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Five Lessons A Year at Affinity Has Taught Me

About a year ago, I unwittingly sent an article to Affinity Magazine about cultural appropriation. It was an op-ed that I had written for my high school newspaper, and I was extremely proud of it. I got an email that said, “Your submission has been received!” And that was it for a while. Honestly, I kind of forgot I had sent in an article at all.

And then, one day I was sitting in my third-period class, about to take a math test, when my phone buzzes with an email notification from Affinity Magazine. I sat and read the email about five times before I was forced to put my phone away.

“Hello, you have been chosen as staff writer for Affinity Magazine Spring 2015. This is on a trial basis to see if you are ready. You said you can commit three articles a week; so that will be expected. Articles are not assigned. It is your job to keep an eye on news currently trending, and topics
trending. You have freedom to write about anything you want. Congrats!”

I couldn’t believe it, and honestly, it still feels kind of like a dream sometimes. I’ve been exposed to so many new experiences and ways of thinking since joining the Affinity Family. So, without further ado, here are five things working at Affinity has taught me.

Never be afraid to try and get something

From sending in a (let’s be honest, pretty horrible) op-ed about cultural appropriation to your favorite online magazine to asking Hillary Clinton for a quick interview, you should never ever shy away from an amazing opportunity. Because believe it or not, you just might get your article (and others) published in that magazine, and you could get to ask Hillary Freakin’ Clinton a question.

The best people pop up where you least expect it

When I joined the first Affinity group chat (which had 20 people in it, originally), I had no idea what to think — we were from different countries, different backgrounds, and seemingly had nothing in common but our love for writing and our political beliefs. But we started sending each other selfies and complimenting each other, finding out that someone else is doing the same program this summer as us or that their family is from the same region of India as yours. As the Affinity family grew, so did the people I had in my life — and they’re all pretty incredible.

It’s okay to take a break

One of the hardest things for me this past year has been balancing my physical and mental health with school, work, and writing. Affinity taught me that it’s really okay to take a break when you need to, prioritize your health and well-being, and talk to people when you need to.

You’ve got to read beyond the headline

With 99% of the headlines I’ve read (on Affinity and every single other news outlet), there’s more to the story than meets the eye. People can (and do) jump to conclusions about a story without even reading the lede, which can really only lead to a negative experience all-around.

Journalism can change the world

Whether it’s writing for your school newspaper or getting your article published in Teen Vogue, the news you’re reporting is changing something — someone’s understanding of a topic, their opinion, or the way they approach it. Companies change offensive names, political moments get explained, and young writers are given the opportunities of a lifetime.

In the year since I joined Affinity, a lot has changed. I grew out my hair, learned to love myself a little bit more, and experienced things I will never forget. Affinity has created a safe space for me to explore my journalistic abilities and spread what I can to a group of amazing, thoughtful adolescents.

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Maya Durham is an aspiring journalist from eastern Iowa. She spends all of her free time writing for Affinity, watching (and rewatching) miscellaneous shows and Bollywood films on Netflix, and going through the millions of messages in the Affinity group chat. If you need to contact her, you can tweet her @mayacdurham or email her at

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