Monday, December 13, 2004


In Which I Spin Out on the Learning Curve...

I've been dispensing a lot of advice these days, which always makes me feel uncomfortable. Somewhere deep in the clockworks of my mind, there's a little personal chronometer that is set to age 22 and it continually gives me false readings. So that when someone who really is in their early 20s starts hitting me up for advice, or introduces me to college audiences as a "veteran writer and editor" my first thought is, "That can't be me. I'm only 22."

Really, who am I to be giving advice, when I know so little? Don't these people know I'm on the learning curve, too? I mean, I've barely figured out how to embed links in this blog (granted the little tool bar that would make it so easy only shows up half the time, but still). I don't understand why I can't post comments on some people's blogs, while every time I post to Nickerblog it gets sent twice (sorry, Shane!). Socrates said it, baby: All I know is that I know nothing.

And now here I am, closer to 40 than 30 and I'm telling 22-year-olds--who were all born with the ability to embed links in their blogs, probably via telepathy--how to get internships (more story ideas, less clips), or write an irresistible cover letter (it's all in the opening sentence). And then these people write or call and tell me how my advice for conducting themselves in an interview or whatever helped them land the job at the newspaper, or get the freelance assignment, and I'm just thanking God that they didn't get their asses handed to them on my account.

Sigh. Well, I do know this: I'm not 22, whatever the internal age-clock tells me. And once I recover from the shock of that realization, it occurs to me that I have no real desire to be 22 again. That was the age when I had $30,000 in student loan debt hanging over me. It was the age when I had to put my old dog to sleep. It was the age when I arrived in The Big City with 43 cents in my pocket and the knowledge that I knew no one and had no place to live. It was the age when I wrecked a car that I still hadn't quite paid off. About the only thing I could afford at that time was the advice of people who knew better.

As exciting as it was in retrospect, I felt pretty desperate and uncertain in the moment. On my worst days, I used to wish that my future self would travel back from 10 or 15 years up the line and just reassure me that everything would work out. I always wondered what that older Me would say.

Some days, I think I know.

And some days, I'm still waiting for that guy to pay me a visit.

From Somewhere On The Masthead

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