As noted in the day’s previous entry from Athena, today’s post from her marks her last contribution to the site for a bit, as she starts up school again and focuses on classes. I am, of course, 100% in support of this plan, but it does mean a few changes around here, which I will detail now.
First and most obviously, Whatever is going to go back to being largely handled by me, all the time. Some of this is back end stuff, which you won’t necessarily notice — for example, I will again be posting the Big Idea pieces, which Athena had been handling during her tenure (I had invited her to continue posting them, just for fun, but she declined). It also means that aside from the Big Idea, everything here will be generated by me.
Which is a little sad for me! I’ve enjoyed the variety that Athena’s pieces added to the site — it made the site more “Whatever-y,” if you will. That said, it reminds me that the site ethos is to offer up a wide range of topics and thoughts on them, some serious and some not, and I think going forward I’m going to keep that ethos a little more present in mind as I write and present material. How will that manifest itself? We’ll see, and we’ll see probably after Labor Day, since I’m still on my “Take August Easy and Don’t Do Too Much” plan, which I think has been an excellent plan for me, by the way. I do have ideas, however.
As the site is going back to being mostly me, I’ll be dropping the side photo for now; it’s not needed to differentiate posts between authors, and you all already know what I look like, I suspect. If you have any confusion on the score, the byline is still at the top of each post.
Athena mentions in her piece that after a month or two back in school she’ll reassess how much (if any) time she wants to devote to Whatever. Again, I’m 100% in support of this. School takes precedence and Whatever, by design, is a side hustle (it’s my side hustle, after all, and has been for going on 23 years). Right now there is no concrete plan for her future contributions; they may happen, or not, depending on her time, circumstances and inclinations. No plan, but what Athena has is an open door to post when and if she feels like it, on whatever it is she is thinking about. If she wants to, she can and may! If not, she won’t and that’s fine, too. She’s not banished, she just has other things to do. To reflect this new status, Athena’s masthead designation has changed from “writer/editor” to “contributor.”
(I’ve also changed the picture of the two of us that shows up on the front page of the site, to suggest that Athena may still be present on the site from time to time, just, you know, looming. Don’t worry, I cleared its use with her.)
So those are the administrative notes for the site at the moment. With those taken care of, let me talk briefly as an editor and a father about having Athena be part of the site.
Clearly I knew Athena would be taking a break from the site to focus on going back to school, and inasmuch as we have weekly staff meetings to plot out what’s going up on the site, I knew she would be writing a “farewell” piece as her last regularly scheduled post. I didn’t know what the specific content of it would be prior to her submitting it, or that she would talk about her time at Miami University and her thoughts about it.
I have nothing to add about her time at Miami; that’s her story to tell and it’s not my place, nor do I have an interest, to drop in my two cents there. I will say that we supported her taking time off, first to recalibrate, and then, when COVID hit, because trying to focus on education in the middle of a pandemic for which there was no vaccine wasn’t going to go great for most people in general (this suspicion has, I should say, been borne out). I’ll also say that when it looked like Athena would have an extended hiatus to her formal education, I asked her to come work for me on Whatever.
Three reasons for this: One, because a year-plus of unstructured down time is not a great idea for anyone, and the other job options in the area available to her were mostly retail, which again in a pandemic had their own issues, exposure-wise. Two, having her work on Whatever would let me focus on my own writing a little more while the site was tended to, which was an actual benefit to me, and worth paying her for. Three, because Athena is a legitimately good writer, and here was a chance to give her the time and opportunity to work on her craft on a regular basis, with someone who actually had editorial and journalistic experience. The nature of Whatever is loose (write on whatever subject interests you), but writing regularly and competently takes discipline and skill.
Of those three reasons, number two was the least successful; even with Athena taking over administrative tasks on Whatever I had a bad focus year in 2020, and the only mitigating comment here is that just about everyone else in the world felt similarly. Otherwise, I think Athena’s year on staff at Whatever was a success. The growth of her unique and specific voice as a writer is measurable over that time, as is the confidence in which she approached the topics she addressed. I am biased, of course. But I am not that biased. Athena is a good writer and she got better in her year here.
It’s not the year she or frankly any of us were expecting, but it did not go idly by. And the result was her honing a life skill that will be useful to her out in the world. I’m proud of that, and, obviously, very proud of her.
Which is a thing I feel I should say publicly: I’m proud of my kid. Life is a complicated and messy thing, and rare is the person whose life goes exactly to plan (and to whose plan? Theirs? Or someone else’s?), if they even have a plan at all. Some things are in our control and some things aren’t. I finished college in four years, right after I finished high school. Krissy got her college degree at 35, after years of fitting in classes where she could. Athena will do her thing, and it will take the time it takes. I’m not too worried about that. In the meantime Athena is a good and decent person, one of my favorite people to talk to and snark with, someone whose presence in the world makes me happy every day. And also, a hell of a good writer, and getting better as she goes along.
Again: the last year was not the year she or any of us were expecting. But I wouldn’t trade this last year of working with her for anything. For me, it was a joy, and I will never not look back on it as one of the best of times. Given the time in which it happened and everything that surrounded it, that’s saying something. It was a privilege to be her editor, and is a privilege to continue to be her father.