Monday, July 16, 2012

At the Bottom of Everything

Let me set the scene for you:

It was a balmy New Year’s Eve in Mazatlan, Mexico, and one of the first nights I had seen my older sister, KC, in almost six months.   After graduation she had jetted off to a tiny Alaskan village to volunteer for a year at an after-school program for young women at risk for alcohol abuse.  Not surprisingly, the nature of her work means that in Alaska she lives by a strict no-drinking policy, so her cheeks were especially tequila-flushed when she interrupted me as I gushed about how I was almost positive that I saw my future in the magazine industry.  

“But how is what you’ll be doing really going to help anyone?” she asked me. 


It’s not like I will be reporting the real news, she said.  I probably won’t be shedding light on the protests in Syria, or revealing major healthcare problems in Appalachia.  Most likely, I’ll be penning clever, pun-laden copy describing which app best suits a company’s social media needs.  “How will that really change anyone’s life?” she asked. 

Despite the overabundance of festivity that occurred later that night, KC’s questions stuck with me, and I first came to the city feeling warily skeptical.  Will working in the magazine industry be able to bring me the feeling that I’m doing something to make a difference in the world?  After all, this industry has a lot of glamour: the swag-bags (okay, well, not so much at Inc., but I’ve been reading about what some of you guys have been getting!), the cocktail hours, the ego-swell that come from having your story about the Top Ten Cat Videos get X hundred hits online.  When talked about flippantly, a lot of it can seem pretty shallow.

Well, I’m happy to say that this summer has re-affirmed my belief in the rightness of what we’re doing (and yes, I’m talkin’ collective mag industry here).  Everyone who I’ve met this summer works so hard, and cares so much, because they genuinely want to create an amazing product for their readers.  The whole goal of a magazine is to make the lives of its audience easier, funnier, brighter, more informed, better.  The staff members I’m learning from at Inc. didn’t stay three hours late on a Friday night perfecting a spread simply because they want the magazine to get good sale numbers next month.  They did it because they believe that the magazine really means something to its readers; that, overall, it genuinely helps those readers improve some aspect of their lives. 

Sure, when I do finally land a real position somewhere every quippy blurb I write won’t significantly affect readers.  But the magazine, as a whole, that my blurb is part of will.  Dana Point said that she loves Parents because she feels like, working there, she is making a difference in people’s lives.  And she is. 

Maybe all of ya’ll didn’t ever need an epiphany because you knew it all along, but it sure feels good for me to realize that, while I might not be saving lives in Alaska, I will be leaving my own smudge of betterment on the world by working in this industry.  And, at the bottom of everything, that’s all that really matters. 

PS.  Shameless title stealing?  Yes.  Good excuse for recommending that everyone listen to this song right now?  Yes again. 

-Jillian D'Onfro

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