Who Am I? Valjean style

Blogging. Oh me, oh my.

A lot has changed in the past month. I got a new, totally awesome job that gives me Mondays off. At first I was completely at a loss for what to do with this kind of free time, but then I realized this will be my perfect downtime to actively blog. (That is if being lazy doesn’t get in the way). So expect a new post at least every Monday. I met up with a good friend last weekend and he was very complimentary about my blog. Up until this point, I’ve really debated the whole blogging thing, but his encouraging words really helped. I only hope I can live up to them, Nick.

I can’t discuss my new job a whole lot (I have learned from 2birds1blog), but this change of atmosphere has really made me think. (I can’t say I did a whole lot of that at my last job). A co-worker has been asking me what I’d like to write about, a question that came up in the interview. As I thought about it, I drew a blank. I’m only a 23-year-old, almost 24, recent graduate and trying to tack the term “expert” to a title just seems a little odd. What would I like to write about? I don’t know. I mostly think as a writer one should write what she knows, what she reads.

I studied a lot of different subjects in undergrad, but trying to define my “expertise” leaves a giant black hole. I minored in English literature and while I can go off on Shakespeare or the British Romantics (oh the list goes on), I’m not sure there’s any place for that in today’s news. I also studied Russian issues a fair amount, but I’m far from an expert. The only Russian I remember is “Mena zavoot Lesa” and “Mouy chimodan” (or that’s how I remember them sounding, minus the Russian alphabet). I studied French cinema and jazz history. But have me write an expose on some sort of either topic and you’re likely to be disappointed.

That brings me to my interests. Only last year did I stop to consider my lack of hobby a problem. Up until that point, “free time” was the rare day with no class, no homework and no job. I’d been busy 7 days a week since my first part-time job at 16 (not to mention school newspaper, theater and social life). Chas spends most of his time with his music equipment and reading up on building his own amplifier. Me? I got nothing. I settled on reading.

I used to be into photography, but I’ve since resigned to it being too expensive a hobby to maintain. I like politics as much as the next crazy person, but I’m not Kieth Olbermann. I do enjoy debating politics. But I guess I need what my co-worker described as confidence (wait, what’s that?). I love music, movies, television shows (especially those in the crime drama category) and pop culture. I like fashion to a point, but I’m no Justin Fenner or Christen Green (see: fashion experts). I always enjoyed writing about relationships/ dispensing advice. As the daughter of two teachers, education issues tend to get me riled up. And of course, I’m a little obsessed with media issues.

It’s really funny to be growing up at 24. I always thought I knew myself a lot more than this, but now I’m drawing a blank. It makes me think of something my mom said a few years ago when Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” came on the radio. I said it reminded me of growing up because it was the first song my brother learned to play on his guitar at 13 (I was 8 and he played it repetitively). My mom replied: “It reminds me of growing up, too.” That was the first time I realized going to college or even graduating from college didn’t mean one was a “grown up.” Yeah, it took me that long. Sure, it’s a big Duh. We don’t stop learning after we finish school, therefore we must not stop growing. But somehow this conclusion was all algebra to me.

Or like the time when my older brother inquired into my obsession with the campus newspaper: “I thought you always wanted to work for a magazine. Since when do you like the news?” At the time I just sarcastically retorted, “I’m not 13 anymore.” (I wanted to work for Rolling Stone, a magazine I rarely read now)

I suppose I really knew who I was at 17, but then I changed and what I knew of the world grew. I’m not 13, 17 or even 21, and I don’t think I ever stopped to consider who the new me was and how that would fit into my definition of life/ writing/ career. I suppose no one outside of high school ever really knows that much about themselves. (High schoolers only think they do.) Maybe it’s that conviction of self that keeps adults looking back with nostalgia on those terribly awkward years.

As a young writer, my teachers always raved about my voice, my style. But as I stare critically at my writing today, it’s tough to really have confidence in “my voice.” When it came to writing news stories in the past, I got lucky. Either I wrote what I wanted as editor/favorite or someone assigned me something. Suddenly staring at a world of possibilities sounds amazing but daunting. It’s like looking at Kilimanjaro and being told to get to the top — no training, no tools. OK, that’s an exaggeration. I’ve studied journalism since I was 15, but this feels different. I keep coming back to something I wrote at 17, a random thought that’s stuck with me: how do such great writers think of such great things to say?

I have yet to figure out what I have to say.

Maybe that’s why I’ve had such trouble blogging. I don’t have a clear direction.  I call this directional ADD, and I have it bad. Honestly, I don’t really want to limit myself to one area or another. I like reading about different topics and odd subjects. On any given day, I’ll read through the main news, pop culture updates and snarky blogs about race, sexism and photobombs. (I know. tThis is what is killing the news business.) This of course limits my “expertise” status. Someone can’t be knowledgeable about everything. I don’t want to be confined to one thing; I want to have my cake and eat it, too. Sure I’m a rational person, and I know the impossibility of that statement. Knowing is one thing, but giving up those childish hopes is another. Why should one stop reaching for the improbable just because by its nature it is improbable? (Clearly I didn’t learn a whole lot in Stat class.)

Who am I? What do I want to write about? I don’t know. I hate saying that. I feel like I should just know. I feel like 24 is the age where I’m supposed to intuitively understand these things. But … nope. My mom must be right about this, too. I’m still growing up.

Maybe someone will need a resident Shakespeare expert. I got that one in the bag.

P.S. just for fun: Who Am I? from Les Mis.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Who Am I? Valjean style”
  1. Halie says:

    I wanted to be a photographer for Rolling Stone when I was 12. I, too, never read it anymore LOL.

  2. Jimmie says:

    “It’s like looking at Kilimanjaro and being told to get to the top — no training, no tools. OK, that’s an exaggeration.”

    Maybe more like being told to climb Kili with some training and tools, but no map.

    I totally agree with you though. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was 10 years old. Now here I am teaching halfway across the world and there’s a little part of me that doesn’t want to go back.

    If I could teach abroad and write about it, that would be ideal for me.

    Funny how things change, eh?

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