November 23, 2016

A Chronological List Of People Who Helped Me Achieve My Dreams

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I think sometimes I struggle with thanking people. I have so many different people I owe for the honestly great life I am living right now. I feel guilty when I point out some people for thanks, and not everyone, so I end up thanking…nobody? As if that is a better solution?

With Thanksgiving tomorrow I want to zero-in on a group of people who have perhaps been neglected the most in my thanking — that is to say, the people who helped me with my ~career~.

Roughly two years I randomly decided that I wanted to work in digital media. I admired so many different writers and content creators, and began trying to write thinkpieces and articles that would make me just as cool as my idols. There is absolutely no reason I should’ve been successful in this bizarre career pivot (I was a political science major btw), but I worked my ass off and got a few lucky breaks. Here are some people I want to specifically thank going into this Thanksgiving:

Nick Moutvic

Right around the time I decided to throw all my previous dreams, aspirations, and career experience down the drain to work on the internet, Nick was establishing an independent online magazine called Culture Stocked. For some reason he read something I published on Medium and asked me to contribute. It was the first publication I ever contributed to, and got me into the habit of writing.

The great irony of this is that I was occasionally a prickly contributor — complaining about edits Nick would make to my work. Now, every so often, I am lucky enough to get some of Nick’s work to review for Thought Catalog and he returns the favor.

Daniel Hayes

A few months after starting to contribute at Culture Stocked, Daniel Hayes saw my stuff and asked me if I wanted to contribute at Thought Catalog from time-to-time.

document hacked from Hillary Clinton's private server
document hacked from Hillary Clinton’s private server

I still don’t know why Daniel published all my early tripe. Most of it was pretty dense material with a forced clickbait headline that rarely made sense, after all. But he totally did, and he gave me good feedback as I started to explore different types of writing and content creation. He also shook my belief in free trade, which is another story all-together.

Ari Eastman

Not long after I started contributing to Dan, I started following a Thought Catalog writer of a slightly different variety. While Dan sunk his teeth into deep current event writing, Ari strung together words into beautiful poetry and prose.

Once night (after she followed me back on Twitter for some reason…?) I sent her an unsolicited DM about how to make it as a writer. She gave me a ton of advice, but the piece that really stuck out was that I had to believe I was worth it. 

i'm surprised anyone is still reading this article
i’m surprised anyone is still reading this article

And so I decided to get there.

Michael Koh

In the summer of 2015 I applied for two internships. One was a very highly compensated job with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, and the other was with Thought Catalog.

I interviewed for the government internship first. I sprang into the office, tried to chat their ear off about how I like to make a ~BIG~ lasting impact wherever I worked, and watched the four different interviewers give me weird looks. At the end of the interview I asked them all what their favorite part of working at the Bureau was; they coughed and told me how I could get reimbursed for parking.

(Okay, actually everyone gave me some variation of “every day is different!!!1” which was an answer, but a pretty ominous one especially for a place dotted with cubicles).

But then I submitted an application to Thought Catalog for an Editorial Internship. To this day, I literally don’t know why Michael Koh hired me for that job. Instead of submitting a cover letter, I basically wrote an insane first person narrative of my coming out story; my resume boasted no prior work in digital media. Hilariously, during our phone interview, Michael actively tried to find ways to justify how my previous work experience could possibly apply to this job.

“Sooo…you worked at the Canadian Parliament,” he probably remarked, looking over my eclectic resume, “So you had to process and distill information regularly?”

“Right, right,” I nodded on the phone.

“And probably sometimes on the computer too?”

“Yeah, yeah, sometimes,” I replied back.

But we had a good dynamic on the phone, and I guess Michael thought that with my (over the top) passion I was worth a chance. I screwed up so much that first summer it wasn’t even funny. I was typo-prone, and he had to help me brush up on some grammar basics that were rusty from not taking an English class since High School. If Michael had taken a shot every time the phrase “compounding adjectives” appeared in our Slack convo logs, he’d probably be dead right now, but he kept fighting for me, and over time I started doing better.

Chrissy Stockton

I’ve never been as good as most of my Thought Catalog colleagues at writing about myself. Our “bread and butter” on this site is deeply personal writing —writing that moves people, writing that makes people feel less alone. Through my year and a half here I feel I have written a small handful of articles that accomplish what most of my co-workers could easily do in a day. Their writing has value, and is so awesome, but it isn’t what I was passionate about here.

I wanted to make “trending news” work at Thought Catalog. I wanted to see this site be a place for emotion, personal stories, breakup essays, lists, but ALSO more current events discussion, internet culture, and news (deep & more playful).

For almost four months I worked at these types of articles, and they barely moved the needle. They didn’t attract a ton of views, or even a ton of comments or discussion. I’m not sure why after four months of hitting my head against the wall, Chrissy Stockton decided that I had a ton of potential to head up our trending news effort, but she did, and countinually backed me up with resources and feedback.

As we worked together, we slowly began making progress and learning what kind of news our audience was interested in — and slowly began growing our audience I think. Thought Catalog will probably never be CNN (honestly, do we even want to be??) but I feel we a TON of potential now in creating a more diverse array of content.

Kendra Syrdal

I knew Kendra a little while before we were colleagues. She was an internet writer for another company and gave me advice about handling trolls and we occasionally asked each other for feedback about work.

When she was brought on staff at Thought Catalog, Kendra and I quickly became friends because we both worked Saturdays. We would sit in the empty Slack room, talking about our lives and our work. Since then, Kendra has been one of the best motivators I have ever had. She pushes me to work harder, reach higher, and keep fighting for my writing and my dreams. She always listens to me — even when we disagree (especially when we disagree).

Everyone else

And of course, there is everyone else. The people who created the internet, the first digital media companies, the founder of Thought Catalog Chris Lavergne and his original crew. My parents for birthing me, and everyone who kept me alive along the way.

I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and while I certainly cannot thank everyone, I tried to highlight a few people here.

Happy Thanksgiving! TC mark

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