Archive for the 'work' Category

trying to sit in the dry patch for more than one second

I am bad at the afterward.

A couple years ago, I went to pick up my Master’s diploma in the basement of one of the stately old buildings on Columbia’s main campus. I was graduating mid-year to save money. I had worked my ass off.  This is a crime against culture, and I know people will hate me for it, but it’s the truth: I had been in New York City for a year and I had only been to the Village once, in the pouring rain, to interview someone for thesis research. It seemed like a different city down there, and I had to go right back uptown and transcribe the interview and read three hundred pages and learn a different language so that I could prove that I was cultured.  I tremblingly defended my thesis and proficiently translated academic texts in the new language and then finally I stood in the basement of the elegant building and this guy with sparse reddish hair dug through stacks of diplomas as high as fortress walls, looking for mine. He gave me a cynical little smile when he handed it to me. I walked outside, took the cobblestone path to the memorial library steps and sat down for a minute to think about my accomplishment. But all I could think was, “Shit.” And then I thought, “Shit, what do I do now?”


(this is all i need, right? source)

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Kate on September 27th 2012 in fear, life, new york, Uncategorized, work, writing

still really young

For my whole life, I’ve been like, “Well, this sucks. I’ve pretty much amounted to nothing.” 

“Another year gone and I have accomplished nothing for the history books or even meritorious of a footnote.” (That’s me on my fifth birthday.)

Which is weird, because you can’t say that until you’re dying. And even then, you’re probably wrong.

I always feel like I’m too old. 

I think we live in a pushy world (and by we I mostly mean people with enough money to be in that demographic that is defined by its college attendance). I remember when kids were devastated because they didn’t get into an Ivy League college, back when we were 17. I remember when I was sixteen and this thirteen-year-old kid was flipping out at me, yelling, “I got a higher SAT score than you! I don’t even have to know your score to know mine was higher!” 

I don’t remember what I did to offend him. I hadn’t even taken the SAT yet.

And then you go to college and you graduate and you’re supposed to have this career. If you don’t then you’re lazy or a rebellious dreamer or being screwed by the economy and the New York Times will publish five thousand articles, one after the other, about your generation and how fascinatingly doomed and creative and spunky and immature you all are. And how you live in your childhood bedroom with pink bunny wallpaper on all four walls but you have this famous blog so it’s ok!

In the NYT, young people are often famous. This seems to make things better.

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Kate on August 1st 2012 in feminism, life, new york, work

why you should fail at things a lot

My little brother didn’t get a summer job he interviewed for. He really wanted it. He kicked butt in his cover letter, and he was at his best in the interview, too. Afterwards, he didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t know what to say. It’s a weird thing, when you’re like, “give me more responsibility. I want to work all day instead of being a kid,” and the world is like, “Too bad. You have to stay a kid.”

I was worried he’d blame himself.

I’d really wanted him to get the job, because I really didn’t want him to learn to stop trying. That’s what happens sometimes after you get turned down enough. You throw up your hands and you say, “Whatever!” and whatever you decide to do next after that “whatever” is usually not anything worth remembering. It usually involves a lot of TV shows that you’ve already seen and weren’t totally crazy about the first time but this time they feel a little more nuanced. Unless you have incredible fortitude of spirit, and honestly, I’m not even sure what that is. I may have just made it up.

I felt called to say something. The way that I feel called to write to A.O. Scott and tell him that his review of Snow White and the Huntsman was really, really wrong. She is not a feminist symbol. She barely even talks. But maybe even more than that. So I sat my brother down, the way I thought a good big sister would, and I said, “Um, so, I thought that—well, I wanted to talk to you about something,” in my confident, charismatic way. He looked at me blankly. I said, “I want to talk to you about failing.”

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Kate on July 11th 2012 in family, fear, life, uplifting, work, writing

i think i just did something brave

I sent my book in.

An agent asked to see some of it. I sent her as much as I’ve written. 138 pages.  But I have the rest of the plot. Most of it, anyway. I have it scribbled in about ten notebooks and worked over on my chalkboard and in thirty word docs in a folder on my computer. I have so many versions. I have so many things crossed out, so many failed ideas, so much to clarify. Most of the time, when I look at it, I think entirely new things. I have entirely new criticisms. I wonder suddenly if all of the characters have the wrong hair color. If the story is actually stupid. I can’t remember how I thought of it. Sometimes I stare at the words blankly, unable to see even a page into my book’s future.

It took me over two months to send her something. Not because I didn’t have it. But because I was afraid.

I was so afraid, I was paralyzed.

Not of rejection, but of the after.

After she rejects it, I thought, will I be able to keep writing?

I have been rejected many, many times. I mean, obviously. I’m a writer, and I send stuff out. Often, I don’t even get a note, I just never hear back. Often, it’s a form letter. At first, I would lose a day to each one. But it’s been almost two years since I started sending stuff out, and now I glance at it and get back to work. Sometimes I even laugh, a hard, bitter, laugh, to myself. I laugh sardonically at the absurdity of it all and pour myself a cup of coffee and drink it black. I roll a cigarette and smoke it thoughtfully, squinting into the glare of the anonymous city.


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Kate on June 1st 2012 in work, writing

why you should take a class just for fun even in a world with no jobs left

There are all these lists of college subjects you might have foolishly majored in that will eventually lead to your starvation in a gutter. The ten majors that will cause you to starve the fastest!

There are all these lists of things you can do wrong, by accident, just because you thought it sounded interesting, that will end up ruining your career prospects and your life and probably your chance at ever seeming sexy.

There is also a very short list with the three majors that will result in happiness. Or at least enough food to keep you alive.

That list never contains my major. But at the time, I really thought I was being practical. I was going to be a professor, after all. 

(Ha! I can’t remember anything! How was I going to be a professor? You need to know FACTS for that)

Actually, by the time I got to grad school, I was so focused that I only took one class that had nothing to do with what I was studying. And that was the class that changed my life. 

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Kate on May 29th 2012 in family, life, work, writing

you big softy

Bear snuggled against me, wrapping his arms around me. “I love how soft you are,” he said.

This is one of two compliments I get from him on a daily basis. The other is, “I love how warm you are.”

I know they are serious compliments because of the tone.

I used to make fun of him. “So, basically, you love the fact that I’m not dead?” I’d say, when he talked about my warmth. “That makes me feel so special. I’m so unique!”

When he said, “You’re so soft…” I’d feel uncomfortable for a hint of a second. “Softer now than I used to be,” I’d say, wondering if maybe he was thinking that too. I’d make a poorly structured joke about my thighs.

It has not been easy for me to be soft. To get soft, and to admit how soft I already was.


I remember, in college, this guy I was dating kept saying, “You definitely work out,” in this admiring way, looking my body up and down.

“Nope!” I said, proud.

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Kate on May 24th 2012 in beauty, body, exercise, life, weight, work

what are the other things you do that make you who you are?

I am a writer now, but when I was a little girl, I thought I would grow up to be a painter. After all, I painted nearly every day. And when I wasn’t painting, I was drawing. Mostly princesses. Sometimes their stepsisters, who always turned out not to be evil in the stories in my head. The princesses also always had brown hair. That was important.

Sometimes I drew cats, because I secretly wished that I was part cat, or at least would end up being able to communicate with cats psychically (at eight or so, I finally had to admit that I still couldn’t understand cat thoughts, but to this day, I have dreams with cats in them more than I think the ordinary person does, soo…just sayin’).

I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pastel, and I didn’t stop until I was maybe seventeen.

When I was fifteen, I put a bunch of my canvasses in an enormous plastic carry-case and went to New York City, to an art school fair at Pratt, where schools had set up booths and for the first few minutes, it seemed like I was the only person there not wearing black.

“You are really talented,” I was told by several schools. “But you’re too young. Why are you here?” 

I was there because I painted all the time.

(rejection makes me feel like this)

It’s been almost a year since I last played keyboard. My senior year of college, I played nearly every day. I had a beat up, sized down silver keyboard on a stand, and I wrote music constantly. Song after song about the parking lot that my dorm room looked over, and what it might symbolize about life. Song after song about the guy who acted like he liked me back and then seemed to change his mind. Occasionally I wrote about both things at the same time:

“All the cars in the parking lot are waiting, waiting, but they play it cool/ I know, I know exactly what I want/ but there are so many rules…”

See what I did there? It’s like I’m the cars! I’m so clever. So very clever.

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Kate on May 21st 2012 in life, uplifting, work, writing