Monday, June 30, 2014

The Life and (Changing) Times

I’m about to celebrate my birthday away from home for the second time in a row. Frankly, I wasn’t wild about the idea when I realized this in April. “You’ll get to meet and network with so many cool new people!” my friends would say. “Again!” But anytime anyone brings up networking, I sort of want to puke in my mouth (because I’m awkward and unfunny, not because magazine people are particularly scary) and besides — change and I aren’t the best of friends.

Well, the times, they are a-changin.

Last year, I turned 20 on my last day in London. It felt like an impossible moment — a soft secret between myself and the rest of the world. There was a metaphorical resonance there I wasn’t quite ready to accept, I think. I had only just begun to see the beauty and joy of Bloomington, my college town, and I’d been there two years at the time. Changes were coming, though, hard and fast, all in a matter of short years. Was I ready for all of that? In the London Eye, the whole horizon looms up and over. Would I ever really know if I was ready?

I play my cards so close to the chest they might as well be in my shirt. Accepting life’s natural flexibility has always been a struggle for this closet Type A. But I see the next Big Move creeping right on down the road, just behind Senior Year of College (which is bearing down on me faster than you can say “Happy Hour or Nah,”), so living here in Washington, D.C., center of American policy and home of the wonks, has been a way to see just how far I’ve come.

It still feels sort of bizarre. But I sort of like that bizarreness, which surprises me most. I live near trees, which I didn’t expect, and the buildings aren’t so daunting or tall. I went to the gay pride parade by myself, explored Dupont Circle by myself, walked home by myself past magical, old houses. I found peace in that.

Working on Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (once appropriately called Changing Times), a magazine that takes journalism seriously, probably helps. And going into the newsrooms of idea-based publications like The Atlantic and Smithsonian certainly isn’t bad. For the first time, the idea of working for a magazine like a real adult with a real salary and real home doesn’t seem so out of my reach. It’s something I’m doing, here and now, with people who actually value my input and want me to succeed. (I knew nothing about personal finance, by the way, but after a couple weeks on the job, I can pretty intelligently explain the nuance of state tax systems, travel insurance, and cable subscriptions!) Unlike many of my peers, magazine writing was something I sort of fell into on accident, though writing, in itself, has ruled my life since I could read. It’s nice to know I might not be so bad at it in the real world— and in a place formerly unfamiliar to me.

I guess the wisdom of 20 that I hope to carry into my 21st year and beyond is this: You have to make your peace where you are. You have to take the opportunities when they appear. And you can’t let fear of the unknown rule you.

Change and I aren't besties yet. But, you know... we're getting there.

Written by Kathryn Moody, Indiana University, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
— Edited by Kayla Elam, University of Missouri, Smithsonian Magazine

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