Growing Older & Bossing Up
I will be turning 29 years old in May, and lately my age has become very apparent.
I have discovered a cluster of not one but THREE grey hairs at my temple (which I have continued to pluck against the advisement of my friends and family). I can no longer drink heavily with the same resilience that I used to, and I have cleared hurdles in my writing career that have proven significant growth both financially and creatively.
So when I moved back in with my parents a few months ago to save money, the hope was that I would start making enough supplemental freelance income to move out before the year's end. Even though I know it's “normal” for people my age to be floating from job to job trying desperately to clench some sort of success in their fields, I was becoming anxious that I was going to turn 30 and still be reliant on my day job — a time drain that is completely unrelated to my career. That's why I'm thrilled to announce that after six years of hard, post-college (mostly unpaid) work, a door has finally been opened for me: I was hired to be the new copy chief at the Portland Mercury.
You're probably wondering, so what does that mean? Basically, I’ll be in charge of proofing, copyediting and fact-checking the overwhelming majority of stories in the newsweekly, in addition to writing my hip-hop column Sneaker Wave. Put simply, I’m the keeper of copy and a real full-time journalist...for a living! I can hardly believe that starting on Wednesday, September 28, I will be working SOLELY in my chosen profession.
Even though I may have seemed steadfast and focused on pursuing my career (after spending $80,000+ in student loans, I didn't really see another option), it has been really, very, super hard over the last few years to not want to give up. On more than one occasion I've considered choosing a different field, an easier path. It has been especially difficult to have faith that there was indeed a light at the end of the tunnel—that jumping through all these extra hoops would eventually pay off. And it finally has.
In my new role I’ll be gaining a three-dollar hourly wage increase, a bus pass, medical and dental benefits, and I get to continue my freelance work for other publications. (Which is great, because I have also just been asked to be a contributor for a new project that Weiden + Kennedy will be launching in the near future!)
Besides all the obvious pros to getting hired, something I am particularly excited about is that I don't have to work another holiday season in retail. In fact, 'relieved' is way a better word for my feelings. I've been doing this for far too long: since I was 17. While my job at The Duck Store is basically the best employer/work environment you can ask for in terms of retail, the past few months have become progressively more painful; I have had to learn how to balance my increasingly frequent freelance work with being an assistant manager 40 hours a week. It doesn't sound that overwhelming on paper, but committing to multiple weekly events, writing projects, interviews AND having a social life on top of a full time job has proven to be extremely taxing on my health. So yes, I am stoked. I am over the moon. I am beaming with pride for myself that I finally got to the point of The Job Offer, which I have wanted for so long. Since accepting the position, I have found myself fantasizing about the one bedroom apartment that I will now be able to afford. THAT is the dream right there.
But now, as I countdown the days I have left at my day job (just 4 more shifts!), I’m realizing I actually have to DO the new job. And I have to be a boss at it. Courtney Ferguson, the woman who is leaving the post, held the position for 11 whole damn years. Not only do I have some big shoes to fill, but I also have an entirely new staff, style guide, and set of workplace procedures to get acquainted with. I have to manage my time and play an integral role in ensuring the grammatical consistency and factual accuracy of an entire weekly publication!
Throughout my career there have been many people in my life who have been very encouraging, supportive, and given me all kinds of feedback. My work has been validated as I've learned from/acquired new freelance ventures, and gotten other kinds of recognition like being asked to guest on Brett Mckinney’s Shuffle Podcast. Still, I have continued the feel unsure of myself. I’ve always felt like a student of my industry—and I still am one in the big picture—but now I’m more on my own. I occupy an important step in the journalistic process that no one else is going to supervise. In other words, no one is going to check my checks after I check them. I will, of course, do my best. I’m also being really kind to myself by taking 5 days off and a trip to New Orleans before my first day at the office. (AHHH! I'M SO EXCITED TO WORK IN AN OFFICE!) I even got braids installed so I can save myself some time in the mornings for the first couple months (and also so I can look cute at the Beyoncé concert in NOLA).
I'm more than aware that I need to be confident going into this, but I also know that every time I turn in an article I habitually assume it resembles trash to some extent. But as Ciara, the Mercury music editor, told me: I need to own my talent as a writer. And she's totally right. I need to believe in myself enough to know that I’m bomb, blessed, and deserving of success. I'm starting to, and I'm going to prove it.