How did I get here?
by Shelby Newallis 3 months ago

I’ve always been a word person. Maybe, it’s because from an early age, my parents would read me stories, expose me to satirical comedy and encourage hours on end of silly Mad Libs. Fortunately, all that, combined with a handful of extraordinary English teachers from grades 8 -11, gave me the confidence I needed to try my hand at attempting to create the stories I so enjoyed. This resulted in a poetry contest submission, some alternative, yet formulaic college admission essays and a half-finished screenplay, all before 18. Though, I liked writing, and felt like maybe I was even good at it, I was still intimidated by the word “writer”. Especially, at the college level, since I had never written for a real publication. 

I grew tired of academic writing after Fall Quarter, so, I decided to bite the bullet and submit a sample piece for my campus newspaper’s Lifestyle section. I wrote about what I liked — food and Italian culture. It was a wannabe restaurant review of an Italian place that I had recently tried with my family. I emulated styles that I had seen in past LA or NY Times restaurant reviews, going into great detail about the lemon-basil cream sauce that made the handmade ravioli taste like they were from another planet. 

When the Lifestyle Editor called me in for an interview, she asked me where I got my inspiration to write, and I said with a naive confidence, “Well, I’ve always kind of wanted to be Carrie from Sex and the City, but like with the comedy of Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling.” She chuckled in a oh-honey-you’ve-got-a lot-to-learn kind of way, and gave me the job as a Contributing Writer. I’m not gonna lie, that title made me feel 2 Legit 2 Quit. I was a proud low-man on the totem pole, working my way up to Staff Writer, Editorial Assistant and eventually Columnist. 

I had done it! Finally, I was my own version of Carrie Bradshaw, minus Mr. Big, the Manhattan apartment and ok, I was really nothing like her....except we both had our own column. While Carrie’s was about love and sex, mine was about love and/of pasta. Writing about my year in Italy in a column for thousands of people to read (or ignore), weirdly helped me to process everything that was changing in my life. From publicizing the fact that I pretty much no idea what I was doing, most of the time, I felt like I was able to not only open my mind to the infinite cultural differences and nuances that one experiences as a fresh face in a foreign land. I was also, able to connect with readers and influence opinions about travel and culture; which was and is still, my reason for sharing my work publicly. 

When I returned from study abroad, I wrote about reverse culture shock and the weird sensation of leaving the college bubble to enter the workforce. My writing was evolving as I was, not always for the better or worse, it’s just the reality of moving on. And it still is…

Fast forward to now, just a little over a year since college graduation, and I’m still trying to figure out how writing fits into my life. As a twenty-something Substitute Teacher and Editor-in-Chief of the E-Zine, High Faluter, my life is not what I anticipated as that naive little freshman writing a restaurant review. It’s not what my naive little college senior-self anticipated either. What I’ve learned from working, meeting people from diverse backgrounds and life after graduation, is that balancing act of life is much like writing. You write something you like, and you’re happy with it for a while, then, you get tired of it and change it over and over again. The trick is to never lose the insight and respect for the deleted paragraphs and old drafts, because it’s those first scribbles that give character to the final, more polished pieces.

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