Ever since I began my life as a writer, identified myself as someone who worked in publishing, the question that comes up again and again is the expected: When did you know? Did you always know?
In high-school, I watched as my friends struggled with what college to attend, what strengths to look for – a hard thing to do when you not even sure of your major. What were their favorite courses, I would ask, but few of them really knew.
But I was fortunate, I guess; I had always known that I would be a writer; knew that ink and paper and presses and bindings would be integral to my life. I knew it even as a small child, and as I grew older, it was only confirmed.
I did the usual; wrote the school paper, translated pop-songs by The English Beat, The Police, Sonic Youth, into French and had them published in the school journal (yes, incredibly queer, and I am well aware, only a completely dedicated, young and aspiring writer would actually translate, and god help me, publish a French translation of The End of the Party by the Beat, not to mention “Beat Surrender” by the Jam). After school, worked for a few local papers, penning the occasional piece (a great honor), and often running the hot-wax roller and pasting up the galleys for publication.
I applied to the best journalism schools in the country; focused on magazine journalism. Got accepted to all and so sas fortunate to have my pick and so I chose. I chose the one that had the best Journalism school, and went to it and did a double major in Philosophy and Magazine Journalism (odd, I know, but I figure philosophy teaches one to think and it seemed to me that not enough journalists actually understood When I got to college (at about age fifteen, making me the youngest in my class), I watched as my roommates flitted through majors and boyfriends, landing on each like foraging bees, never able to settle, while I pushed headlong into my classes and buried myself in books at the School of Theology Library.
To say that I sought my vocation would be inaccurate; it seemed more that it sought me. That I felt journalism and writing as a calling the way one is called to serve a faith, called to serve, and so it was that writing quickly became my faith. So I took my vows, I crossed myself, and got down on my knees and prayed that I would be one of the few who could actually succeed, well aware that success, first of all, is highly subjective, and second, that the competition in this industry was particularly fierce.
The summer before my first year of college was to begin, I was baby-sitting for a friend, and as always, I brought with me my clunky Smith-Carona typewriter in its battered, brown case and creaky hinges and a ream of typing paper. Steven smiled when he saw it, and said, ‘You want to be a writer.’ I looked that eager. I told him all about my translations of Police songs from Synchronicity and the article I wrote for the Guardian about my mother’s cancer – the article that I wrote and that, at age fourteen, got way too much acclaim for; the article that would be the first in a life-long examination of ways of loving and journeys through illness and near-death and types of fidelity. I would be a writer of the human condition (yes, tres original, I know). He knew of a program he said, could perhaps help me get an interview; No promises, though; just an interview. I was terrified, but grateful. I never expected to get the job, but hell, I couldn’t say no, and who knows, I thought, there’s a chance. A slim chance, true. But what are we if we do not try…
So it was a week later that at age fifteen, I was on my way to Conde-Nast Publications at 350 Madison in the heart of Manhattan. I had heard of the program, knew it was the very same that Sylvia Plath had attended and so many others who had gone on to become, well…something. Hopefully they did not come on to be suicidal poets, but as a young writer, I’m embarrassed to admit that this leant Plath’s work a certain pull that so many other writers lacked. She didn’t just write what she felt, she backed it up with real action, and though I’m sorry she did, because I truly believe we lost a great, great talent the day she died, I could almost (and I say this cautiously, for I know all about these things and too well, for it has touched very close to home for me), I still see something to admire there. In later years, I think I realized that there was nothing glamorous about what Plath did and everything wrong – but that didn’t make her work any less great. It’s more that the actual suicide became a point against her, not for her. I would not be one of those young women who wore too much black and admired Plath because she had the “courage” to commit suicide; there is nothing courageous about it. My own brother committed suicide and for as much as I understand the pain he was going through, I know that his pain was not so different from my own, and if I had to stick out, by God so did he. And as I recall, he was the one who once chided me for thinking (and perhaps taking) it as a viable option. As one who has seen both sides of this coin, and I can tell you, it sucks. It is selfish, desperate, pleading, and an easier way out than actually dealing with your issues, with life’s problems. Those who leave us here, while they skip out on life, I want to shake them and tell them about all the times I wish I could have opted out. But if I have to stick it out, if I have to drag myself out of bed and face my demons every day, then by God, why should anyone else have the right to do this?
But I digress… and more, I know that others may well have it harder, but I tell you, I’ve had it pretty hard too, and sure, I’ve done more than think of opting out – but at the end of the day, I realized just how much pain that would cause for those who truly do love me. Not an option. But ask me about chronic illness and the right to die with dignity and I’ll sing you a different tune, (but that’s another article for another time.)
So, off I went to Conde Nast. I wore the only suit I owned; a pale grey number with a pencil skirt and a jacket with shoulder pads (shoulder pads!!!!). Beneath, I wore a plain pale pink oxford, my long dirty-blonde hair (and I mean dirty in the first meaning of the word) was held back by a black velvet headband (gasp!. My resume rested in a beige tote my mother had leant me.
The Conde Nast building was impressive; it was fat and all smoked glass and heavy doors. I found Personnel with little trouble and waited in a stark white room with rounded curvaceous walls decorated with framed magazine covers.
A few others girls waited: they were older, which wasn’t hard, because I was so young, but they seemed better than me in every way. Their clothes were simple and chic, all suede and leather. They had flawless complexions and perfectly lined eyes and pink-pout lips, and they were all so tall. They sat like still ballerina’s awaiting their cue, their resumes balanced on leather portfolios on their laps. Me with my cheapsuit and headband (as Hannibal Lecter would say, I looked like a “well-scrubbed rube,” with my “expensive bag and cheap shoes”). I wanted to leave, but before I could I was summoned to the office of the Director of Personnel.
The Director of Personnel was sleek and chic with a cat-like face and slanted, dark eyes. Her hair was glossy and black and chicly bobbed and fell like silk against her alabaster skin. I felt her look me over, and detected that she had forgiven the outfit and shrugged it off to age, youth.
She asked few questions: how had I come to live in America; did it like it, and if so, why; what did I think about publishing; what did I want from publishing; and then we had this really long talk about world war II, which I thought must have been some kind of test, so I answered every question honestly and tried to sound smart, and reminded myself that I had just graduated with High Honors, which didn’t seem to matter now because I felt thick and heavy and stupid, not to mention ugly. I kept thinking of the gorgeous girls in the waiting room. Those who needed no make-up and whose legs went on for miles and were impossibly tan and toned. These model-looking girls who weren’t even models, which was almost worse, because they were smart and beautiful, with their olive-toned and unmarred skin and put-together clothes. At the end of the interview, the director interrupted my self-tortuous reverie and gave me a typing test, then thanked me for my time, and I was spit out into the sultry, grey summer day.
The whole thing was surreal and slight sad. I had always believed I would succeed in this world, but now that I had glimpsed it, it terrified me. I felt like a stranger in a strange land; that these people spoke a foreign tongue. I pushed the heavy revolving door of 350 Madison and walked out into the grey day and was sure it was all over. I wandered down Madison, seeking Penn Station, smoking cigarettes and trying to avoid my reflection in store windows. After those girls, how could anyone like me feel remotely passable. It was horrible. Well, I thought, I won’t get the job, and that too made me even more depressed. To this day, I remember the smell of the Madison Avenue as I walked to the train; the smell of fabric stores and florists. The exhaust of the buses as they breathed their soot to the air, the hot-dog vendors and the smell of my ticked at Penn Station. Slowly, I walked to Penn Station, boarded my train, then cried the whole way home.
But in the hour it took to get home, Conde Nast had called and offered the job. My mother threw her arms around me before I could even cross the threshold and I stood, paralyzed. Then I cried even more, out of relief, and then later, out of fear. How was I ever going to pull this one off.
A week later, I had passed through the required Conde Nast training and was working as an assistant to a senior fashion editor at Vogue. To be clear: it was a dream job. I was a few months shy of sixteen, the ‘youngest rover ever hired,” the director of personnel told me. It didn’t matter that I wouldn’t be writing – I was at a magazine, and one of the best. I was new in America, and this was the American Dream, I thought, but more than this, this was for certain an immigrant’s dream. This was so far away from Tottenham in Northeast London and gangs and IRA bombings and the projects… I wondered why on earth they had hired me at all.
I quickly learned from some of the other assistants and interns that I was working for one of the best editors. She was a beautiful woman, always chic, always smelled wonderful, always in a hurry, and very demanding. She didn’t like to wait, but that was okay because she had earned her right to demand and I was there to meet the demand. It was my job to bring her whatever she needed, work, personal, or otherwise. Never question. Just do.
And so it was that I found myself as a junior fashion assistant/intern, running all over Manhattan to famous designers studios and picking up clothes for the next shoot. I found impossible to find lofts of the up and coming designers who weren’t quite there yet, but would be with this editor on their side; I picked up fabulous jewels from Harry Winston and had an armed guard escort; I was driven around in a blue Lincoln town car that seemed to idle perpetually in front o the building waiting for me to run wherever She needed me to go.
I was assigned a one-step Polaroid that I quickly learned I was to use to photograph each item of jewelry for every outfit, then label it with a china marker and attach it to the outfit, roll it all in tissue, tape the bottoms of the designer shoes with duct tape (so they wouldn’t get scuffed – this took hours); each outfit would be laid out with its accessories, labeled and named, then I would stick the Polaroid on top of the tissue and pack it all very neatly into a large steamer trunk. My other trunk – all assistant’s had their own – had whatever else I could anticipate we might need: I packed a sewing kit with every possible color of thread I could find; tiny scissors; pins; extra duct tape; clamps for tightening outfits that were too big and making it look like they fit (oh, the artistry); a hundred count plastic box of bobby pins; Rose’s lip balm; Vaseline; Polaroid film; china markers; Vogue stationary and Her cards; extra stockings and tights in every possible hue and fiber “just in case” and usually, several pair of good sunglasses from “The Closet.”
I worked with photographers Elgort, Avedon, Miesel, Compte, Penn, so many others. They didn’t notice me, of course. I was usually somewhere lost in racks of clothes, or laying out shoes and bags and jewelry for the shoot. I ran out and brought cigarettes for (some still famous) supermodels who have since quit, so I won’t name names. i ran out to buy blueberries for a famous Russian model who was It at the time, because I was told she wanted them;. I was told and I did what I was told. I ran to little stands for fresh flowers, to Tower for the “right” music, whatver that meant, and settled on Ruben Blades, I ran and I ran all through lower Manhattan in search of ….whatever they wanted, and felt the make-up melt off my face and my feet blister and my ego plummet.
I never believed I was beautiful, but I was pretty enough, and at 5’6” I was taller than most of my classmates. I had always been slim – I thought – at size 6, which now seemed gigantic. I was surrounded by these incredibly tall slim women who miraculously, all still managed to have larger than my 36 C, which I couldn’t figure out because they weighed less, had flawless skin though they partied a lot more than I ever did, and yes, even without make up, when they just arrived at the studio at sometimes 5am, they were that gorgeous. NO air-brushing, no make-up. They are not like me and you. I’m sorry. I wanted to believe it too – but it’s just not true; they are more beautiful, and they don’t even try. And worse, most of them were really, really nice. Suffice to say, I hated myself. Every ounce of fat, every inch I lacked, every freckle I owned. I began to avoid mirrors.
I began my day at 5:30 am, getting ready; did make up on the train. Arrived in Manhattan at 6:45 or so. Walked from Penn to Madison, usually just as the flower boutiques were opening up and setting out their French silver pots of freesia and lemon balm and lilac. At this time of day, Madison was pretty deserted still and I felt like someone. Someone important in a way. Not like anyone I worked with, of course, but better than I was. Maybe taping shoes had made me a better person? I felt it. I felt the breeze in my hair and I felt good about life and confident about the future. But as soon as I pushed through the smoked glass of 350 Madison, that confidence was deflated. There was;
There was Katherine with her butter-yellow hair and golden skin and cornflower blue eyes and who always dressed in pale linen that on her, wrinkled in just the right places, and who, whether she wore make-up or not, I can’t say, because she looked like she woke up like that and I couldn’t see any trace.
There was Laura, who worked for my editor but had been promoted to some associate or something and who, as far as I could tell, only owned one suit (or many of the same) but it was by Chanel and fit her perfectly, emphasizing her perfectly proportioned body. Laura who had rich-chestnut wavy hair that always looked tossled, never never messy, and fell in her eye in a way that even I found sexy, and who ran around with and Hermes day planner and seemed the model of efficiency.
There was Dawn, who was a real assistant in the features department and who truly never wore make-up, except sometimes a ruby colored lipstick and that’s it and it was perfect. She was brilliant, beautiful, kind, patient, effective, and during my tenure, was promoted from assistant slave, like me, to a real editor and given her own glass office complete with black laqeur desk and her face lit up and she ran saying, “Isn’t it the best!” and I was happy for her.
The rest are a blur of gorgeous young things who I doubt had ever known the pain of being ordinary, or it had never even occurred to them. How they got here, I don’t know. If it was smarts, looks, connections…who could say. But they all seemed better than me.
One day, Steven Florio, whose children I had babysat and who told me of the program in the first place, was driving me into work. He was a senior editor at G.Q. at the time, though it was clear that one day he’d be exactly where he is now – CEO, because that was just him. I spilled; cried in his car; I blabbered like a baby. I don’t belong, I don’t fit in, and on and on. And he said,
“What?” I said.
“Fake it.” I listened. “Let me tell you somethi.ng,” he said, eyes on the road. “Everyone is faking it. You fake it long enough, you learn it, then next thing you know, you’re not faking it anymore.”
It was a version of Goethe’s “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” He didn’t mean be a fake; he meant, try it on. He meant, you will learn. Not everyone can do this; anyone can fake, for certain, but eventually, you have to produce and I understood that and so did he. He believed in me and knew that if I could just get beyond feeling like I didn’t fit in, if I could just pretend for a while, one glorious day, I would realize, that I was no longer faking it and it was real.
So began mission Fake It – Be Bold. I hired the same colorist as Katherine’s to do my hair (that butter-blonde wasn’t natural after all, I found out, and I could buy it for a mere $300, which was actually cheap, but two weeks of my salary). The assistant beauty editor helped me create what she called “A Look” and gave me a generous sampling of products that she assured me were “right for” me. The Closet Maven, a lovely woman named Carrie who oversaw all the clothes in and out for photo-shoots etc., occasionally held closet clean-outs and she set aside some things for me: a pair of flowing, pima cotton pants that graced my ankles and fluttered about my legs and ankles (ala Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, two silk shifts, one in “Linen” one in “Cocquillage,” a couple of tortoise shell pony tail holders, and a pair of Alain Mikli sunglasses. Then I bought one of those leather Day Planners that all the other assistants had and spent the entire ride home one night in the back of the town-car hand-copying all of the contacts from the assistant’s rolodex for Her into the book so that I’d always be prepared. And I did feel better. I was still short and fat and plain, but at least I was trying, and I figured maybe the fact that I could write made up for what I lacked in looks.
I began going to parties that She didn’t want to attend, clubs she disliked but were all the rage; I was Area, Palladium, Limelight, Saint, Nells. It was the eighties; that’s my excuse. I never once waited behind a velvet rope. As I stepped forward, enjoying all the privilege of my Conde Nast card, behind me I heard others complaining, wondering, Why her? And all I could think was Fake it. Act as if… I had metamorphosed and suddenly, I had a brief but sweet taste of what it was like to be an It girl.
Summer’s end, I departed Conde-Nast and was invited me back each year for several years. So every summer, I traveled the strange terrain between academia and high-fashion.
Then one year, it was expected I would return, but I did not. But here was my life at Conde Nast at a glimpse; the quick reference guide:
Conde-Nast Publications: Vogue Magazine
Hair: chic bobs with expensive highlights by J.; color; palest butter-blonde. No hair-accessories, unless of course, they’re those lovely tortoise-shell pony-tail thingys by YSL.
Make up: Flawless and barely detectable; also, whatever the Beauty Editor is getting rid of
Attire: Neutrals in fabulous suedes, silks and leathers. Never ever ever polyester or synthetics. Shoes that hurt and are grossly impractical for the amount of running around you will do.
Perfume: L’ Heure Bleu by Guerlain. Anything by Chanel.
Most valuable accessory: An expensive leather Day Runner with everyone’s every number and their assistant’s name.
Most valuable skill: Efficiency, speed, the ability to locate anything in the world and quickly.
What matters most: Which editor you work for; how beautiful you are.
What you learn: Humility, resourcefulness, that for as smart and cute as you thought you were, you’re just about average, at best.
I worked on my education. I got As and was proud. My work was published and even won an award from a prestigious literary journal. I applied and actually got a job as a reader at The Atlantic Monthly, where I read incoming poetry for Peter Davison and fiction for Mike Curtis. So began my descent into the strange world of literary publishing began. Here, there were different dress-codes, other values.
I had to learn anew the rules of each new company, each publisher. So I learned and learned and when I was afraid, I faked it, until I did learn properly.
The Atlantic Monthly
Hair: Preferred dirty-blonde, but medium brown with highlights is acceptable. Headbands are back in, but only if they are leather and made by Ralph Lauren
Make up: Kiehl’s face wash; Rose’s lip balm.
Attire: Anything J. Crew; oxford shirts in pale hues of lemon, blue, and pink.
Perfume: Eau Sauvage or anything vaguely lemony. Hadrian if you can afford it.
Most valuable accessory: A leather saddlebag you bought in Europe or at least looks vaguely European.
Most valuable skill: Ability to stand out from a crowd that is yes, believe it, as educated and as smart and as pretty as you are.
What matters most: Your alma mater.
What you learn: How to analyze literature; separate the good from the great. That there is a lot of talent in the world, but that few will see their names on these pages.
Time came to leave the safety of The Atlantic, and I found a job at a small, literary press with a reputation for excellence. Here I worked in a beautiful building full of rare and fabulous books. Managed some of the great literary giants; worked with Andre Dubus, published works by Aaron Apelfeld and Faye Moscowitz, to name a few. I read everything. I traveled and met agents and book reviewers. I was young and eager to do well, and I did. I tried to learn everything – from manuscript to bound book. And through this job, I attended parties at impossibly huge penthouses with original Chagalls on the wall; I met Arthur Schlesinger and mortifyingly, asked him,, “So what do you do?” and he put his arm around me and laughed and said, “You’re so charming,” and smiled and I wondered why he was saying that. Across the room, I saw my publisher’s mouth drop open as he overheard the conversation. So I was out of my league a bit, but I questioned everything, and thus I learnt.
David R. Godine, Publisher
Hair: Who cares. Most days you throw it into a hasty bun, held in place by a red-editing pencil. Your bob has grown out. Who has time for a hair-cut.
Make up Minimal. Sometimes, you smudge on a bit of mauve or soft red for publicity trips or conventions. Mostly, you’re too tired to care.
Perfume: None; Instead you live off the gratitude you feel for having the supreme luxury of working ten or twelve hour days for this highly prestigious press. Isn’t that reward enough. You come to love the smell of printer’s ink instead.
Attire: This is book publishing! Serious business! You wear lots of long black and grey skirts and simple pale silk shifts. You don’t have time to think about your wardrobe; easier to have five of everything. You discover Capezio dance shoes and buy two pair in black. You will wear these for many, many years.
Most valuable accessory: Several boxes of red-colerase editing pencils and an electric pencil sharpener.
Most valuable skill: Establishing an excellent rapport with key media reviewers and authors.
What matters most: The last book you signed; the last time the New York Times reviewed one of your books.
What you learn: An appreciation for fine literature and the true craft of quality book-making. Also, how to run a letter-press all by yourself.
A few years passed, and I had an opportunity. Another publisher wanted to hire me to start my own imprint. I jumped, and soon, Lumen Editions was born. Within a year it was success, both critically and commercially. The phone rang with writers who wanted to profile me and as I read the articles, I had to laugh; one writer focused on my ‘style’ and ‘lightness’. Said I was ‘striking.’
So I had learned from Voguee after all! I saved every clipping. I fought hard for my press; got every book reviewed in the New York Times. Published the last book Margueritte Duras wrote; and when it came off press, I could have died right then, a happy girl. I had published a writer I had long admired. I was being profiled and wooed by editors and agents alike. And once again, I felt like It girl. Life was grand.
Lumen Editions, Publisher
Hair: Anyway you want; you established this imprint, so it’s a reflection of you! You still sport a hasty bun held in place with the ever-ready red-pencil
Make up: Little. Sometimes, a smudge of your favorite Chanel red for meetings with authors and the press.
Perfume: At last, you can buy your favorite; you wear Nuit de Noel by Caron.
Attire: By now, you’ve been in the biz so long that you call yourself a publishing nun. As such, you wear long dark skirts and scoop-neck tees and a string of seed-pearls. Shoes: black dance shoes with strap by Capezio.
Most valuable accessory: Your rolodex, no question. Oh, and your glasses; you’re blind without them.
Most valuable skill: Ability to be memorable.
What matters most: That you acquire the rights to books you truly believe in and that those books receive high-marks. That the press gets a lot of attention (it does).
What you learn: That the press has become a reflection of you and people like it. Maybe you’re not so bad after all.
But times change, the economy changes, and trade publishing as I had known it changed too. It became harder and harder to run a successful and profitable press. But that’s not why I stopped Lumen. The reasons are myriad; I was tired all the time, pale, frankly, sick looking. I had contracted meningitis that year and everyone who knew me knew that something was wrong. Soon after, I was diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer Patient: Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Hair: Oh, please. As if.
Make up: You could really use some, but feel too sick to bother.
Perfume: Holy Oil that I bought from St. Elizabeth’s and that smelled faintly of roses.
Attire: Hospital gowns; anything baggy that doesn’t hurt or pinch.
Most valuable accessory: Your pill boxes with their pastel pills that promise relief from every possible awful side-effect.
Most valuable skill: Your ability to comfort everyone around you when they are devastated, even though you are devastated and afraid, you learn to make them feel better.
What matters most: Getting better. Having faith in your surgeon and oncologists.
What you learn: That you took way too much for granted and you never will again. That you’re stronger than you think.
Everything that I worked for faded into obscurity for a time. I wrote a fair amount, but I was not working in publishing as I had. The focus was on getting well; I had a team of Dana-Farber doctors and a pharmacy of drugs in place of my plethora of creams and potions and make up. I did get very thin, a size two, and thought briefly that now I could fit in at Conde Nast and I meant it and was glad, but too bad I couldn’t enjoy it because I was stuck in bed with an IV. When I recovered, I continued writing, and took up with several firms that needed serious software writing. It was right up my alley, combining my love of calculus and abstract thinking with language. The rules were slightly different, but it was the same basic thing: Use words to convey a complex system in such a way that people will know what the fuck you are talking about. I was always up for a challenge, and IT seemed the best way to fall back into what I love the most; words. And so the flash-card for IT is as follows…
In Information Technology; IT
Hair: Not many women here, but those there are all seem to have the same flippy, shaggy bob.
Make up: on the East Coast, Chapstick: in the Texas office: lots of mascara and very shiny lip-gloss.
Perfume: All the girls seem to wear Samsara or Zen by Shisheido.
Attire: Most of the women wear pants and oxford shirts. You stick to long skirts and silk tops because old habits die hard, and I don’t want to dress like a man. I like the fact that I’m a woman, though seem to be the only woman around here who thinks so.
Most valuable accessory: Your laptop and a great leather case and a copy of the latest, hot IT book on network usability or guided user interfaces.
Most valuable skill: Ability to learn new software and quick.
What matters most: Your technical skills and ability to work well with boys. It helps if you’ve had brothers.
What you learn: Endurance. That you can learn complex systems very quickly. That in this field, anyway, it seems that being female is still a disadvantage. You swallow your pride and just work hard.
Hair: By now, you kind of like the grey that blends in with the thick, dirty-blonde.
Make up: These days, every one asks what you use on your skin and comments on your “luminosity” and “transparence.” They ask what you use and you smile because you know it is a lightness born of joy and contentment that can only come from living a full life.
Perfume: You have about four that you rotate. Gone are the sweet smells of your early life; now you wear deep and complex scents that remind you of a sexy, Italian widow (not in actuality, understand, this is purely a romantic notion borne of way too much bad fiction, but nonetheless, you get the picture).
Attire: Flirty, French-looking sundresses and sexy lingerie, just for yourself.
Most valuable accessory: The friends who have stood by you through all of it; a loyal and honest partner who you love and who thinks you’re wonderful.
Most valuable skill: Resourcefulness; courage; faith.
What matters most: Your belief and faith in yourself. Your best-friend always being there.
What you learn: To make peace with yourself. To know that that envy and jealousy serve no purpose. To recognize, foibles, flaws and all, you’re pretty great yourself.
Learn from everything. Take notes. Change, and be changeable. Accept that nothing stays the same, that the good old days always seem better on reflection, but that what counts is what you do now. Never rest on your laurels, but always keep your center – always know who you are, and always be true to that. Talent is not even half of the battle; so many people are talented, as is witness here and so many other places. What counts is hard work. Lots of people have talent, but fewer have the drive to work hard for what they want. If I have learned nothing else, I have learned that. And by God, I intend to keep applying it. And when it all falls apart, as it always does for all of us at some point, remember this, what Rumi said, “Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.”
More reading by Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti http://www.geocities.com/textumpress/illuminations1.html