I'm so frustrated and feeling stuck. There aren't many opportunities where I'm from for fashion or even fashion publications. Ideally, I'd love to work for someone like The Gentlewoman or I-D. I'm only 22 and I feel this enormous weight of not being where I want to be just yet or not feeling like I've made enough substantial progress. Is this normal? Will I ever feel like my work is enough? How can I find opportunities when it feels like there aren't any around? What do you do to feel better and get out of what seems like an impossible rut?
Being 22 is HARD. I remember basically feeling stuck and underappreciated for most of my twenties. It's frustrating waiting for your years of experience to stack up so your resume reflects what you already know you're capable of now.
What I ended up doing was writing for a blog that was founded by a few friends of mine, and that became my primary creative/professional outlet for the first five years of my career. All of those collaborators-- we wrote for a blog called Feministing-- have gone on to do awesome stuff as we aged out of the blog and into cooler jobs. But even in the short term, it really helped me showcase what I was capable of. It was an outlet for my writing and a way to professionally collaborate on equal footing-- not as somebody's assistant but as part of a cooperative group of young women making something together. I'd really encourage you to find a few friends or similarly frustrated young colleagues, and get a side project going. A publication, a zine, a live event series, a podcast, WHATEVER. Because then, even though it's going to take your day job a few years to get great, you'll have a way to express your awesome ideas in the meantime. And those unpaid side gigs ended up being great on my resume, too. Unintended upside.
I love setting goals like your aim to be in the Gentlewoman. But, again, I also have to ask you what you're writing in the meantime. The great thing about wanting to be a writer is that no one has to give you permission. The awful thing about wanting to be a writer is that no one is going to give you permission. If you want to write about awesome women, you can do that now. If you want to write essays, you can do that now. Maybe you won't find a public outlet for them just yet, but you can be honing your writing skills in the meantime. You're not a writer if you just aspire to write. You have to actually write stuff. Practice. Maybe you are already! In which case, awesome. But again, I just wish someone would have drilled that into me when I was 22. I spent a lot of time waiting for an assignment or permission rather than just disciplining myself to actually write on my own time.