Who are your role models in your industry? Writing: Jenny Zhang, Patricia Lockwood, Margo Jefferson, Claudia Rankine. Maggie Nelson. If I woke up in a distant future to discover I had been rebooted as a cyborg Maggie Nelson, I would not be the least mad. Medicine: Stephanie Tillman, Marsha Linehan, Oliver Sacks (RIP).
What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?
I am here to spread the gospel of the Really Steady Side Gig: I’ve never wanted to be a writer without being a clinician and vice-versa (“A nurse and a writer? What is this, World War II!?” -a friend). Not only do I really love practicing, it covers my bills and leaves me open to only writing the stuff I’m really obsessed with.
You are, like many young people, a career hyphenate, in that you are identified with more than one profession. How do you find a balance between your different work lives?
I’ve chilled out after realizing that “balance” doesn’t have to be calculated on a daily basis: like, clinic can take over my life for a month and the next month I’ll make up for it by taking vacation to write. Right now I’m writing full-time for a spell and it is wild!
Letting experiences pool together really helps: instead of thinking of myself as a “writer” or a “nurse” at any time, I try to inhabit as close to all of myself as I can, as often as I can. Everything feeds the beast.
What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
The most successful writers I know work rise and grind even when they don’t feel like it; they also work out their pitch-and-file professional muscles just as much as their talent. Even the people who look like they know what they’re doing struggle with Impostor Syndrome, so maybe treat feeling like you’re a fake as a signal you’re on the right track. If you’re looking for opportunities or want guidance, do as much legwork as you can on your own and then reach out to people with any remaining questions. If people do help you, thank them for it and let them know how taking their advice went. They will appreciate that they didn’t throw their mentorship into the void!
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
Is anywhere on the surface of this dying Earth still a viable place for young people to build a career? No! (throws confetti in your face) BUT! In Providence, the last place I lived for a couple years, you can rent a firehouse with a jacuzzi for the monthly price of one velvet bag of wishes, but there’s only a couple scenes to roam around in. The cost of living was low, but so were the number of opportunities; it seems to be a relative trade-off everywhere. Brooklyn is high-cost, high-opportunity. I think it’s worth trying your luck in Brooklyn, but fuck, man, nobody should beat themselves up for not “succeeding” if it doesn’t work out. The saying “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” is right, but because those making it here often do so with inherited class/race/gender/ability privileges that are gold standard advantages “anywhere,” and not necessarily because they are the best at what they do.
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
Nope. A wise man named John Fogerty once sang, “Better run through the jungle/whoa, don’t look back to see.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Struggling to write cool answers for Brooklyn Mag‘s 40 Under 40 list. Or living as Cyborg Maggie Nelson.