My Existential Magazine Crisis

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A sample of magazines in my house. It took me 2 minutes to pull these together. Some brand new issues, some from years ago that I’m saving.

I’m a magazine junkie. I love the feel of a fresh issue, and determine the caliber of each by the number of pages I dog-ear. Once I pick one up, it’s hard for me to set it down. I love they way they flow (good magazines, anyway) with short articles mixed with features, lists and maybe a photo essay. I prefer reading print magazines to online articles simply for the presentation. In the same way that music artists craft their albums with one song purposely transitioning to the next, magazines need to have a rhythm. And my heart loves the rhythm of magazines.

I just tried to think of all the different magazines of which I’ve called myself a subscriber, and got to 17 before I couldn’t think of any more. From photography to technology to a publication that I describe as “Cosmo for hip moms“, when I’m reading a magazine I try become the publisher’s perfect demographic. Even if I’m not particularly interested in an article, I read it anyway, determined to find that piece of information that makes it worthwhile. There was probably a team of people who spent a good amount of effort writing and editing the article, designing the page on which it would appear and getting the best photograph to accompany it, and I feel that the least I can do is read it. When I’m reading Family Fun I’m a stay at home mom again, with all the time in the world to plan and shop for the wonderful craft and game ideas they provide. When I’m reading Wired, I’m a 30-something single guy living in the Silicon Valley, always one of the first to know about the latest technology trends.

I’ve always thought that you can tell a lot about a person by their magazine subscriptions choices and have always taken that into consideration when making mine. Paying to have a publication delivered to my home each month and displaying it on my coffee table for a period of time makes a statement, and I have always been conscious about what type of statements I’m making. I take my magazines very seriously.

Since I’ve started working full time my magazine reading time has significantly diminished.  I still get excited every time a new issue arrives in the mail, only to feel overwhelmed when I place it on the top of my “to read” stack. Sometimes I binge on the weekends and read 4-5 magazines in a row. I will admit that at times I will only flip through one before tossing it into the recycling bin, finally admitting to myself that I’ll never get around to reading them all cover to cover.

So I decided to downsize. I took a good look at my current subscriptions and thought about which magazines I enjoy reading the most, and which have been the first to get tossed in recent months. I wish I could say there were tough decisions, but it was really pretty simple to decide which publications would get the boot. But once I had, I was shocked at what I saw. The parenting magazines I used to love, to dog-ear every other page, to insist on keeping old issues so I could reference them later, were in the “do not renew” pile. I’ve been a loyal subscriber to Family Fun and Parents for over 10 years. But for the past year I’ve had a hard time getting through each issue, needing to force myself to finish just a little too much.

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Photo of my kids in the November 2011 issue of Family Fun. That magazine was my best friend during my 10 years as a stay at home mom.

And in the “renew” pile I had Wired, Atlanta magazine and Fast Company. Wired is my current favorite, and every month I find myself completely absorbed in articles on topics that are not usually on my radar. Their writing is so magnificent they can make the most obscure topics absolutely enthralling (this article is a great example). The way the graphic design, in-depth articles and tiny snippets of information from the tech world are sewn together makes my mouth water. Atlanta magazine makes a suburban queen like me long for a condo in the city, and is worth the subscription price for their incredible feature articles alone. Fast Company is a new one for me, but I enjoy reading the stories behind big names in the business world.

So what do my magazine choices say about me? Am I really defined by my subscriptions? What does it mean that I’m ditching the parenting and home decorating mags for those about business and technology?

Here’s my take on it. My family will always be priority #1, and baking will always be my personal form of therapy, but I don’t need new ideas about those topics every month. I’ve got a binder filled with pages I’ve ripped out of magazines and organized for handy reference on the occasion that my kids want to make a craft. I’ve got a recipe organizer bursting at the seams with wrinkled, time-tested dishes I’ll be making for years to come. I’m confident in my parenting, baking and organizing abilities and now realize that I’ve outgrown their corresponding publications.

But I’m at the beginning of my professional career, and I’m thirsty for ideas and stories to fuel that drive to craft my professional persona. I still have a lot to learn about the digital world and what it takes to make it big in business. I want to read about fresh topics that teach me something. I want to read the types of stories that I would like to write.

I have decided not to feel sad about ending some of my long-term magazine relationships. I feel as though my changing subscriptions are echoing the changes in my life. Each publication was as some point my favorite when I needed it to be. Life is a journey, right? It seems as though I’ve turned down a different road and begun to make some new friends.

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