institute for documentary studies

{Week 1: Writing}

Week 1: Writing


Before I was birthed, for the second time, into the “real world” of post-graduate life, I had a series of informational interviews with alumnae from my college. They had all established a career in media; working at the news desk at The New York Times, producing a morning radio show for NPR, freelancing for The New Yorker. I wanted to know how they left their extra-long dorm mattresses behind and became full-fledged, successful adults. Despite their busy schedules, they were kind enough to sit down with me as I delivered a monologue on my fear of the unknown, and read from a laundry list of fears and anxieties. They nodded with empathy and uttered sounds of understanding. Mhmm. They knew. They had been through it ten years ago, too. The economy was better back then, but the feelings were the same.

“You just have to give it your all” one of them said, stirring cream into her coffee. “Don’t give up”, said another. Woven within their aphorisms were bits of concrete and invaluable advice. Write networking emails. Send thank-you notes. Go to Salt.

Unsure if they were talking about the seasoning, and too afraid to ask for clarity, I went home and researched Salt. At the time, I was mired neck-deep in my thesis and on the cusp of celebrating my freedom from academia, but I was already planning the time when I would study at Salt.

After saying goodbye to New York, weaving through the thick traffic of Bangkok on a motorcycle taxi, putting the chickens to bed on a farm in Nebraska, sanitizing chew toys at a preschool, inputting ISBN numbers into an excel sheet at a publishing house, I arrived in Portland.

One week in, and I already know it was the best decision I’ve made since graduating.  I didn’t realize how much I missed that beloved mix of exhaustion and excitement, when you are learning so much your brain hurts before bed. I cannot walk down the street without reflecting on an article we read in class, or pass by a man feeding stale baguettes to pigeons without wanting to ask him about his story. Did he let the bread go stale on purpose? Does he come here every day? Why is he smiling?