By Grace Lindsey
I am a stubborn creative and a bleak trope.
Just weeks prior to my college graduation this past May, I sat in my university’s career counseling office, blanching at the news just shared with me. Both my assigned advisor and the head of the department had informed me graduating students with degrees in journalism tended to make the least amount of money out of nearly every other area of study.
In a panicked instance, my future flashed through my consciousness under a thick presumption of destitution. Goodwill couches well into my 40s, frozen vegetables, too-worn jeans lazily blemished by memories of instant coffee. Sheepish texts to my mother, muttering for a loan, or worse, inquiring what I should pick up for our joint dinner at our shared house.
I humorlessly asked if it was too late to change my major. They laughed. I did not.
My becoming a journalist has been a given since grade school. When I was 12 years old, my mother noted my efficacy for writing, as well as my pestering and habitual curiosity, and mentioned off-the-cuff that I should consider journalism as a career.
The decision was made. Often flippant about what I wanted to be when I grew up – dolphin trainer, pop star, zoologist, professional figure skater, naturally lacking the skills for all – an unnatural surge of determination settled my mind on reporter, and it’s scarcely swayed since.
I followed the traditional course of action for a to-be journalist in privileged suburbia and started honing my creative writing. I started reporting for my school newspaper when I entered high school, resulting in becoming editor in chief my senior year. Running a paper was a thrill that never really left me.
I took a job as a news writer at my college newspaper almost as soon as I settled into my freshman dorm. There were a few months of customary wavering as I considered other career paths clearly ill-suited for me – archaeologist, political scientist, environmental researcher. By the conclusion of my first year, I was dumbstruck back into my original plan. Journalism it was.
Unsurprisingly, flaws in my plan went altogether unnoticed for years. The outline was so simple: Graduate, start writing for a small newspaper, work my way up the news ladder, rung by rung, until I was breaking international news at the Associated Press. Easy.
Upperclassmen doubts, unfortunately, always have other plans. I watched classmates graduate before me, floundering in an industry where newspapers perished as victims of the digital plague. I watched my fears mature from intangible fancies of the imagination to palpable risks: Unreimbursed security deposits, grocery bills, blowing out a tire, breaking a wrist. Suddenly, following my dreams sounded like more unrealistic than just calling it quits and studying business.
I played the ignorance card and continued writing, eventually developing an intense passion for photojournalism as well, and flourished in my journalism department. I was writing good stories and receiving shining feedback from my professors, and I chose to turn my back on my financial concerns.
Until that day in the career counseling office.
I’m not a stranger to professional anxiety. My three room mates all studied art and journalism, so we were oddly unified by our mutual acceptance of failure. I watched them grind in their respective studies, unperturbed by their relatives who managed to turn every Thanksgiving into a doomsday sermon, redacting only the sandwich board and probable drug habit. We continued to go gently into that good night, chins turned upward from that statistical likelihood of a career change.
Do not be fooled: We were, and still largely are, terrified daily. Consciously choosing to pursue something you are told daily will fail is discouraging and exhausting. Somedays I feel like Don Quixote, a raving old man trying to change a paradigm that simply won’t budge.
I have a love/hate relationship with telling people I am a writer. Judging by the looks I tend to get, I might as well be saying “I am an aimless do-nothing who doesn’t actually know what I want to do.”
Here, though, is the unfortunate truth: I am a good writer. And this is what I want to do. To do otherwise would be a betrayal to myself, to fate, to your deity of choice. And so I’ll make it work.
Here’s the freaky thing about Skeye: This is precisely the mindset they want to cultivate. From day one, it was made abundantly clear to me that to be a creator and choose to not create is a goliath waste of time. If you’re not doing what it is you want to be doing, fix it yourself. Skeye’s founder, Chris, built the company on this very principle. You can lie to yourself for the entire duration of your career, doing something that will make you money, but will decay your creative brain from the inside out. If we all made professional decisions from a capital-based perspective, we would all be lawyers and engineers. And some of us are lawyers and engineers, and they are good at it, and they can do it forever without ever wanting to do something else.
That’s great for them. They will be financially independent forever and will enjoy their time doing it. The rest of us, though, have to make a decision.
The career ahead of me is, as of now, murky. I scarcely have a clue about what I want to do for the next few decades, but I know I’m going to write. I don’t have much of a choice. I accepted this internship as a safety net after graduation, as an answer I could provide to the worst question anyone has ever posed: “What are your post-grad plans?” It was, on the surface, an easy way out of really having to sit down and figure out what makes me tick.
As per usual, I was wrong.
Skeye is not an avenue for cruise control. “Just because” is an unacceptable answer. Somehow I found myself reevaluating my aspirations more than I ever did in school. Challenging your ideas of professional fulfillment every day is an arduous task.
This is a practice largely avoided by most in their day-to-day lives; questioning our place in our careers is uncomfortable at best. But if the alternative is to always accept that my vocation is using 100 percent of my abilities, to never ask myself if I’m capable of more, then I’ll take the discomfort.
The poor, passionate, brooding creative is a trope to which I subscribe. My friends who studied pre-med will make more money than me, the engineers will always have a higher degree of job security. But writer is what I chose, and a writer is what I’ll be. I will always be more resourceful than those blessed with more reason than I, because I’ll always fight a steeper uphill battle. It’s arduous and exhausting. And I would die without it.
Grace is part of Skeye’s Summer Apprenticeship program.