What defines you?


Time off matters a lot to me!


By Caitlin Kelly


My past two posts here have been about two talented, driven American journalists — photographer Peter DaSilva and the late Marie Colvin. I’d say Peter, with whom I’ve also had a personal friendship for years, is to some degree defined by his attention to detail and compassion, while she was clearly driven, among other things less visible, by ambition and adrenaline.

As the decades pass, as work becomes less (one hopes!) an uphill climb and plateaus out to a succession of accomplishments, large or small; as one begins and grows one’s family (or doesn’t), our essential values and character become ever clearer to ourselves and to others — the words or phrases used to sum you up.


Are they what you want(ed)?


I think about this a lot, maybe because I work as a journalist and my role, often, is to observe a stranger and make some decisions about who they are and why they are that way.

I’m endlessly fascinated by what people do and how they enact their values — or don’t.


A few things that define me:


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A passion for story-telling

Whether here or in print or through the photos on my Insta account or sitting around a table with friends, I love to find and tell stories. Maybe it’s the Irish in me.


A momma-bear instinct to protect people I care about

Do not ever mess with someone I care about. I don’t have children, but those I love get a fierce loyalty.



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An endless desire to travel and explore new places

I have already been to 40 countries and have so many more experiences I’m eager to try: Morocco, Japan, Greece and the Amazon, to name only a few.


Never a very political animal

Journalists are expected professionally to remain fair and objective, and so can’t be seen favoring one side or another (although I tend to be liberal.) I can’t vote in Canada since I left years ago and can’t vote in the U.S. as I’ve chosen not to become a citizen. I pay fairly careful attention to political issues but generally don’t have a dog in each fight.





A lover of luxury

Guilty! I wear cashmere and silk, drink champagne when there’s an occasion, and my favorite words ever just might be “Taxi!” and “room service.” Growing up watching my maternal grandmother run through her huge inheritance gave me absurdly expensive tastes, impossible to satisfy on lousy journalism wages. Challenging!





Also cheap as hell

Which is how one can afford some luxury, even if not earning a huge salary or income; I’ve stayed in the same unexciting 1960s building, in the same one bedroom apartment, for 30 years. I don’t love either of these things but I do love our view, our town and a 38-minute train commute to midtown Manhattan. Staying put and not splurging on a larger home and all its furnishings and maintenance and taxes and repairs has helped me save for retirement and travel, my two key priorities.


I work to live, not live to work

I wrecked my 20s being a workaholic and made several people quite miserable as a result — whether some of my editors, friends or boyfriends. It was all I cared most about. By 30, I was a burned-out wreck.Ā  I enjoy the work I do, but would happily stop tomorrow, having done it since I was 19. I have so many other interests — music, books travel, art, design, sports — and have accomplished enough in my career I don’t feel compelled to add notches to my belt nor be (uuuugggggghhhhh) “productive”, the great American obsession.


Zero tolerance for the pompous, whiny and entitled




Voracious reader

I never leave home without a book or magazine or pile of unread newspapers. Reading is my oxygen.


What are some of the qualities or values that define you?

13 thoughts on “What defines you?

  1. I tend to be a bit reluctant to answer a question like this. It’s been my experience that others see it as an opportunity to throw down the gauntlet and challenge me to defend my life. I don’t want to do that and I don’t think others have the right to demand it. My life experience has given me a mind and heart filled with conflict and contradictions. I hear people telling me “That’s everybody”, yet they speak with such confidence, such certainty that I have to wonder how they can be as conflicted as I am, but with no doubt. I suspect, at some time, these people have grown tired of talking or thinking about these troublesome things, so “That’s everybody” is just a convenient way to move on to the next topic of discussion.
    I have made peace with that. My therapist has great empathy, deep insight and the ability to keep me focused on the work. She is the only one who receives any of this anymore. I don’t think this means the other people in my life aren’t my friends anymore, they’re just worn out, and who can blame them?
    There are things I do to show a more pleasant face to the world, one that doesn’t anger or frighten others. You help me with that quite a bit, Caitlin. I look forward to the times when you will invite us to share a piece of our memory. I have a lot of beautiful memories and I love to tell a good story, but the best thing is reaching back, touching that moment in time and feeling how it was to be in it. Today doesn’t do much for me, really.
    I doubt this is exactly what you were looking for. “A dweller in the gray area” doesn’t provide much in the way of sharp lines or contrast but, if they ever made a movie of my life, you would need a double espresso and a very uncomfortable seat to get through it. Thanks a lot, Caitlin, I mean it.

    1. Thanks…:-)

      I know this quite well in some ways. I have always prided myself on being tough and private and self-reliant — but my breast cancer summer (even a best case scenario) shot that to shit right quick. I know some people do get through stuff alone but I am not sure how that would be possible. Only the cards and calls and emails have helped me realize how many people DO care…

      A movie of my life, possibly like yours, would have some scenes you’d watch through your fingers.

      But here we are!

  2. That’s easy to answer. Eccentric; excitable; an avid and passionate storyteller (something we have in common); a connoisseur or devotee of various types of entertainment; ranging from horror movies and anime to ballet and theater; a believer in equal rights and community; a leisure enthusiast; and much, much more.
    I’d need my own post to go over all the aspects of me, though I don’t know if I’d be motivated to write that post anytime soon.

  3. the words i’d use to define me are –

    curious, happy, affectionate, wisdom seeking, loving, welcoming, open, honest, connector, peaceful, in awe of the world and the people within it, storyteller, listener, traveler, happy when home once more.

    1. Thanks….but more interested in more replies. It’s odd to me that, according to WordPress, more than 20,000 people follow the blog — and so very few comment. I guess everyone is too busy now.

      1. Do you think it could have something to do with us, we happy few, the usual suspects? Perhaps your other followers feel intimidated by our thoughtful, revealing comments. There, that ought to get ’em going.
        Oh, and by the way, I got my hair cut today, so ixnay on the ippiehay. Wow, my spellcheck reads pig Latin. Who knew?

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