Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Me and Modern Love

the day after my 36th birthday, i got an email from the editor of the Modern Love column, which runs in The New York Times every Sunday and examines contemporary issues in dating, parenthood, marriage and “any subject that might reasonably fit under the heading ‘Modern Love,’” according to the submission guidelines.

i had submitted a personal essay to the column about a month ago and waited impatiently for it to be rejected, as all the other essays i submitted there were. instead came the email notifying me that the editor, Daniel Jones, would like to “talk” to me about the essay. i was at work at the time and replied quickly with something clumsy that amounted to: “yeah, OK!!!! Let’s talk!” then i went downstairs and walked around the block.

i told exactly no one about this email despite wanting to tell everyone because i’m very superstitious and didn’t want to jinx myself by talking about something that was far from certain. by the end of that day, i had convinced myself i was only a contender, maybe one out of 10, vying to have their essay published. after all, the editor said only that he wanted to “talk” to me about my essay, not “publish” it. my keen sense of observation managed to find a few other indicators in his three-line email that made publication an impossibility, things like “thank you” and “talk to you soon.” i was sure i had no chance.

being a writer is a lot like like being an actor in that you’re constantly being rejected. i’ve been rejected plenty and by much lesser publications than The New York Times. it’s demoralizing every time, akin to someone using the thing you have painstakingly slaved over as toilet paper. with each “thanks, but no thanks” form email i received, i feared that my writing career would never extend beyond blogspot.com and several times considered leaving this writing business to the professionals. not helping matters was the fact that i got very close to getting an essay published on a well-known website earlier this year, only to get shot down after a round of edits.

so when the New York Times email came, disbelief was the only emotion i could muster. we scheduled a phone meeting that following monday for 8am pacific, five days from the day i got the email — days that felt 85-hours long. that week held my annual birthday party, a dodger game with my pops and hangouts with various friends, so i had plenty of distractions, yet still filled my time between them thinking of little else. by sunday night, i was pacing my house like a madwoman and bargaining with god to please make this happen at any cost. (now that this is really happening, i’m a little worried about what i offered to give up.)

on monday morning, i was up at 5:30am and trying not to hyperventilate as the clock struck and then passed 8am, with the call coming 10 minutes late. i spent those final minutes giving myself yet another “it’s ok, you’ll get past this” pep talk. when the phone finally did ring, i took a deep breath and become eerily lucid during the 20-minute conversation that followed, as though i had become possessed by a less neurotic version of myself. it’s a girl i’ve seen plenty but cannot always count on in a jam. but she served me solidly this time.(thanks for coming through, higher self. i owe you big time.)

the chat with the editor was quite pleasant. i answered his questions, cracked a few jokes, went over his edits (very minimal) and even discussed a piece that he wrote for the Times on being bald, which i read and sincerely loved. i had even signed my submission email with a note that read “p.s. Baldies are the hottest” as a nod to his article. a big risk, to be sure, one i thought about at length and went for in an effort to stay authentic or something, though he assured me that my p.s. didn’t influence his decision in any way.

sensing my disbelief, he also assured me that YES, this was really happening, YES, he wanted to publish my essay in the New York Friggin Times. it was not a joke. with that, we hung up and my disbelief turned into a joy i have never before known in my life. overwhelmed, i did the thing i always do when any emotion, however happy or sad, floods me: i started to cry. then i called my parents, who also started to cry. soon after, i told facebook and then laughed as a handful of men pinged me to ask if the essay was about them.

what the essay is about i am not saying. it can be read in the july 15 print edition of the Sunday New York Times. it could be online sooner. i will say it is about one person, whom i already notified and who was a super champ about the whole thing. i will also say that this essay does not paint me in a wonderful light, but i’m ok with that since, you know, New York Times.  

i’m certain that the way i portrayed myself helped its publication prospects since the ugly truth is way more interesting than a sanitized version, which i probably too often try to project in this space. with that in mind, i will try to be more honest here, if only to make myself more interesting (and publishable).

the only downside to the ugly truth and the publication of this essay is that it will ensure i will be single forever. i suspected as much before, but now i’m pretty certain of it. the other downside is that i may offend some people, particularly a few of my closest girlfriends, with the beliefs i outline in the essay. i apologize in advance for any offense caused, though i don’t apologize for believing in what i do. i stand by everything i say and hope others do the same. we don’t always have to agree.
 
and here comes the part where i should tell everyone to keep pursuing their dreams because they can come true with enough patience and perseverance, just as mine did. but the reality is that i’m sure much more rejection lies in my future. there will be more demoralizing days when i want to chuck my computer out of the window and go live on a farm. there will be days when i want to use my own work as toilet paper and will question the sanity of Dan Jones from the New York Times for publishing any of my drivel.

but for now, i will not allow myself to worry about that. i will not think that this may be the apex of my career and that it’s all downhill from here. instead, i will allow myself to feel excited as all get out to see this essay published. i will cry, rejoice, celebrate, tell everyone i know, and i will feel like a million bucks. i will take my time returning to earth. because this is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me and im happy beyond measure.

thank you for being part of this moment with me. it means the world.

11 comments:

Michael Landis said...

Mwah!!! You've got proof that, no, not *everything* you touch may turn into gold, but you do create gold.

Good for you and your higher self! :D

Christie del Castillo -Hegyi said...

I am so proud of you Milla! Thank you so much for sharing your joy with us. Christie

Kim D. said...

Hi Milla: I don't know you but I feel as though I must comment... I found your blog via facebook when I saw your Modern Love piece there. I read some of your blog posts and found out your birthday is a day before mine (7-7) and I am also a writer and also submitted a piece to the ML column...blah blah you get where I'm going. I felt a connection and wanted to say Congrats! This is HUGE and I'm envious beyond belief! Your piece was great...I laughed and snickered, was disappointed and then sad. So real, authentic, honest. Again, congratulations!
Kim

Kim D. said...

ooops your bday is June 26! Oh well, you're a fellow moon child/cancer :)

Joyce said...

I found your blog from the Modern Love column. When I first started reading the column, I thought, hmm, she seems kind of needy....but then I thought, she's being pretty honest about herself, which I always admire. And actually, being so honest about what you were imagining makes the piece really work. Especially when you get into why. I really share your views on name changing. It's actually been difficult to accept when a few of my friends changed their names--which is judgmental, but the truth. Your essay was great.

Joyce said...

I found your blog from the Modern Love column. When I first started reading the column, I thought, hmm, she seems kind of needy....but then I thought, she's being pretty honest about herself, which I always admire. And actually, being so honest about what you were imagining makes the piece really work. Especially when you get into why. I really share your views on name changing. It's actually been difficult to accept when a few of my friends changed their names--which is judgmental, but the truth. Your essay was great.

Rebecca said...

I,too, found your blog through the Modern Love column. I thought your essay was terrific, and wanted to offer my congratulations to you for getting it published. Good for you!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful piece ... seduced me right away and kept me hooked while surprising me at the end with great tenderness. We all err and often. To view these weakness and then expose them is, in my world, a sign of bravery and raw honesty. Wish we all share more of that! Thank you Milla.

A Girl In Beta said...

I loved your essay. Absolutely loved it. Sometimes, I think the 'signs' are there, and then it's almost as if fate overshadows any logic. So, I'll make bad decisions because I think something is meant to be when it's not.

Does that make sense? Probably not. I just saw a lot of myself in what you wrote.

And also I see a lot of myself in this post. One of my dreams is to be published in Modern Love. Still trying.

Congratulations.

I doubt you'll be single forever. But, alas, that's also my fear. Still, you never know if someone is going to emotionally connect with your writing. And then you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're loved for being the person you truly are.

:)

Jessica Caris said...

I'm you! Or something close. My own essay was submitted to Dan-o, 6 days, four hours and 13 minutes ago. To torture myself today, I began to google Modern Love rejection letter, acceptance email, etc. I found your blog.

You ARE amazing and I am living vicariously through the elation of having it published.

:)

Jessica

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