Newsletter era 2.0
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The back story: Started from the bottom, now we’re here.
It’s been a year since I was at one of the lowest points of my twenties. Happy anniversary, I guess? lol. Look, these things happen. And I’ve come a long way since then! But I was in a bad way. It was the bleakest of mid-winters. I had been background sad for longer than I could I remember. Sometimes it creeps up on you like that. I was crying all the time, often inexplicably. I didn’t feel like myself, it was difficult for me to imagine things getting better. I felt hopeless. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: Honey, that’s what I call Depression! And you would be 100% correct. Not long after what could fairly be described as a rock bottom, I started on anti-depressants for the first time ever (I scream into the mic: Sertraline sisters make some noise *Crowd cheers manically*).
Almost instantly, I felt better. Of course, the medication does not work that quickly, but for me there was a lightness that washed over me before I even filled my prescription. Up until then, I’d been shouldering the burden of my mental health predominantly alone, other than with my therapist (who I had only started seeing) and with friends and family. I had become skilled with “coping”, but suddenly it didn’t feel like I was anymore. I was sinking. I began to wonder what life might have been like without having to cope with all of that heaviness I was carrying. What if I didn’t have to carry it all, alone? Was it possible? Depression will tell you that you do, and it’s not. BUT I AM TELLING YOU IT IS LYING!
After speaking to the doctor, the relief was massive. Someone else was there to help me, and they were literally an expert! Who knew that would help??! I state this so plainly that it sounds like a joke because the tricky thing about asking for help when you need it most, is that often it seems like the most impossible thing to do. And the nature of the beast is your depression will tell you that it isn’t the answer, it thrives on shame and silence. One of the greatest gifts my Mum gave to me when I was really struggling, listing off a deeply melancholy monologue of why I felt so terrible and my life was making me miserable, was saying: “It must be awful to feel that way. But I want you to know that some of that is not fact. Some of that is the depression talking to you, it’s skewing the way you see reality.” A perfect way to at once acknowledge the struggle whilst simultaneously encourage a path to recovering from the episode.
Back to the pills — which I could go on about all day, but I won’t. They don’t work for everyone and they aren’t a cure all, but they helped me in a profound way, to an extent I never could have anticipated before taking them. So I’ll always be open about it, and remain shame free about it.
I was lucky, in that the first one I tried worked well for me, and I didn’t struggle too much with any side effects. The heaviness started to lift, and then, like a stroke of the divine, I got a new job. One that was like, literally life changing. It was everything I wanted and more. Great salary, the opportunity to work in one of the industry leaders (hint: it rhymes with PetChix). It was a chance to give me a fresh start after 6 long years in London where I’d never quite got what I’d wanted, particularly with my career. After a lot of close, but not close enough, it felt like I was finally getting my shot. And reader, what a year it turned out to be! For want of a better phrase, I was in my slay era. I mean, actually, is there a better phrase? Perhaps not. I felt a sense of belonging that I’d often searched for throughout my life, one that was extra special because it seemed to celebrate me because of who I am, not asking me to be anything else - I wasn’t sure this existed in a ‘normal’ job (by this, I mean one that is corporate).
I was thriving, excited by my prospects of growing in the company and embracing the culture by running events with the employee resource groups to create impactful events that celebrated the companies diverse workforce (something that was extremely important to me and aligned with my values.) Everything felt like it was coming together, my personal life was bountiful and joyous, I had grown so much not only from focusing on managing my mental health but also by being in environments where I could be me. I was learning a lot and I felt so alive, expansive and free. Work was stressful at times, as it can be, but mostly it felt worthwhile, to be a part of something bigger. Then, shortly after my 30th birthday, and one of my proudest moments in the company (organising and running an incredible event for BHM), there was a swift and…how can I say this delicately…. unexpected piece of character development. You have to remember: all good stories have an unexpected twist!
“Predictable is boring”, I chanted to myself daily as My Year of Slay came to a dramatic denouement….
I still am not sure how much of this I wish to publicly share, partly because the politics are not only depressing but boring. So let’s use loose terms instead: as I saw it, some people felt I had grown too big for my boots, and I felt I needed a bigger pair. I was presented with a choice: to stay and shrink myself, to bite my tongue and play the game, to hope things would get better when my gut told me something was off, big time. Or to walk away, to remember I had nothing to prove, to know I did my best and made an impact. To trust that those I respected saw me and appreciated me for who I was.
I think it’s clear the one I opted for. I was sad because I had believed that there was future there for me. In another life, maybe there was. Just not this one! I chose me, and that, above all, was empowering. Don’t get me wrong, it was terrifying and there were a lot of tears, fears and weeks where I kept thinking, “what the hell have I done”. Ultimately, I still believe I did the right thing. I will likely truly feel the benefits probably months from now, although what I will say is that I’m doing pretty fucking well right now. I’m proud of myself for rebuilding my life after I thought it couldn’t get any better and then it fell apart. My energy could be summarised well by asking two questions: Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?????
I am proud of my choice in particular because it was one that involved listening and trusting to myself. To do what did not make sense to many people - something that previously would have been extremely difficult for me. I struggled knowing some people thought I had made a mistake. But I knew what I had to do, so I did it. At a time where I was presented with an unanticipated crossroad, I took a leap of faith towards a future I believed in, even if I couldn’t see the path clearly yet.
During the interim period of transition and starting my new role, it dawned on me that in amongst the excitement and chaos of that job, I hadn’t made a lot of time for writing and being creative, other than sporadic instalments of writing that I shared on instagram. I decided that 2023 would be a perfect time to start a new project - another newsletter, kind of like last time, but a little bit different. Alongside this optimistic imagination, almost like clockwork, I felt scared, hesitant, embarrassed. A holy trinity, if you will. Many thoughts tornadoed in my mind:
There’s already so much out there. What value can I bring?
I’m not good enough at writing.
A neurotic rotation of what if’s, which included, but are not limited to: what if I mess it up? What if I fail? What if I can’t do it? What if people think I’m stupid? What if it’s cringe? What if people think I’m full of myself? What if my ideas are greater than my ability?
All of which are countered by a sentence that’s simple: Be brave enough to begin. A sentence I love, an affirmation I need, words of encouragement I offer to my favourites often. And yet, when it comes to me actually being a beginner, I am very good at talking the talk. Walking the walk, on the other hand, is a Challenge! at the Disco. *DJ plays Alanis Morrissette, Ironic*
You can theorize and think and consider all day - I’m a triple air sign so I’m literally an expert! But you also need to convert it into action. To put it plainly: I am a writer, so I should be writing, in the way I want and about what I want to write about. And that’s what this newsletter is all about. “So be it! So see to it!” said Octavia Butler. Every now and then I come back around to a post about her writing rituals and her journals, which I’ve posted below. They always meet me when I need them most.
It is easy to be cynical, sarcastic, self-deprecating. It has its place, of course, and can be funny too. What I’m interested in though is working through embarrassment, getting comfortable with being myself, letting go of attachment to the opinion of people who do not care for me and building a life that is meaningful to me. That means being earnest sometimes. Embracing intimacy, connection, honesty. Letting myself be vulnerable - like admitting how scared I was to start this newsletter.
Some things to consider this week: How can you become something you can’t say out loud without stuttering? How can you get to where you want to be if you don’t begin somewhere? I invite you to sit with those questions, in particular when you know you’re avoiding taking action that might be good for you. Be patient with yourself, of course. I just want to remind you that just because it’s scary doesn’t mean it can’t be. All of that wandering is what led me here, writing to you now.
A bit of housekeeping! I’m trying something new here on Substack. The first part is similar to what I’ve done in the past on TinyLetter, like I’ve written today. I’ll send one monthly essay, which is likely to be personal but am open to exploring many subjects that interest me like pop culture, politics, technology, literature, spirituality and how we live our lives.
Second, which I’m most excited and nervous about, is a little different. The plan is to do an Advice Column (you can email me questions at email@example.com) and interviews with people I admire. The latter is something I’m particularly eager to get started on, inspired by my long time obsession with interviews and profiles of creative people.
The last will be a list of recommendations of things/experiences/culture that I’m enjoying. I am looking forward to this not only because it gives me encouragement to do more of what I love, and then choose my favourites to share with you (recommending things is a love language.) This will only be available to paid subscribers, but if you are particularly keen to access these extras and don’t have the financial means, please message me and I will comp you access.
(This month, there will only be two newsletters, both of which will be free.)
Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing this. Sending you love in abundance. Have a great week!
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