The best advice I've ever received comes in two parts, and both are not pieces of advice I would've thought to label as "the best" a few years ago. But lately, when I've been asked to share advice or words of wisdom, these are the two I keep coming back to:
1. You have your entire life to work, but only right now to be there for the people who need you most.
I used to be the kind of person who put work before everything. But last year, I began to make the conscious effort to unplug on weekends; to keep my phone zipped away in my purse when catching up with friends. Even up until the spring of last year, I was constantly on my phone, thinking I needed to respond RIGHT AWAY to every email I got, even if it was something that could've waited until Monday. Even when I was in Amsterdam on vacation in April, I was answering inquiries about invoices and demands to read pitches. That only contributed to what happened at the end of the year when I left New York burnt out AF.
I've thought a lot about this advice over the last year and a half as I watched my family come together for my late aunt. In my short career, two women I deeply respect and admire (dare I say, idolize) whom I had the pleasure and privilege to work for expressed this sentiment at different times and with different words, but the message is still the same: work will always be there somewhere. If you don't do what you can now for the people in your life at this very moment, then you won't be able to get that back. I'm glad I spent so much time in California last year, and by the end of my aunt's life. The only regret I have now is not having moved back sooner to support my family through some of the hardest times.
(Tangentially-related: in December, before I left New York, I was catching up with a friend and she said to me, "I notice you haven't looked at your phone at all." That was a really good feeling.)
2. It's a small industry. Be careful which bridges you burn.
This is something people know theoretically, but feel like it doesn't need to be said out loud – but I think it's worth saying out loud. I'm glad it's something one of my former colleagues really drove home to me early on because it's stopped me from wanting to say, "Screw you" to some of the places and people I've clashed with in the past (OK, not entirely. I'm guilty of setting fire to some bridges here and there...).
When it comes to journalism and the media, sometimes it can feel like it's a big field; but eventually, your people and your networks cross paths. Everyone in certain spaces knows, or at least is aware of, each other. These days, with social media, it's easy for someone to reach out to someone they don't know for a recommendation of a potential employee, and if you've left a sour taste in someone's mouth, you better believe that'll come up.
You're not going to get along with everyone. Sometimes, people just won't work well together; sometimes, egos might get the best of the parties involved in a disagreement. (I find this a lot when working with younger people, and you know what? I was exactly like that too a few years ago.) I'm not saying "fake it" when it comes to working relationships, but try not to walk away from your work with guns blazing.
And if you choose to burn a bridge, be careful how (and why) you do it.