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An open letter.
I have been having BIG FEELINGS these past few weeks. If TikTok is to be believed, I can at least partially blame the mood on a big, blue Pisces mega-moon, a Mercury retrograde, and… something to do with Venus? I forget the particulars. TL/DR; Things have been wildly chaotic. Every part of my life feels wobbly, from work and clients to my personal relationships. It’s like all at once, everyone decided to disrupt and challenge the ways we partner together, or in some cases — be it by apathy or distraction — to simply stop working together at all.
Then, there are the new things. These things and people come out of left field and surprise you, just as you’ve settled in for the long haul. They present new opportunities and ideas. “Maybe you’d like to consider taking a different route?” They ask. “If you take a left at the fork, you’re going to question everything you previously held true, but perhaps that’s better. Want to give it a go?”
My life is mostly managing people. I spend all of my time making sure others’ needs are met. And I’m generally pretty good at it. I do alright at meeting my own needs too. But we all need to be cared for by the people around us. On the strength of trust, we build our bonds, and there must be dual maintenance to keep that reciprocity in a healthy balance. Employees owe it to their bosses and likewise. Romantic partnerships require it. Even in client relationships where there is a clear delineation of servitude, the people who hire teams mustn’t drain them to zero. The proverbial garden should be tended to if you want to eventually feast.
This is all to say lately, I’ve been very overdrawn. For the past handful of weeks, most of the people in my life have been asking too much of me and giving me too little. Usually, I have the energy and fortitude to defend my value and articulate my needs. But when everyone closes in on me at once, I fold in on myself before I expand again. My brain has been foggy, my feet heavy. I am weary and sullen after one too many difficult conversations. It makes me look at things harder, evaluate in places I had not before, and wonder if there’s a better way.
That’s the problem when you are good at making other people’s lives easy: they think it costs you nothing, and so your labor becomes invisible. And when your labor becomes invisible, you start to go looking for places to be seen again.
I am finding, in nearly every corner of my life, that I have to remind people that my value is not up for an eleventh-hour haggle. My rates are my proverbial rates because my value is high. And if you’d like to quantify how high, I will let all of the 25 plates I keep whirling and airborne drop to shatter before you. I’m sure the cleanup job will help crystallize it. Worse, if you think I’m beneath you, kindly step aside so I can redirect my effort elsewhere. I had a fashion designer be so needlessly mean to me last week I cried from feeling genuinely bullied! What the hell is going on right now?
It’s killing my usual Meg Ryan-level back-to-school autumn spirit. If I were a freshly-sharpened number two pencil, my eraser would be worn to the nub.
This newsletter though, this is my escape hatch. It’s an outlet for creativity where I have no gatekeeper. I don’t have to justify my time, my spending — energetically or financially — to anyone. It gives me back in spades what I put into it. And it makes me happy. It’s one of the most important ways that in all my caretaking, I also take care of myself.
Truthfully, I’d write it for ten subscribers, but we are quickly approaching ten thousand. And as any good marketer will tell you, a newsletter with 10,000 readers moves the needle way more than an Instagram with five times as many followers. The intimacy of your inbox is big stuff.
One founder recently told me our write-up sent her more traffic than the one she’d received in Vogue! For a small business owner, that’s significant. And because of our paid subscribers, I was able to feature her without any thought towards monetizing the product we sold through that newsletter. I could just write her up because I thought she was cool and her stuff was fantastic. So pure!
The power of that subscriber number lets me say no. “No”, I do not want to take on that job. “No”, I am going to have to decline your PR request. “No”, I don’t have time for new clients I’m not a 100% fuck yes about. “No”, I do not want to have coffee so you can “pick my brain”. “No”, you cannot stay in my employ if you aren’t growing with me. “No,” I don’t want to embarrass myself on Instagram to meet a content requirement. “No”, I will not reduce my rates. “No,” I won’t be attending that event.
All of that “No,” so I can say yes. Yes! I would love to contribute to your magazine. Yes! I would love to send you a proposal, that project sounds wonderful. Yes! I would love to mentor you in your career growth! Yes! I would love to comment on that story. Yes! I would love to meet you for a drink! Yes! Yes! Yes!
When the balance is off, when my energy stores are depleted, when too much has been asked of me all at once, the fumes I run on are “No". So by joining me in this space and helping me grow it, you help me say “Yes!” to so many things I love, including (but certainly not limited to) the production of this newsletter.
As my Instagram flutters with images of Fashion Week coming up, please don’t feel envious. I know sometimes, that sort of content can feel engineered specifically for FOMO. Trust me when I tell you that every body image issue I have will be triggered, my already fragile mental health will be tested, and I will still very much be working my day job in the midst because I’m not a nepo baby who can afford not to worry about earning a living.
You can smile, knowing I’m perched happily in the very back row of only the fashion shows I really care about and seated at dinner with brands powered by people I truly love, because RSVPing “yes” to events where I don’t know anyone gives me a panic attack. I’ll still be dead-ass tired — but thrilled to have had the bandwidth to say “yes” at all. And for all my anxiety, I’m earnestly enjoying being the new kid in town!
That “yes” is possible because you opted into The Love List at some point in time — because you said “yes” to me and my little pet project. So really, thanks for that. Thanks for the balance, thanks for the recharge, and thanks for the new direction my life has taken. That’s what I wrote this letter to say — thanks. You are not invisible. I can’t wait to say “No” again tomorrow.
Back to fashion next letter!
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