Or I am, anyway; across the Atlantic for a few days to celebrate the nuptials of one of my all time favourite people.
I met Penny in my first few weeks of university, when we had an exchange in the back of a lecture theatre that I still remember to this day. (“I always wondered how people at all girls’ schools met guys.” “So did I. All through high school.”) Over the years, she has become one of my best friends: someone with whom I can talk about books and feminism, intermittent existential crises, and who the ultimate OTP on Gossip Girl is (Dair, obviously - we both agree), and who is ideal company for everything from karaoke and indie nightclubs to nights on the couch, one of which scores a cursory mention in Chapter Eight of my book. Tomorrow she is marrying a man who couldn’t be more perfect for her; they are the kind of couple who become more vibrant and interesting around each other, rather than less.
Onto the main event…
What it’s really like to be young, British and overqualified. (Buzzfeed)
"Later I learned that the first threat had nothing to do with what I actually made or said in my books, blog posts, articles, and conference presentations. The real problem — as my first harasser described — was that others were beginning to pay attention to me.” Kathy Sierra on trolling and “the Koolaid Point.” (Serious Pony)
I am not a WOC, but oh, how I related to Roxane Gay’s hunger in The Price of Black Ambition. (VQR)
And here’s The New Inquiry on Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist:
But when Gay talked about the effect seeing movies like The Help and Rosewood had on her, the mood shifted just a bit. She announced, with the same matter-of-factness as she used when talking about The Hunger Games as a post-traumatic-stress narrative, that after seeing these films she couldn’t be around white people for a little while. I could see the expression on the young white women’s faces change. I’ve seen that look before—that slightly pained, slightly irritated expression white people get when they’re reminded that they are the descendants and beneficiaries of systems that oppress people of color. You could practically see #notallwhitepeople flash over their heads. I imagine it must be compelling to have a funny, strong BLACK ♀ speaking to the popular culture so many young white women enjoy. To watch that same critic turn her sharp attention on you must be jarring. It’s as if readers and critics alike want to focus on the feminist part while forgetting the black woman part of the Gay equation. Gay might be your BFF when it comes to Beyoncé, Outlander, and Hunger Games, but she is not your Girlfriend Intervention. (The New Inquiry)
I spoke to four people, aged 16 to 65, about what it’s like to be genderqueer for Cosmopolitan. (Cosmopolitan)
"I remember thinking when we started emailing, if Ashley’s catfishing me, I’m fucking enjoying it, so rock on." This conversation between Lena Dunham and Ashley Ford made me long to meet another soulmate. (Buzzfeed)
Lorde’s album Pure Heroine is the inside-my-mind soundtrack for the novel I occasionally work on, and the final song, A World Alone, feels like the bittersweet conclusion of an indie movie. (One Week, One Band)
Minimum viable personal branding for writers and journalists. (Elizabeth Spiers)
I have been enjoying Chelsea Fagan’s new blog, The Financial Diet, especially these posts: How to feel incredibly rich for 10 dollars and On the neverending bullshit that is fashion blogging. (The Financial Diet)
“They make it seem like abortion is a big, emotional, terrible thing while adoption is win-win. You’re supposed to have this baby, carry it for nine months, take all the physical and emotional risks, and there often is a bonding thing that happens. Women who give up their children for adoption are years and years later talking about how painful it was, much more than women who have abortions.” Katha Pollitt talks to Jill Filipovic about abortion rights. (Cosmopolitan)
I loved this post from Lucie Goulet, on not wanting a life like Sex & The City, and carving out a self based on creation rather than relatonships. (It’s OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion)
“I think I’m into their beauty, but what I’m really after is their seemingly effortless self-esteem.” On being obsessed with models. (Into The Gloss)
"My mom made her living and put food on the table drawing pictures. For me to ask if I could make money off of art would have been silly. Drawing was something adults did to feed themselves and pay their rent." How Molly Crabapple makes money. (Pacific Standard)
Is this bit at the end, when most of the parts are in their place, and all that’s left to do is look at the parts that don’t quite fit to ask yourself, "Is this really what I want to say?"
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed myself having the same conversation over and over again. There are slight variations – some people want to work in the not-for-profit sector, others want to be writers* – but it usually goes something like this:
Person I’m talking to: “I really need a new job, so if you see anything around…”
Me: “Maybe I can help you. What kind of job are you looking for?”
Person I’m talking to: “I’d love to work in the not-for-profit sector/something that does good in the world/I’d love to be a writer.”
Me: “Cool. What issues do you want to work on/types of tasks do you think you’d be good at/kinds of publications would you like to write for?
Person I’m talking to: “I don’t know. Anything. I just need a job/want to write.”
Now, I get why people answer this way. Being unemployed (or underemployed, or underpaid, or in a role that just isn’t right for you) sucks. It’s stressful. It’s disheartening. It does a whammy on your self-esteem. A couple of months ago, following a particularly fiscally tight couple of months, I spent a good couple of hours crying; cursing myself for having pursued such a financially unlucrative profession, and despairing that I had rendered myself unemployable by spending the past four years freelancing. (Then things picked up a week and a half later, and the panic subsided. For now, at least. But the point is, I understand how work is wrapped up with identity, and how the absence of it can make you feel more like a beggar than a chooser.)
I also understand that when you’re young and have just graduated from college, you don’t always know yet what you want to do. And that even if you do know what you want to do, you don’t always get what you want. At least, not right away. The job market sucks for graduates right now, and it has for some time.
But I’ve had this conversation often enough that I thought it was worth bringing up here. Because here’s the thing: I cannot help you get what you’re looking for if you don’t yet know what that is. And no one else can help you, either.
If I know that you are looking for “a job,” the best I can do is forward you every single job advertisement that I come across – which, let’s face it, is not going to be very helpful to you and time consuming for me (and probably useless, if you’re doing your own search). If someone I know is hiring, the best I can say is, “I know someone who is looking for A Job!” Which honestly, isn’t going to do much to convince them to hire you.
But if I know that you’re great with tech and that you want to work on sustainability issues, or that you’re into reproductive rights and are a whizz at organizing events, then I’ve got something to work with. I can forward you job ads relating to events and/or reproductive rights, or if I know someone who works at an organization dealing with those issues – and I think you seem capable and hard-working and like someone who would be great to have around an office – I can introduce you over email.
If I know you want to write screenplays, or comedy, or news reporting, or feminist commentary, I can suggest publications you might want to pitch, or organizations you should get in touch with. If I just know you want to “be a writer,” there’s not really anything I can do for you at all. Except suggest you figure out what type of writing you’d like to do.
You might think that by declaring you’re willing to do anything, you’re making it easier for people to find a place to fit you. But actually, all you’re doing is ensuring that the chance of you ending up with anything at all is a roll of the dice: not about your unique skills or interests, but about the fact that you happened to be at the right place at the right time.
I can be scary, I know, this process of figuring out what you want to do. It takes time. And what you want to do today might not necessarily be what you want to do tomorrow. (Which is fine, by the way.) Worse still, knowing what you want to do makes more real the possibility that you might not get it. And you might not – at least, not at first. But if you don’t figure out what you want, you’re virtually assured not to get it. And you make it very, very difficult for other people to help you along your way.
* Super varied, I know. ;)
Related: Ask Rachel: Life is not determined by who is “winning” at 19.
Stop putting yourself down. I mean it. Now.
She who tries, wins.