A few days ago, I was having lunch with an old friend when we looked over and saw a former classmate of ours enter the very same restaurant we were at. The three of us never hung out together in high school, but Ashley* was alone, so we invited her to join us at our table. We ordered drinks and filled each other in on our personal and professional lives — the latter of which inspired Ashley to make the following statement as she smugly locked eyes with me:
“I worked for a corporation — a non-profit, not magazines or some s — -.”
I was stunned that she had the nerve to say this to someone she hardly knew. But I wasn’t surprised at her dismissal of what had been my career, my dream job, for the past three years. I had been an editor at People.com, where I covered everything from celebrity news to mental health. It was only recently that I picked up my life in New York and moved to Chicago to be with my boyfriend of four years and to start a new job as the lead writer-editor at a wellness company.
The Write Stuff
Whenever an adult would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” preteen-me would confidently answer, “I want to be an editor at Seventeen.” At the time, I was mostly met with kind smiles, genuine enthusiasm and support. The reception wasn’t always the same, however. Some people were concerned for me and scoffed at the idea of someone wasting her time on a “fluffy career.” The concern was and is legitimate, as we’ve seen with the recent news of Teen Vogue, Glamour and Seventeen ceasing their print publications. It’s sad and unfortunate, but not entirely surprising to those of us who’ve been following waning newsstand sale reports and the growing focus on video-first strategies.
But these people’s claims that everything anyone in the magazine/digital media industry does is “fluffy” will never be validated. It’s just not the truth. And if you’re convinced it’s the truth, then you haven’t been paying attention.
The Edge of Seventeen
I got my very first issue of Seventeen when I was 12. It was 2004 and a newlywed Jessica Simpson was on the cover. I still remember carefully poring over every single page, taking hours to look through every feature (I still think about the investigative piece on the rising suicide rate among college students, published in that same issue), fashion page and celebrity interview. I was hooked and knew I wanted a part in making others feel the way I felt in that moment: happy, entertained and informed. As someone who battled crippling social anxiety in elementary school, reading magazines became my go-to escape after a long week of near-panic attacks in the classroom.
When I was at People.com, I took a deep dive into Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson’s whirlwind romance (RIP), which was fun to put together and likely served as a nice break for anyone looking for a distraction on a long day. I also profiled a yoga teacher who’s changing women’s lives through her empowerment workshops, which is still important and needed in a world where women face unnecessary scrutiny on a daily basis. Both evoke different feelings, one more lighthearted than the other. And it’s that range and well-roundedness that makes me proud of my career path.
I may have found my true passion in the very high-stress, fast-paced world of digital media but it’s still just an extension of the very same medium that first inspired me to enter this competitive, frustrating, rewarding and empowering industry.
I wouldn’t trade my magazine experience for anything. I am a better, faster and more thoughtful writer-editor and human because of it. I could write a whole essay on the life and career lessons I’ve learned from the many women I’ve worked with through the years — some of whom are the smartest, most creative and hardest-working (awards season is no joke) people I’ve ever met — but I’ll save that for another time.
Instead, I’ll leave you all (and Ashley) with this: let’s put an end to our pretentious tendencies and appreciate the hustle and hard work that’s needed to excel in any profession.
*Name has been changed.