Illustration for article titled Stay Fancy, Motherfuckers
Illustration: Jason Torchinsky (Jalopnik)

I have a shameful confession to make. Until I started working here, I didn’t read much Jalopnik. Like, at all. I didn’t read it in high school, college, or really during my time writing for Road & Track. I realize now what a grave disservice I was doing myself.

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When Patrick George (RIP), Jalopnik’s then-EIC, called me for a job interview, I took it gladly. I was about two months into mirthless unemployment after being laid off from R&T and was spending a truly disgusting amount of my day sniping noobs on Destiny PvP and drinking far too much Miller High Life, the champagne of beers. I’m pretty sure I took his call with no pants on.

But one thing Patrick and I agreed on immediately was a commitment to truth-telling and honesty. We both believed in a no-bullshit approach to stories, and he told me he encouraged his writers to throw punches—fearlessly, as long as they were able to back them up. It’s something everyone on staff takes to heart.

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What else was there for me to do but rise to the occasion?

But it wasn’t just that. Any idiot can have an opinion and yell it into the void. You also needed a voice to survive here. And I don’t use the word “survive” flippantly. Your voice, your takes, your angles, you opinions—all of them better be airtight, because the readers and commenters can smell bullshit from a thousand miles away. They’ll tell you immediately and without abandon that your shit stinks and why.

In the absence of a comment-free safety net and with the reach of likely the biggest automotive enthusiast site in the United States, it was tough not to feel like I’d willingly thrown myself into some sort of crucible. It was scary.

At least in the beginning, anyway.

I’d always been self-conscious about fitting in with this industry. Saying the “right” thing in my writing. Having the “correct” point of view. I grew up reading the legacy magazines, and all those Seriously Fast Car Men were obsessed with racing, gear ratios, entry speeds. Stuff I thought I was supposed to care about, too. This was the way I believed I was supposed to write.

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But when I was very honest with myself and had no one to impress nearby, I had to admit I didn’t give a shit about IMSA. All that technical garble was actually quite boring and discussed pretty much entirely in the abstract. Completely useless to me.

I soon found out, to my delight, that it was totally fine to be bored with that stuff at Jalopnik. At its core, this place has always emphasized how much fun we were having with the car, rather than which hypothetical car could hypothetically hurl you around a hypothetical race track while the fun was all hypothetical, too.

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(I also had bosses who would occasionally say this type of shit to me:

Illustration for article titled Stay Fancy, Motherfuckers
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Totally normal and acceptable things to say to others, right??)

Jalopnik is what you make of it and what you put into it. So that meant I was free to pursue what did interest me. Cultural stories, reviews, interviewing voices most hadn’t heard from before, photography. Making you guys laugh—that was a top priority. Here, being different was good. Difference is welcome and always will be.

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It is so extraordinary to be able to find yourself at a job where you can basically say whatever you want. An exceedingly rare opportunity that is only becoming all the more fleeting. I do consider myself superbly fortunate to have had the chance.

Each morning I’d open up a blank Kinja draft and the flashing text cursor greeted me, a blinking symbol of boundless opportunity. Every day would be spent exploring something different, leads powered by the wild and frenetic electricity of the Jalopnik newsroom (also known as Slack). Almost every post would be a challenge to punch harder, dig deeper.

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This is the strength of Jalopnik. Whether by design or not, the website thrives on individualism, uniqueness, and straight-up goddamn weirdos. A place where you can scream a blog in all caps, photocopy and repost a stupid manufacturer press release with handwritten copyedits, say “fuck” as much as you want, and make fun of all the idiotic shit The Brands pump out for rich people to shove up each others’ asses.

It has all been great sport and I will miss it immensely.

Ending without some corny this-isn’t-really-goodbye sentiment is difficult, so I won’t even try. Though I’m leaving my byline here, I’m taking everything else I learned with me. I’m going to a new place where I know I will keep learning. And at the end of all of this, I’ll be joining you. As a reader. Yeah, I’m finally a Jalopnik reader. All it took was four years of employment at the damn site.

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Thank you to my wonderful, lovely, beautiful team who always challenged me and worked with me to hone my strengths. The building may be crumbling around you, but it will never crush your spirit.

Thank you to the readers and the commentariat who kept me honest. Jalopnik wouldn’t be half of what it is without you.

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Most importantly, thank you to everyone who laughed with me. Stay fancy forever.

If you want to reach out, you can find my Twitter here, my Instagram here, or you can email me at kristenleetips@gmail.com.

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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