Discover more from Adventures In "Journalism" by Sari Botton
"What's a Newsletter?"
And other fun questions.
I don't share this newsletter, Adventures in *Journalism*, on Facebook. I don't expect family members, childhood schoolmates, and all the other normies I've ever known to get what I write about here.
What's more, I worry they'd judge me for some of the weird things I've confessed to...for instance, in the early 90s mailing a money order to a phone scammer who insisted I'd won a Cadillac, and being certain that once the car arrived, I could trade it in for cash at Potemkin on 11th Ave. and use the money to pay for an MFA at Sarah Lawrence. (Wait until they read about this and my other misadventures in my book. Oy.)
I did, however, post about my new newsletter, Oldster Magazine, on Facebook. I intend for Oldster to be a whole other animal—more of a magazine, with many more voices than my own. Oldster aims to de-stigmatize and normalize aging by examining its effects on everyone of all genders, at every phase of life—not just women of a certain age.
So I figured I'd cast a wider net. The good news: I've found a fair number of subscribers over there. The bad news: it's turned me into Tech Support for octogenarians and even younger acquaintances who aren't extremely online, who don't subscribe to 110 (or any) other newsletters, like I do—and in some cases, have never even heard of the format.
Here's a sampling of conversations and email exchanges I've typically had in the past two weeks:
Subscriber: What's this "Oldster"?
Me: It's a newsletter!
Subscriber: What's a "newsletter"?
Me: It's kind of like a blog?
Subscriber: What's a "blog"?
Subscriber: WHERE IS THAT THING I PAID YOU MONEY FOR? I PAID YOU MONEY AND I DIDN'T GET THE THING. I PUT IN MY CREDIT CARD AND EVERYTHING.
Me: Did you check your gmail "promotions" folder? I bet it's there.
Subscriber: Did my payment go through??
Me: Yes, I got a notification. Thank you for subscribing!!!
Subscriber: Are you sure?
Subscriber: But...are you sure? And do you know which credit card I used? Because I think I might have used the wrong one. I use one card for house stuff and one card for personal stuff, and I think I used the one for house stuff. Can you help me switch cards?
Subscriber: What's my password?
Me: For what?
Subscriber: Your...thing? I don't remember my password, and it's not letting me in. I don't even remember giving them a password! Can you help me remember? Or re-set it? Help!!
When not fielding tech support questions, I find myself trying to figure out how to respond to extremely vague story pitches, such as:
Subscriber: You should interview my aunt.
Me: Oh, tell me about her!
Subscriber: She's old—87. Let me know if I you want her phone number.
I'm married to an I.T. guy, and long ago learned from him some basic trouble-shooting protocols, mainly as a first line of defense for when my parents call, screaming, "I lost...the thing! You know, the...internet? It's gone! Do I need a new computer?" Mostly I impart such pearls of wisdom as, "Try restarting it," and nine times out of ten, it keeps us from having to bother Brian.
But I am definitely not skilled in newsletter teching, nor credit card processing. Also, I do not need another non-paying job. I'm already juggling too many low-paying gigs, in general, and, more importantly for a tired person recovering from mononucleosis.
Here's where I switch to A Serious Tone and tell you that I am still struggling to recover my energy. It's been a little over three months since I first got sick, and while I'm generally moving in the right direction, in between good days there are some very bad days when I can barely function. And even on good days, there are moments when all my energy suddenly drains right out of me and I feel like I'm going to pass out, and I have to lie down for two hours.
The past weekend I had some really bad moments where I wasn't only exhausted, I started to feel the beginning of a headache, and the lymph glands in my neck and the back of my head were pulsating. It scared the shit out of me, because headaches and swollen glands were a big part of my acute phase. It made me realize I've over-estimated my level of recovery, and jumped into gig-procurement (and..."magazine" launch-ment?) too quickly and wholeheartedly.
It prompted me to cancel two weekend workshops I was scheduled to lead at Catapult—workshops I love leading, but which are basically twelve-hour marathons over two days, which require levels of energy, attention, and "space holding" for other people's trauma that I don't have the capacity for right now. It's one of my favorite things to do—geek out over long-form essay writing with passionate, talented essay-writers—but it's also some of the most demanding work I do, and I feared that engaging in it this weekend could cause me to relapse. I canceled the November session, too, because that one had already been rescheduled from August, and I have found my recovery to be unpredictable.
Or maybe it's more predictable than I'd like to acknowledge. I saw an infectious disease doctor a couple of weeks ago who told me it's normal to experience mono-related fatigue in varying degrees for up to six months after initially getting sick, and in some cases more like nine months, particularly for patients of my advanced age. Ugh. I'd better find some more patience for this nonsense. But it's not that simple; I can't afford to not to work.
This whole experience has forced me to confront how inefficient my approach to work has been. Because of the increasingly feast-or-famine nature of freelancing, and because I have never had much financial stability, I'm always juggling as many gigs as I can anxiously obtain until I get severely ill—like I just did, and have many times before. Then I'm unable to work for long stretches of time, which sets me back money-wise, and as soon as I'm over mono, or shingles, or pneumonia, or whichever sickness I've contracted, I'm back to my own little rat race.
I'm not any more sure of how to fix this than I am how to fix computers. But I will be working on an application for a particular job-job this weekend. I could use some stability, especially as I shift, officially, into my latter fifties, a little over a week from now. (I'll be 56! Holy shit.) Wish me luck.
In other news, I recently got to do some other cool things for Catapult, namely edit a piece by a writer I’ve enjoyed working with before, and conduct an interview with a writer whose tweets about writing despair have always spoken to me.