Keeping up with my monthly series in 2020 as a slow farewell to AoS, today I’m sharing another letter to myself in 2010, ten years ago. Each letter focuses on one of the different categories we write about here: relationships, community, self-care, travel, home, and in the case of this month’s installment, work.
Though these are to myself, my hope is that you find a smidge of truth, beauty, and goodness you can apply to your own life — and perhaps this exercise will inspire you to write your own letters to yourself, ten years younger.
Dear Me in 2010,
Look, let’s just say it right out of the gate: when you started this blog two years ago from where you’re standing, you weren’t doing it to carve out a new career for yourself. It was a creative outlet, pure and simple. That was it, from the perspective of where you sat on that Sunday afternoon in your Turkish apartment, buying a domain name and deciding to see what it was like to click ‘publish’ every now and then.
Here I am, ten years later, and it’s remarkable what’s happened. I remember standing in a bookstore in sixth grade, gaping at the rows and rows of books and wondering how on earth anyone got one published, and could I maybe do that one day. (Of course, it was done quite different back then, before the internet).
I’m grateful this whim has led to writing, and other writing-adjacent outlets, like podcasting (I never saw that coming). What strikes me most from where I stand is how different all this — whatever “this” is — is so very different than even from where you stand ten years prior. If I’ve learned one thing about making a living via the internet, it’s that the only predictable thing is change. It’s inevitable.
How I do my work today is remarkably different than 2011, when I first made full-time income with what I’m doing. It’s remarkably different from two years ago. It’ll be different in another two years.
I don’t pretend, at age 42, to completely understand how ‘work’ works, and Lord-willing, I still have decades of it ahead of me because I love to work. But I will tell you one thing that’s shifted these past two years, mostly due to plain-old tiredness:
I’m over the hustle.
In my early years of writing, where you stand now, I found it exhilarating to work into the night, writing or editing or designing or sharing via social media. My view of work was that of expansion; how much could I grow this thing? I had good intentions, mind you, I honestly believed I mostly stayed humble and connected to my roots, thank goodness. But I loved the bustle of it all.
Now, I see what little I can do because of how much punch just a few tasks can give. Getting enough work done by 2 pm so I can spend the rest of the day in the garden? Now that’s a success I’m willing to rise early for.
In a newsletter this year, Amy Lynn Andrews recalled a conversation she had with Kat Lee, who asked her, “When you’re streamlining and look at all you’re doing, how do you decide what’s fluff?” Amy answered, “I don’t look at all I’m doing and pick out the fluff. I assume it’s all fluff and pick out what’s worth doing.”
This, this, this. This, in 23 words, is the best wisdom on work in the modern era I’ve heard in a long while. This is gold. Because it’s true:
I don’t look at all I’m doing and pick out the fluff. I assume it’s all fluff and pick out what’s worth doing.-Amy Lynn Andrews
There’s very little that’s essential — that’s what makes it essential. And when you cut out else, you’re left with the things that matter, and because you’ve macheted the weed they’re easier to see.
These days for me, it looks like focusing on my newsletter. It looks like popping on to Twitter a few minutes each day, but then moving on with my work elsewhere. It looks like checking Instagram once a week, maybe twice. It looks like creating a simpler podcast.
It looks like investing in my smaller, offline world by teaching a small group of teenagers every week. And it looks like channeling most of my writing energy onto long-form projects, like books.
Life goes too fast to whittle it away on social media or hustling for a few more eyeballs. It’s just not sustainable, and it’s just not as fun as it used to be. What’s fun is getting in my word count for the day, then checking out the squash and tomatoes in the backyard.
You in 2020