Interview: Caroline Ervin
Can you start by telling readers a little about yourself?
I grew up outside of Atlanta and went to school for journalism at the University of Georgia, where I earned a degree in print journalism. After four years as a copyeditor at the Augusta Chronicle, I moved back to Atlanta and worked as an editor at a few nonprofits before I joined Cristen on Stuff Mom Never Told You. We’ve gone independent recently with our new brand, Unlandylike, which will involve publishing a beautiful book with 10 Speed Press in Spring 2018.
You’ve made a career for yourself as a feminist podcaster and now you are writing a book. I have a feeling this isn’t what you were expecting to do when you were young, so what did you want to be when you grew up?
I actually did want to be a writer when I was much younger, but I had no real talent for narrative arc, you might say. As a really well-rounded and well-adjusted child, I was also into writing super bleak poetry, which I pasted all over my atrocious Geocities website. But I certainly had no idea about podcasting—mainly because it wasn’t invented yet. Even when Cristen asked in 2011 whether I’d want to join her on SMNTY, I said yes more out of a feeling of, “I love Cristen and I hate my current job, so please, yes,” rather than from a deep knowledge of what the heck podcasting was all about.
Aside from any delusions about growing up to be a more well-adjusted Edna St. Vincent Millay, I really wanted to be Indiana Jones, digging up ancient treasures around the globe. Of course, now I see that stealing sacred items skews a tad problematic, and screaming, “it belongs in a museum!” really doesn’t fix that.
What made you choose your current career path? Or did it kind of choose you?
Both. I’ve always, always been a word person—a reader, a writer, an editor. But I’ve been on this particular ride since high school, when the art class I wanted was full, so I ended up getting shoved into the brand new journalism elective. I could have been some really zen painter or papier mache genius, but running the school paper really let my natural neuroticism, anxiety, and bossypantsness blossom. In an effort to be Indiana Jones, I took some anthropology courses my freshman year of college, but wasn’t convinced I couldn’t make a living. So I switched to print journalism. Irony alert. To be honest, I missed the pace and anxiety of the school paper. My anxiety feels like it gives me direction sometimes—until I’m spinning my wheels and sweating uncontrollably! And of course SMNTY was an incredible opportunity that came my way thanks to Cristen.
With Unladylike and any and all related future media projects, I definitely feel more behind the wheel. It was time to take our gal pal chemistry and do our own thing in an environment with fewer creative restrictions and more opportunity to own what we created.
We are never really done growing up. What do you hope to do in the future?
I’m way overdue for some world traveling. I’d love to drop everything and just travel, travel, travel. And depending on the state of our democracy in this country, it can’t hurt to have a passport ready, right?
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice what would it be?
Stop worrying so much about what other people think about you. Don’t be smug asshole. Try out more things. But I’d also congratulate her for her openness and love of people.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
An alarm and thoughts of black coffee.
Do you have advice for girls growing up today?
Don’t ever shut up, don’t ever settle down, just keep being loud and curious and fiery. And every once in a while, remind yourself that your self-worth can truly only come from within; a solid mental and emotional foundation will never come from anyone else, online or IRL.
Do you have any female figures that you look up to? Real or fictional?
Any women who travel (even just outside their comfort zones), who speak truth to power and who blaze trails.
Some real-life heroes include Pauli Murray, Shirley Chisholm, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida B. Wells, Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris and Sally Yates. A few of the fictional badasses I love are Marion Ravenwood, Peta Wilson's version of Nikita and, of course, Khaleesi.
Why do you think it is important to tell our stories?
Courage and empathy beget more courage and empathy. Sharing the stories of women past and present builds bridges and tears down walls. It empowers other girls and women not only to share their own stories, but to see a bigger, brighter picture of the possibilities out there.
What is something in life that you are most proud of?
The times I have been unafraid to step out into the abyss. And the times I’ve been afraid and done it anyway.
What is your life motto?
Do no harm, but take no shit.