The Portland Phoenix

Miserable & Magical: Today is never too late to be brand new

When the Phoenix asked if I would write a biweekly column, I was told the paper wanted a younger voice on its pages. Little did the editors know, I recently went to bed at 8:45 p.m. and the first thing I do when I get home from work each day is put on my PJs. 

The internet tells me this is normal for a stressed-out millennial, who, after several years of working 9 to 5, still hasn’t adjusted to being an adult. #selfcare

But I was so excited to have my own column. It sounded very Carrie Bradshaw. Then I was told I needed a name for it and despair set in. I’m not good at coming up with headlines and titles. So, as I often do, I turned to my surrogate big sister/best friend/therapist: Taylor Swift. 

I’ve somehow gotten away with using her lyrics in the past, so I’m giving it a go again.

In case you, like the voters of the Recording Academy in 2014, aren’t familiar with Swift’s album “Red,” the lyric “miserable and magical” comes from the song “22.” It’s all about that rollercoaster of emotions in your 20s, where you feel amazing one moment, terrible the next, and then back again. And sometimes you feel both at the same time and it’s all a big confusing mess. 

Although I’m no longer 22, I am still in my 20s and still very much experiencing this ebb and flow while trying to figure out life. 

I’ve lived in Portland for about 5 1/2 years and moved here to work with much of the team behind the relaunch of the Phoenix. I started my career as a reporter for The Forecaster, then had a memoir-worthy stint at Maine magazine, and now work in communications at a nonprofit in downtown Portland. 

In my early 20s I was obsessed with plotting every step of my career (and have the binder to prove it) and imagined that by now I’d be living in New York City writing for a big, glossy magazine. I’ve since learned that you can’t plan your life like that because undoubtedly there will be things you can’t control. I’ve spent enough time crying over this to write an entire book, but I’ll pare it down to a column or two for the sake of the paper’s readers.

I plan to write about the things that I think about, that bother me and intrigue me, and make me feel like I’m the only person in the world who’s ever felt that way. I’ve had a long list of topics kicking around in various notebooks and Google docs for years and I feel like this is my place to finally explore them. I want to write about things that are personal, but also relatable and somewhat universal. Sometimes I’ll be snarky and other times I’ll be more sincere, but I’ll always try to be honest. 

I was told that above all I have to be original. That’s a tall order for a child of the internet who spends countless hours every day comparing herself to women on Instagram who land book deals at age 24. But since I’ve spent most of my 20s trying to figure out who I am, what I think, and what I want to say, this should be an interesting endeavor.

I hope you like it, but I’ll also try not to care too much either way.

Kate Gardner is a Portland-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, and Bustle. You can follow her on Twitter @katevgardner.

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