Week 34: Home stretch

"A beginning, a middle, and an end that I control"

Hey friends! It’s the second to last week of this project. I can’t believe it.

In this edition: How I’m feeling as I near the finish line; a preview of some things to come; and a way to help another human out.

life cycle flower GIF

Saying no, making space

Here’s an example of a brand making a very savvy marketing move: Mailchimp funded this Ann Friedman-hosted podcast series, Going Through It, in which she interviews “remarkable women” about “pivotal moments in their lives when they had to decide whether to quit or to keep going.” Last night I listened to her conversation with Samin Nosrat, the chef and writer behind Salt Fat Acid Heat, about her decision to end a popular food pop-up she created years ago with friends. (I couldn’t find a direct link, but you can scroll partway down that same Mailchimp page to find this interview.)

Around the 15:50 mark Nosrat discusses how she knew things had gone south because she began treating some employees and friends poorly. She describes a physical dread that set in. Then she says:

Samin Nosrat: I may not have been clear about what it was exactly that I did want to do, but I did know that, like, what I wanted to make in the world was a feeling of community around food. And that I wanted to be happy, and I wanted to be creatively fulfilled. And I knew I wasn’t getting that from this project. I just started telling myself, OK, like, it’s OK to end something and not let it be a failure, you know, it’s OK to control the narrative.

It’s ok for a business or a project to have a beginning, a middle, and an end that I control.

And only by choosing to say no to this thing would I ever have the space and peace of mind and clarity to ever get to do the thing that I really wanted to do. Which was to write.

So she announced they would discontinue the pop-up a few months later. The project had already received a ton of buzz, and so everyone in the food media/gossip world dove in like vultures wanting “the juice.” She told them there was no juice.

Ann Friedman: I would love for you to talk about what it felt like to be able to say “the reason is I just don’t wanna.”

SN: Ann, it was the best thing that I have ever done. (Laughter) It felt so amazing. I felt such sort of freedom and light. I felt so happy. And I just felt like a totally different person starting the next January.

And because I said no to that, because I ended that, immediately all of these other things — all of the other opportunities that led to me writing my book — appeared.

And, like, they may have appeared earlier and I probably wouldn’t have been able to do them. Or I would have taken everything on and then sort of crashed and burned.

That last part, about the new opportunities that suddenly called out to her? Julia Cameron, creator of The Artist’s Way, would call that “synchronicity.” (Here’s a solid 2016 New Yorker article about Julia Cameron for those who are unfamiliar: “The Artist’s Way” in an Age of Self-Promotion.)

And those lines in bold above help me to explain how I feel about ending this project.

To be clear: Writing an email each week, some of which were mostly a collection of links, is not nearly as dramatic or draining as producing a pop-up food experience. I don’t feel dread in my body when it comes to Move and Groove. (Well, maybe a little, during those weeks when I didn’t even begin writing until after dinner on Wednesday…aka at least half the time.)

I know what it’s like to have a job or task that is physically dreadful. This isn’t that.

But this “experiment in getting and staying un-stuck” was always meant to be 35 weeks long. With that constraint came fuel, occasional frustration, and also relief. There were plenty of weeks when I felt like I hadn’t done my best work, when it all felt too slap-dashed together at the last minute, or when I’d start to write something deeply personal that just didn’t fit into this column-shaped, largely one-way forum. Making decisions about what to include and what to leave out has taken up a fair share of brain space.

I’m trusting now that when I end this weekly Wednesday rhythm, there’ll be plenty to fill the space — and if there isn’t, that’s probably healthy. I’ll start noticing other clues and allow other pursuits to take root and bloom. Luckily, I can keep updating you about how the garden grows! This list doesn’t just disappear. Expect occasional emails after next week even if they don’t show up in your inbox every single Wednesday.

life cycle flower GIF

One thing taking root

My friend Joanna Eng and I are teaming up to bring you a new email newsletter: Dandelions!

Dandelions will launch Mother’s Day — that’s Sunday, May 12, a day we have lots of feelings about. We plan to send it twice a month throughout the summer and then evaluate whether to keep it up after Labor Day.

You can subscribe at http://dandelionsnewsletter.com/ and follow us on Instagram at @dandelionsnewsletter.

At Dandelions, we’re rooting for empathetic, brave, social justice-hearted families. Each installment will be loosely themed around a social or political issue. We’ll offer resources and suggestions for working together across generations — in all families, bio and chosen — to better understand and address these urgent issues. Joanna and I are both relatively new parents, but this isn’t (just) a “parenting newsletter”; we hope it’ll feel relevant to uncles and aunties and friends and…everyone who has a young person in their life.

We also hope it will be a pleasure to read! For a taste of Joanna’s writing, read DNA Relates You, But Here’s What Makes a Family (Motherly) or peruse her site archives.

And for any Emergent Strategy (akpress.org) fans reading this: Yes!, one big inspiration for the newsletter’s name comes from adrienne maree brown’s work. We’ll write about that in one of the first issues.

I hope you’ll join us for this pilot season.

This ain’t over yet

All that said, don’t forget to tune in here next week! Yesterday I sat down with my friend Prerna Abbi-Scanlon for a juicy conversation about bodies, love, weight, food, and health. The transcript is long, so we need a little time with it, but I’m excited to share more soon.

For a preview into who Prerna is and where she’s coming from on these topics, here are two recent Instagram slideshows from her current 100 Day Project: on asking people if they’re pregnant (spoiler: never OK!!!!); on her mom’s cooking and her relationship to Indian food.

In lieu of links…

This week there’s an opportunity to help someone I know personally who needs support with housing. They’re here in Chicago, their hours just got cut at work, and they need just $220 more by next Wednesday to pay the move-in fee + first month’s rent on their new apartment. This is another one of those totally doable, “literally even just a dollar will help” situations. If you have CashApp, you can send support via the username $ElmoreAda. (If you don’t have CashApp but want to pool resources with me and contribute, hit reply on this email and we’ll work something else out.) Thanks for considering this!

That’s it for tonight. See you next week.

stop motion confetti GIF by Julie Smith Schneider

A note to new readers: Hello! On my 35th birthday, I set out to write an email a week for 35 weeks. As you’ve gleaned by now, that ends next week — but I still plan to share updates and personal writing with this list from time to time.

If a friend forwarded you this email and you’d like to subscribe, head to julia.substack.com.

I’m also on Instagram at @juliaseesmith and (less often) on Twitter at @juliacsmith.

All of the gifs in this email are from a Giphy search for “dandelions.”