Thursday 25 September 2014

When You Fight For Your Dream & Win

As a firm believer in taking life by the horns and living the hell out of it, it's sometimes incredibly hard not to sound completely full of it. 

It's such a fine line to tread between being empowering and being patronising, because we've all grown up with fairy princesses and teeny bopper bands telling us to Reach for the stars! Just be yourself! Make your dreams come true!

But what does that actually mean in reality?

It seems those yeah-sayers of destiny suddenly scarper off into the distance when you begin to actually ask for practical advice on how to make your dreams become reality.

And as someone who's still trying to figure it out, I've recently come to the realisation that perhaps there is no advice, no guidance to give, no-one you can rely on to set your path out for you.

Maybe we have to figure it out by ourselves.

And I personally find nothing more inspiring and motivating, than not those who try and offer guidance, but those who completely break convention, those who can stand up with a heck of a story to tell and say 'Yeah I might not know how you can do it, but I can sure as hell tell you how I did it.'

And so I'd like to share with you the insightful and fascinating tale of Lara Parker, who little over a year ago was a Communications grad living at home in the rural Midwest, with a temp job in PR and a little personal blog, who set her sights on a goal and through spirited determination, grit, and months of hard work, took a road trip to Los Angeles, California where she now lives and works, to stake claim to her dream of becoming a content creator for international cyber-giant, Buzzfeed.

"My current role is Staff Writer as a part of BuzzTeam in the Los Angeles bureau of BuzzFeed. I actually started Jan 27, so exactly nine months this weekend!" Says Lara of the day that changed her life forever, after a 3-day long road trip across America bought her to the doors of Buzzfeed HQ."I grew up on a farm in a town of like ... 500 people" she muses, "So being in LA with millions of people of all different backgrounds is insane, amazing, and terrifying all at once."

But way before all this, Lara was an undergrad at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana, and in a sentiment that is all too familiar to me and many I know, found the experience somewhat unfulfilling, and after graduating ended up in an even less fulfilling job.

"I was actually a Communication major with an emphasis in Public Relations. When I graduated, I spent several months working at a small PR firm in Indianapolis... and hated it. I felt like everything I was doing was just so much bullshit. I went through a mild depression for a while. I spent 90% of my time contemplating life and wondering what the fuck I was going to do, and the other 10% writing. Because I fucking love writing."

 "Life experience is just so much more important to me than education, and I realize that now more than ever. I don't regret going to school at all, but it kind of bothers me a lot now when I see my uni trying to take credit for me being in the position that I am. They didn't apply for this job or spend hours creating community posts. I did."

After spending months unhappy in her job and creating volunteer community posts for Buzzfeed day and night, Lara finally decided to take the plunge and peruse in the jobs section.

"I actually applied for an Editorial Fellowship position. An editorial fellowship is a great, great way to get started at BuzzFeed. You come on for four months of incredible training so you can learn the ropes and get the techniques. Then you have a great chance of being hired on, since you just learned and kicked ass (probably)."

So that's how she got the job right?

 "I was actually turned down. When I got the email I sat on my couch and cried while watching 
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I was feeling REAL sorry for myself before I realized how much of a twat I was being."

 "I emailed the guy that had interviewed me like 3 hours after he had turned me down (not even exaggerating) and told him I wasn't giving up that easily. I just KNEW I belonged at BuzzFeed."

And so with iron will and the bravery to stand up and simply refuse rejection, Lara fired off her email response, and she waited.
"Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I just said "fuck this." There were many times when I felt like giving up. I had to wait months in between interviews where I would sit and ponder and wonder what I would do when I received yet another email about being turned down. I applied for so many jobs, thinking each time..."But this isn't BuzzFeed."

"I applied for a travel intern position and t
hree hours later, I had an interview set up. We chatted for maybe 30 minutes all about my life and experiences and basically why I wanted to be at BuzzFeed. And why I would be good at BuzzFeed. We also talked a lot about my community posts...which is like, a must for anyone who wants to work here."

"We ended the phone call, and I promised to make several more community posts. I didn't hear from her until about 3 weeks later and she told me that I got it, but then immediately asked me if I could be in LA within 2 weeks..."

 "I said yes, obviously, and immediately sold all of my furniture and most of my clothes. And so I packed up my tiny car and my mom and I drove the 2000 miles to CA."
 "My parents weren't super shocked to see me leave, but it didn't make it any easier to say goodbye. It's been rough. I mean, god, I miss them. A lot. And it's a three hour time difference, which doesn't help. And it's not like I can just hop in my car and go see them. Even flying, it takes nearly a day to get home."

"But m
y mom always told me that she didn't see me staying around Indy, and she was right. I don't think I ever really thought I would end up there. I always wanted...more."
"However, even when I got the internship, it wasn't daisies. H
alfway through my internship the travel section took a different direction and they no longer needed me. I had to work really, really hard to prove myself and prove that I could add a voice." 

And so after arriving in a strange and hostile land and fighting tooth and nail for the role she knew she so ardently deserved, Lara finally achieved her dream, and began her first day as a paid staff writer for Buzzfeed.

"It was fucking nerve-wracking. The thing about BuzzFeed is that everyone is like, super fucking brilliant. So I show up, thinking I know what it means to write for an audience, and I get this huge awakening. Like, millions of people read BuzzFeed. MILLIONS."

"And not three weeks before I had nearly peed my pants when my blog got 6k hits. 6,000 hits here is like... nothing. I sat down and just observed. It's just crazy. Everyone is so nice, but you also are so intimidated because like HOLY SHIT THIS IS MY DREAM AND I CAN'T FUCK IT UP, you know?"

But after surviving her first day and settling in well, Lara was able to find herself more comfortable, and start to call LA, home.

"Los Angeles is insane. I had visited LA before and always said that I would never live here because I hated it. It's weird how it turned out. LA has REALLY grown on me. I mean there's just so many facets. There's so much to do and see and explore. And while there are some of the stereotypical LA folks here, I've met some really great people."

"Oh, and it might go without saying, but the weather is KIND OF amazing. It was a major culture shock being here from Indy, b
ut when I feel overwhelmed, I just go to the beach... so it works out."

"Overall, the best part of my job is that it doesn't feel like a job. I mean, god, what more could I ask for? I always dreamed of finding something that truly clicked with me and ignited passions. But I never thought I would actually find it. Sure, some mornings I am tired. But I have never dreaded coming to work. And that still blows my mind."

"The worst part about my job is probably just being subjected to the darkness of the internet. I try my best to ignore hateful comments and messages. But I've written a couple of very personal pieces for BuzzFeed, and on those, it's nearly impossible to ignore the comments. Most of the time I can let it bounce off of me,  but once in a while, a random comment or message will really bring me down. I have to remind myself that people say things on the internet, and that doesn't make it true. Idk. It's rough for everyone. It's a mean place."

"But I think my favorite memory is really after I wrote my personal essay back in April. I had just started on full time as a staff writer and no one really "knew" me. I was just this intern that had written a couple of Target posts. And then I released this fucking burden from my chest in the form of an essay and the amount of support I received from co workers *even all the way from NYC and Australia* was outstanding to me. I mean I seriously cried for like half a day just reading these sweet messages from people. I knew then that I worked at a great fucking place with wonderful people. It's that kind of stuff that matters at the end of the day when you're lying in bed you know?"

So with a dream so ardently fought for and rightfully earned, what does the future hold for Lara?

"I honestly am not sure. I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know that I plan to stay at BuzzFeed for a long time. This is a growing company, and I plan to grow right along with it. Right now, I love spending all my time writing. But maybe in the future I will move into more of a leader role to help other newbies when I'm not such a newbie myself."

And when I ask her what advice she would give to someone who wants to pursue their dream but is a little too afraid to step out of their comfort zone, someone who so desperately wants to take that chance in life...

"Fucking do it. Please do it. There is never a good enough excuse to stop yourself from pursuing your dreams. This is your one life...don't waste it."

In the years I have known Lara, I've observed and cyber-witnessed this incredible transition of events, and I must say I don't think there is a person on earth who inspires me more. Not only for what she has achieved, not only for picking herself back up at her lowest point and hurling herself headlong straight back into it again, but for her unfaltering determination, a refusal to give up which even resulted in her retorting to her message of rejection with a 'You're wrong.'

Nothing worth having comes easy, and yes there's going to be a lot of hard work, there's going to be rejections and let downs and even when you achieve it, there's undoubtedly going to be pitfalls, but the simple fact of the matter is anything is possible if you want it enough and are willing to work bloody hard to get it. 

Stay inspired Ladies and Gentleman, and you go chase down that fucking dream with a bit of Lara Parker gusto, and if ever you're lagging in motivation, just wander over to her instagram and get a glimpse of the life you could have. 

You can also view all of Lara's pieces for BuzzFeed here or find her blog 'Outside The Comfort Zone' here.