Ode to future employers

Recently, there was a job I really wanted, that I was a finalist for. It was between me and one other girl from my graduate program for one of three positions offered by this company to students in my grad program. Each position had two candidates.

I certainly put my best foot forward in the first interview, which was in person with three of their employees. I was only a little ruffled by nerves, but spoke and represented myself to the best of my ability. And then my competitor for the position accepted a job at another organization, a very prestigious one. And then there was me.

Whereas I’m usually quite charismatic, articulate and intelligent during interviews (which are usually no big deal), I somehow lost all my bearings during the second interview for this highly coveted position. My mind blanked and I was left struggling for the duration of the 30-minute phone interview. I must have reeked of social awkwardness and desperation.

Then I learned that the company offered the position to a candidate who had originally been up for one of the other positions. Man, the interviewer must have really disliked me for that to happen, as an entire committee of professors at USC had determined that I was one of the best candidates for the position I was up for.

After that fated interview, I was left reeling and wondering why on earth lightning had struck and left me a bumbling fool. And I realized why.

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I lose myself when I pin all my hopes and dreams to one company, as though it’s going to solve all my problems and define my self-worth. This type of mentality is kryptonite, no matter the object of your affections. It has never served me well. I am not able to communicate or connect with others effectively when my sense of self is compromised.

In having these realizations, I felt stronger, more clear-headed and graceful than ever in an interview with another potential employer a couple days after learning the news about the lost opportunity. I am more confident in how I performed in this interview than in any that I have ever had.

Moral of the story: Nobody and nothing is worth losing YOU over. And it won’t pay off in the end, anyhow!

Eureka! How to develop story ideas

I once struggled and writhed in agony over where story ideas come from. Anyone can learn how to interview, report, and structure a piece. But where does the premise for that story come from? That guiding light that takes you on a journey through people and places?

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Eventually, I realized it’s not a matter of sitting at your desk and conjuring brilliance out of thin air. It’s about immersing yourself in the real world, getting out in the field, meeting people, and making calls.

You’ve got to position yourself wisely for those moments of discovery.

In a way, developing story ideas is much like how to get startup ideas (as stated in this brilliant read by venture capitalist Paul Graham), in that it can result from a series of hunches and “sparks” that coalesce over time.

Krewella read my blog post about them and tweeted at me :)

It gives me great gratification in knowing that the subject of my previous blog post actually took the time to read what I had written and gave a shout out to me expressing their appreciation. 🙂

I got the Twitter notification on my phone yesterday evening while checking out an apartment with a girlfriend, and literally screamed on the stairwell and started shedding tears. I also bragged about it on Facebook, garnering a multitude of “likes.”

I’m so happy I was able to personally get in touch with Jahan of Krewella. It’s crazy that for several minutes of her life, she was occupied by words I had written and immersed in my mind. I have actually touched her! SO COOL.

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Homage to the ladies who inspired me to follow my dreams – Krewella

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Krewella at EZOO 2012 by Dylan O’Dowd/CC BY-ND 2.0

A lot of us have a celebrity, or a group of celebrities who run together, whom they totally idolize.

I never really felt that sort of passion and sense of loyalty to an entertainment public figure before until I really discovered Krewella… no like REALLY discovered Krewella.

It was one night in 2014, driving home from Exchange LA nightclub in downtown LA, when my friend began blasting their song Party Monster.

The song was really revving me up and craving that energy again, I blasted it through my headphones the next day at work.

From there, I fell down a rabbit hole of Krewella tunes, including but not limited to: Enjoy the Ride, Come & Get It, Live for the Night, Killin’ It, Can’t Control Myself, and Play Hard, as well as their various remixes.

Krewella had been on my radar as an EDM trio (now duo – hasta la vista Kris Trindl) when their hit Alive burst onto the radio in I believe it was 2012.

But I don’t think they had ever really gotten under my skin until fairly recently.

Krewella’s music resonates with me as it’s sort of hard and edgy, exploding with energy, and catchy – what I believe they have called their own twist on pop music.

To me, it’s what a strong woman sounds like.

I feel that their sound is sort of a musical expression of how I approach my life — in a “go hard or go home” type of manner.

I carry out what I intend to do with a fierce sense of conviction, while having a lot of fun at the same time.

I am definitely told that I can be intense, full of energy, very bubbly, and very opinionated.

Like many of us do when someone or something begins to intrigue us, I performed a Google search, learning about Krewella’s background — two sisters and their friend who grew up in Chicago.

They eventually made a pact to give up school and their day jobs to devote full time to Krewella, sporting matching tattoos to commemorate the date this life change officially took place.

The tipping point they have described intrigued me, as I felt I could relate, on the verge of embarking upon a rather risky career path without much financial reward for most people and a great decline in security within the industry.

Jahan has delved into Krewella’s road to success via her personal blog, Words of Mass Destruction.

Fuck showers. Fuck sleep. Fuck food. Fuck manicures, fashion, and friends. Let the stale sweat marinate in your pants day after day, and don’t you dare change them for you will lose sight of the creative zone you have been in for a week straight. Every day the bare skeleton of a song slowly morphs into what will hopefully be a fully fleshed beast. And when the weekend comes, it’s time to take a step back, fly away, and play a show on the opposite coast. I’d add to the list and say ‘fuck money,’ but every dollar earned at the show is poured right back into the development of our project, Krewella. Kris, my sister Yasmine, and I are passionate slaves to the entity we created ourselves almost seven years ago in our parents’ basements in Chicago. We have completely surrendered our lives to Krewella by dropping out of school, quitting our jobs, neglecting our family and friends, and replacing leisure time with moments to pursue our master plan of becoming artists that touch listeners on a global scale. This is what it means to live, eat, breathe, and dream music.

In my previous blog post, I discussed feeling in limbo in regards to the direction of my career, with something eventually pushing me “over the edge, to a firm belief that life isn’t worth living unless you pursue your dreams.”

It was my exposure to Krewella, during which I was thrust into their shoes and viscerally felt the thrill that accompanies achieving and living one’s dream, manifesting one’s calling.

At that point, there was no turning back.

That’s what Krewella represents to me: a commitment to what you feel you’re meant to do.

Perhaps you could say that there are plenty of hard-working artists and public figures who represent the same thing.

However, in the case of Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf, their personhood is also very real and raw to me.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to imagine a public figure as having had a normal life like yourself out of the spotlight, before they achieved notability. It’s like trying to imagine your parents as children… before your existence had ever been a part of their consciousness.

I feel as though I can relate to Jahan and Yasmine on many personal levels — through their humble hearts, down-to-earth nature, fun-loving spirits, passion and conviction for their craft, and intellect.

Around the time I was discovering Krewella, news of Kris Trindl’s exit from the group began to make headlines… during which I felt fiercely protective of the sisters while reading through the vile sexist and hateful messages lobbed at them online.

Jahan was right on point when she recognized the sexism, intolerance, and bullying — the bigger picture social issues — reflected in the Internet’s reaction to this development.

She wrote a compelling op-ed titled Deadmau5 Saved Me From Going Into Porn, for Billboard, calling out all the haters.

(These paragraphs are not in order)

Both genders suffer inequalities and neither is more important to me than the other, but what I am most knowledgeable about is my first-hand experience of how I am talked about as a woman in the media. I do think it’s worth mentioning that Kris was often overshadowed due to the presence of two females. Despite our efforts to give him more spotlight, Kris checked out. We couldn’t continue forcing his presence in Krewella, as his decision to disassociate himself from the group and self-admitted addiction became out of our control, and I believe this happened because he subconsciously internalized this lack of attention from fans. However, there seemed to be heightened support for Kris after the lawsuit was filed. The disturbing part is that the growth in praise and attention we always wanted for Kris came with the demonization of Yasmine and me. Kris’ lawsuit rallied up thousands of fans to show an immense amount of support for him by sharing their mistrust of women and blatant derogatory assumptions about women (i.e.: “the girls didn’t do anything except use their sex to sell the group”…”this is why you should never go into business with a woman”…”they are just puppets for the genius who did all the work”). We were told to burn in hell and suck Kris’ dick.

I am asking for everyone to think about the impact this unwelcoming online environment has on our youth wanting success, respect and acceptance. Isn’t that what we all want? I am asking for everyone to think about girls who are looking at this public reaction who might now be discouraged to pursue an authentic place in a male-dominated industry. I am asking you to think about boys who internalize messages that vulnerability, sensitivity and standing up for gender equality means they are a pussy. This is for boys and girls, parents and children, straights and gays, because social rejection affects ALL of us. And if you think I am bringing up societal problems of the past or blowing this out of proportion, then you are living in a fantasy world where sexism, discrimination and homophobia don’t exist. I ask that you step outside your little bubble — or do your research — and understand that a huge portion of our youth’s depression, self-destructiveness and cognitive behavioral disorders are a result of societal rejection and shaming that occurs on the internet.

This sickens me, because the way we participate in Internet dialogue mirrors our attitude as a society. And what I see in that reflection is an immense amount of hatred and intolerance for one another. It’s time to smash the fuckin’ mirror. I have been silent for too long. I am relapsing after avoiding social media to share what I have learned and to encourage people to challenge and question what they read/hear/see from now on, and that goes for situations beyond our case, whether it’s politics or celebrity gossip. The sad part is that it is 2014, and people are still passively reading headlines for face value, parroting the words of celebrities, and jumping on the bandwagon of popular opinion. I don’t see enough people challenging the intolerance that deadmau5 preaches to his 3 million followers, researching beyond the headlines they read, or protesting against the derogatory dialogue that circulates on social networks.

I have always been very invested in and interested in the fight for gender equality and recognizing and banishing sexist — and for that matter racist and intolerant —practices and thoughts.

The fact that Jahan and Yasmine are part Paki and women in a male dominant industry is definitely poignant to me.

I feel that Jahan responded to the controversy in the most constructive and selfless manner possible and I applaud her for it.

I feel that a lot of celebrities have talent but seem to lack substance. Their interviews don’t say much in terms of adding value to other people’s lives. They are simply there for your entertainment.

Stars like Jahan and Taylor Swift — my second favorite entertainment public figure — make an impact with their words, exhibiting deep power of intellect.

However, Taylor’s musical style is a bit too mellow and light-hearted sonically for me. While a strong woman and amazing role model, she’s a bit too much of a lady, ha.

I view myself as more of a tomboy… like Jahan and Yasmine. I think I need more of a bad girl who’s a little rough around the edges. 😉

2

When it starts to feel like your dreams really are coming true

I am about to quit my job before jetting off to Alaska followed by Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for vacation – for a dose of the untamed wilderness followed by sunbathing in an exotic locale.

After a month unconcerned by work or following a rigid schedule, I’ll be hitting the books or rather, newsroom, for a 9-month master’s program in journalism at the University of Southern California.

Attending graduate school was a decision that I flip-flopped on many times in the last few years, oftentimes resolving to go for it when at my most lost or confused.

With the expert training, resources, and network, it seemed like a sure springboard to my dream career… at a very steep price.

Being economically mindful and knowing other routes could deliver me to the same end result, I could not justify spending the money and amassing debt to haunt me for decades to come.

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Anchoring during class at CSULB

I chose a much cheaper alternative – enrolling in a TV news and production class at Cal State Long Beach as well as a TV news writing class through UCLA extension – costing me around $1500 total.

This year, I spent at least three months running around like a chicken with its head cut off, attempting to milk my classes for all they were worth, while balancing a full time job.

I felt gratified and encouraged by the portfolio that sprung from my efforts, which I intended to leverage in order to obtain an entry-level position or internship in TV news.

I had written off graduate school… until I got an offer I couldn’t pass up.

A bit late in the game, USC drastically upped its original scholarship offer to encompass the 36 units of tuition required to graduate, all fees including health insurance, along with a monthly stipend.

I was stunned when I got the e-mail and drove to work crying, feeling as though an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and mind-blown by how things had worked out.

It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

I have fantasized about graduate school — spending full time honing my skills in what I am most passionate about and taking full advantage of my education unlike my very lackadaisical approach to my undergraduate years.

The steep price caused me feelings of regret that I hadn’t figured things out earlier on, taking advantage of my time in college.

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University of Southern California by Connie Ma/CC BY-SA 2.0

I even mused — What if I had been born into a rich family, for whom financing a graduate education was no problem?

I don’t think that graduate school is an absolutely necessary step and I believe I would have accomplished my goals regardless.

It’s the experience that matters — I relish the opportunity to intensively hone my craft full time with a network of like-minded individuals and expert guidance.

However, there’s no denying furthering my education at USC is a solid stepping-stone in my efforts to evolve into a serious journalist capable in covering urban affairs, business, politics, and international affairs, etc.

I would ultimately like to report on issues of critical importance to Americans’ lives, committed to making the world a better place, especially for those on the margins of society.

Furthermore, I would like to serve as a correspondent and anchor in a visual medium.

My vision is a result of a period of intense soul searching, during which my career was in a state of limbo.

Financial security and stability were such strong desires of mine post-college, that I found career paths in finance or technology suddenly very attractive.

I felt suspended between the promise of a lucrative future that it seemed other career paths could offer versus what burned in my soul and ignited the spark in my being.

Something eventually pushed me over the edge, to a firm belief that life isn’t worth living unless you pursue your dreams — that I would rather die working in an office crunching numbers as opposed to following my calling.

While in a much much better place than two years ago (six months unemployed, on food stamps), I am grateful for the early struggles, as I developed a sort of humbleness through them that I feel is essential to happiness.

Realizations that superficial achievements do not make one person better than another and that they do not define who we are.

Life is not about what we achieve, but about living in the moment and soaking in its full essence, as every day is a gift and tomorrow/the future is never guaranteed.

What if the thing you love doesn’t make much money on average?

I started off this year thinking I was living my fantasy life.

I had just secured a full time position at a large media company, which actually boasts the highest trafficked newspaper website in the world.

My fantasy life involved living completely physically and financially independent of my parents in the city that I had fallen in love with during college (Los Angeles), and with enough disposable income to indulge more often in life’s hedonistic pleasures and purchase nice things for myself now and then.

My new job has afforded me all of this, whereas I was once supporting myself with rather meager unemployment checks and food stamps, while living under my parents’ roof.

Six months of unemployment (with a couple ephemeral positions held that didn’t work out) was spiritually crippling as I began to hate my own dream — as that of a journalist and media personality — and envy my friends who are engineers, nurses, pharmacists, financial analysts, etc.

I began to learn more about the suffering of my industry due to disruptive technological innovation — with companies going under, people losing their jobs, and the relatively low average earning potential. ON TOP of the poor economy, handicapping mellennials at the starts of their careers.

Due to my desire to prosper and flourish in the real world, I turned a suspicious eye upon the burning passion with which I had been pursuing journalism and honing my craft through internships and mountains of unpaid work in other passion projects over the last few years.

Perhaps that was naïve.

After all, living a fulfilling life, absolutely, if you ask me, requires taking care of your fundamental survival needs and experiencing what life has to offer outside of work — travel, concerts, theme parks, outings with friends and family… all of which is predicated on MONEY.

So beginning December 2013, I was suddenly making more money than I ever imagined I would at this point, and I was living and working in West LA five minutes from the beach (a far cry from the middle of nowhere, where I thought my next job would take me).

As a showbiz reporter, I cover entertainment and pop culture, though my job description does not involve venturing out into the field and conducting interviews so as to put forth my own original reporting. Instead, I sit in an office and rewrite others’ original works or base my writing on what I see in paparazzi photos.

The job has freed me from worrying about my basic survival needs. I have felt my self esteem rise significantly — no longer feeling like an outcast, like a child stunted in my growth.

And I am able to turn my attention toward loftier pursuits that are more fulfilling on a higher level.

What is my dream job? That is the question. Is the job I’ve always wanted — that of a correspondent in a visual medium — worth pursuing?

And the answer I think is probably no — unless I go about it in a manner that is creative, strategic, and aware.

I managed to restore my faith in my own dream through education and enlightenment about the changing my face of my industry and what’s being born from the ashes of the failing old business models.

People are building their own brands and rallying audiences by utilizing the tools that the Internet offers. Stars are being born through the means available to everyone.

Through the development of an entrepreneurial spirit, I feel realigned with my dream. Perhaps I can create my own leverage in order to distinguish myself.

Then again, if we’re just talking cold hard business sense and what makes the most sense economically, I probably wouldn’t be pursuing a career in this field.

Something else I certainly picked up on while holding down a stable job in an office for over a year, is that life isn’t really worth living unless you follow your dream, listen to your calling.

However, it was developing a sense of business savvy and an entrepreneurial spirit that has given me the courage to pursue that path, despite the odds.