Patience Pays

by Michelle No '12

Michelle NoIt’s the end of another shift at my TriBeCa café, and I’m trying to remember for the umpteenth time why I’m here.

This was never in my post-grad plans. Sure, I loved working at the Motley the last four years. And I respect career baristas who pursue the craft with artistic fervor. But this was never my thing. My thing is writing. When I graduated, I resolved to land a full-time magazine gig.

I moved to New York City at the end of last summer. Flush with hope and restless with ambition, I arrived with visions of late nights in midtown buildings working under the tutelage of my icy and overbearing yet ultimately nurturing editors.

You could say I’ve been preparing for this career move for the last four years. While at Scripps, I completed several internships, committed myself to on-campus journalistic endeavors, and helped found a magazine. I even wrote my senior thesis on Italian crime news. I had put in my dues and was ready to collect on the fruits of my labor.

I submitted my first job application in June. By the time I went home for the holidays in December, I had gone on more than a dozen networking interviews, cycled through three day jobs, and secured three freelance gigs. Still no full-time job. I felt betrayed by the system. What anthropological critics interpret as “entitlement” I had anticipated as a return on my investment.

I am aware of the polemic on my generation’s brattiness and uncalled-for greediness. Like most grads implicated in that demographic, however, I never had delusions about the time or energy my ascension up the career ladder would necessitate. I knew that to be a great writer-editor, I would have to clock in years of experience. I actually romanticized the struggle. What I didn’t anticipate was my difficulty finding an outlet for that effort. Or at least this much difficulty.

After four months of pouting, I’ve ultimately surrendered my anxieties to two invariable truths: First, there are certain economic realities I cannot change. Second, I can modify the way I process these realities.

If Scripps has taught me one lesson, it’s that the classroom, or the office, or any other conventional context for learning, isn’t the exclusive dispenser of insight.

Most of the character-building experiences — the painful ones that shape us into the people we want to be — are in settings we don’t anticipate.

It’s the uncomfortable situations — namely, being mal-employed — that have taught me how to handle disappointment. And while not marketable assets, resilience and patience — those qualities that have pulled me through never-ending waves of rejection — will continue to aid me in the unpredictable unfolding of my life.

This is not to say I’ve stopped looking. I’ve simply adopted a more productive, hopeful lens through which to confront my situation.

If there was ever a moment to be poor and working two jobs and living with five too many roommates — and still be respected by my greater social circle — this is it.

Until I get my first creative break, I’ll be clocking hours at your friendly neighborhood café, remembering that Kafka was an insurance salesman for most of his life.

Just before publication, we learned Michelle was hired as a marketing associate for an ecommerce website. She is enjoying the writing and the people she has been meeting. Congratulations, Michelle.