Freelancers / Interviews / Writers

Balancing the Grind with Naydeline Mejia, Freelance Writer & Content Creator

Naydeline Mejia is a freelance writer, multimedia journalist and content creator, whose work has been featured on Salty, DORÉ, COVETEUR, and more.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’d say my career background is in freelance writing and journalism, but majority of my time is spent as an undergraduate student at Baruch College.

I am currently at j-school to try to advance my skillset and knowledge, but I have been contributing to publications such as DORÉ, Coveteur, and Salty – mostly as an intern – since the start of my gap year from school at the end of 2018.

It’s been a really exciting year and a half of working as a writer and connecting with so many mentors and people in the media industry; everyday I am constantly inspired by the current media landscape and the innovations that I am seeing.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Right now, because we are social distancing, my workday looks a bit different.

I usually wake up around 10am everyday –– except for Wednesdays when I wake up a bit earlier to get ready for my class held via Zoom at 10:45am –– and I start with my morning routine: shower, get dressed, write in my Five-Minute Journal, breakfast, and then I’ll check out recent videos created by my favorite media brands on YouTube.

I don’t usually sign onto my email until around noon, and then that’s when I start to respond to professors or editors if I am pitching a piece. After taking about 2-3 hours answering emails, then I’ll start on whatever school assignments I may have –– schoolwork usually takes up about 3-6 hours of my day, give or take.

After my work day I usually wind down with some Netflix, some Animal Crossing gameplay, or a book –– right now I’m reading Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity by Peggy Orenstein.

I usually don’t go to bed until around 2 or 3am –– social distancing has really messed with my sleep schedule (haha). This is a usually day for me, but of course every day is different –– some days I may have a video call/interview with a source for either a story for school or for a freelance piece or I may tune into an online career workshop or panel.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes of course! I know the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most people who have the privilege to work from home, to work from home, but honestly a lot of freelance work can be done –– and usually is done –– remotely.

A lot of the work I was doing before social distancing was done remotely –– interviews, conversations with editors, etc. Working remotely definitely allows me more time to focus on other things or really craft a story –– you don’t have to consider commuting times on the subway.

Remote work fits really well into my life and routine, as it is right now, because I find I have more time to really dedicate to a project and I am also taking this “slow down” period to get my name out there and do more freelance work –– something that was hard to do with my rigorous school schedule before.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me, work-life balance is about not overextending myself or exhausting my energy.

To be honest, I am still learning to find that work-life balance because I can be a bit of a workaholic –– a lot of downtime gives me anxiety and I always find myself looking for more work to do during long periods of downtime.

Social distancing has really taught me to appreciate downtime and a slower pace of living. Living in New York City, it’s always go, go, and go, and I think a lot of people, especially New Yorkers, are learning to slow down.

Yes, work is a big part of everyone’s life, but there is power and serenity in appreciating the calm moments. So I am really taking this downtime to hone in on my craft and pick up hobbies that I’ve left on the back burner because of school/work demands, and I’m not beating myself up if I take a day of rest or for not “doing enough”.

Productivity is ambiguous and watching Netflix or doing an art project can also be productive, just not in the way people usually tend to define the word.

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5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

I think some of the best habits I’ve developed over the years to help me achieve success is one: listening to my body, and two: taking ownership over my work and really advocating for what I believe in.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I have had to learn to listen to my body and if I am feeling overwhelmed then that is a telltale sign that I need to take a break and that may mean taking a day off for what I call a “mental health day” or taking it a bit slower –– maybe not doing as much work, while still getting something done.

As a young, up-and-coming journalist, I’ve had to learn to take ownership of my work and really advocate for my work and my stories. My older sister taught me at a young age that there’s a difference between constructive criticism and just plain criticism.

I am not perfect, so I do appreciate constructive criticism from my peers, but if I feel like a criticism threatens the journalistic integrity of my work or threatens to change the message I want to push with my writing, then I will fight back and advocate for myself.

Just because I’m young and new to the world of media, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a strong message –– I know what messages I want to put out to the world and I will not censor or sugarcoat my words to make other people feel comfortable.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Yeah, for sure! I would say my favorite books would have to be The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez –– I am just enamored by the world of magical realism and it’s one of my favorite genres to read.

As a journalist, I also really appreciate non-fiction works and have been reading a lot of non-fiction and feminist literature lately –– some books I’ve read recently that I’ve really enjoyed are Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

As for podcasts, I am not a big podcast listener just because I am not an auditory learner so I get distracted if I am listening to a podcast and also doing something else (haha!), but I did recently listen to VICE New’s The Distance: Coronavirus Dispatches and I really enjoyed that series. My favorite newsletter right now has to be Big Spaceship’s Internet Brunch because I love knowing what’s trending online at the moment.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

The number one thing I do to make sure I get the most out of my day is definitely keeping a planner handy so I am on track with my assignments, and it’s also a good way of prioritizing my assignments so I can get the most pressing work out of the way first before I move onto anything else –– my calendar and planner definitely keep me on track and I would be lost without them.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Definitely Elaine Welteroth, the former Editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue and author of More Than Enough, because she’s just such a huge inspiration to me as a women of color trying to work her way up in the media industry. She’s also so humble and confident and an advocate for herself –– all things that I want to make sure I become/maintain as I work my way up in this world.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Learn to take breaks, don’t overextend yourself, learn to say “no”, take ownership over your work and learn to advocate for yourself –– just because you’re young doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of the job and it doesn’t mean that your voice doesn’t matter.

In fact, the voices of my generation, Gen-Z, are even more important now as we try to navigate this new media landscape and learn what that means for traditional media, and all industries in general.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.