Many years ago, when I was a new writer on campus, someone I looked up to laughingly said that she and a few others in her same age group had become the university’s “venerated fossils.”
She was right. They were older, and oh, so wise.
They were the ones who could show you how to use a pica ruler and proportion wheel, who knew everything that went on on campus and all the twists and turns of the previous five years that led up to it, and who not only met regularly with their division heads and deans, but . . . gasp . . . had even shaken hands with the president.
Last week, I participated in StoryCorps, which records conversations between two people and archives them in the Library of Congress and other places. For my partner, I picked another venerated fossil. We had so much fun talking about what had changed on campus (27,000 students when she got to campus and 64,000 now) and in the communications profession (24/7 news cycle, social media, and so on).
I realized that while I may not be venerated, I am now firmly a member of the old set, the ones who have more of our careers behind us than ahead, who talk about events that occurred before anyone in our current student body was even born, and who have to turn to the internet to find out if the logos on the T-shirts everyone wears refer to a rock band, a fashion designer, or some social media celebrity.
It’s a fun place to be.
If you do it right, you stay curious and keep reading everything you can, and learn and grow. And you also have the perspective or context to not jump to conclusions, to remember why something wasn’t a good idea in 1994 but might work today, and to see the multiple layers and meanings in just about everything. As James Baldwin said, real writers are “always shifting and changing and searching,” and by now, these shifts and changes have led to something deep and genuine. In other words, you become an Adult.
And you get better at the craft. You don't peak at a young age, like an athlete or model. You know Story pretty well, and Story knows you.
You can also help out the student worker in your office who is using a typewriter to address an envelope, and asks where the enter key is.
Strive to be venerated. Do what you can to avoid becoming a fossil.
--Ann Kellett, Ph.D.