In Defense of Taylor Cotter

Hamilton Nolan, as you may or may not know, is kind of a big deal. He was never young, never naive, never 22. He’s never hesitated or felt concern for the direction his life was taking, and even if he did, he would never be fool enough to write about it. It’s not like he’s a journalist or anything.

Nolan, who makes a name for himself by playing devil’s advocate, (see: “Steve Jobs Was Not God”) has — with the absence of the recent deaths of any of the greatest minds of our time or breaking Chik-fil-A stories to write — turned his carefully selected ire on recent Northeastern graduate Taylor Cotter. Cotter had the audacity to express her genuine feeling of loss and disappointment at being 22 and feeling locked in and bored, ironically afraid of her own safety and success, in a post for HuffPo, which (sin of sins) she was not paid for.

Cotter writes:

“However, all that’s run through my head is that, at 22, I’ve already had to make life-defining decisions. I chose the path of a full-time job and an adult life. I gave up on the adventures, on freedom, on youth. Forget about career versus motherhood — I can’t even have it all now.”

But that’s not acceptable, at least according to Nolan:

“Fanciful girl! From everyone else’s perspective, you can still look forward to the character-building experience of having something you wrote widely ridiculed on the internet. And I can tell you from experience, Taylor: the worst part is when you realize that you weren’t even paid for it.”

Equally shocking to Nolan is that Cotter, at 22, isn’t lucky enough to have absolute wisdom and perspective on her life, at all times. If only she could be more like Nolan and all the naysayers across social media, who apparently have never doubted their path or their life, who have never dreamed of being their fictional heroes, living out manic and glamorous adventures, surviving on Hot Pockets and disaster, and eventually, arriving safely home to the backdrop of an Elliot Smith song.

As a 20-something female journalist, I know that we are told we must be exceptional to even get in the door. Cotter got there early, and then she asked herself why. Her driving force for years was securing a job. Then, that was it. She achieved it. Is it really a surprise that she feels like she missed something along the way?

I don’t have a full time job, but I can tell you that if I did, I would share Cotter’s disillusion and hesitation, however easy that might be to mock. This is not because I am unintelligent or ungrateful, but because I am human, and I’ll always want more, and I’ll always wonder.

That’s what keeps us searching and keeps us alive. It keeps us building things bigger and writing things better and trying to beat Christiane Amanpour, Arianna Huffington, and yes, even Carrie Bradshaw.

So, please, the rest of you 20-something ladies, Hamilton Nolan, and everyone else: be real. You have to have wanted greatness and squalor at some point. Relax, and let Taylor Cotter want it, too. (Plus, tip for everyone on their high horses: she’s being hypothetical.)

And Taylor, from one Boston girl to another: keep on searching. Life is short and the world needs more people who think outside the box.

In the meantime, let’s meet for a cosmo and talk about Mr. Big sometime.

  • Caroline

    I didn’t get the impression Nolan was mocking her confusion and lack of direction. However, Cotter came across as unappreciative and naive. When we’re coming off one of the biggest financial crises in our country’s history and many, many people are still unemployed, it’s not really a good look to write an article about how you wish you could know what it’s like to struggle.

    I do understand where Cotter was coming from (and, being in my early 20s, can certainly relate to aspects of her piece), but as a future journalist she should think more about the way in which her words and tone might be perceived.

  • Shoshana

    I agree with you. The negative response to her post was unnecessary.

  • John Mellor

    If this were a girl chatting at a cafe, I’d agree with you, but a journalist, paid or otherwise, should be thoughtful about how her words are going to be perceived. People read articles thoughtfully (at least every author should hope), so to write, at a time of high unemployment and anxiety for so many of us twenty-somethings, how unfortunate her life is just makes Taylor sound tone deaf. Sure, she can want more; everyone does, but to say it in the way that she did is dense. If you’re going to write such an obtuse thing in a public forum, you better be ready for the consequences. People aren’t picking on her for liking SATC or for her writing style, they are angry that she has so little perspective, and weeps for herself when she has it better than 90% of the world. It’s not an attractive quality.

  • Mary Ann Sintich

    I like this writer’s, Gina, insight and sensitivity to a situation which has no apparent answer. Her article is very thought provoking.

  • Kim

    First off, Taylor is NOT a journalist. She’s an editorial asst. at some website for college students, many of whom might not appreciate her dull view of full-time post-college employment.

    Second, she has only been working F-T since graduating in May — a whopping 2 months! Two months of FT employment does not make you (a) successful, (b) an actual journalist or (c) an adult.

    Cotter is entitled to her opinions like everyone else, but critics should also feel free to bash her naivete if they disagree with her.

    She also needs to realize there are other 22 year olds who are actually working as journalists in NYC (since she romanticized living in Manhattan like her idol Carrie Bradshaw) and didn’t sell out to live outside of Boston and work at some website advising college kids.