Un-cliché answer to cliché question: what’s your, like, dream job

Since my thirteenth birthday, a birthday I remember for a lot of reasons, I’ve known what I want to be when I grow up.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, since about third grade. But on my fourteenth birthday I knew who I wanted to write for. But first there’s some background. Stick with me.

I have to tell you about grandma before anything else.

This is grandma with my little sister Grace, getting some sun out on Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas.

This is grandma with my little sister Grace, getting some sun out on Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas.

Everyday I wish my grandma Mary Ellen was still here to read my papers that I used to dread showing her. I would cringe, sitting across the table from her, watching that relentless red pen drool all over my excess of adjectives and unnecessary fluff I used to stuff in all my school papers. Thank god for grandma. (Just because an essay is four pages over the recommended length does NOT mean it’s good, as I have learned.)

She and I went over my work like that from the time I started writing papers that were longer than a paragraph (about third grade) until the day she died. She was an English teacher from Chicago and I remember one summer her and grandpa decided to stay for a month. Lucky me, she saw potential in my writing and went on and on with what seemed like lectures about flow and transitions and simplicity, but, looking back, I realize they were priceless lessons in English that molded the writer I am now. She made me write and edit and write some more and edit until my middle finger grew a fat callus that hasn’t left since.

me when I was little, sitting in pi's on a bean bag

Little me

Well, I grew up and shook off the childish way I used to crumble like bleu cheese after criticism like a chef’s hand sprinkling it atop a big wedge of lettuce. (Criticism is the absolute finishing touch on any story hoping to reach full potential.) And then I took full advantage of having a 42-year-experienced English teacher for a grandma. I called her for every story. Ringing her up after an A+ was one of the most satisfying, contenting experiences of my youth. The sides of my mouth start tiptoeing upward, curling into a smile just reminiscing on our pleasant conversations. Just as she coddled me through my bad habits and wrung out the excess from my stories with her bare hands, I do the same to my own writing: I trace the words in front of me slowly and abide by quality over quantity with adjectives. I trim, perm, straighten out and tame my words, like I’d do if I chased another one of my childhood dream jobs: I brush it all out like a beautician.

Grandma treated the writer in me as a puppy, beckoning me to keep going, tugging the leash when I needed to slow down, disciplining me when I was wrong (in scolding red ink) and rewarding me with her kind, gratifying words when deserved. And now that she is gone there is no one I would rather ring up every week to let know I got published. There is no one I would rather call up and read my latest story (the opening reception of an ASU student art exhibit) to.

Before she passed away, I had to write a story about someone who inspires me and, with her help, I wrote a story about my grandma Mary Ellen. That was when I knew I wanted to be a writer. That was 8th grade.

Eighth grade was a lot of things for me, just as, I assume, it is for most people.

That was my first year living in Kansas City, Missouri. My dad took a new job so we packed our bags and kissed Dallas goodbye. That was the first time I’d ever heard of people smoking pot. I distinctly remember being petrified when my friend said, “yeah, those boys smoke so much pot.” I also remember responding, alarmed and disturbed and then asking, “oh gosh does that mean some people do weed too?!”

Naive me needed Kansas City. It showed me people from all walks of life, it popped my Blue Ribbon Catholic School girl bubble and woke me up, cultured me, gave me a taste of the real world. And I loved it.

On top of that, 8th grade was my first kiss, too (kind of a big deal).

But my birthday during my eighth grade year, September 11 (gasp!), 2008, was when I received the single most shiny, beautiful magazine I’d ever seen. The magazine that I have wanted to be a part of ever since: Nylon.

The September 2008 cover of Nylon Magazine.

The September 2008 cover of Nylon Magazine.

The September 2008 cover of Nylon featured some members from the 90210 cast which, I’d never heard of, but I fell in love. I looked through the pages over and over again; I’d go through them forward and then, as though they would have more to say, I’d go through the pages backward, one by one. For a year I would randomly flip through the pages, soaking up every last ounce of that magazine. Then it occurred to me that there were probably more editions than just that one September 2008 issue. Since then, I’ve been hooked.

It’s an addicting little collection of pages, each splattered with the perfect amount of all my favorite things: high fashion, cheap fashion, pop culture, drink recipes (jk I’m only 20), pretty faces, lovely doodles… the list goes on.

As I’m sitting here writing all the reasons I love this monthly magazine, I feel a little vain in saying this but perhaps the appeal lies in that it’s just very…me. Even the binding features a lovely little touch, a tiny, semi-nonsensical phrase.

On the side of July 2014 it reads, “let’s discuss…”
August 2014, “(donut emoji, pizza emoji, donut emoji, pizza emoji…)”,
September 2014, “the future is now”,
October 2014, “we woke up like this”
and, their latest issue reads, “BLESS THIS MESS.”

It’s so simple and thoughtful; the overwhelming perfection within the flimsy pages boils over, all the way to the outside binding. But above all the visual stimulation that rests so thickly on such thin pages of a supposedly becoming-obsolete form of journalism (tangible magazines) is the writing. The writers’s use eloquently casual language and explain everything short and sweet, with all the right words.

So there you have it. What’s my dream job? To be a writer for Nylon Magazine. But mostly, to be a writer.

After my grandma passed away the summer after my 8th grade year, June 2009, something clicked and I knew 100 percent I wanted to pursue writing. Maybe I felt like I owed it to her for all that time she spent helping me or maybe I got some rush of confidence when I didn’t have anyone marking up my papers in red ink (just kidding, grandma). Whatever it was, I’m glad I went after what I did. Thanks grandma, thanks Nylon, you keep me…HUNGRY! Just kidding. But thanks for the inspiration.

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