Discover more from Adventures In "Journalism" by Sari Botton
Gig Life 4Eva
At least for this dinosaur.
In the past couple of days I posted on Twitter about two new gigs I’m about to embark on. One is an adjunct appointment in the MFA program at Wilkes University. The other is curating and publishing the Memoir Monday newsletter founded by Lilly Dancyger (who will continue to run the quarterly reading series by the same name.)
A little news: In January I’m going to join the faculty of @WilkesUWriting low-res MFA as an adjunct instructor.
It’s two instances of good news that I’m grateful for, and it was nice to be congratulated by so many friends and colleagues. But I realize it sends a misleading message that I’m doing just fine, work-wise. That’s what social media is for in part, isn’t it—creating illusions of success? Success is built on success, and so any time I’ve been given new opportunities, or achieved something, I override my distaste for self-promotion, hold my nose, and toot my own horn, hoping it will lead to more opportunities and achievements. It’s never felt more necessary than now, when publishing and digital media are shrinking and becoming even more cut-throat.
Do you read the Memoir Monday newsletter featuring personal essays found on @CatapultStory @lithub @The_Rumpus @Narratively @GuernicaMag @GrantaMag ? I’ll be taking the reins from founder @lillydancyger—who will continue to host the quarterly reading series. Follow @MemoirMonday!
The reality is that the adjunct position offers just a little money, and the newsletter is work I’ll be doing for free—although down the line I might find ways to expand upon it, and invite people to subscribe, for a fee. So, I’m just adding gigs to a growing, unweildy, uncertain gig-load. There’s not much security in this, financial or otherwise.
As I race toward my mid-June book deadline, I’m panicked about my future as a writer and editor after I turn the book in. What can the future possibly hold for a 55-year-old woman situated upstate, one with a very circuitous career history? One with multiple chronic illnesses that are currently manageable, but aren’t always?
I’ve gotten a glimpse of the future recently, and it’s not terribly promising. The few job-jobs I’ve applied for have gone to people based in the cities where the jobs are located (so much for the idea that work-from-home was going to become standard post-pandemic), and to people 15, 20, and 25 years younger than me. I’m feeling a bit like a dinosaur, on my way to extinction. And it really wasn’t that long ago that I was too young for senior appointments.
I’m happy for the people who got the jobs, and I’m happy that I will be collaborating with at least one of them in a freelance capacity. I’m not a competitive person, and maybe that’s a downfall. Long ago, as a teen, I adopted a philosophy that just because someone else got something I wanted, or surpassed me at something, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t eventually have or achieve those things myself.
This philosophy evolved when I was close with a wealthy girl, starting when I was around 12. When The Fashions of the Times supplement to the New York Times came out each season, she and I would pore over it and fantasize aloud about which styles of clothes and shoes we wanted. Then she’d go shopping with her mom and get them. Just like that. There was no way I could get them, too, at least not until they were out of style and on sale, a year or more later. My family was struggling financially. My clothes came from discount stores that sold factory seconds, and the National Council of Jewish Women thrift store. When the things I wanted finally became accessible to me, I was discouraged by my rich friend from getting them, because, she said, “You know, that’s kind of my thing?”
I hated that. We didn’t even go to the same school, or live near each other, so what did it matter? I rejected the idea that someone—especially someone with an advantage—could just plant a flag and declare something their thing in a competitive, possessive way, and that was the end of that. Especially if it was something I wanted, too. I never said anything to my friend. Instead I tried to imagine a bigger, more abundant world, to use an annoying woo-woo term from the 90s, in which there was enough good stuff for everyone to have some, in their own time.
My own time has often been postponed, either because of circumstances outside me, or because of choices I’ve made. As I’ve said before, I’ve adjusted my timiline to playing the long game—the longest game ever. And now I worry it’s too late, for a lot of possibilities, like job-jobs.
I used to think I didn’t want a job-job. I thought that was because I was a weirdo who doesn’t like fluorescent lighting and is not great at navigating office dynamics. And so I avoided full-time employment at one place from the mid-90s until a few years ago. Then some new revelations made me realize I had residual trauma from mean, sexist shit I encountered in a couple of office jobs.
Recently, for about five years, I had a job-job I truly loved—except it wasn’t a real job-job with benefits and health insurance and vacations, or other worker protections. I felt as if I was constantly auditioning for my job, trying to keep it, which meant I kept taking on more, while also juggling other outside gigs, because I had no job security. It was wonderful and terrible, and then, as always happens when tech companies dabble in publishing, it came to an end.
That experience, though, made me think I could like having a job-job. But I think I’m giving up on hoping for such a thing going forward. I’ll just keep juggling gigs, hoping they all add up to enough of an income, and that there continue to be gigs available in the ever-shrinking fields where my talents and experience lie.