Saturday, August 2, 2014

It's "Vivre Sa Vie" for Russell Willoughby

Russell Willoughby, a 20-year-old Montgomery, Alabama native, claims an assortment of titles these days. She is a Parisian, a New Yorker and, most recently, an ASME editorial intern. After spending a year abroad in ‘The City of Love,’ Willoughby's travels finally brought her to ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ for an opportunity to work at one of the most prestigious magazines in the biz, This Old House.  

With a strong Canadian background, a love of French novels and an ever-present sense of curiosity, Willoughby had known she wanted to study abroad in Paris, France for quite some time. 

“When I graduated from high school, we went to Paris for 10 days. I instantly fell in love. I knew I had to go back. Freshman year of college I took French, and I just really found the culture interesting. Especially French literature,” she says. 

Not only did her experience in Europe prepare her for life in New York, but she also gained insight into the true meaning of what it means to be successful.

“Traveling really forced me to live in the present. In Alabama, I constantly thought about the future with a very linear idea of what happiness meant. Moving to France taught me to live in the present moment. And I loved it,” she says. “When I moved, I met all of these people who had winding trajectories and were successful in a variety of ways. It was eye opening.” 

Willoughby has always had an affinity for creative writing, and last summer she was able to cultivate her voice even further by interning for a Southern literary magazine. Here, she began to develop a love for contemporary writers like English novelist and essayist Zadie Smith. She has translated this passion for prose to her current ASME internship at This Old House by writing and reporting pieces for the magazine.  

The most valuable thing she has learned this summer is that asking lots of questions can actually be a good thing. “Not having hardcore reporting experience actually benefited me this summer,” she says. “I was able to develop those intrinsic journalistic skills with hands-on experience. I interview people all the time and constantly ask questions. It is ok to not know. I look things up on the Internet all the time. It makes me smarter and more resourceful. You figure it out, because you have to.” 

Although the future is always uncertain, Willoughby is quite confident in one thing. "I want to keep writing. No matter where I am, it is my passion," she says. Whether she ends up in New York, Paris or Montgomery, Alabama, it cannot be denied that Russell Willoughby truly embodies the French saying "vivre sa vie," or in English, "live your life." 

--Written by Rose Minutaglio, Trinity University, Sports Illustrated
--Edited by Chelsea Stone, University of Southern California, Reader's Digest

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