13 Oct 2018

what I’ve been reading lately

Disaster Preparedness by Heather Havrilesky: I just finished this wry, sharp, and smart memoir and YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. Whether you’re a kid of the 70s/80s aching for a deluge of cultural nostalgia or you want to feel connected to someone else who navigates the world without a first aid kit, you will find a story in Havrilesky’s book that will shift the ground beneath your feet. If you thought we were living in end times now (I certainly do), you will remember a time of alien invasions, plummeting airplanes, shuttle disasters, satanic cult rituals, and earthquakes that threatened to swallow us whole. Many of us Gen-Xers were reared in the wake of Boomer anxieties and paranoia and Havrilesky was no exception. What started as a childhood plan–her siblings decided to create their own elaborate escape and survival plans–grew into the blueprint for how they navigated the real earthquakes of their lives: parental discord and divorce, death, sadistic schoolteachers, men frightened of commitment, mothering a screaming two-year-old, and cheerleaders.

Havrilesky’s observations about life are acerbic and funny and always honest. She lays herself out to bear and I cleave to memoirs where the narrators aren’t afraid to parade out their imperfections. I found myself at turns laughing out loud and connecting to the minor and major hurts that shaped her life.

Transit by Rachel Cusk: It’s hard to describe Rachel Cusk’s marriage/divorce trilogy because on paper they’re about one thing (in this second installment, Faye’s unmoored feelings about her divorce as she relocates her two sons to a ramshackle home in London to start over), but then they’re about many other things–gentrification, rejection, acute loneliness, change, abandonment–all told through the lens of Faye’s interactions with other characters in the book. Akin to Outline, we’re eavesdropping on the interactions Cusk deliberately chooses to share and Faye serves as a conduit to understanding all the things going on in her life that she perhaps can’t explain. Or doesn’t know.

For me, the second part of her trilogy was about the importance and impermanence of connection. Relationships–familial, friends, neighbors, colleagues, strangers and lovers–are core to the story and central to Faye and how she navigates her life post-divorce.

You could say that this is a story about a woman rebuilding her life.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson: I purchased this book a couple years ago and it sat on my bookshelf, half-read, ignored. However, over the past few months, I’ve been vigilant about keeping only what is useful, beloved, and functional in my home. So, I pulled out all the unread books and went to work. And I’m glad I did. Jansson’s tender novel, composed of 22 elegant vignettes, tells the story of a grandmother and her six-year-old granddaughter Sophie spending a summer on a small island off the Gulf of Finland, complete with ravaging storms, foreign interlopers, feral cats, and local bugs. The story takes place in the early 1970s after the granddaughter’s mother dies, leaving the remaining women of the house to meditate on love, death, God, and all of nature’s magic in between. The grandmother is acerbic and complacent. Sophie is curious, volatile, and passionate. They spar, squabble, and embark on adventures (from breaking into the house of a wealthy foreigner who has built what they consider a home that’s an obscene spectacle of wealth to weathering one of the island’s most ferocious storms). Their affection for one another is whole and complete, and while there isn’t a grand plot at play, you will come away with feeling that perhaps there’s still some magic left in the world–even if we’re forced to see it through the lens of a child.

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran: This book couldn’t be more relevant to the nightmare that is our socio-political climate. In this devastating story, you’ll see the lengths that two women will go to in pursuit of the love and mothering of a small boy. Soli is a nineteen-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant who leaves her small village on the outskirts of Oaxaca for the promise of the California landscape. After a harrowing journey across the border, she takes refuge with her cousin in Berkeley where she spends her days cleaning the homes of the monied and privileged. When she learns she’s pregnant, she keeps the child–much to the chagrin of her cousin–and you see Soli’s unwavering and intense devotion to her son. Soli’s story is juxtaposed with Kavya, an upper-middle-class Indian woman who is distraught over her inability to bear a child. Her desire is a constant, compounded by tradition, a demanding mother, and a frenemy best friend who seems to have it all. The two worlds converge when Soli is placed in immigrant detention, on the verge of deportation and her son, an American citizen, is handed over to foster care. Kavya has the son she’s always wanted and Soli aches his return and will stop at nothing to reunite with her son.

I’m not a mother and I’ve no intentions to have a child. I say this because I was surprised how parts of the novel made me feel…uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s because the concept of unconditional love and fierce familial attachment are foreign to me. Obviously, I could empathize with both women but sometimes they bordered on the verge of …annoying. I had to take a step back and realize that Soli is barely an adult and her ambition to make a new life for herself clashes with the reality of the perception of Mexicans, which is pronounced by how she’s treated by the wealthy Berkeley moms and most profoundly by law enforcement. Stereotypes abound. I also had to take a step back and understand that when someone is blocked from their one true want, their decisions and behavior isn’t always rational.

I say all of this because fiction should challenge you. It should wrench you out of your comfort zone. The best books are transformative, and while I sometimes wanted to punch both of the women, I had to ask myself WHY I was feeling this discomfort. And I felt better for having questioned my norms and values after having read this astonishing book.

 

Full Disclosure: I have included Amazon affiliate links, which means I make like $1/month when you buy one of these books. 

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  • You guys. I’m having an incredible fucking year. I’ve published tutorials, thought leadership and essays I’m proud of, I’m working with incredible clients who are breaking ranks, I’m partnering with brilliant people on projects, my pipeline is healthy, my mental health is getting back on track, and I’m reorganizing my business so I can run it more efficiently. Sometimes you have to applaud the wins, especially when they’ve been earned.
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Today, I had a day of interviews that culminated in a presentation to the executive team. After it ended, several people asked if I’d considered teaching because I just delivered a master class on brand strategy.
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It feels good to know your stuff but still have the hunger and drive as a student!
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  • After a long week of hard work, I scored two new projects, paid some bills, wrote a ton, cheered my medium series, and planned for my trip east this weekend. Sometimes, you need a little chow reward, am I right?
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  • I am OVER THE MOON, my friends. Medium just published my collection of 8 comprehensive tutorials on how to build a brand. Here's why I did it.
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Over the past year, I've seen faux marketers charge upwards of $2000 for courses on what I'm sharing for free. The difference being is that they haven't done the thing they're teaching for no one other than themselves and their personal brand. I've been doing this professionally for 20 years. And what makes me postal is the fact that what they're teaching is WRONG. If you don't know the difference between brand, branding, and brand platform, you shouldn't be selling a course on it. .

I also created this because $2,000 courses give access to an elite group of people. Not everyone can afford that kind of coin and I think knowledge should be shared and accessible by all. Especially if you're like me, privileged. I'm passionate about this to my core, and why you may think--meh, this is just a series of posts, it's so much more to me. It means people can learn for free or on the cheap. .

I'm sharing detailed tutorials, downloadables, graphics, and extensive vetted resources for further learning, including free online courses from MIT, Google, and more. You know, reputable brands.
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Check out the collection via the link in my profile. If you like the tutorials, clap more than once and share. Thx!
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  • My freelance career is nearing its best-by date. This realization didn’t come from some climactic third act. Instead, it was an acknowledgment of a simple truth: everything expires. The shiny and new loses its sheen and pallor. What once made you bolt out of bed becomes the thing you run from screaming. You tally the things you keep losing, which loom large and incalculable. You’re bombarded by seemingly motivational Instagram quotes that tell you to keep working, keep hustling, keep pushing through it. What the platitudes neglect to add is that some battles should be abandoned. Sometimes it’s okay not to play your hand and to walk away from the table. There is a difference, albeit subtle, between what’s hard and what’s Sisyphean.
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Yes, I want to go back to full-time. Yes, I have no idea how I’ll pay rent this week but I’m surprisingly calm because there are some things out of my control.
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I do have a whole slate of morning interviews for a role back east later in the week so I’m pumped about that. Check out my new medium post (link in bio).
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Image: cosmaa / Getty Images
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  • I’m honestly crying tears of gratitude. I should tell you that I’m not a cryer. Unless it’s those Sarah McLachlan animal shelter commercials and then I’m a puddle. But I’m getting really excited about how this @medium series is coming together. I’ll probably top 50K words including the downloadable resources. And I’m even more humbled that my friend @lorissas (we’ve known one another since 2002 and we’ve worked together since my book publishing days) created these gorgeous custom graphics. I really want my collection branded in the blues and to reflect my vibe as much as possible. I’m spending my own $ to license photography and illustrations.
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All because I’m really fucking tired of faux marketers who don’t know of what they teach. Or they teach what has worked for them, their blog or IG, which doesn’t necessarily translate to big brands. Then you have scammers who make it hard for the legit marketers who have to go through hoops because companies have gotten burned by incompetence.
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I also want to make use of my educational privilege. I went to an excellent private college and Ivy League graduate school. I had the privilege of working for brilliant marketers, from whom I learned everything I know. And I want to share that as much as possible. For free. This is my goal in 2019–create and share tons of pedagogical content. For free.
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I’m so excited!!!!! Shout out to @omgstephlol for believing in my vision and putting up with my craziness.
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#fuckfauxmarketers #makinguseofmyprivilege, #brandstrategy #marketing #marketingtips #strategy #thehustle #freelance
  • THIS WEEK. Well, let’s see... I wrote a total of 32K words, accepted an offer to be one of a few operating owners of a funded content start-up (no $ now but I think this will blow up), I had another interview with an agency in Philly and we talked money, balance, neuroscience and I like their vibe. I’m not moving cross country just yet so let’s all take a pause. I finished a good book, started another. Got my mammogram results back—no cancer! I got angry with my health insurance company like the rest of America. Part of me hopes I can get a full-time job so I can enjoy a consistent paycheck for a hot second. Celebrated a month off the sauce (let’s not get telenovela about this). I cleaned my house and burst into tears talking to my bankruptcy attorney because apparently no one cares that you’ve been making on-time payments for over a year and you’re going through a rough patch. It stormed and I loved it and prayed for more rain. It’s sunny now. I have a first line for a new chapter but I can’t write because all I’m thinking about is work and how I’ll make rent. But here it is: “Love in their home had become its own form of violence.”
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I met up with @bhatmon who always makes me smile and if I move back east she’ll be the one true thing I’ll miss. I listened to podcasts, read science articles, and wished that I could get a neuroscience degree but a kind reader pointed me in the direction of MIT’s free classes so I’m jazzed. I emailed a rescue service and filled out an adoption application but no one ever wrote my back so that made me sad.
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I have no idea how I’ll at for anything but I can’t freak out over that which I can’t control and like that. And love is kind of violent if you really get to thinking about it.
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I’m annoyed that I’ve lived get for over three years and I haven’t seen nearly enough. And on it goes.
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#weekendvibes #weeklyrecap #realtalk #instayum #thehustle #amwriting but am I?
  • Love can sometimes create its own form of emotional violence.
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I used to rummage through photos as a means of being cruel to myself. You used to be thin! You used to be slightly fashionable! You used to be disciplined! And as the edges softened, as your wont to do as you get older and let a lot of the hardness within you go, it occurred to me that the things I used to want and love were violent. I was ruthless to my body to get it to a certain shape instead of eating to sustain myself and moving to feel. I went at everything so hard! Then I worked all hours of the day and night until it made me literally sick. My hardness, my love and desire to look and be a certain way, was hurting me.
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Now. I’ve softened in all senses of the word. I’m calmer. I have a different (and healthier) view of my body and what it means to be beautiful, and I have strong boundaries that guard against the people with whom I work and the projects I’ve taken on. I’ve fired abusive clients. I make clear when and how I work. And I put me first. I have a lot of writing to do to make $ to pay rent this month but I rested yesterday because I need it. I didn’t realize how tiring writing could be when you’re doing it for 10-12 hours a day. Sometimes you need rest.
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Now, I look for pictures like this when I’m happy. When I’m laughing as feeling joyful and hopeful. Because I’m trying to be kinder to myself.
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#tuesdaymotivation #bekind #beingboss #boss #thehustle #amwriting

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