Editor's Letter: March 2018
At 20, as a sophomore at Penn State’s Altoona branch campus, I had a creative writing class that changed me. After reading the short fictions we created, our professor gave us constructive criticism on our pieces aloud. When it was my turn, she extolled that the shining attribute of my writing was that I had “an incredible way of stating very complex ideas very concretely,” and to date, it’s the highest compliment I’ve ever received. It’s probably, too, subconsciously, a primary reason that writing is still my greatest passion and one of my gifts that I’m actually comfortable sharing.
Recently, I found some poetry I wrote from those days, including one ideated upon on that critique, noting, “She’s the keeper of perfect words, just waiting for the right time to spill them out.” Today, I’m not as fastidious, or brashly self-assured, as I was then to believe that I do, hyperbolically, ‘keep the perfect words’; nor do I intend for a decade-old compliment to be my opus. I do believe, however, with all of that same conviction that I had making that proclamation, that I still have a story worth telling— and more importantly, we all do.
A major lesson I’ve learned negotiating the beginning of the next decade of my life, is that my experience wasn’t special; it doesn’t make me particularly more qualified to give advice— the last thing that I have is the answers. But to that point, we’ve all been conditioned to believe the fallacy our entire lives that there is a ‘right way’ to do things— and if we do it that way, we’ll inevitably find success. Yet, even just this far into my life, I believe I will always find this assertion to be unabashedly untrue.
I continued my education, graduating from the main campus, in eight semesters with a high GPA and a Media Studies degree— just in time for the social media marketing boom— they said the world was my oyster. And like the ‘good little go-getter’ I was, I expatriated my Pennsylvania hometown for New York City just a year later. A doe-eyed twenty-four year old, pursuing the big break that every adult in life said was all-but-promised to me. I did everything according to the conventions of ‘the right way’ for nearly ten years— so how did everything end up so wrong, so many times during that decade?
An early, and incredible start to my Manhattan career soon came crashing down; erroneously let go just months into my first ‘dream job.’ In the time that followed, I lived with over fifteen different roommates in a shared East Harlem apartment, freelanced for dozens of clients, many times for little, sometimes even no pay— just for most of those relationships to eventually dissolve into greater disappointment than I could even dream up. I’ve seen friends and colleagues experience meteoric successes and soul-crushing defeats; I’ve seen some rise to meet those occasions, and have known others that took their own lives from experiencing either one or both of those circumstances. We've all been here, experiencing the same ‘thing’, so much of the time, yet no one let the secret out.
I’m no wiser, braver, smarter or stronger than any of the other incredible people that I have the pleasure of knowing. But I have learned something worth sharing— especially in today's current cultural climate— each one of us deserves to tell our story; listening to the struggles of others is the only way we’ll find the compassion it takes to grow not only as individuals, but also as communities. Unique, individualized perspectives, especially those of everyday people, ones who still feel ordinary when they were told that life could be extraordinary, are so powerfully important to right now, and to the future.
The rose-colored, technologically facilitated filters by which we currently view our own augmented realities are poisoning us at the source. Instead of accepting that our lives, and our world as a whole, is messy, so that we can make the necessary changes to all be more well, we collectively turn the other cheek and focus our attention on those we believe do have it altogether—even when deep down we know they’ve got to feel flawed too.
We’ve traded in deeply personal experiences— the good, bad and ugly— for a prescription that misleads us with unobtainable ideals; aspirational, visually affecting #LifeGoals that no one can chin up to forever, no matter how intelligent, attractive, affluent or engaging you are. We still have a chance to embrace our imperfections, but we have to be willing to talk about it first.
We can’t do better unless we recognize, collectively, that we know better— and communicate it. Transparency is paramount—no one and nothing is ever perfect, including my words. And although they may not be, in the moment, these feel like the right ones, so here I am, finally ready to spill them out.