, as I do everything that matters. And then smile very serenely until they say oh.
Mobile platforms, and to a lesser extent social media, are a category of distribution that publishers know they need to have, but they’re still struggling to find a path to sustainable returns on that investment. [...] It’s time that publishers make sense of social media and feed the information into a publishing workflow to inform content creation, quickly and responsively.
It’s true, isn’t it? You’re still looking for that perfect internship or entry level job in publishing? Well, I’ve discovered Ed, a website that posts new job listings every weekday. Apparently, he gets his job postings officially from magazine companies as well as word-of-mouth through his friends, and I’m already foaming at the mouth, trying to decide which one I like more… to be a assistant editor in NYC? Or the work for Forbes office in San Francisco? You get the picture.
Good luck: http://www.ed2010.com/
Originally posted on natethayer:
A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013
Here is an exchange between the Global Editor of the Atlantic Magazine and myself this afternoon attempting to solicit my professional services for an article they sought to publish after reading my story “25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy: Rodman trip comes after 25 years of basketball diplomacy between U.S. and North Korea” here http://www.nknews.org/2013/03/slam-dunk-diplomacy/ at NKNews.org
From the Atlantic Magazine:
Read.// 5 Career Lessons it Took me 3 Years to Learn: Advice from one of my blog crushes, Marian Schembari, for recent grads looking frantically for a job, particularly one that has something to do with writing or publishing.
My inbox floods in waves. Every May and every December I get a few dozen emails from recent graduates who are frantically trying to figure out what the hell to do with their lives. For some reason they think I have an answer on how to get a job. I don’t.
But over the past few years I have learned a thing or to about work and my career and what I want out of work and my career. And there’s a list a mile long of the things I wish I had known after graduating college, things that only come from experience and making stupid mistakes.
Lesson 1: Get over your fear of falling.
It’s been 3 years now since I graduated Davidson College and if I knew right off the bat that I didn’t have to get a ‘safe’ job and the only way to be happy is to do what your gut tells you that you really love than I would have done things differently. I wouldn’t have settled for a boring office job, but I’m glad I quit when I did and traveled when I did.
Lesson 2: Get published.
If I had known how valuable this blog would be three years down the line, I would have started in college. Even if your job doesn’t involve writing, WRITE. Not a great writer? Learn. Seriously, the ability to have people from all industries in all countries to be able to see your work/thoughts/skills is worth the few hours you’d spend a week writing. And it doesn’t have to be a blog. This can be your school newspaper, someone else’s blog, your local paper, a community leaflet, whatever. It doesn’t matter. Point is, people will want to see that you’ve gone the extra mile and have ideas worth listening to. Plus, I can’t remember the last time someone asked me what my degree was.
Lesson 3: Start small.
When I was looking at jobs for the big publishers, they wanted other publishing experience, even though I was only 21. So take publishing for example: find boutique, weird, quirky or niche publishing houses (or websites!) and start there. That’s not to say you can’t go big, but in terms of being “realistic”, small is good. Plus, I LOVE working for small companies. You get heaps more experience and – surprisingly – the pay is often better for newbies.
Lesson 4: NETWORK YOUR FACE OFF.
Emailing strangers is a good place to start, but won’t be enough. Join MeetUp groups, email every industry leader in your area, join a professional organization, shell out for conferences, read top blogs and contact the contributors. Then connect with them on LinkedIn. You do have LinkedIn, right? These are the people who are going to help you get jobs and vouch for you. If any of them are near your school, invite them for a coffee. Meeting in person is ALWAYS better than email. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS.
Lesson 5: Hire a resume writer.
I used social media to get a job and I’ve been using it since. But don’t underestimate the power of a good resume. I hired Jenny Foss of jobjenny.com and had the guys at Loft design it. They both blew my mind. My resume is the best thing since sliced bread and every job I’ve applied for has at least asked me in for an interview since then. My newest job in San Francisco called me for an interview within 12 hours of sending my resume. I was offered the gig less than 2 weeks later.
While I want to say that I would have saved myself a lot of grief by following these lessons three years ago instead of now, sometimes you just gotta make mistakes to really drive a lesson home. What was the dumbest career mistake you ever made?
Write. // Why I’m having the best week ever? Two words: Typing week. Meaning, my kids are either handwriting their essays, peer-editing, or typing on a computer. I get to sit in the back, monitor their behavior, answer a few questions, but otherwise, I’m here in a purely facilitating manner. Probably sounds terrible, coming from someone that has dedicated the past year to educational reform, but honestly, my brain hurts. It hurts from coming up with useful motivation tactics, “looking at data,” over thinking, grading, trying to explain how to develop an essay ten different ways. Of course, I love so many things about my job. I couldn’t imagine spending this year any differently, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m straight up exhausted and over-worked. Balancing a social life and work life, while living on a stipend in New York City, ends up looking like me falling asleep at 9 pm on a Saturday. The only thing I’m thirsty for on a Thursday is a huge ass glass of water to go with my favorite homemade dish, Greek-yogurt inspired mac ‘n cheese. For the second night in a row. I don’t even hate it, especially after a long, grueling day of instruction and behavioral management. Which brings me back to why this is the best week ever: typing and independent reading. An overdue, mental break for the brain. Your turn: Why are you having the best week ever? And don’t kid yourself, there is always a reason to write about why this is going to be the best week of your life.
Listen. // Looking for a little writing inspiration? I’ve been obsessed with Miguel’s album Kaleidoscope Dream lately, so here’s one of his more popular songs that always puts me into the mood to relax and journal in my bed: