A Weekend in Atlanta

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For Andrew’s and my combined birthday gift, my parents paid for me to fly down to Georgia so I could spend a long weekend with him. After a few gloomy and rainy weeks and lots of working, a trip down south to see my best friend was just what I needed.

After I arrived (and napped) on Friday, I asked Andrew to take a walk to Piedmont park, because I wanted to go to the dog park and see the dogs (That’s normal, right?)  Unfortunately, since this weekend was Music Midtown, most of the park was blocked off and there weren’t any dogs out. It was a gorgeous day, though, so we walked around a bit until the heat was unbearable and we needed to go back to the AC.

Andrew had a list of a few of his favorite places to eat and drink planned out, and we spent three days just hanging out, eating good food and laughing. Saturday morning we drove to the Chattahoochee Coffee Company on the river, and even though it was a small challenge to get to (read: inside a gated community…?) it was perfect. The coffee was okay but the river was beautiful and the weather was warm and breezy. I could have sat there all day if it didn’t get so hot…

Andrew also took me to Vortex in Little Five Points for dinner. Little Five Points was a super hip neighborhood that made me think immediately of Erin and Kara. Lots of bearded men with man buns and lots of denim, two things they both love. Andrew had been raving about Vortex for months, claiming it was the best burger he’s ever had and that we jut had to go. It was busy, since it was dinner time on a Saturday night, but we sat outside and had some local beers and talked and talked.

For a while, I kept saying I was just going to order a chicken sandwich, since I’m not a huge fan or burgers, or red meat in general. But Andrew guilted me into it and I ordered a Tex Melt, or a cheeseburger with onion rings on Texas toast, and it was so good. Definitely one of the best burgers I’ve ever had (not counting my trusty Bill Grays hangover burger in Rochester).

Saturday night I (finally!) met my friend Kate for drinks at Ormsby’s. It was packed but it was so amazing to finally meet her in person, since we’ve been texting and tweeting forever now. She was super sweet, and hopefully she’ll be able to come visit me in NYC someday.

I had such a happy time in Atlanta this weekend. Every time I’m with Andrew I’m reminded of what a perfect fit for me he is, and how happy he makes me. I miss him already but I’m so lucky to have been able to spend this weekend with him. Totally worth giving up birthday presents for.

I Stalled Out This Summer…

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When I was very young, I remember having a variety of aspirations for my career: a teacher, a scientist, a filmmaker, an entrepreneur. In my third grade yearbook I claimed that in 25 years I would be an artist. But nothing really stuck. In eighth grade I specifically remember one day the guidance counselor came in to talk about high school and careers and we were supposed to write down what we wanted to do after college (which was eight years away and honestly pretty unreasonable to ask a thirteen year old) and I could not think of what to write. I stared blankly at the page and I just could not wrap my head around what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Then, in high school I fell in love with art and writing and decided that I wanted to write for a fashion magazine. I would go to New York City and get internships and write and design and that would be that. Without having even visited the city, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I set my mind to it and wouldn’t let anyone tell me otherwise. I found the perfect college, worked hard in school and applied early action, eventually getting myself into Fordham and moved down to the Bronx. I worked my way through internships and made my way to the Mecca of fashion magazines: Hearst.

But I ended up not loving it the way I had thought. I did not like hiding at my desk and doing tedious editing and formatting and I didn’t feel like I was being creative or challenged. And my plans for my career path dissolved right before my eyes.

That was junior year, and so with a year left of school, I found myself, somehow, at Paramount. And I loved every second of it. I loved researching and preparing for events and actually working them. I loved the challenge of a busy event and the stress that challenged me to focus and succeed. But even then, I couldn’t put my finger on what I wanted to do or what kinds of jobs to apply to. I didn’t even know where I wanted to be anymore.

So after graduation, I went home. I applied and applied to jobs. I even scored a few interviews that really excited me, but I still felt directionless. It showed, too. When potential employers asked me about my five-year plans and dream job I would fumble and stall out. I didn’t know. How could someone give me a job if I didn’t even know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be?

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After about a month at home and a series of rejections and just general frustration, I sat down with my dad and he talked to me about his unconventional path to where he ended up. He told me that it would be hard and I would have to do my best to get where I wanted to be and offered me the advice to do something each day to get to my dream job.

And again, I fumbled. I couldn’t tell him what my dream job was. I could say what jobs I liked and which ones I didn’t but I couldn’t pin down my dream job.

I knew what kind of work I wanted to do and what type of company I thought I would love to work for, and I tracked down someone in that exact position and spent a good amount of time emailing her. Her help was invaluable. She looked over my resume and my blog and offered suggestions as well as her story and thoughtful answers to each and every question I asked. And then she offered me a plan of action, a path to a job that I considered desirable. She pointed me in the right direction and helped me find a vision for my dream job and outlined the steps I would need to take to get there.

For months, years even, I felt so confused and lost. It was like I was blindfolded and spinning in front of a piñata, just swinging a bat blindly trying to hit something, anything. After that email exchange, I felt like the spinning had stopped and I was back on my track to my dream job. I finally had the answer to questions about my dream job and my five year plan. I finally know what jobs to apply to and where I wanted to end up.

What I’m extremely good at is persistence and having a one-track mind to get myself to where I want to be. When I was in high school and I knew what I wanted I stopped at nothing to get it. And I got it. But since I had been so lost it was harder for me to get what I wanted, since I didn’t even know what I wanted.

Using that drive, I reworked my resume and cover letters and sent out application after application. I applied to jobs, I made informational interview appointments and volunteered for different jobs that wouldn’t hire me. I unerwent a lot of anxiety and frustration, especially while I was watching all of my close friends score jobs while I felt like I was still floundering. One Friday at work, I reached the peak of my anxiety and broke down. I left work and hyperventilated the whole ride home. I sobbed for a few hours, feeling desperate and like a failure. It was extremely overdramatic.

The melodrama was only accentuated when that same afternoon, I got a call for a job with Penguin Books in New York. They wanted me to come down and interview. And so I went. I drove down on Labor Day, interviewed that Tuesday and left that night. I was overwhelmed, but I was excited. The position was perfect and the job just felt right. About a week later, they called back and scheduled a phone interview. The interviews in New York lasted almost two hours, so I was shocked when the phone interview only lasted a few minutes. Regardless, I tried extremely hard to remain positive while not getting my hopes up.

This week, Penguin called to offer me a position as a Publicity Assistant and I accepted. In two weeks, I will drive down to New York City and start my dream job. This summer has been one hell of a whirwind and I struggled. I was miserable, but I stuck to it and finally got exactly what I wanted.

At the start of the summer, after one particularly emotional dinner with my mom, she told me that maybe I’m stalling out this summer because there are lessons that the universe wants me to learn, and that I can’t continue with my life until I learn them. At the time I ignored her and continued throwing myself an unemployed pity party, but now, looking back she was right (isn’t she always?). I needed this summer to grow up and find myself and create a new vision. I wasn’t ready when I graduated. But I am now. I’m ready to get out there and be the fully-formed Kelsey I’ve always known I can be.

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Lessons from #GIRLBOSS

#girlboss by sophia amoruso

I kept seeing the book #GIRLBOSS all over Tumblr and on blogs, and I knew that it was written by the founder of Nasty Gal, a brand that I always admire but could never wear, but that was about it. This summer I read, basically, Marketing and PR textbooks, so a business book not saturated with jargon or business plans geared towards my own demographic made my heart sing.

#GIRLBOSS was a much more enjoyable read than the denser books I was getting used to. Sophia, it turns out, did not enjoy high school and did not go to college, but stuck to her guns and built an empire on something she just loved doing. She hitch-hiked from San Francisco to Washington State and dumpster dove and then came home and started an eBay store, which eventually evolved into Nasty Gal.

Sophis starts off the book addressing the question of feminism, saying that she looks at feminism not as blaming men for struggles, but as encouraging women to go out and work hard and earn ssuccess on their own, which I think is a good stance to take. For many, feminism is a touchy subject because for whatever reason, girls are still afraid of the title “feminist.” Sophia does an excellent job explaining that it’s not negative at all, just simply wishing women the same success that comes from working hard that men have always been able to achieve. Women can be bosses. #GIRLBOSSes, to be precise.

What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t a how-to book. It wasn’t, “hey, if you want to start a cool and edgy business like me, here’s how.” And it also wasn’t her humble-bragging, saying that she was “in the right place at the right time” and that her “success is irreplicatable.” She does mention that her success is rare (which is obviously why she wrote a book about it and why we love reading it) but she doesn’t tell readers not to try to pursue something they love. She emphasizes over and over again how hard she worked, not because she wanted to build a successful business, but because she genuinely loved thrifting and styling and taking pictures and sending the garments out. She just kept doing what she loved and it showed and customers reacted to her passion and excitement.

Today, there are so many bloggers and photographers and entrepreneurs out there trying to make it because they can make money and get sponsors, and that’s the wrong reason to do anything. Yes, getting a job is to make money, but even that should be something you’re passionate about and genuinely enjoy doing. You can’t really be successful in anything if you don’t love it. You won’t see results at the gym until you find a workout you love doing. Your blog will probably suck if you’re not passionate about creating content and interacting with readers and making good graphics. If you don’t love numbers and math, don’t go into accounting because it will pay the bills; it will be miserable and you won’t be able to pour yourself into it.

Sophia also talks a lot about employment, both being an employee and an employer. I read that section a day ago and I’ve already discussed it with my mom and a handful of friends. My generation gets a lot of flack for being entitled and such (read more about my opinion on this here) and I never really understood exactly why people thought we were so difficult to employ until I read that some people my age think they should be promoted every two years regardless of performance. This blew my mind. The point of a promotion is to reward hard work and initiative. I liked Sophia’s take on this as an employer, saying that she likes people who work hard simply because they want the company to succeed. Another thing she mentioned about the people she’s employed is how they’ve said “that’s not my job” to filing or other “menial” tasks. What she said that stuck out was that, especially for entry level positions, if you don’t stuff the envelopes or file the magazines, who else is going to? Certainly not your manager or her manager. I love that Sophia is instilling this work ethic in readers

She also talks about all of the jobs she held in her life and hated and got fired from or left after a few weeks. She said that even though a lot of the jobs sucked and weren’t right for her at all, they helped her appreciate the jobs she genuinely loves. I’ve worked plenty of jobs already that have definitely not been what I wanted to do, but they’ve been helping to lead me to jobs that I do love. It’s been a twisted trail, but somehow I’m getting somewhere I need to be.

The path went as such:

In high school, I worked at a local water park for two summers (hated it) and after the second summer, I didn’t go back. I was forced to find a job through a temp agency and I worked in a call center, despite loathing talking on the phone. The next summer, the call center position wasn’t available anymore, but I ended up working in the meeting planning department of the same company, which is the experience that helped me land my beloved internship at Paramount last year. After that internship, I really started to figure out how much I loved publicity and event planning which has guided me through my job search.

I hated a lot of the jobs I worked, but if I never had them, I wouldn’t have developed skills that led me to all the amazing palces I did get to go. These jobs that I forced myself to do helped me figure out what my talents and passions are, something I would have never guessed years ago.

Another thing Sophia writes about is how, in the early stages of Nasty Gal, when something didn’t sell on eBay, she didn’t consider it a failure, she just re-worked them until they did sell. This is a skill I’m still trying to develop. I’m a perfectionist and I like everything in my life to be perfect after the first try and if it’s not, I am infinitely frustrated. Since reading this, I have been striving to keep myself from considering things failures. If no one is responding to my job applications, I re-write my cover letters and re-format my resume and try again. I know that I can succeed as a professional, I just need to continue to tweak my applications to reflect that. I am not failing, my methods just aren’t right yet.

Despite having followed an extermely unconventional path to success, Sophia Amoruso offers tons of advice that is useful to people who follow more “normal” paths. And while it feels like some of the sections are just full of platitudes about working hard and doing what you love, there’s solid advice about working and finding a job that can apply to girls in any industry, not just fashion.