The Tuesday after Labor Day Weekend 2010, I showed up at Thrillist for my first day as an intern. I had a full head of hair, a crisp resume (even though I had already been hired), and what was, at that point, a considerable hangover. I sat on a “cool” couch in the “cool” open-floorplan loft office and manually unsubscribed people from the company’s various email newsletter lists.
The internship was unpaid — back in 2010, the issue of free intern labor hadn’t yet come to the fore — but the work was easy, and the oddball liquor was free. (We never had beer back then.) I got hired in mid-October of that year as an editorial assistant. I figured I’d be there for nine months, tops.
In five years, everything has changed. My hair is mostly gone, my resume is buried in line-items of various editorial posts I’ve held at Thrillist, and I get real hangovers now. We’ve never left our address at Broadway & Prince, but we’ve moved and expanded office space within the building at least half a dozen times. We transformed magisterially from a local restaurant/bar e-newsletter run by 65 drunks into a nationally read lifestyle website with 300ish employees. Gone are the days of scrimping together a franken-cocktail from neglected bottles of off-brand tequila and amaro. There’s a bar in the office now, and it has a rotating keg and semi-recognizable liquors to choose from.
The only thing that hasn’t changed, I guess, is the fact that I still work here. “Nine months, tops.” Ha. Go figure.
What have I learned? Everything! Nothing! Et cetera! But to boil it down:
- There will always be someone better (and worse) at what you do than you are. There are a lot of shitty people out there, and even more shitty writers. So that’s nice. But there are also some truly transcendent talents on the Internet Dot Com whose copy is always smoother, whose insight is always sharper, whose reporting is always more fearless than mine. (I’m breathtakingly vain, so I don’t particularly enjoy the latter half of this item, but I’ve found it to be true. It’s humbling, which is probably good.)
- Do your expenses. I don’t even know how much petty cash I’ve squandered over the years, but it’s probably a heartbreaking number when tallied up, which is why I’m not going to do that.
- Remember that everyone needs an editor, including you. No one is turning in A1 shit every single time. It’s no coincidence that my best pieces have all been written for rigorous thoughtful editors. Edits make your writing better, which is great, but it also presupposes a scary truth: your writing was worse before it was edited. If you’re insecure — I am — this can unnerve you, and make you combative towards your editors.
- Follow through on your pitches. I have written so many pieces that sprung forth from oddball ideas, but I have even more oddball ideas that never got turned into pieces because I was too lazy, busy, or whatever. I think this will always be the case, but I’m gonna try to balance the ratio a bit in the future.
That’s enough earnest shit for now. I’m already embarrassed I wrote this, but it’s early, my brain isn’t quite moving yet, and the fact that I’ve been working at Thrillist for longer than I attended college has me feeling some type of way.
Here’s a big “thank you” to everyone who’s ever edited a piece of mine, or read a piece of mine, or tweeted at me about a piece of mine and threatened to kill me because you really like IPAs and I really don’t like IPAs. I appreciate you all. Please don’t kill me. Et cetera.
[Main photo: Mark O’Neill]