What I’ve Learned from Being in The New York Times

This past weekend, my husband and I had the incredible honor of having our story told in The New York Times. The loving responses from our family, friends, and even people that we don’t know have been overwhelming. If you haven’t seen the article yet, you can read it here.

Many people have asked how the piece came to pass, so I figured I would offer some behind the scenes details on the story. I also wanted to highlight some lessons that I learned from the experience.

Thank God for Twitter

Two Saturdays ago, I had the house all to myself, so I grabbed some popcorn and streamed a personal finance documentary that I’ve been meaning to watch called “The Retirement Gamble.”  (If you haven’t seen it, you MUST watch it.) The show featured many powerhouse personal finance commentators, including New York Times columnist Ron Lieber.

I’ve admired Ron and his work for many years, and we connected on Twitter in part due to our Chicago roots and common interest in GLBTQ equality, especially when it comes to money. So I tweeted about the documentary and tagged him. He in turn invited me to an event he’s having for his upcoming book. I signed up right away and considered it a very successful weekend.  Early that Sunday morning, however, he messaged me about an idea he had for a story and wanted to know if I was interested.  After a shake of the head and quick log out/log in of my Twitter account, I sent him my email address and waited for a response.

Is this Happening?  

The Supreme Court’s decision to take up the 6th Circuit gay marriage cases came out that Friday, and Ron correctly presumed that the decision would affect me personally and professionally. In his initial email, he clarified his understanding of my personal and professional circumstances, including that I recently married a man, and part of my practice involves helping GLBTQ individuals navigate the current rough financial terrain. I made a quick call to Ben in New York to let him know the unbelievable weekend that I was having. I then responded to Ron with so much detail that Ben’s initial response back to me was, “That was long.” Despite my craziness, Ron said he was game if we were and would have to run the story by his editor.

That next 24 hours was like waiting for my bar exam results all over again.  I was so excited about the prospect of getting to spend a day with Ron Lieber and appearing in the New York Times (and yes, in that order of excitement). I told myself that I wouldn’t tell anyone, in case it fell through. Yet about 10 minutes into my morning conversation with my boss, I found myself saying “So I have something to tell you.”

As the hours went by, I convinced myself it wasn’t happening. That mindset didn’t prevent me from pushing the menu button on my phone every few minutes to check for a missed call. Still nothing by the end of the workday. I went to Yoga under the false impression that being away from my phone 45 minutes would relax me. No call before my shower. Nothing after. 

Just as I was putting my finishing touches on our dinner, Ben shouted, “your phone is ringing, and it’s from New York!”

Interview Day

Ron showed up with two large coffees in hand. (He must have known I hadn’t been sleeping very well all that week.) When I saw him I managed an awkward “Heeeeyyy!” pretending that this wasn’t my first time being interviewed. Luckily, he was just as nice as I thought he would be (although much taller than I anticipated).  Before we even got started, he said I could ask him anything that I wanted – personal or professional – since he was going dig fairly deeply into my personal and professional life.

The epitome of “geeking out” ensued. Just imagine the scene when this personal finance nerd had the opportunity to ask anything of the guy who has expertly dissected the topic for well over decade. I can still picture the awe on my face when he talked about his interview Vanguard founder John Bogle. I was asking so many questions, at one point I asked “Are you sure this is okay?”

He also had a lot of questions for me. But it was very much a free flowing conversation.  I opened up about my personal history, some struggles, and of course my finances. We spent a few hours in my office and a couple more hours at our home where he interviewed me and Ben.  We also got to spend time together later that evening for dinner. Ron even made sure to tell the waiter it was my birthday.

Lessons Learned

Overall, I was extremely pleased with the final product. Despite my anxiety over saying something stupid or coming across more boring than usual, I knew I was in good hands.

I marvel at Ron’s ability to distill a days worth of conversation and three decades of history for two people into a 1300 word story.

I also came away from the experience understanding a few more things:

  • I’m grateful: The article reminded me that I’m lucky to have lived the life that I have, despite the many ups and downs.
  • Twitter is awesome. If you aren’t using social media either for your business or your personal endeavors, you should. It’s a great way to connect with people you wouldn’t otherwise.
  • Put yourself out there: If I hadn’t started my blog or my business, I wouldn’t have been out there to be found. You hear all of the time that you should do what you love and good things will come. It couldn’t be any truer in this circumstance.
  • Sometimes it takes luck: The article came about from many events randomly happening at the same time – the Supreme Court’s decision on the 6th circuit case, me watching the documentary that had Ron it and tweeting about it, and having connected with Ron over a year ago.  Sometimes, you just have to be in the right place at the right time.  
  • Keep going! Obviously, this one article isn’t the pinnacle of all that I want to accomplish. I hope to use it as stepping stone to help grow my blog and my business. But when my motivation for staying up late to write or taking time on the weekend to work on my business wanes, I’ll remember how much fun this experience was and keep going.