Soon another year will begin. Another year filled with exciting book releases and new, compelling voices emerging from the different depths of the writing world. I asked my friends, co-workers, and random people on the internet to let me know which articles and essays stood out to them this year. I wanted to know what moved them, inspired them, or compelled them to think about their life, opinions, and relationships. What were the pieces they read that they absolutely had to share with at least one person? So they told me and here I have this list of 18 articles and essays published in 2014 from many incredible writers. Check it out and take a look back at some thought-provoking moments in writing this year.
1. My Grandma the Poisoner – John Reed
“You don’t want to believe your grandmother is poisoning you. You know that she loves you—there’s no doubt of that—and she’s so marvelously grandmotherly and charming. And you know that she would never want to poison you. So despite your better judgment, you eat the food until you’ve passed out so many times that you can’t keep doubting yourself.”
2. A Tale Of Two Hipsters – Dale Beran
“This essay is an effort to use critical analysis to unravel the term “hipster” into a lattice of ideas that is clear, makes plain sense, and so therefore explains things which before to us seemed hopelessly tangled. Most articles on this topic claim the term is unknowable. This is because the word, like the entire notion of indefinable rhizomic culture movements, is ideology. It is the means by which an outside group has defined, divided, and de-legitimized the radical in our present generation.”
3. Bad Victims – Roxane Gay
“People who have been sexually assaulted know there are good victims and bad victims. Good victims, of course, do not exist but they are an elaborate ideal. They are assaulted in a dark alley by a known criminal who has a knife or a gun. They are modestly dressed. They report their assault immediately to law enforcement and submit, willingly, to a rape exam. They answer all questions about their assault lucidly and completely as many times as is necessary. They are adequately prepared for trial. They don’t pester the prosecutor as he or she prepares for trial. When they testify, they are modestly dressed. They are the girl or boy next door. They deserve justice because they are so righteous in their victimhood.”
4. Naked, Covered in Ram’s Blood, Drinking a Coke, and Feeling Pretty Good – Andrew Solomon
“And then when I had finished the Coke, they said, “Okay, now we have the final parts of the ritual. First you have to put your hands by your sides and stand very straight and very erect.” And I said, “Okay,” and then they tied me up with the intestines of the ram. In the meanwhile its body was hanging from a nearby tree, and someone was doing some butchering of it, and they took various little bits of it out. And then I had to kind of shuffle over, all tied up in intestines, which most of you probably haven’t done, but it’s hard.”
5. I Don’t Want To Be Right – Maria Konnikova
“Normally, self-affirmation is reserved for instances in which identity is threatened in direct ways: race, gender, age, weight, and the like. Here, Nyhan decided to apply it in an unrelated context: Could recalling a time when you felt good about yourself make you more broad-minded about highly politicized issues, like the Iraq surge or global warming? As it turns out, it would. On all issues, attitudes became more accurate with self-affirmation, and remained just as inaccurate without. That effect held even when no additional information was presented—that is, when people were simply asked the same questions twice, before and after the self-affirmation.”
6. The Year I Grew Wildly, While Men Looked On – Ashley Ford
“Instinctively, I wrapped my arms around myself. My clothes weren’t small. They were a little tight. That was only because my body kept growing, but only in certain places. I did my best to cover myself, to hide it, to keep looking like someone’s little girl, but I was visibly losing the battle, and had been for some time. It wasn’t just me. We were all changing. I enjoyed watching the other girls in the locker room undress, and I kept track of their growth. But I didn’t want to make them feel like I felt. I didn’t want to make them feel ogled. Did they hate this too?”
7. Snackwave: A Comprehensive Guide To The Internet’s Saltiest Meme – Hazel Cills and Gabby Noone
“It’s important to note that snackwave is different from, say, a bunch of girls eating snacks and tweeting about them. Snackwave is defined by exaggeration and extremism. You don’t just eat cheeseburgers. You wear a shirt covered in them. You don’t just eat pizza. You run a blog devoted to collecting pictures of celebrities eating pizza. In a world of Women Laughing Alone With Salad, snackwave is our saviour.”
8. All My Exes Live in Texts: Why the Social Media Generation Never Really Breaks Up – Maureen O’Connor
“All my exes live online, and so do their exes, and so do their exes, too. I carry the population of a metaphorical Texas in a cell phone on my person at all times. Etiquette can’t keep up with us—not that we would honor it anyway—so ex relationships run on lust and impulse and nosiness and envy alternating with fantasy. It’s a dozen soap operas playing at the same time on a dozen different screens, and you are the star of them all. It’s both as thrilling and as sickening as it sounds.”
9. “Everything Is Problematic” – My journey into the centre of a dark political world, and how I escaped – Aurora Dagny
“I’ll be graduating soon, and I’ve been thinking about my years in Montreal with both nostalgia and regret. Something has been nagging at me for a long time. There’s something I need to say out loud, to everyone before I leave. It’s something that I’ve wanted to say for a long time, but I’ve struggled to find the right words. I need to tell people what was wrong with the activism I was engaged in, and why I bailed out. I have many fond memories from that time, but all in all, it was the darkest chapter of my life.”
10. I Don’t Know What To Do With Good White People – Brit Bennett
“Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen good white people congratulate themselves for deleting racist friends or debating family members or performing small acts of kindness to Black people. Sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement. A racist troll is easy to dismiss. He does not think decency is enough. Sometimes I think good white people expect to be rewarded for their decency. We are not like those other white people. See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good?”
11. Toward An Entish Civic Ideology – James Barnes
“Stop affiliating with a party, even as simple shorthand. We have to quit demonizing entire groups of people we don’t know. Discuss ideas—not people, not regions, not backgrounds—but ideas. It is ideas that matter in formulating plans and solving problems, not fears. Refuse to do what you’re told only because someone says “time is short.”
12. The Night A Corndog Basket in Tennessee Saved My Life – Cock D.
“I made my way up a steep hill to Drifter’s BBQ. I walked in to find a pretty young girl behind the bar. She glowed with the spirit and naivety of a gaggle of orphaned boys playing an impromptu game of baseball in the middle of a dirt road. She was beauty, and if I had the ability to feel the basic human emotion of love in that moment, I might have fallen for her. She didn’t offer much for conversation, most likely ‘cause I smelled of my own shit, but her presence was warming and reminded me of a better man’s childhood, free of responsibility or molestation. She filled a hole in me, and was at least nice enough to let a scoundrel stay for lunch.”
13. Ask Polly: Would He Love Me If I Were Prettier, Skinnier, And Sweeter? – Heather Havrilesky
“But you also sum up so many wasted hours of so many women’s lives with this: “Clearly he has the capacity to care, just not about me. And I don’t understand why.” This is something stupid that smart women do regularly: They believe that they can understand anything if they just think about it hard enough. “Why? Why not me?” they ask, certain that the answer will reveal itself. “Can it really be that I’m not good enough to MAGICALLY CHANGE A NARCISSISTIC, AIMLESS, DRUNK FROG INTO A PRINCE?” None of the equations add up or make even the slightest bit of sense, but we just keep on writing them down, scribbling out numbers until our wrists ache. It’s like A Beautiful Mind except instead of winning a Nobel Prize you win a weekend of weeping on your bathroom floor.”
14. Shame and Survival – Monica Lewinsky
“It may surprise you to learn that I’m actually a person.”
15. Dear Straight Women Everywhere: In Relationships, You Always Have The Upper Hand – Rachel Hodin
“Present in all of these men’s words is evidence that, for a man, there is nothing more forceful or intoxicating than the initial sight of a beautifully captivating woman. It will lead them to disloyalty, to lose concentration on their work, and even to insanity.”
16. Fuck Yes or No – Mark Manson
“Why would you ever be excited to be with someone who is not excited to be with you? If they’re not happy with you now, what makes you think they’ll be happy to be with you later? Why do you make an effort to convince someone to date you when they make no effort to convince you?”
17. Girlfriend – Wendy C. Ortiz
“I was dying to get out of my life, the one where I was a girlfriend, a really bad girlfriend, a girlfriend who cheated and got drunk a lot and threw up on her boyfriend’s floor which was really his mom and dad’s floor, and my boyfriend who was just this guy, really, a nice decent guy, the most decent of his friends but all my friends knew that we did not have fuck all in common, leaving me with this guy and his friends who I felt some weird kinship with, and why? Just why?”
18. My Receipt Was Not Good Enough – Roxane Gay
“I paid for everything with a friendly salesperson in the video game area because that’s what you have to do with certain items. Then I went to the bathroom and then I headed for the front of the store. Now, the game was still in its security case. When I got to the front, I showed my receipt for the case to be removed. The young man studied my receipt like it was the most important document he had ever seen. My skin started prickling because I knew something really frustrating was about to happen. I just knew. Anyone who has been racially profiled knows that feeling.”
There’s no shortage of stories about bad bosses out there – get any group of workers together and you’re sure to hear some horror stories. But it’s rarer that we get to hear about the good bosses – but there are plenty of them too, and it’s time they got their turn in the spotlight.
I recently asked readers about the best boss they ever had. Here are eight of the most impressive managers they talked about. (Have you had a boss who measured up to the ones here? Leave your own accounts below!)
1. Taught me office politics
“My first boss was amazing. She would often say, ‘Hey come in here and listen to this phone call.’ Then she’d explain the politics of what happened and I’d be expected to handle the next one. Each situation and project she gave me, she prepped me for but expected me to handle on my own as well. She supported me but demanded that I produce results. The job had moments that were extremely frustrating and she gave me resources to help understand what I was doing wrong and alter my strategies.”
2. Even fired employees liked her
“My best boss was one from early in my career. She was reasonable about workloads, provided insightful feedback and suggestions, and was always polite and professional in dealing with employees, colleagues, outside professionals, and clients. We knew she had our backs but also would deal with problem employees with empathy and professionalism.
I once ran into an employee she had fired who told me that they admired and respected this supervisor and felt their performance deficiencies had been dealt with respectfully and professionally. The person said she was given every opportunity to be successful including extra training and mentoring but ultimately lacked the skills needed to do the job. How many people would say that after being fired?
Every manager should take lessons from my former boss. I would work with or for her again in a heartbeat.”
3. Helped me move on
“My boss was the one who advocated for a promotion for me and when my employer overlooked me, she helped me to grow and understand that it might be time to move on. When I put in my two weeks, her exact words were ‘I am so incredibly proud of you,’ which was just the right response.”
4. Fair decision-making
“I really appreciate both of my current bosses because of how they handle making decisions that don’t make everyone happy. There are times in any organization where, no matter what you decide, some people will wish you’d decided differently. But these two women are both good at getting input from all the relevant contingents before making big decisions; being candid and open about the decision process when possible, and upfront about not being open when it’s not possible (e.g. confidentiality issues); communicating the decision clearly, acknowledging that people might disagree but still being firm that this is the decision; being open to feedback and revisiting decisions down the line if something changes; not taking things personally or trying to prove their authority. It creates a culture where it’s safe to voice dissenting opinions, but where decisions do get made and things get done.”
5. Foul-mouthed but pushed me to achieve
“I had a boss who was an angry little man and had the most foul mouth. The first time I upset him, he almost reduced me to tears. He was so mean. He used cuss words that I had to research what they meant. Yet he was the best boss ever.
- I always knew where I stood with him. No BS. No trying to decipher the message. If I screwed up, I knew it loud and clear.
- If you messed with me or one of his other reports, you got an even meaner version of him. Nobody was allowed to be mean to us except him.
- We all wanted to genuinely make him proud. I don’t know if it was avoidance or what, but I always went the extra mile for him. We were always so happy when we did something that exceeded his extremely high expectations. He once gave me kudos in a town hall for a project that I had led. It still ranks as one of my proudest professional achievements. And not because I got recognized in front of peers, but because I had left such a positive impression on him.
- Come bonus time, he fought tooth and nail and got his team some of the highest percentages in the firm.”
6. Taught me to be a pro – and to drive stick
“When I started out, I was both afraid of making decisions and had the fiscal perspective of a college student — which is to say, I’d agonize endlessly over spending $75 of the company’s money over the wrong pipe fitting. My boss did a lot of work to teach me a more realistic perspective over this sort of thing, particularly as it related to cost of labor — that is to say, my time and his time.
He also was very up-front about the concept that if I ran into something I didn’t know yet, then the next step was that I was going to learn that something and apply it. Even over little things, like learning to drive stick on the company trucks. This was something that I was already on-board with as a matter of personal preference, but as far as being in an environment that unquestionably supported me in the process of pushing those boundaries to go from ‘a person who does not do X’ to ‘a person who does X’… not necessarily so. That experience actually gave me some really important tools for my professional and personal life. (It’s also down to him that I don’t own an automatic transmission vehicle anymore.)”
7. A great take on mistakes
My best boss was an attorney at a non-profit legal services firm. My second day on the job, I made some random mistake, like printed the wrong agreement or something minor like that, and when I gave it to him I realized that it was not what he was looking for so I apologized profusely.
I wish I could remember his response verbatim, but it was something like how he believes mistakes are made because of poor instructions, not poor employees, thereby taking the guilt I had for messing up and instead turning it onto himself, that his instructions were not clear enough. I really respected him, not just for that, there are a million other little things that made him a great manager, and a great person. I have worked for many other attorneys since then, and none have earned my respect the way he did.
8. I’d give him a kidney
My first boss wanted to surround himself with what he felt were great people. He was there for guidance, but he let you run with your strengths regardless of whether or not something was in your job description. Working for him you just felt more capable, smarter, part of a team.
Not everyone liked him – he was polarizing. But without exception, the higher performing people loved him for the opportunities and those just trying to do as little as possible would have burned him in effigy.
But he had this magic where he could just make you feel like you could do absolutely anything. He instilled confidence like no one I’ve ever known. There is a lot of lip service every day to team players – but at the risk of sounding like a cliché, he really had a way of making you feel like you were part of a team. You knew what you did mattered. It mattered to the company and it mattered to him.
I don’t have any idea how he did it. No effusive compliments, no empty praise, no weekly luncheons or gift cards. When he said ‘thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you,’ you just knew he meant it. There was never a question that he had your back. He engendered a loyalty that’s rare. I haven’t worked for him in years, but if he needed a kidney, I’d see if I was a match.Posted in People Management | Tagged career, Leadership, management, managing teams, team leader