Sara Eckel writes to the 25-year-old she once was, just starting out as a writer in New York City in the 90s.
I can't begin to express how much these comments mean to me. The past two years have been tough for me, writing-wise, and I haven't felt very useful. This has lifted my spirits tremendously. Thank you. I am very happy to be part of this community.
Oh my. I just took a mini break as I am re writing some short stories to be linked as a memoir. At 73, now, not sure I’ll ever finish, but that is the case at any age. So I continue on. How can I be of use? What will my impact be? Or will my writing even have an impact? I’ve long since five. Up worrying about it. But am most grateful whe one single person reads my writing and finds it resonates or inspires or is simply enjoyable.
This article offered me all three reactions.
What a wonderful morning joy. Thank you.
Sara, you nailed it. Me: 63, asking the same questions, not even doing the low-level activism, writing poems that sometimes get published that maybe one or two people will read. How do we assess our own value? How are we tortured elders supposed to find grace and ease as we head towards the only end we all attend?
I could have written this, but not as beautifully. I came to NYC at the same time, published a few books, but always felt (and still feel) a bit on the outside. As for being useful, doing something is better than doing nothing. Volunteering for a few hours, reminding people of what matters politically, even showing kindness in this world, it's better than doing nothing.
This is a really good reflective essay. I too remember writing on a KayPro computer and then sending floppy discs to editors.
Loved every word. I spent my 20s in NYC and you captured the exciting and achey longing for....something (success? Recognition?) Your letter is inspiring. Would your younger self know to feel proud of you/her? “How can I be useful”-- what a great compass of a question. Thanks for this!
What a beautiful essay! You put words to such specific experience perfectly. I’m 49 and this really resonated. How do we relate to our younger selves? What is my role in this broken world? What would my 25 yo self think of me now? How can we be friends to each other? I really appreciated this and it’s gotten me thinking and feeling! Thank you!
Really lovely run through one life that many can relate to. Thank you for this. I had a Kaypro computer in the early 80s, while at my first staff newspaper job, after two exhilarating and terrifying years in New York at the end of the 70s, living amongst the artists of Tribeca. I’m now on the far side of 60, also looking back on the ruins of journalism and ahead at what exhilarating and terrifying turns might still be to come. Bring it on!
I really enjoyed this. How great that whenever you’ve written a book, it has been well received by many. That’s awesome. Love your replacing “How can I be successful?” with “How can I be useful?”
Your words never fail to comfort me. This was amazing.
Very nice essay Sara. We have had parallel lives, though I was pulled into intensive 90s AIDS activism that refocused my journalism and creative writing, too. Was up at Barnard and hung out at Hungarian Pastry Shop….great place that was….
Glad to see you here. I’ll cross-post your ‘stack. - Anne-christine (Tell Me Everything ‘stack).
And: do you know The Binders on Facebook? Amazing huge, active, helpful women’s writers and editors community for every genre writer. Great support network. Post lot of jobs and tip. Good luck!! Keep writing!!
Sara's essay totally took me THERE. I think there is a certain loss of innocence in our generation - any one who experienced the 1976 rah rah America Bicentennial as a child and then watched that platonic ideal get trampled and as she says "the brazen stupidity of the world has left you mute."
My first job was in the Flatiron building in NYC at St. Martin's. I worked at a prestigious literary agency as a receptionist. Walking around NYC the closest POV that helped me understand was books by Vivian Gornick.
I also studied buddhism and was there when the head of sangha was outed for being sexually inappropriate with women studying under him.
It's wretched at times watching things fall apart and wondering if it is worth it to keep riding the constant waves of change. Nature is my guide now - and trying to focus on absolute cultivation of my postage stamp "area of control" as a warm place for all.
Thank you for this beautiful essay. I began it in the waiting room of a physical therapist’s office and then rushed out to finish it before I got in the car after my session. One of my favorite Oldster essays yet! It encapsulates what a lot of us mid-life writers are thinking and feeling about “career,” life choices, the world and what’s happening in it. I was especially struck by “how can I be useful”?
Wonderful piece - thank you, Sara!
OH this hits home in so many ways. Such beautiful, wise insights, rendered tenderly. Thank you.
This was wonderful. Both the references (Hungarian Pastry Shop, McAnn's, etc.) and the feelings were something I could totally relate to even though I am from a different generation.