After being in the classroom for a year, I’ve realized my passion for education and working with teenagers, and yet - my desire for this particular reality took a long time for me to reach.
On this road to discovery, I had many (many) terrible/terribly interesting jobs that held my attention for a while before extinguishing all of the fire I had within me. When you do a job you're not passionate about, your sense of purpose and meaning falters, and the brain starts to spiral downward at a rapid rate.
Retail did this. The food industry did this. Being a barista did this. So many things did this.
And yet, it’s all of these work experiences that have given me a greater understanding of a teenagers struggle to find purpose in the world and, for the most part, their ears are open to my perspective because I can relate to their ‘first job’ struggles and the pressure to find their purpose at the tender age of 17.
Now, I don’t want to write about teaching here - I want to write about writing.
Since I can remember, I’ve kept a journal. I would write and write and write for hours. To start, I’d write about my day because at 8 that was all I could grasp. Each evening I’d sit in be with my notebook propped up on my knees and write about the adventures of my youth. Eating candy, playing basketball, sleepovers, eating pizza, how much my sister sucked and then how much I loved her. All very surface level. Then I hit those deadly teenage years and my daily summaries turned into an analytical party of interactions and emotions. I was never satisfied. I turned in on myself and explored all of the dark corners of my mind, ripping bandages off of insults and determining that everyone else’s opinions about me were indeed fact. Then in university, my writing took another turn to being too critical and analytical of thing outs of my control and I often questioned my purpose. Every entry would reference at some point my insecurity with myself, the future, the meaning of existence, and the heart wrenching, gut stabbing realities of love, and perhaps that I might not ever live the life I intended: meaning, would I ever get paid to do something I loved?
To be honest, there wasn’t much positivity in my writing, but the act itself was therapeutic and it was for me. Only me. It wasn’t until this writing platform that I developed any sense of confidence in my own words. I loved to write, but the thought of someone reading anything was horrifying. Much like art, I’d think about how much others would judge me and I’d strip the joy from my writing process by comparing myself to others. What a wretched mistake. Academia definitely played a role in this process as it tends to tear down one’s confidence in writing, especially if you’re studying English beyond undergrad. But that is a tale for another time.
Then came the job that would swiftly adjust my distorted perspective on my ability to string together sentences: ghostwriting.
And not just any ghost writer. A fashion writer for what people now call ‘social media influencers’ and boy was my influencer a big deal. Her following continues to grow every single day around the world and sometimes I feel as though my two years of writing for her never happened. I watch teenagers scroll through Instagram and they will come across her and comment on her clothes, her lifestyle, her beauty, and all the things they envy, and yet, I know the other side of this screen. I was there, in her office just outside of Amsterdam, and I would write for her.
You know all of those blogs you follow of people you find inspiring? Well, when they are a big enough presence in the world, they don’t have time to write out their own thoughts, and so suddenly my skills become a necessity because I can write as though I’m them and then push those words out to the world.
Every single time a post ‘went live’ I was horrified because I knew how many people would be reading it (millions) but then I would calm down because no one had any idea it was me. Crazy, right? All of these people around the world reading my words, leaving comments, telling this influencer how inspiring she is, and I’m the one writing it. Now, to her credit, she would leave me detailed voicemails everyday on what to include in each post, but it wasn’t simple to write as though I were someone else, especially if this other person’s first language isn’t English. Suddenly, I’m cautious of my word choices and how I’m expressing ideas. But how many different ways can I describe a cool outfit without using the word cool? THIS IS NO EASY FEAT!
I actually learned so much from my time working with her in the Netherlands. Sitting in her office with the rest of the team, developing ‘content’ and planning out photoshoots for the upcoming weeks, there was an element of glamour to it! I actually loved that I was the one writing these things and that I was given the opportunity to write up interviews and articles about her for magazines and other online publications. I mean, my words have been published in a handful of languages around the world! In print! Think of fashion at the most elite level - and my words were there interacting with these publishers and brands - And yet, my name is on none of it.
This fact started to eat away at me.
I was a published writer and millions of people were reading my words - but no one knew it was me.
Eventually, I started to crack down and turn in on myself. There I was, making someone else’s dreams come true, and I felt neglected, like I got no credit at all. And honestly, it is no one’s fault but my own. I never said anything. I lacked confidence in myself and had no idea how to confront my boss about my position.
All of that writing, all of that time spent on building the dreams of another confident, hardworking woman…
I realized something in those months in the Netherlands and then in the subsequent time back in Canada when I continued to write for her. I learned that I wanted to have my voice heard and that it was worth hearing. I learned that I was allowed to dream as big as she did and that I too could reach my potential as an artist and writer. If anything, having all of those strangers respond positively to my words gave me the confidence I so desperately needed to press publish on my own ideas.
I no longer fear how my writing will be interpreted by a stranger, or a loved one for that matter. That job gave me something that I did not necessarily know at the time and I am forever grateful to my peers that I worked with there, especially Negin. I hope she reads this someday and knows how thankful I am for the opportunity she gave me when I was an insecure Canadian on the other side of the world, away from my family, and desperately seeking a place where I belonged. I know that I let my sadness get to me when I was there, but she still tolerated my moods and trusted my talent, and no one can put a price on that unwavering trust.
So Negin Mirsalehi, if you ever read this - thank you. Thank you for motivating me to take direct action and to have more faith in myself. You gave me the tools I needed in a time that I was so reluctant to accept them. Thank you, for letting me be a part of your world, if only for a short period of time.