5.12.2016

No Is For Wimps

One day when I was a sophomore in college, my friends Russ and Matt came by my dorm room. I was an editor on the weekly paper back then, a goal I was proud of achieving after running my high school newspaper. Russ and Matt had printed out an interview with Dave Eggers and were in my room to make a pitch.

Quit the weekly paper, they said. We want to start an online paper at Muhlenberg. We want you to help run it. Read the addendum of this interview with Eggers and see what inspires us (http://www.armchairnews.com/freelance/eggers.html).

I did not do things like quit established resume-builders and go rogue. I was a good kid who got good grades and made my parents proud.

But for some reason it really got me. Go read that interview, or at least the addendum starting with "Did I wonder if people would think we were selling out, that we were not fulfilling the mission they had assumed we had committed ourselves to?" (Just search the page for it and read from there.)

So I quit the weekly paper and joined what we called The Advocate. And for the rest of my college time, we ran a ragtag bunch of secret underground cool people who wanted to write about things they cared about, not the newest swipe system in the cafeteria. It changed my life. Our mascot was a combination of a puma and a mule (Muhlenberg mules), we printed tee-shirts and rode on Homecoming floats and we had a blast.

My entry into tech was similar. I saw my friend Andy at a Muhlenberg happy hour and told him my job was killing my brain. He said "you're smart, you should apply to work where I work, a company called Arc90," so I wrote a cover letter for a job that didn't exist and said I wanted to make the company into a community. The partners interviewed me and said we'll be honest, we like you but we don't know what you'd do here. I said me neither but someone invited me in for an interview.

I was hired to write copy for a product website, the product that my future husband had just invented in his apartment. And I was there for a good chunk of years. In my later years I felt echoes of The Advocate, helping some dudes run something that wasn't really my specialty, but feeling like the glue that held certain aspects together.

For a few years after college I ran an online lit mag called No Is For Wimps because I missed The Advocate. I named it NIFW after a line in that Eggers piece and it was a difficult but satisfying as hell little project to run on the side. 

No Is For Wimps, the words and the creative history of it, is something I think about now. I wanted to make it a brick and mortar one day, a bookstore/coffee shop/event space where people could do brave things together. Now I see that Plucky, my latest foray into brave personal start-ups, is the current incarnation of NIFW.

I can't see exactly where I'm headed, but guys? I am so grateful to be alive and keep iterating.

Now go read that Eggers piece and try not to be inspired as hell.

1 comment:

Dana said...

Jen. Friend. I read your posts and I'm at a loss for words... you know how impossible that sounds, right? I don't lose words... ever. I love what you just wrote here, and I hope you realize how inspiring you are to everyone around you. Anyway, hopefully I'll find better words to say to you IN PERSON the next time I see you. But wow, girlfriend. Just wow.