Last month I wrote about a solo, Saturday night trip into NYC to see a concert. I was tired, the weather was cold and rainy, and it would have been easier not to go. But I’ve been trying to follow the mantra to do it anyway (most of the time at least). If I’ve planned something fun in my life, then I need to remind the experiencing self that the remembering self deserves some consideration too. I may be tired, but I draw energy from enjoyable things. I went to the concert and the rain and fatigue are now just mist in the rear view mirror. I remember the concert quite fondly.
This past Friday, I made a similar decision. I serve on the board for a student journalist association at Princeton that I was a part of years ago. We had a meeting Friday night in NYC, followed by a party to send off the retiring board chairman.
The train ride to NYC from PHL was fine, but when I stepped out into Penn Station, I was immediately woozy. It has been frustrating to watch my body seem to break down these last few weeks of pregnancy, and New York is not set up for people with physical challenges. People are very nice, of course. I was immediately given a seat on every crowded subway car I got on, but that doesn’t change that I had to transfer twice, and walk almost a mile while carrying my heavy computer bag as part of the transfers to get from Penn Station to the meeting in midtown east (why didn’t I take a cab? The cab stand line was huge at rush hour, and I often get nauseous in stop-and-go traffic. It was a tough call). As I took the elevator up to the meeting, I was definitely thinking that I should have just called in instead.
But the party after was great fun — a gathering of various Princeton journalists who graduated in various decades. There was a certain amount of old school reminiscing about the halcyon days of newspapers past, when the New York Times would call up one of their stringers on campus to get a quick sports story, and the young reporter would phone it in (how do you think people filed correspondence stories?). Later, stringers would use one of the new-for-the-time terminals a few news outlets installed in the club’s headquarters. Such was the demand for stories to fill volumes of newspaper pages that a student there for the summer might invent multiple pen names to file stories for a dozen different loops. People once paid their Princeton tuition by freelancing.
It’s safe to say no students are doing that now, given college tuition inflation and the complete lack of inflation in writing rates (places that paid a dollar a word in the 1960s often pay $1-2/word now — seriously). We talked a lot about the direction the industry is going. I was heartened to hear one editor-in-chief of a major magazine say he was hiring (he was directed to go tell the undergrads at the party this news) but the problem, of course, is that he wants really good young journalists, and journalism doesn’t pay what a bright and energetic Ivy League grad can often command elsewhere. It has to be more of a calling.
The trip home, like the trip in, was horrible. My cab went so, so slow down to Penn Station and I had to argue with the driver to let me out at 34th and 8th. The door isn’t right there; he didn’t want to let the immensely pregnant woman out a block from her destination, but I knew that circling the building to the street door at 32nd and 7th might make me miss my train. I ran in, only to find my train was just being announced as delayed. I didn’t get home until 12:45 a.m. But these sorts of conversations at the party are ones you need to be there for in person. They provide me a reminder of why I like the field I’m in, and my connection to these institutions with their own long histories. Saturday was tiring given that the kids still require much of my limited energy too. We went swimming at the Y for an hour, and PFD-free time is not relaxing with my daughter who is physically fearless, and wants to practice swimming, but can’t actually swim. But I would have been tired anyway, and it was good to touch base with my professional identity as I’m about to spend the next few months tilting far toward the personal side of the ledger.
In other news: I’m finishing up edits on the manuscript of I Know How She Does It (cover reveal coming later this week!) Part of the book publication process involves getting well-known, well-respected people to “blurb” the book (that is, say nice things about it on the jacket). I welcome ideas of people to approach. You can always email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.