I’ve interviewed celebrities and high-profile individuals who impact culture and society. I’ve been sent to Croatia and Disney World and a plethora of other places on assignment. I’ve written blogs that have gone viral. I’m not the great Ta-Nehisi Coates or Danyel Smith, but after 5 years of working as a professional journalist, I can at least say that I’ve made some strides for which I can humble brag. And it’s also great that I’ve seen many of my peers succeed in the space we all talked about breaking into while we were in college.
My interns at work are eager to be next and it’s actually cool to be in a position to give advice.
The shit looks glamorous and exciting. But I’ve done some of this at the expense of my holistic health. Some of it has come at the cost my independence and my bank account. I have not completely deteriorated, but I have given much of my all.
I live with my parents still. Brooklyn IS expensive. My money is nothing to brag about. People often ask me how I’m able to travel. I intentionally chose to move back and stay with my parents and chose traveling over getting a place because I could. Also I’m damn good at being resourceful, finding deals and figuring out how to work remotely so that I can still make money while I travel. I know everyone doesn’t have it like that. So no I’m not telling anyone to do what I did or trying to make anyone feel bad that they can’t do what I do. I know people read these personal essays and try to attack you for your circumstance. But it is what it is. I had that option and I took it. But it does suck sometimes. I’m 26. I’m about to be 27. I want to date and have my dates over. I want to have friends over and throw brunch functions and kickbacks at my crib. My parents are chill and my space is cool. But still it’s nothing like being alone and owning your space. For a good while I didn’t know if I wanted to settle in New York City. I didn’t want to spend outrageous money on a place that was temporary If I didn’t have to. But now I’m pretty set on staying here and immersing myself more in the coming months. I did what I did to make my dreams happen. I’m living them.
But I do feel like there is so much more for me to learn.
In school and at my internships, they teach you how to report, how to fact-check, how to write a poppin lede and clincher, how to cut copy and be succinct and how to add details to bring a page to life. I’ve had professors mark up my work in red and I remember sitting at my computer crying while looking at edits I needed to make and saying to myself that I’ll never be a great writer. I’ve had professors send me back to the field and tell me to do more reporting. But looking back, I’m proud of my traditional journalism chops. I’m proud of all those unpaid and those few lucky paid internships. In a space where everyone wants to come up and be seen as a journalist/blogger, I still feel very very proud of the haze and the confidence it has brought me at this point in my career.
I also learned the downsides to the industry. Editors and my instructors warned me that layoffs are common. Magazines folding are common. Unemployment is common. Late checks are common. Bad leadership and bad resources are common. Everyone knows each other so word gets around if you’re trash. It’s the nature of the business.
But I don’t know that I learned how to take care of myself in this process of being great. I was taught to work hard. That if you don’t do it, someone else will come and take your spot. Talent is cool. But those that are hungrier will come out on top. I wanted to be talented and hungry. I was. I still am. But am I well with my self? I don’t know.
I honestly don’t know what self-care is yet. A part of me has been operating from a place that until you’re making a certain income, you don’t have the luxury of self-care. If you’re worried about making it all the time then how do you find time to take care of yourself.
In December 2014, I took up some training sessions at my gym. My trainer Tristian gave me a wake up call. Although weight wise I had no issue, he did a posture analysis and informed me that sitting all day could eventually ruin in for me. And I sit a lot! From that moment I’ve tried to be more conscious of this and really made sure I was working on my back exercises, yoga and stretching to keep my muscles from tightening up. I’ve made it part of my routine.
They say the money will come and that what you do will eventually take care of you. Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite authors, wrote about it in Outliers. The golden rule of success is 10,000 hours of dedication to your craft.
At this point, I’m past the stage of accepting this won’t be easy. I’m over the fact I did not accomplish making my dream income at 25. It does not bother me that some people would never try the life I have chosen. I love the grind. I love to create and make and push things forward. But what does trouble me is that I can’t say confidently that I do a good job at loving myself.
Saying no is still difficult for me. I care about what I do and I like to help others and be there for my friends and my coworkers who need me. I want to be seen a dependable and do the extra required that allows me to stand out. But it’s not always possible.
The past 8 weeks have not been easy on me. Dealing with a higher level of responsibility at work has left me scrambling to find balance. I’m also eating out less and bringing my own food to work but sometimes I would skip meals. I’m trying to save money for this dream project. The other day a friend of mine noticed I had been losing weight.
Also, I recently had my wisdom teeth extracted. By the time I publish this, I pray that the pain from it subsides. It has been really really difficult. While being sick, all these thoughts came to my head. “How am I supposed to work? I’m a permalancer.” And I was pretty much out of my sick days. So when I don’t work, I don’t get paid.
On top of that this is the last month I’m in the states until June. I wanted to take the time and enjoy these last couple of weeks with the people I love. But unfortunately, I may have to take it easier than I intended. I’ve been the weakest link at work and in all my relationships at this moment.
But honestly, I did not allow myself to feel any guilt about saying no to anyone. I am only one person; a single woman who is currently trying to take care of herself; a woman who is transitioning into another aspect of her life so that she can flourish down the line; and a woman who wants to be great but is having a hard time getting there. I am strong sometimes, but right now I’m weak. I’m letting others down. And it’s not that I don’t care. I’m just not capable right now.
I realize perhaps that I shouldn’t just do this when I’m in so much pain that Ibuprofen is my savior. But that even in times of wellness, I should do better to care for myself, say no and perhaps let others down a little bit more.
Life isn’t always perfect. I am very optimistic about my future. It’s inspiring to watch culture journalists who I look up to rise to success and are finally in a space to say, “hey this is taking care of me now.” Writers like Demetria Lucas, whose story I followed from being a blogger and journalist to now having a reality TV show and successful selling book. And Jozen Cummings who recently wrote about finally having some financially stability for the first time in his life and not knowing what to even do now that he has that freedom.
It’s all a process; one that is difficult; one that is chaotic one day and free-flowing the next. I’m okay with sacrificing, but I can no longer sacrifice my being no matter how much money or little money I’m making.
I must love me better.