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Standing at the Career Crossroads

Once I made the decision to return to work, I had to figure out what direction to take. I just assumed I would go back into journalism. With a background in newspapers and magazines, who else would have me?

To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea. In all my journalism jobs, I never made more than $20, maybe $22 an hour.

I distinctly remember being a young reporter and borrowing my parents’ car to make the commute. It was a VW Vanagon, so naturally it broke down and needed a new transmission, which I couldn’t afford.

I approached my boss and explained the situation. How was I supposed to do my job without a car? How could I repair the car on my paltry salary?

“Maybe borrow money from your parents?” he suggested helpfully.

“Shouldn’t I be able to afford these things on my own?” I countered. "I mean, I am an adult with a college degree."

To this, he shrugged his shoulders.

I had to give up the job.

Suddenly, my college dream of saving the world through investigative journalism met the harshness of reality. The truth was, I would never make money at journalism.

As a single gal in the big city, I struggled to accept this. I learned to LOVE a dinner of perfectly cooked rice, jazzing it up with spices and a little butter. At the market, I’d mull whether to get a six-pack of beer or a substantial meal. The beer won. I borrowed money from parents and friends. It felt almost normal.

My one small victory, the one thing that made me feel like an adult, was when I got my very own apartment. Fed up with roommates, I settled into a tiny studio in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. My neighbors were tenants leftover from when the building was a heroin whorehouse. It was loud, crazy – definitely entertaining – and it was all mine.

When I got married and became pregnant with our first child, my husband suggested I be a stay-at-home mom. I jumped at the chance. It was bliss not working for “the man.” A few years later I decided to go back to work and got my dream job. I adored the work, but the pay was terrible. With no hope of a raise. Ever.

“Well, we do it because we love it, right?” my colleague said cheerily. I resigned myself to fate and kept my head down. After the birth of my third child, I took time off again. I wouldn't be able to afford the child care anyway.

Then 2020 hit. As the year slowly, painfully marched on, it became clear that we needed extra income. Something had to give.

“I could, uh, go back to work?” I suggested to my husband. Quite frankly, I had grown a little too comfortable being a stay-at-home mom. I was curious about using my brain for something other than meal prep.

Dutifully, I started scrolling through job boards. There were very few journalism jobs. When I did see a job, I doubted my ability to even get an interview. Why the hell would anyone give a job to me, a lazy mom who finally decided to roll her ass off the couch?

I started to panic, feeling the pressure of our shrinking income. I felt very alone and powerless.

Late one night, in desperation, I fired off a post on an old Yahoo Groups I belonged to for working moms: "What other jobs are suited for my journalism skills?"

To my surprise, I got several responses, basically saying, "Uh, yeah, you moron. It's called content writing." One person even offered me work right then and there, which I modestly turned down. Like an idiot!

It was a revelation. Oh yeah, marketing!!

And just like that, a door opened.

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