“By the Content of Their Character…”
How reading shaped my voice – and my career

March 21, 2022

I learned to read early, in part thanks to sheer willpower but mostly due to having only one sister, eight-and-a-half years my senior, who seemed to lack genuine interest in playing with stuffed animals.

In those yawning hours between half-day PreK and dinnertime, I was lonely. My sister was on her Walkman or doing homework; my parents were busy at work or having conversations that, even after earnest eavesdropping, were undecipherable. Parties with my parents’ friends who had children my sister’s age were no better – it turns out that most families did not have children eight-and-a-half years apart.

So, in those 1980s afternoons before iPads, Netflix, and text chains for arranging play dates, I read. I sat with Fern in Zuckerman’s barn alongside Charlotte and Wilbur. I co-conspired with Ramona and Beezus. I identified with Matilda, pile of books by my side – the antidote for long, quiet afternoons of waiting. And like so many of my generation, I came of age with Kristy, Claudia, Dawn, and MaryAnne, hoping to make such friends as they had in each other. Until then, they kept me company through over 100 books in the Baby-Sitters Club series. By the time the series ended or I had aged out of it (which came first, I don’t recall) – I was in middle school and had settled into a group of real girls whom I still call friends today.

But reading still transports me to those early, impressionable days, when I spent much time in the company of a diverse set of characters from different eras, cultures, and places. They were reliable narrators; they told cherished tales over and over again, and I never tired of them. I felt safe in their comfort and familiarity. And like the very best friends, they helped me find my own voice.

Many years later, I have stories of my own, and those of others, to tell. The work I do is centered around creating compelling brand narratives and messaging to reach diverse audiences through various channels. When I write, I imagine myself in character – as a physician, a pharmacist, a patient – and try to meet them where they are along their journey. Perhaps it’s fitting that a lifelong love of reading has culminated in a career built on storytelling. With a voice that’s been shaped – indelibly, undoubtedly – by the characters I’ve met along the way.

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