Stop spending money at businesses you don’t respect

I’m a millennial, so I have a fair amount of anxiety about the financial reality I will be living into in adulthood. (“The systems are failing us!” I often yelp at my fiancé or friends or anyone engaged in current-events conversation with me.)

One of the things that helps me is remembering that art can save us. Matthew Arnold says it best, as engraved on The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: “Art still has truth, take refuge there.”

Another helpful tactic is remembering that we have a public option. You probably think about health insurance when you hear the phrase, but it’s a cornerstone of our public policy. State parks, city pools, libraries, highways and public schools are all examples of the public option.

I’ve been thinking about this lately in light of what’s not working for everyone. Today (and tomorrow!) is a made-up holiday for the biggest American retailer. Its warehouse employees wear adult diapers so we can get our guaranteed two-day delivery. The behemoth didn’t pay a dollar in federal income tax last year. Workers are striking to protest low wages. We love the convenience of shiny new industry disruptions (Lyft, Postmates, Instagram), but we’d be wise to remember who they (mostly) serve: Big Profit.

The public option gives me hope because institutions like libraries and parks and the Postal Service keep me connected to other people and my community without causing harm. I mailed some hand-written notes and bought two sheets of Sesame Street stamps today instead of shopping online. It feels good to acknowledge how our tax dollars contribute to our civic wellbeing.

As Austin Kleon writes, “I think of the public library as one of the last spaces in this country where you can go and feel like a real citizen. You’re not being sold anything. You’re welcome to be who you are, or work on becoming what you want to be. The library is there for you.”

I’m also drawn lately to Jenn Armbrust’s envisioning of the feminine economy. In fact, it’s what inspired me to launch this very blog a few years ago — the title of this post and several others come from her Proposals for the Feminine Economy. Her rainbow wheel of feminine principles highlights traits that I feel when I’m exploring a library branch or sitting in a park with friends: ease, connecting with nature, intimacy.

Like Jenn says, if we want to keep joyful, communal things accessible to everyone, we need to support them with our time and money and voice. Pay the fees (unless your library is like mine and recently removed late fines, which makes them an even better institution). Show up. Share the places you respect with people you love.


Utilize the public library


A curator used to be someone who worked in a museum, but now we all curate our lives. We select and order every aspect of the endless stream of media we consume: our Instagram feed, our news consumption, the brands and styles we shop.

Lately I’ve been feeling the urge to reject curating my experience when I can. I don’t always listen to myself — I spent 45 minutes last week sitting in a Chicago hotel lobby scrolling through Yelp when I could have just wandered into a neighborhood and trusted that whatever I found would be delicious.

Studies show us that “maximizers,” people who feel the need to choose the very best possible option, aren’t any happier for their exhaustive research. (I tried to remember this when I was itching to read Consumer Reports as we began to build our wedding registry last weekend. “It’s your wish list, not your shopping list,” the salesperson told us.)

I went to the library today to pick up one book on hold, and I wandered the stacks and found a handful of other books that I didn’t know I wanted to read this month. It can be good to let fate intervene.

Reading next: Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing.



Be thankful

This is what I saw at Mass this morning:

A little boy wearing a shark tooth necklace.

A retirement-age woman leaning over to her husband to whisper her opinions on the homily.

A woman who reminded me of a friend I met through another Jesuit parish, her face radiant as she lifted a host to each person approaching her, offering them the Body of Christ.

A man who I see almost every Sunday, stepping gingerly and leaning on a pair of crutches, his T-shirt tucked into a pair of athletic shorts cinched high around his waist.

The cantor greeting the congregation before Mass, asking us to “sing with full voices.”

A young man behind us kneeling down after receiving Communion, head bent low over his hands. He was breathing so heavily he may have been crying.

A string of people like a thread of rosary beads, clasping one another’s hands during the Our Father. One man stood with his arms crossed in front of his torso so that he could hold hands with his wife and reach out to the person behind him.

Voices rising into the air, singing, “I will come to you in the silence / I will lift you from all your fear.” A feeling of nostalgia, home, yearning pulling at my chest during the chorus of the song.

A toddler coming back from receiving a blessing during Communion, clutching a big, overstuffed teddy bear to his chest.

A little girl with braided pigtails skipping out into the aisle to shake hands with a stranger during the sign of peace.

My fingers laced into my boyfriend’s fingers.

The priest speaking from his heart, asking us to pray for the victims and the perpetrators of clergy sex abuse, for all Catholics who feel heart-heavy and weary and bruised and yet still find ourselves in the pews each week.

A teenage girl who looked like she would rather have been anywhere else, her eyes sleepy, her long legs bare.

A brother and sister carrying up the gifts, the sister stage-whispering “STOP” to her brother as they reached the steps, then elbowing him hard to tell him where to hand off the collection basket.

A Eucharistic minister wearing cargo shorts on the altar.

Black faces. Brown faces. White faces. Old faces. Young faces. Tired faces. Emotional faces. Apathetic faces. Lovesick faces.

A family gathering up their purses and backpacks and coloring books so they could leave discreetly after receiving Communion, skipping the obligatory announcements.

A mother with her three children in their preferred pew at the back of the church, her sons in suits. She wore a black fascinator on her head and pointed-toe pumps.

Light streaming in through the blue stained glass, the thin, modern windows reflected in the glass face of my wristwatch.

The altar flanked with tall potted palms bedded in decorative moss.

Another song, one that we always sing before receiving Communion: “Take, oh, take me as I am. Summon out what I shall be. Set your seal upon my heart and rest in me.”

A community that I don’t see elsewhere in my city, although I live and work and shop among the people that join me in the pews. A belief that flickers and wavers. A belief that brings us back to the pews most Sundays, to talk to a being we can’t see, except when it appears in the people around us, a kingdom of God, sleepy and earnest, striving and slouching toward hope.


Rest when you are tired, eat when you are hungry


Food is exploration. I am 24 and riding an undercurrent of adrenaline and the slight buzz of a cocktail made with ingredients that I had never tasted before tonight. I am in another city, Chicago, or maybe Atlanta. Sitting around this restaurant table are bloggers and chefs, photographers and magazine editors and me. Plates are placed before me and I eat from them. I can talk now about foie gras and rapini puree and Castelvetrano olives. Food is a map of the world. I am feeding my wanderlust, my desire for knowledge, my hunger for more. When I am full, or past full, I climb into a hotel bed with white sheets and rows of pillows. Sleep comes quickly. I am groggy and aching as I stand before the bathroom mirror the next morning, but then there’s a cappuccino and at the back of my brain, the siren song of another new ingredient. I roll my shoulders back and stride out into the brisk day. 


Food is fuel. I am 27 and chopping onions and kale and mushrooms. My roommate and I share a small kitchen in our cozy rented bungalow, the contents of our weekly CSA box spilling across the wooden countertops. Standing at the sink, I realize I know how to feed myself. On Sunday afternoons, I cook frittatas and brown ground beef, wash and dry and slice endless piles of vegetables in preparation for the week to come. I would fight the first person who asked for a meal’s worth of protein that I have purchased and prepped, awaiting me in the fridge. I could fight them, too. I feel strong, smart, equipped. I take long, solitary walks in the wooded park nearby, feeling the ache in my legs as I climb the steep hill to gaze out at the skyline. Success in dating eludes me, but I feel safe within the walls of my small room, held by the soft powdery blue walls and the billowing white curtains.


Food is love. I am 30 and happy to have some of my best friends in my new city. I’m standing in my small kitchen, scraping strands from half a spaghetti squash as I hold it with an oven mitt, feeling the steam on my skin, knowing I’m rushing this meal but wanting to feed my friends. Slightly impressing them never hurts, either. We’re all still convincing ourselves that we’re adults. I pour generous glasses of Malbec and set the timer on the oven. We sit around my small table and talk about religion and relationships and finances. The love I feel for my friends seems to pour out of me and into the room. We inflate my air mattress, pushing aside chairs in my little apartment. Two of us take my bed and the other two pull the blankets over themselves on the air mattress. We sleep soundly, confident in the way one can only be when surrounded by those who see her.


Say how you are feeling

I bought myself a ring last weekend when I was home in Oregon. I’d been looking at this designer’s work for months, maybe years. The purchase wasn’t a big splurge at all, but when the store was in my backyard, I never felt like I had a reason to walk in the door and buy the ring. Being 30 is reason enough.

I wear this delicate piece on the middle finger of my left hand. A hammered brass band rises up into a thin ridge studded with seed beads of silver. The silver pieces are threaded through holes in the ridge, so they have the freedom to move.

As the cashier at the shop handed me my receipt, she told me that sometimes the pieces break. Some women don’t have any problems, she said, but if you shoved your hand into the pocket of your skinny jeans too fast, maybe you’d lose them. “Don’t worry, though. The designer is happy to repair rings. You can mail it in. If for some reason it keeps happening, she could even solder the pieces in place.”

So I look at this dainty ring often, tilting my hand to count the little dumbbells of silver, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I love looking at the ring. It’s not conventionally pretty. It’s interesting. It’s mine. 

And because it’s on my finger, my particular brain likes to send up a little flare of anxiety from time to time. Did I lose a piece? No, no, they’re all there. Admire the ring, go back to my day. That knee-jerk reaction reminds me that I haven’t been feeling (clinically) anxious lately. It feels good to have a baseline of calm and ease. I haven’t missed reading about heart failure on internet health forums at 11 pm.

This new habit of checking the ring is a way to safeguard against further wreckage. Oh, because I have been feeling. I’ve been angry. I’ve been grieving. This winter and spring have been flooded with a salty wave of sadness, and treading water in that sea has been exhausting. Some days, I’m only plunging my hand into a tide pool of sad, not minding the cold sting because I’m closer to the beauty under the surface. And other days, I’m choking on the salt water as waves crash over my head, my legs churning to keep myself afloat, everything inside feeling rusty and hollowed out and close to cracking.

Simple things start the sorrow rocking: A taste of Cran-Raspberry La Croix, the first stuttering notes of a Local Natives song, admiring other people’s dogs on a bright Sunday loop through the park. These things once belonged to us, all the tiny details of a love now lost.

Sometimes the pieces break. 

Here I am now, afloat, adrift. A relationship rooted in my new city has ended, and it is hard work to be submerged in that loss, to trust that my strong legs will keep kicking, that my chest will one day cease to ache. It takes energy to acknowledge that I am alone, that I am still out here. I wave hello to a friend relaxing on the beach. I ask another to join me in the bobbing waves as crusts of salt dry on my face. I’m moving closer to the shore. Soon, I’ll be able to stand on the sand bar under my feet.


Don’t waste time trying to master what you’re not good at

Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star.

Martin Luther King, Jr

The turning of the seasons and recent conversations with a trio of good friends has me thinking about working smarter and better. I’m happy with my work, which is in a field that I love and provides me new challenges on a weekly basis. I don’t know if this work will be what I’m doing in two years, or in five, or if my position will even be relevant then. Sometimes I see people who are also doing this work, but on a more public scale, or who have two impressive side hustles in addition, and I have to remember that comparison is the enemy of joy. 

I am where I meant to be. I know that this job, and the creative work I do here and elsewhere, serves me well. It plays to my strengths. On the best days, it makes me feel alive, able to offer smart solutions, more connected to people and to purpose.

My three friends and I talked about our work in my little apartment a few weeks ago. We’re 30 this year, and none of us are doing what we thought we’d be doing. One has started her own business doing work that she didn’t even know existed when we graduated from college. Another is the executive director of a nonprofit. A third works in sales for an event planning business. In her spare time, she’s remodeling the house she bought a couple of years ago. I moved across the country last year, just when I thought the window on leaving my home state had closed.

And we’re happy, and struggling, and learning that how we are is probably more important than what we are. 

It’s hard to break away from the siren song of upward mobility, but I’m increasingly convinced that I don’t want to aspire to height in my life, but to depth. To long conversations with friends about our vocations. To writing postcards to senators with women that I’ve only just met because we all want to take political action, and technology has allowed us to find each other. To opening my home to share meals with my community, and to traveling to spend time with friends and family.   

These are heightened and fraught and exciting times. I’m seeing more organizing and more action. More people not wasting time trying to master what they’re not good at, which is to stay small and silent, or to strive for status, exhausted and wrung dry. We’re digging deep. 

As Jenn Armbrust says, “Here we are, a bunch of bright and driven humans with the capacity to envision the future and the wisdom and resourcefulness to make our visions real.” 

(There are so many smart, daring thinkers flourishing in this time!)

And here’s a manifesto of sorts by Courtney E. Martin, taken from her compelling book The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, (which you should read, especially if you’re under 40).

It’s up to us to make lives that we can be proud of—and to make communities and systems and policies to cradle those lives. It’s up to us to reject tired narratives about success, instead authoring new ones that are less about exceptional heroes and more about creative communities. It’s up to us to reclaim the best of what previous generations did that made this country so unique and so beautiful—as well as to own up to the destructive legacies that we’re a part of, to expose them to the light, and to figure out how to fix them. It’s up to us be humble, to be brave, to be accountable to our own dreams, no one else. It’s up to us to be iconoclastic, to be together, to stay awake. 


Slow down

If there’s a season in which I remember to breathe deeply, it’s this one. Fall days are bright and clear and loose. They brim with opportunity, a slow, quiet unfurling. I know it’s not popular to luxuriate in the darker half of the year, but it’s here where I feel unhurried and at ease. I dance to the music on the radio. A smile comes to my lips more readily. I am generous with my attention and my time.

There’s a turning inward that autumn encourages. The sun rises later and sets sooner. We get up and lie down in the dark, alone with our thoughts and our routines. Lately, I’ve been practicing a morning routine that helps my days feel creative and grounded from the start. I wake up, brush my teeth, put in my contact lenses. I sit down on the couch and set a timer: 20 minutes of reading nonfiction. Right now, it’s Krista Tippett’s “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.” I underline passages with a pencil, think about the words on the page after I read them. 

Yesterday morning, I read a passage that highlighted exactly how I’m feeling lately:

“But that (physical attractiveness), as the late great Irish poet and philosopher of beauty John O’Donohue helpfully distinguished, is glamour. I’ve taken his definition as my own, for naming beauty in all its nuance in the moment-to-moment reality of our days: beauty is that in the presence of which we feel more alive.”

It’s in these fall days that I see and smell and experience true beauty, ordinary moments that feel large enough to hold my ballooning emotions. It’s in the crisp air and the dark evenings that I feel joyous and calm and alive.

It’s become important for me to notice this and appreciate it, just as it has become important for me to be okay with spending 20 minutes on the couch in the morning. I know that comparison is the thief of joy, and yet my brain tells me, you cannot afford this morning luxury, who are you to take this time for yourself. It is persistent, that voice: don’t be such a contrarian, you whine too much about summer weather, does the changing light actually affect your mood or do you just want attention?  

I hear that voice, but I don’t listen to it. That voice is not wise or kind. When I slow down on these dark mornings, when I listen deeply, I know that there is kindness and wisdom in being true to myself.

Others can hold that fall is a brilliant flash, just a distraction before we fade into the despair of early evenings and icy winter months. That is not my truth. Others can prefer the snooze button or the gym before work. That is not my truth. 

My truth is my time on the couch, those moments of reading, followed by five minutes of prayer or meditation or contemplation. What I call it changes from day to day, as does my success at slowing down my thoughts and sitting with my breath and the early morning light. This half hour of kindness toward myself builds generosity and patience into the rest of my brisk, bright day.




My legs are pumping up and down, my hands gripping the rubber handlebars of a borrowed bike. I am pedaling down a narrow path that turns from pavement to wooden planks as I turn the corner, following my sister. Pine trees frame our path, and the marshy spots beneath the wooden platform hold clear pockets of water. We ride down the trail, which has returned to pavement. Long grasses brush against our bare legs. 

I lean into another corner and round the bend into a wide-open meadow. I sit up, balancing my fingertips against the handlebars so I can look out at the snow-dappled mountains and the pastures on either side of the path. Black cows are grazing to my left. Up ahead, horses are standing at rest in the shade of one tree, flicking away flies with their tails. A handful of my cousins ride in front of me, standing over their pedals. I am moving and this place is beautiful and I am aware of it all. I’m not even ashamed of the smile breaking across my face.


Same day, afternoon. I made one nonchalant comment on that earlier bike ride, and my sisters and cousins immediately made the drive into town to buy a slack line. I have never slacklined. It looks easy, which is how I know it’s not going to be. I’m right. The cable is only three feet above the ground, but it might as well be a tightrope stretched across a canyon. My three boy cousins are on this trip, and the slackline was their idea. They are 15, 19, and 21, and their bodies are long and sinewy, all muscle. They walk the slackline like those flailing inflatable creatures at a car wash, their arms loose and windmilling, smiles on their faces. Forward movement. 

I climb up, wobble one step, and immediately have to bail. I have muscles, I have balance, but not for this activity. 


Evening. My sisters are working on a jigsaw puzzle in the living room. My grandparents are on the back deck, watching the cows in the pasture. I hop back on the bike and ride to the closest rec center. In the yoga studio, I do pushups, slow and steady. I squat deeply, looking at my form in the mirror. I feel the sweat trickle underneath my shirt, my breath quickening, the dull burn building in my fatigued muscles. This is hard. This feels good. I am not 19 any longer, and I can’t practice backflips into the pool or ride my bike the fastest, but I can move, and it helps ease my mind and strengthen my body. This is where I am now.


Dinner. We’re all crowded around the table, cousins and aunts and grandparents. I eat one and a half hamburgers, wrapped in lettuce, topped with tomatoes and pickles and mustard and ketchup. I eat slices of watermelon like they’re potato chips. My cousins are as competitive in their eating as they are in their playing, and they’re subconsciously spurring me on to reach for another spoonful, one last bite. Another advantage of playing hard: you need more fuel. 


I go down to the basement, to the room my cousins are sharing for the weekend. They have a pull-up bar hanging over the door frame. They have paralettes made of PVC pipe on the floor. My parents and I watch as the boys hoist themselves up over their hands, gripping the pipe in a handstand that seems too easy. My dad can’t help himself, and he takes his turn on the bars, exhaling loudly and never really making it to a vertical position. I am my father’s daughter and I take my turn after I complete half of a pull-up in the doorway. I can’t even get my arms straight. 

I am exhausted. All I have done this weekend is exercise, and it is good, but I can’t reap the benefits of exercise until I rest.   


Talk more about what you love

Celine Dion Concert Singing 'Taking Chances' 2008

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you f—ing like something, like it.” – Dave Grohl


Twelve years old. I am lying on a mattress in the narrow loft above the driver’s seat of our rented RV. My headphones are on, the bridge resting against the back of my neck. The black CD in my Discman whirls as a soulful ballad soars into my eardrums. I feel myself leaning into the ache of the string instruments. I wiggle my head imperceptibly along with the vocal acrobatics. “YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! Ohhhhhhh yeah-haaaa, ohh whoa whoa yeah WHOA OH OH! YEAH! Ohhhhh, oooooo, the reeeeeeasoooon,” Céline Dion belts, and I sigh, staring at the miniature curtains swinging in the miniature windows, blissed out.


I stand before the 20 or so members of my freshman English class. A synthesized beat fades into the background as I press the pause button on the boom box and turn back to the class. “So, that was Rain, Tax (It’s Inevitable) by Céline Dion. This song touches deep on our human dependence and the laws of nature.”

I’m deconstructing the song, as we have each been required to do, and many of my fellow classmates look bored, but no one is laughing. I’ve sat through a dozen of these presentations already. Most of them were probably about the last song that came on the radio. Christina Aguilera, Blink-182, The Offspring. When I was planning my presentation, I considered choosing a more popular song by a less dramatic singer. Just for a moment. But I’ve never been one to deny my love for Céline Dion, and I’m not about to start now.


I’m sitting in a concert hall next to my sister, my mom and grandma on the other side of her. We’re here. We’re actually here. Céline will be live before us on this Caesars Palace stage in less than 15 minutes and I am squirming with excitement. I don’t care that I’m 19 and usually have a little more poise in public. My idol and I will be breathing the same air tonight. 

The hall darkens. A video screen glides into place. I can feel the tension of all 4,296 of us holding our breath. I bounce in my chair, gripping my sister’s leg. “Oh my god!” I whisper. “She’s here!” 

“I know!” Erika whispers back. The screen lights up to show an endless staircase with a tiny, elegant figure at the very top. I make a small squeak in my throat. The figure moves. She moves. She slowly comes down the staircase and I realize that the screen has vanished. Her human self is in front of me. She begins to sing a single note and I can feel my chest burst into sunshine and wildflowers. I don’t care what I’m supposed to be listening to or who it’s cool to like. I love Céline Dion and I won’t deny myself this pleasure. 

After the show, I go to the gift shop and buy a black T-shirt with her silhouette outlined in red and blue. I wear the shirt to bed, around the house, at the gym. Even when it’s on the shelf, that is enough for me.


Let’s Talk About Love is probably my favorite Céline album. For starters, it got me and my friend Lucas through a Philosophy of Human Nature course during our sophomore year of college, and then brought us together in 2012 to see Céline in Vegas (yes, again). The songs on this album swing wildly from a power ballad penned by Carole King to a goofy reggae-lite anthem to a gospel-style inspirational. Céline can sing them all, even if she can’t make you believe every word. 

Let’s Talk About Love is also a book written by Carl Wilson, subtitled Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste. The book is brilliant and funny and thought-provoking. He chose Céline’s 1997 album as the subject of his book as an example of global fandom and schmaltz and pop culture that he could never fathom. He pulls apart the Céline phenomenon piece by piece in chapters: “Let’s Talk about Pop (and Its Critics),” “Let’s Talk About World Conquest,” “Let’s Sing Really Loud.”

Taste is subjective, he says, but more importantly, it’s ruled by (often) young critics who trade in cultural capital, which is to say: cool. By the end of the book, he comes to a simple conclusion: Céline Dion is decidedly uncool. 

So, let’s talk about love. I love that Céline is brazenly emotional. I love her dedication to her slightly-creepy-but-solid marriage with her late husband Rene Angelil, 26 years her senior. I love her absolutely kooky personality. I love her Quebecois accent. I love the fact that we were both raised in big families and small towns. I love her campy vocal acrobatics. I love that she has the chutzpah to duet with hologram versions of famous singers…or her own self. I love the way her voice sounds. I love the way she makes me care about schmaltzy love songs that talk about things I’ve never felt. I love her bombastic, unnecessary arm motions and chest pounding. I love her. 

Nick Hornby sums it up in an essay in part two of Let’s Talk About Love: “In my ideal world, people would be reading and listening to music and watching movies all the time, and loving the stuff they’re consuming; to judge these people, or the things they love, whether it’s Céline Dion or a Schubert symphony, is to damage their relationship with culture in a profoundly unhelpful way.”  

I’m young and critical and care about my cultural capital, but there are some places where the brain cannot deny the heart. 


Read the newspaper daily

Age nine: I read the newspaper for entertainment. I sit at the kitchen table with my dad in the mornings as he reads the sports pages of the Statesman Journal and I read the living section, laughing at the black-and-white strips about vikings and talking crocodiles, a hapless cat owner and some fun-loving Army soldiers. I am obviously steeped deep in my nerdiness, but I hardly notice. I just want to read. I’ll take the backs of cereal boxes or any book on the bookshelf. All I need are words. 

Baby Blues teaches me that kids are exhausting and messy and funny. Zits teaches me that teenagers never grow up. Sally Forth teaches me that pop culture is fun and my parents can be my friends unless they’re trying. Comics open up a world larger and more diverse than my hometown, and I tumble in headfirst.


Age sixteen: I read the newspaper to know what’s important. A precocious and diligent student, I’m trying to wrap my head around the war in Iraq and an upcoming election. My grandpa decides to talk politics after a glass of wine at the Thanksgiving table, and I’m ready to engage him, spouting jobs numbers and arguing for my candidate like I understand what I’m talking about. 

I want to be informed, to be able to respond with intelligence when my government teacher puts forth a debate topic, and I find answers and perspective in the newspaper.     


Age nineteen: I read the newspaper because it’s shaping my career. A college sophomore and declared journalism major, I am now not just a reader of the newspaper but also a writer for a newspaper. The Gonzaga Bulletin runs my first article, a feature on Spokane’s Centennial Trail and surrounding recreation. Seeing my byline on the page sends thrills up my spine. 

I marvel at my own wit after I pen a headline for my second article, this one on seasonal affective disorder: “Feeling SAD? It could be the weather.” I unfold the issue only to note that my editor swiftly dispatched my clever creation for the droll alternative, “Lack of sunlight may cause mild seasonal sadness.”

I festoon the bulletin board in my dorm room with passionate op-ed columns and the clever weather squares that run on the front page of the Spokesman-Review, giving a cheeky little summary like “Plenty of clouds” or “Clearly a sunny one.” My college roommate comes back to our dorm room one day and shouts, “Ew! What’s a newspaper doing on my desk?!” I dissolve into giggles and tell her to read it for the twelfth time that semester


Age twenty-one: I read the newspaper to learn what’s hip. My girlfriends and I sit around an oversized wooden table at a downtown coffee shop on Sunday mornings, eating toasted bagels and drinking giant Americanos. We pretend we’re there to study, but we tend to page listlessly through The Inlander instead. We know we should be writing term papers. Instead, we’re trying to finish the crossword puzzle. 

We laugh as we read aloud the I Saw You submissions, we place too much importance on our silly horoscopes, we read movie reviews and ask each other what we would say in response to the On the Street question. Bonding over the alt-weekly paper, we affirm that we are finding ourselves in this world.

I have just finished a semester-long internship writing for this very paper, and now I Know Things. I have spoken with citizens at the voting booth and panhandlers on freeway exits, affluent couples pushing acai juice products and indie filmmakers. Newspapers continue to expand my perspective.


Age twenty-eight: I read the newspaper to understand the world. I didn’t become a journalist immediately, despite my earnest efforts. The magazine I interned for after I graduated from college ceased publication at the end of the summer, right when I was hoping to get a job.

Recently, I’ve been freelancing for my college’s quarterly magazine and submitting creative nonfiction pieces to far-flung literary journals. I am one of the few people I know at any age who subscribes to the newspaper, which has dropped home delivery to four days a week. My office receives the New York Times on weekdays and I gobble it up over lunch. If I’m traveling or at a meeting, it remains largely untouched.

I read articles about gender-fluid fashion and profiles on Syrian refugees. The New York Times writes a lot about the pope and my city. I read it all. I tear out recipes and drop pertinent articles on my coworkers’ desks. The newspaper helps me to form opinions, to empathize, to take a breath, to escape.

Last week, I accepted a job offer with a newspaper. As the engagement editor for National Catholic Reporter, I will be helping the 50-year-old paper reach new audiences and expand their storytelling efforts. I’m going to be learning about global initiatives and social justice efforts in serious detail. I am going to help others understand the world. I can’t wait to bring the stories on the page to life in conversation.