3 months ago I started working at the New York Times, and learned that it can be terrifying to achieve your dreams. I'm 23 and rootless; I feel like an impostor almost every day. People ask about it all the time, so I recently decided to tell them the truth: it's really hard. I started asking for help, and here's what I got. You can use it, too.
  1. "I got you."
    This is how I start the story: I would not be at the Times if it weren't for Jenna Wortham. Not only did she make me feel like someone who looks like me could work here—black, inked up, cool glasses (ok this is a reach)—but she's the type of person I want to be while I'm here: cognizant of her self-worth. She's a genius, and everyone knows it, chief among them her. She is unshy—she wants, she works, she gets—and she is totally herself the whole time. She told me I could do it.
  2. "If you are not the dumbest person in the room, leave the room."
    I lucked into lunch with Public Intellectual/Coolest Dude Ta-Nehisi Coates. We talked about work—I'd asked him to be my "media dad," and he delivered: "Do you know how LUCKY you are?" Anyway, I told him I don't feel confident or competent; "I feel, every day, like I am the dumbest person in the room." "You better feel like the dumbest person in the room—you're 23 and you work at the New York Times. That's how you're supposed to feel now. It won't last forever."
  3. "Put a floor under yourself" / "do what's in front of you"
    I just had dinner with @tavi and it felt like speaking in my native tongue. No one is smarter than her. We talked about the power of "oh, me too," that feeling of recognition that can calm you more than any adage can, and she told me how she keeps herself grounded. This is million dollar advice.
  4. "You are not always going to be comfortable"
    The day I got my job offer I said "before I do anything I have to watch the Empire finale" (which was great), but then I called my friend Lizzie, who is wiser and more accomplished than I could ever dream. She told me to think of it as grad school, an effective mantra for a type-A broad, but also that it's not always going to be sunshine and faves and people telling me I'm great. "You are going to cry, you're going to stay late, you're going to be miserable, but you're going to learn."
  5. "I love you"
    This is my boyfriend (lol). At the risk of being saccharine: remember that episode of Rugrats where Chuckie imagines a world where he doesn't exist and his bff Tommy, ordinarily so brave, is actually very timid and unsure without him, and then Chuckie comes back and asks him what happened Tommy says that the only reason why he's able to do the things he does is because he knows Chuckie will always be right beside him? That's us.
  6. "We can do this"
    After months of highs and lows, of feeling capable then nauseous then fortunate then undeserving then immobile and scared and insecure and sick to my stomach, I finally found a therapist and went for an intake appointment this morning. At the end, she asked: "What do you want to accomplish here?" I told her I wanted to walk into the New York Times, the paper of record, the apex of my career, the biggest fucking deal of my life, and feel like I belong there. She smiled.