Chasing Thirty: Make It Work

Andrea is on a quest to check off a bucket list of items in her 29th year. You can read more about her adventures at her blog, Thirty-Things.

I had lunch last week with my baby cousin who just graduated from college a couple of months ago. She’s in the middle of what I remember as being a very weird summer- the one that takes place between graduation and the beginning of your official post-collegiate life. She’s working long hours at a dreadful sounding job and missing her boyfriend who she’ll be moving to Wisconsin with at the end of the summer. I had no boyfriend to miss during that summer and I don’t think I worked much either; I should have enjoyed it, the last carefree summer before adulthood set in but I didn’t. I was caught between breathless anticipation to start my adult life and sheer terror of the plan I’d laid out for myself: namely moving to New York City where I knew no one and had no leads on a job. Still, I remember feeling elated the day I finally booked my one-way ticket: anything was better than that inertia. And never in my life have I been so excited to work.

My cousin is about as smart and self-possessed as 21-year-olds (or people of any age) come but she’s graduating at a rough time. She sees a lot of her peers already diving into jobs they don’t want for the sake of security or scurrying back to grad school for soothing. She has a much better approach in mind, to work any job that will pay the bills and leave her enough time to intern in her industry of choice (sustainable agriculture) until she can get enough of a foothold to make it her career.

It occurred to me that finding a job you love, or at least like, is one of the major orders of business of your twenties and something I’d always imagined I’d have a handle on by the time I hit the big 3-0.

I’ve always wanted to be a novelist so ‘work’ in the sense of pursuits that pay actual money hasn’t been so much about finding my great passion but finding something that I was good at, liked well enough, paid the bills and left me enough time to write. This sounds simple enough but it’s been a challenge to find work that’s rewarding but not consuming.

Much like Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30 (Jennifer Garner’s character and my spirit animal for this project), I wanted to be a magazine editor when I was younger and this is what I headed out to New York to do. After a couple of internships and a half a dozen interviews for assistant positions at glossy mags, I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a good fit (nor was the 24K a year salary). I was temping at the time to make ends meet and when I landed at Random House, it was a done deal. I was hooked.

I mostly enjoyed my time in publishing: I got to work with tons of authors I admired (I almost fainted when I saw Ian McEwan in the hallway once, true story), had a fabulous boss and wonderful coworkers. I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for the world but after a few years I was majorly burned out. I remember towards the end of my time there, I had this dizzying moment of existential crisis while I was at the water fountain filling up my water bottle, I was suddenly struck by the deep fear that my entire life had been spent at the fountain and that everything else in between had been a dream. That’s when you know it’s time to go.

Now I’m back in Seattle working as a freelance publicist and in the fall I’m joining a small local collective, so I will have an office to go to, super cool coworkers to collaborate and brainstorm with, bitch to etc. Basically it will be most of the things I loved about my old job set-up without the stuff I hated: corporate ladder, vacation days, nine-to-five office hours, endless meetings.

I couldn’t have really dreamed of a job situation like this when I was twenty-two. I didn’t even know what a book publicist was when I was that age and the concept of working freelance was entirely foreign. It always makes me cringe when I hear youngsters talking about going back to grad school when they haven’t even dipped a toe in the working world yet. Degrees are fine and certainly a bachelors is a bar of entry for most professional jobs these days but everything that’s gotten me anywhere, that’s helped me really find my way has happened out in the field: from the mentors I’ve met to the connections I’ve made to the lessons I’ve learned. I certainly got an education in my twenties; it just didn’t happen in a classroom.

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    • Sofie

      Thanks for sharing, sounds a lot like me, except that I finished University when I was 24. It took me longer since I changed the direction of my degree while I was studying. I felt that I had lost precious time, and froze…but experience is the best way to get out there

    • Eileen

      That’s me, like, right now. Kind of unnerving, but fun – and leaves lots of time to catch up on my reading :)

    • Chastity

      So true! I reached my publishing crossroads and gave up security to fight the good fight, i.e. discovering what I truly want to do, only then did i realize hey, i’m ready to pay outrageous amounts of money for grad school. onwards and upwards

    • Sabrina

      So yes, I’m commenting on this 303 days after it was posted, and I have no idea if you’re ever going to see this, but just curious, did you join Office Nomads? I’ve heard about this collective recently, and have been wanting some feedback from someone who has experience with them…