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Porridge and Clouds #2

Posted by Amy Gutman  March 8, 2013 12:19 PM

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Bowl of clouds

Por­ridge & Clouds is an occa­sional series on things I’m think­ing about + things that make me think.

Those Crim­son Women Circa 1978  and the Fla­vors O’ Success

My mus­ings on the obsta­cles that may have kept women on the Har­vard Crim­son in my era from evolv­ing into uber suc­cess­ful jour­nal­is­tic super­stars has sparked some lively conversation—especially timely as the Sheryl Sand­berg tsunami approaches land­fall on this Inter­na­tional Women’s Day.

Among the com­ments: My writer friend Cathi Hanauer (Gone, The Bitch in the House) made a com­pelling case for the myr­iad ways moth­er­hood may fig­ure into this equa­tion, while col­lege class­mate Arthur Kyr­i­azis pointed out that a num­ber of women of my Crim­son era had, in fact, been phe­nom­e­nally suc­cess­ful. Both of these are excel­lent points, and I revised the post slightly this morn­ing to clar­ify what I meant.

To quickly recap: I didn’t mean to say that Crim­son women of my era didn’t go on to amaz­ing careers, just that—with one salient excep­tion, not in my col­lege class—none became the super­star jour­nal­is­tic brands that an astound­ing four of the men from my fresh­man comp did. Sim­i­larly, while I don’t have kids myself, it’s obvi­ous to me that moms face unique challenges—but at the same time, I don’t really see that account­ing for what I described. It wasn’t that the women of my era didn’t tri­umph in careers known for their over-the-top non-family-friendly demands—investment bank­ing and cor­po­rate law being two examples—it’s that the paths they fol­lowed didn’t involve the pub­lic act of claim­ing their voices.

Also, a coda: A col­lege friend who read the piece emailed me, won­der­ing if I remem­bered a few Crim­son women she’d known: Susan Chira, Suzy Spring, and “Nancy” some­one. For Susan Chira my answer was a resound­ing Yes: She was pres­i­dent of the Crim­son a cou­ple years ahead of me and went on to a career at the New York Times. (If she’d been in my Crim­son comp, she’d have seri­ously under­cut my lede.) “Nancy” didn’t ring a bell. Suzy Spring sounded famil­iar. “Did she go on to the Her­ald?” I emailed back. The answer: “SHE MARRIED JACK WELCH.”

Fol­low Your Heart 2.0: Notes from the Field

A few weeks back, I wrote about how eco­nomic pres­sures are paving the way for a new under­stand­ing of what it means to “fol­low your heart”—one informed by an aware­ness that bliss is gen­er­ally eas­ier to come by when you can pay your bills.

In this con­text, I was intrigued by pop­u­lar travel blog­ger Mariellen Ward’s post about her deci­sion to trade the peri­patetic life that informs the Breathe­DreamGo blog inspired by her pas­sion for India for life in her native Canada. What I love about this piece is its insight into the real­i­ties of find­ing sta­ble foot­ing on the road less traveled–and how this is always a work in progress. In par­tic­u­lar, this:

On my first night in Goa, when I couldn’t sleep because of fear and hunger, I sud­denly real­ized: I’m done. I’m home­sick, I’m tired of try­ing to make a liv­ing as a travel writer and blog­ger, I’m tired of trav­el­ing with lim­ited funds, I’m tired of the strug­gle, of TRYING so hard for so lit­tle in return, and I want to go back to Canada. Just like that. I don’t know if it was the house I was stay­ing in, or the plan­e­tary align­ment, or maybe just the tim­ing. But that night in Goa every­thing changed.”

Another won­der­ful post about the highly per­sonal process of forg­ing a mean­ing­ful life comes from my friend Lisa Maguire, now con­tem­plat­ing a career change from invest­ment bank­ing to horse care as the still-contracting finance indus­try con­tin­ues to bleed jobs.

It occurred to me that this was the first mean­ing­ful work I had done in years,” she writes with char­ac­ter­is­tic wry humor, describ­ing the expe­ri­ence of vol­un­teer­ing to muck out stalls. “Work that had tan­gi­ble results (I could see the clean stall) and a pur­pose (the res­cue relies solely on vol­un­teer labor). It was also work that I was able to do with­out any pol­i­tics or con­tro­versy. Unlike work­ing in an invest­ment bank, no one dis­puted who was going to fill up which water bucket; no one stood next to your just-filled bucket and claimed your work as their own; no one emp­tied your just-filled bucket and then refilled the bucket, say­ing you had not done it right; no one debated the process con­trols and reg­u­la­tions around fill­ing up the buck­ets, tak­ing out mea­sur­ing sticks to see how far from the lip of the bucket you’d filled.”

Job­less Rate Falls to 7.7%!  Big News—Or Not?

Plenty of excite­ment about this today—here’s the New York Times piece—but how excited should we really be? I, for one, am putting off judg­ment until I know more about the qual­ity of the jobs created—specifically, how salaries and ben­e­fits stack up against the pre-Recession jobs they replace.

Also: In case you haven’t noticed, jobs are still dis­ap­pear­ing. Don’t believe me? Check out the new (and appar­ently ongo­ing) series about being laid off after the age of 50 from busi­ness jour­nal­ist Jon Fried­man, who is shar­ing his evolv­ing story in a series of lively posts. Here’s the first.

Man­ag­ing Stress in Stress­ful Times

It’s one thing to apply stress-management tech­niques to the ordi­nary annoy­ances of daily life—traffic, noisy neigh­bors, being put on hold by Comcast—but what if you’re fac­ing far more seri­ous issues shaped by larger eco­nomic trends? Think job loss, fore­clo­sure, major invest­ment losses. Last week, Plan B Nation had a chance to put this ques­tion to a panel of experts at Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health, part of a fas­ci­nat­ing panel dis­cus­sion livestreamed from HSPH’s Lead­er­ship Stu­dio. Well worth watch­ing (which you can do here).

Recipe: Quinoa Black Bean Burgers     

A recipe! There’s always a recipe here on Por­ridge and Clouds. Last time it was for red vel­vet cake. This time, it’s quinoa black bean burg­ers. They come highly rec­om­mended by me (assum­ing you like such things).

© 2013, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

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Originally published on the blog Plan B Nation.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Amy Gutman is a writer and lawyer with eclectic interests and a resume to match. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Psychology Today, and the Chicago Tribune, among other venues, and she is the author of two suspense novels, both published by Little, Brown. Currently a lecturer in the Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst, she lives and works in Plan B Nation. More »

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