Women Workin': Carly Frederick, SEO Content Specialist
Today's guest talks about the cultural pressure to "have it all together" the day after graduation and working hard to be able to earn a living doing what you're passionate about. Carly will leave you feeling encouraged and empowered to chase the calling on your life. And for every Enlgish major out there, prepare a tissue box- you will feel so understood.
My name is Carly, and I’m an SEO Content Specialist at a digital marketing agency. I’m proud to say that I’m a professional writer. It’s a title I’ve worked hard for, and one that did not come easily. While my job carries no impressive weight or glamour, I’m incredibly grateful to have earned it. For years, it felt like everyone around me was figuring out their careers so seamlessly, as I hopped around temporary positions and questioned my intelligence, worth, and abilities. Though it’s become clear to me that even the most accomplished individuals are in a perpetual state of ‘figuring it out,’ I told myself the lie that I was the only one.
My family was concerned when I switched my college major from Journalism to English. It was the summer before my sophomore year at University of Missouri, home to one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country, and my dreams of becoming a fashion journalist were dashed by extreme feelings of boredom in my pre-J classes. I found myself laughing aloud to Shakespeare in the library, and all I wanted to do was write essays, poems, and fiction.
If journalism seemed an impractical choice, English was even more so. With no desire to teach, focus on business, or go to law school, my parents asked, “What on earth are you going to do with an English degree?” In truth, I had no clue, and gained no further insight by the time graduation rolled around three years later. Sitting on the quad, surrounded by beautiful, red brick buildings, leaning against an old tree or the historic columns, a book in my hand, and a notebook for my thoughts, I was living the quintessential romantic academic experience. My evenings were filled with spoken word and, what seemed at the time, the most important conversations people could have with one another about life, art, and society. How could it not all work out, I wondered, when I felt so passionately for words, stories, and their impact?
I could hardly believe it when, a year after graduation, I wasn’t even sure I liked writing anymore. Writing and creativity had been such defining points of how I saw myself, I felt lost and unsure of who I was or what I was doing. Essays began to feel like chores, and every imperfect word typed felt like evidence of my failure.
At first, my post-college life worked out deceptively fortuitous. A very privileged background with a whole lotta luck gave me the naive confidence to move to Chicago without any real prospects. It wasn’t two weeks before I’d been offered a research assistant internship at Chicago magazine, adding to my belief that everything would come easily. A few months later, my internship came to a sudden end and although I had an impressive first out-of-college internship on my resume, I had very few marketable skills and didn’t understand how to network effectively. Finding a spot on an editorial team is extremely challenging, and no matter how many connections I made or how many jobs I applied to, I couldn’t seem to break through. For the first time ever in my life, no doors were opening.
Unwilling to settle for what I believed were soul-sucking jobs that had nothing to do with writing, I began working at a coffee shop to make ends meet and freelancing for magazines and newspapers on the side, when anyone would give me the chance. In an attempt to hide my shame at not immediately making it as a writing superstar, I tried to talk up my life to far-away friends about the people I got to interview and the events and parties I got to attend. But in truth, the grind was getting to me, and I began to wonder if I’d been fooling myself this whole time into thinking I was a decent writer or ever had a shot at writing professionally full time. Even though most of my Chicago friends were struggling artists, I saw their pursuits as more worthy than mine.
When you’re about to enter the ‘real world’, everyone tells you it’s gonna be hard. But there’s no way to truly understand that until you’re there. For me, it meant spending the first two and half years out of school taking low-paying jobs that allowed me to write in my spare time, and continuing to write even when all I heard was “no”, if I heard anything back at all. As I watched my best friends from high school and college buy houses, get promotions, and accomplish all the things we’re told we should be able to do as responsible adults, I continued to take internships and hold out hope that I too would one day have job security and, mostly, validation.
My view of my career and life up to this point has changed dramatically. I now see those (not so long ago) years I spent freelancing and struggling as incredibly fortunate. Sure, it took me a little bit longer to find my way, but it resulted in a deeper understanding of my own perseverance and more sympathy for those who don’t have the ability to follow their dreams at 22. Most people take secure jobs they don’t love out of necessity, not out of a lack of ambition.
It’s easy to say that anyone can achieve anything at any time, but not everyone’s circumstances lend themselves to taking risks. If you’re in the thick of responsibility, be kind to yourself. Not following your dreams right now doesn’t mean you never will. We’re all on our own path. And if you have the luxury and privilege of being temporarily uncomfortable, by all means take advantage of it.