Salad days.

I remember the day with the clarity of a movie frame: It was a lovely, sunny afternoon and R. and I were sitting on the outdoor patio of our favorite coffee shop in the East Village, drinking café au lait out of white crockery bowls. We were celebrating: I had just gotten a new job!

We were both impossibly young, and the world was ours for the taking. We knew that nothing but good would ever come of this promotion for me – I was headed to a famous magazine, working for a well-known editor – and my best friend was there to play back every detail of my conquest with me. I had worn her beautiful pearl necklace to the interview for luck, and it worked.

I remembered that wonderful fizz of accomplishment again last week, sitting in another coffee shop, years and miles away from the first.

My friend C. was telling me about her summer as an intern in New York at the hottest online women’s magazine in the country – “more subscribers than the online version of the New York Times,” C. told me proudly.

Swag ... and another coffee shop. 

Swag ... and another coffee shop. 

If landing the internship was huge, the actual summer experience had been amazing. C. found herself at the white-hot center of the successful startup. She’s smart, capable, savvy, and a hard worker, so no wonder by the end of the summer she had worked with everyone from publicity to budgeting, attended staff meetings, gathered data, and on and on. She also did a terrific project – the interns all do one at the end of their term – that led to her being asked to come back again as an intern next summer, something that rarely happens.

I was thrilled for her.

“I don’t want you to think I’m bragging,” C. kept saying as she told me her story. “And don’t tell anyone at school about this,” she begged me as she was showing me her project, the terrific idea nearly leaping off the computer screen.

Of course you are not bragging, I kept telling her, but I have been thinking about what that really meant ever since.

At what point do young women learn to own the talent and power they have? How can we make it easier for my friend to think of her accomplishment as all she needs to get to the next level, even if the next level turns out to be the wrong thing for her? (You know that job? The one we were celebrating with café au lait? I hated it and stayed only four miserable months.)

There’s no way that C. would ever come off as anything but enthusiastic and engaged. Why is she so worried that people will think she’s showing off by talking about her summer?

Yes, she is young. But her youth -- and the ability to turn her fangirl love for the publication into great ideas that work -- are huge assets, no matter where she goes.

I can’t wait to see what C. decides to do next. I will help her however I can, even if it’s only to remind her that sharing your love for your work with people who really care about you can never be bragging. 

I can't wait to meet her again at the coffee shop.