Goodbye To All That

Illustration for article titled Goodbye To All That
Photo: The Werth-Penshorn-Blackstock family archives

I was still piecing together the broken, disparate fragments of myself after a trip to rock-goddamn-bottom when Jalopnik decided to take a chance on me. The first time I logged on as a Saturday contributor in March of 2018, I spent the full day shaking like a leaf, wondering when and how I was going to screw up, because it was surely only a matter of time before I made a fool of myself on this massively public platform. It took about a month before I could get through the day without melting away in a clammy, anxious sweat.

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Over the winter of 2017-18, things royally sucked. I was in my senior year of college on the brink of graduating with honors, a grad school acceptance in the bag. I was supposed to be happy. Instead, I tried to overdose in December and spent most of Christmas break barely able to get out of bed. I’d been in counseling for a while—twice a week for a combo of EMDR and talk therapy, once a week for the nutrition therapy meetings to ease me out of an eating disorder—and it had hit that point where the memories coming up in sessions appeared too rapidly for me to deal with in the confines of my counselor’s office. My then-boyfriend threatened to end things for my being too broken but didn’t want to listen to what it was that was breaking me. The grad school offer I’d accepted was strategically chosen to bridge the 1,700 mile-long gap between us, but he didn’t want to move in with me and in fact said he kind of liked the novelty of me living far away so he could choose when he wanted to hang out.

I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t want to stay.

To put it simply, if something didn’t change, I wasn’t making it to graduation.

The day Mike Ballaban messaged me on Twitter asking if I’d be interested in calling him to chat about a weekend position at Jalopnik was the day after I started antidepressants. It was also the day things started to turn around.

I’ll spare you the dirty details of recovery if you promise to buy my eventual memoir when it comes out (after all the key players in it have died, of course). I’ll skip us to the good stuff: working here taught me to value myself. I’ve fucked up and fixed things and made an ass of myself and also written some stuff I’m still immensely proud of. It forced me to write even when I didn’t want to—hell, even when I would have rather just laid in bed, wishing to fall into the void. It reminded me that I didn’t need to be wallowing in my own angst to write something really damn good (something that years of creative writing programs had unintentionally hammered into my brain). It helped me define what was important to me, what I want to spend the rest of my life pursuing. It taught me that I was more than just what was wrong with me.

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One of the first blogs I ever wrote for this site, a biography of Hellé Nice, is still something I’m incredibly proud of. I learned how to research, ask questions, and work alongside my teammates. I got to interview my heroes and remind everyone that women have kicked ass for decades. I also pissed off some PR people in motorsport for asking the questions they didn’t want asked. I’ve been called out for my bad takes. There have been ups and downs, positives and negatives—and I’m so proud of it all. I had to figure out how to defend my own work while also being able to admit that I could screw up and be wrong and not have it totally destroy my confidence. I came into my own as a writer. My learning curve has been exponential.

But I’m also learning when to slow down. I threw myself into my work here because I was determined to prove that I meant something, just like I threw myself into a dual-degree graduate program, writing a novel in a year, getting married to a wonderful man I met after breaking up with my ex—all to prove I had worth and value. When I was offered a full time position at Jalopnik, I took it because, at that point, turning it down would have directly correlated with me proving I was still a failure. In my eyes, at least.

It’s only been a year of the daily grind, but I’ve grown a hell of a lot since then. And part of that learning curve was figuring out what just doesn’t suit me anymore, what I need to do for my own health and success. I can be successful and also not run myself ragged.

Today is my last day at Jalopnik in a full time staff writer capacity. I’m moving into freelance work so that I can focus solely on projects that are close to my heart and mean something to me. I have a research thesis to write, a novel to edit and pitch to agents, extra classes to take while I try to graduate early, and a husband who lives either 500 or 1,500 miles away from me, depending on where I’m living. It’s all happening, and I’m just out here trying to live my best workaholic life in a way that more adequately meets all two million of my demands.

Thank you to everyone who took this journey with me. My co-workers, Jalopnik’s readers, and even the dudes who sent me 46 emails about my appearance when I realized I didn’t have the email icon at the bottom of my blogs activated and finally turned it on. The work I’ve done here has helped me to concretize my formerly incongruous personality into a force of fucking nature, and I owe that to everyone who believed in me and/or challenged me along the way.

I’d say that this is a happy ending, but it’s less of an ending and more of a new chapter in the thriving story of my life. Hopefully, I’ll just keep growing, learning, getting happier, and figuring out how to kick the asses of all the projects I want to tackle.

Don’t miss me too much—I’m sure you’ll see me back around here before you know it.

Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Freelancer. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

I’m pouring out an ice cold can of Rich Energy tonight in your honor. You will be missed.