Down With The Side Hustle, Down With The Day Job

Down With The Side Hustle, Down With The Day Job

Community Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

Last week, I was at a networking event thing for activist-minded women in their twenties and thirties. Lots of rad women, lots of big ideas. Because I was feeling chatty and confident, I told myself to stay a little while longer, if just to finish my glass of “OMG It’s Finally Spring!” celebratory rosé. Because I’m an extroverted introvert and do one-on-one conversations, I gravitated toward the gal standing by the wall who was finishing her glass, too. A kindred spirit.

I ask her a little bit about herself – who she is, what she loves, what she cares about, how she spends her time on a daily basis and why (because I go hard right out of the gate). She asks me what I “do.”

So I tell her about WANT.

(And you guys, I was on fire. I promise it wasn’t just the rosé. I’d just gotten back from a speaking engagement and booked two more, I was high off of reading your beautiful emails sharing your incredible stories, and I’d finally started to own some of my long-term goals and get them rolling. I felt in my freaking element and ready to share the love!)

And then she asks me “So is that your side hustle?” And I stumble.

“…Well, no, that’s where I put my energy and efforts on a daily basis. That’s where the majority of my focus is.”

She cuts me off. “Yeah, but is it MAKING YOU MONEY.”

That’s not a typo. It’s not supposed to be a question mark. It’s a period.

Like she was trying to school me on “what I do.”

After years of struggling with “what I call myself” and how I explain who I am and what I’m about to other people – and, honestly, after reaching a really good place with it all and finally feeling like I can answer people in a way that’s succint yet doesn’t sell me short – I found myself thrown off-guard by her haste and candor. Plus I just didn’t want to talk about other things, ya know?

Thankfully, my self-awareness prevented me from getting defensive or snapping back at her. After what seemed like twenty seconds of gathering myself (probably more like two, not twenty), I calmly replied, “Well, it’s not my primary source of income, but I am, yeah” (which is not untrue)

“Oh,” she trails off…

We wrapped up our conversation and I made a beeline for the door. I couldn’t stay in this networky environment much longer.

I know. I know she didn’t mean anything by it. I know she was just trying to compartmentalize and simplify the information she was gathering. But her words stuck with me for days. Especially because she was…well, she was like me. It’s easier to brush off comments that rub you the wrong way when they come from people outside your age range or career or interest field. But peers are different. She wasn’t someone who was unfamiliar with the kind of “work” I was talking about. She was just…assuming it was on the side.

~

I have big problems with the terms “Side Hustle” and “Day Job.” I think they’re stifling, I think they’re suffocating, and I think they’re stupid.

It’s like when actors or painters or writers (hi) get asked what their “real job” is, because their work as an artist isn’t work that’s usually associated with paying the bills. To the artist, whose art is as real as it gets, asking “So what’s your day job?” feels like a passive-aggressive slam.

I have so many problems with this – where do I start? Using the words “day job” and “side hustle” assumes that one is serious and one isn’t. One pays the bills and one brings in a few dollars a month at most. One is a career at most and paycheck at least, one is a passion at most and a hobby at least. One is the big juicy main steak dish, one is the sad asparagus spears.

I realize that it’s human nature to want to simplify and find structure…but I think it’s downright dangerous to label what you do as a side dish instead of a main course. Or downplay the main course as merely something that gives you nutritional value.

If you’re constantly referring to what you love as unworthy of the spotlight, then how can you ever expect it has a fair shot at success?

I never, ever, ever refer to any of my jobs as Day Jobs or Side Hustles. To me, they’re all just different projects that serve different purposes. Never once did I refer to my job at a vegan restaurant in L.A. as my Day Job – and yet it was what paid the bills most of the time alongside my acting gigs and spin classes and freelance work. I never once referred to my acting or teaching or writing as a Side Hustle – and yet they brought in a handful of change each month at best. My restaurant job was not how I defined my days. My art was never on the side.

The restaurant helped me build community. The art helped me use my voice.

If you say what you love is unworthy of the spotlight, how can you expect a fair shot at success? Click To Tweet

Instead of compartmentalizing my life into Day Jobs and Side Hustles when I go to parties or meet new people, I always lead with what I’m most excited to talk about. Most of the time, it’s WANT. Sometimes it’s my classes. Sometimes it’s a small one-off project I’m doing that fascinates me to no end. Sometimes it’s just a riff off of “I’m a writer.” But very rarely do I answer “What Do You Do” the way people expect I will: with a passion justified by a more “sensible” job.

I’m lucky enough to have multiple jobs that pay my bills. WANT is one of them. But I’ve also been working in the fitness and wellness industry for over a decade, and I love that too. And go figure, it’s the primary thing that pays my bills right now. There are a LOT of people who talk about turning your “side hustle into your main hustle” – screw that! Why can’t your side hustle be your main hustle right out of the gate? Why can’t your day job and your night job live harmoniously? In high school we had multiple classes that carried equal weight. Why not the same with how we spend our days? Nay, our lives?

Here’s the thing: you are where your energy is. What you do and how you make money MIGHT be the same thing, but might be the answer to an entirely different question. The concepts of Day Jobs and Side Hustles speak nothing to what you’re actually putting your energy toward – because they focus on quantity of hours and dollars, not quality of passion and vision. 

~

“‘Side Hustle?'” my mom chuckled when I repeated the networking story to her. “I’ve never heard that term before!”

Mind = blown. Every third Instagram post, every other blog – everyone talking about how to develop a side hustle or turn your side hustle into your main hustle or whatever. It had been exhausting for quite some time now. The fact that she had never even heard of this was absurd. How was that possible?

And then I thought about it. And I remembered how she’d never encouraged me to have a Plan B like so many of my artist friends’ parents. “What will she do if she doesn’t make it?” people would gasp. “Katie is a smart girl. And she loves many things,” my parents would say. “She’ll figure it out.”

That mentality was such a gift to me. They knew I didn’t need to plan for “real life” with a passion on the side. Real life lived everywhere.

No one who is in my life would ever think of WANT as my side hustle. They know how many hours I put in working, and they know how much energy I spend making it the very best it can be. Maybe it doesn’t look like a “regular job” to people on the outside…but that doesn’t mean they’re allowed to shove it in a corner of generalizations and assumptions. The same goes for the other ways I choose to fill my days, whether they make money or not. I streamline when I need to, but I thrive on strategic variety. Nothing I do looks normal to the naked eye, and I am alright with that. It’s normal to me.

What I propose is this:

Down with the Day Job.

Down with the Side Hustle.

Let’s ask people what they spend their energy on, and tell them where ours is as well.

Let’s view what we do as different aspects of who we are. All main courses in their own right.

Plan A all the way.

 


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To The Goddess Unchained.

To The Goddess Unchained.

Body Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work
'When you're a powerful woman, you are a goddess unchained. And everyone will have something to say.' @katiehorwitch Click To Tweet

Dear beautiful woman,

Hi. It’s me. We haven’t met, but I feel like I know you. Scratch that – I know that I know you. And I don’t mean that in a pushy, I’ve-been-there-before-so-now-I-know-you-and-also-everything way. I mean that in the way that we all come from the same source, the same sisterhood, the same #rigged system that’s made us believe false truths throughout the ages that nothing we do will ever be enough.

I know you are struggling right now. With what, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the job? The relationship status? The family or kids or lack thereof of both? As someone once said, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

But what I do know is this: your struggle is inflammed by the perceived expectations of the world around you.

~

To be kind, to be humble, to be gracious – to be boistrous, but not too much. To be soft, to be resilient, to be a leader, but not too much. To be heard, but not absorbed; to be wild, but at the same time tamed. This is the dichotomy of being a woman. Just a woman.

And to be a powerful woman – oh jeez! That is a task of itself, a dance more precise and more stress-sweat inducing than walking through eggshells. One misstep and the craaaaaaaaack of everything delicate below you rings loud in your ear. You must be bold. You must be brave. You must be a mind-reader and truth-teller but always know when and where your place is to say such things.

Success, you must learn, is relative. And success, you must say, is nothing but smoke and mirrors. But success, you must learn, is both the pinnacle of acceptance and the beginnings of lifelong critique. You are not kind enough, or humble enough, or gracious enough – or you’re boistrous, but way too much. No softness, too much resilience, too wild, too heard.

 

Because when you’re a powerful woman, you are a goddess unchained.
And everyone will have something to say.


I believe in you, lady. I believe in your grandness and your solitude, your quietness and your noise. I believe in the way you walk through the world, step by forceful step; the way you trip sometimes but always keep going. There are pebbles lodged in the soles of your shoes and dirt encrusted on the laces, relics from the places you’ve been and the things you have seen. Resist the urge to scrape them off. They belong there, they complete you – shoes were not meant to stay crisp and clean, in my opinion.

You have the answers you’re looking for, deep down. Whether they’ve made their way to the surface yet, TBD. You’re not supposed to wake up one day and know. But anyone who says they do or assumes the opposite is a liar.

Surprise, surprise: the hallmark of being a true adult is knowing that you will never know.

~

And so you, goddess unchained, you are grappling with the knowing and the not knowing and to that I say you’re doing it right. The world wants you to believe it expects you to know but all that is is a desperate plea to fill in the blanks. Blanks that are not yours to fill, blank spaces that aren’t meant to be filled in the first place.

But the last thing I want you to do, sweet friend, is get defensive and stew. How Dare They! How Dare This! The world is not conniving against you, the world just does not know. The world is a child, curious and stubborn. It’s wary of change. It wants to see what sticks. It wants to know what can be cuddled, and how hard, without being smothered. It wants to know what can be crushed, and how hard, without being broken. You don’t have to be the parent or sitter – but rather, the other curious child on the playground who is building sandcastles in the sand instead of eating it.

Nothing you do will ever be enough?
Everything you do is already enough, by the very nature that you’re doing it.


The world is reactive, so you must be proactive.

The world takes cues, so you must make your own.

I don’t want you to look down at the quicksand and say, How Dare They!

What I do want you to do is stand in the middle of the storm and exclaim with pride, How Dare I!

 


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Be Happy Now.

Be Happy Now.

Body Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

Be Happy Now.

Be wild, be free, be you.

Be Happy Now.

Amidst the day-to-day, the traffic, the honking cars and the smoggy streets,

Be Happy Now.

When there is no adventure,

Find some.

When there’s no story

Write one.

When there is no adventure, Find some. When there’s no story, Write one. Click To Tweet

Be Happy Now.

Your freedom is always there; it’s always just a choice away.

It’s a choice disguised in different jobs, different scenarios, different ways of seeing the world

In working clothes, in workout clothes, in the people you’re with and the hours you spend plowing or sauntering or dragging through your day; it’s all your choice…

Your freedom is unstoppable, un-steal-able, unshakable and unmovable. It’s that thing you carry around with you in your pocket, that little gem or stone or twig you found outside that bends in a funny way that you look at or touch and remember, Yep, this is who I am, This is what I stand for.

Be.

Happy.

Now.

It’s about inspiration; it’s about being inspired where-ever you go. It’s about relying on no one but yourself to create this for you, relying on yourself to Be the change and Be the moment and Be that person who doesn’t just sit in fear waiting for someone else to make the move.

It’s about every place being a possible home, every person being a possible vessel, and every dollar being trivial if every possible moment is monumental.

It’s about knowing your value and trusting that value in a way even the harshest of words or coldest of beings or darkest-most-gloom-filled-mornings-that-last-through-3-p-m-and-beyond could not shift.

It’s about knowing your thoughts, knowing your heart, and knowing that no one knows you better than you know yourself. You have the final say, you have the last word, you have the brilliant ideas and YOU have the voice that matters.

It’s about what you love being a part of you at all times.

In all ways, in all days.

Life is yours for the taking if you know what to ask.

Is this real?

Is this true?

Is this fear speaking, or is it faith?

You get to decide what is real, you get to decide what is true.

YOU get to choose, the fear or the faith.

You get the wild. You get the free. You get the You.

It’s about the way the darkest darks lead to the brightest lights, the storm and the sunshine, the flowers and the weeds.

It’s about how one cannot exist without the other.

There is no right time. It’s all the right time.

It’s about happy.

It’s about now.

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I Know How To Swim.

I Know How To Swim.

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

Hey.

I don’t usually write these kinds of things, but I’m staring at my computer screen blankly in the middle of a Maison Kayser with a too-pretty-to-drink splurge coffee in front of me while I wait for my laundry to be done at the local laundromat and this seems like a good place to start. It usually is.

When I started WANT, I made it very clear that this was not my personal blog. WANT isn’t even a blog at all – it’s a brand, a platform, part of which includes my work as a writer and activist when it comes to what it means to be a fully self-actualized woman in this world. I present personal work, I never work through personal work. It’s irresponsible of me to use this space as a venting ground or pretend like I’ve got answers about things that I don’t. It’s not my job to drag you down into the muck of my struggles. It IS my job to be fiercely honest and use my personal experiences to help lift you up into the you you know you’re meant to be.

And yet. And yet. Sometimes something comes along that is so grating, so disrespectful, and so widespread that I can’t just sit here quietly and watch it happen to literally every single woman I know. Because choosing to be a writer, artist, activist, and truth-teller means that you also choose to be someone who stands up.

I turned 30 this year. I’ve been living with my boyfriend for almost three years now. I’ve made my reflex (writing) my career (writer). I’ve moved across the country. I’m closer to 50 than I am to 5. I found six grey hairs this October.

Apparently, when you hit certain milestones in life – whether an age or life stage – it’s deemed acceptable (dare I say obligatory?) for others to grill you about your life choices. You know the questions. So when are you getting married? So do you want to have kids? Where do you see yourself in five years? And then, there are the questions you get as a creative: Have you thought about monetizing your “blog” yet? How do you make a living? Aren’t you worried about financial security? But what else do you do? Isn’t it time you joined the real world already? You know, I know a guy…

It’s not just the questions that start to roll in, it’s the opinions and advice along with them. You’re not getting any younger. You’re going to regret it. You don’t know what you’re saying. You should try this other thing. I’ve got a friend of a friend who does this and says that, so maybe you should make that happen. Have you thought about making that happen?

On behalf of all women everywhere (because it also seems as if women get this wonderful privilege of their lives being publicly owned property to own stock in) I’d like to say:

 

PLEASE.

STOP.

 

I’ve had to learn the hard way (is there any easy way?) that knowing thyself doth not make you immune to others assuming that they doth know better. Marriage, kids, career, location, LIFE. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I thought the key to living a life free of worry and judgement was to know myself so well that being anyone else was out of the question. But as I grew older – especially as I started to inch toward the big three-zero – I realized something bizarre: for as much as we tout self-knowledge and fulfillment in theory, our society still views the individual opinion as a threat. After all the books and memes and self-help podcasts, we’re still out there judging our women for not following a path that looks familiar to our own. Just like recognizing one woman’s beauty does not lessen yours, one woman following her own path does not invalidate you following yours.

And yet. And yet. We preach the self-love gospel and urge each other to follow the beat of our own drum while at the same time judging the way we do it. We tell our kids from a very young age to trust their gut and “be themselves,” but with no guidebook to do so, we’re left with the daunting task of becoming human and becoming whole. It’s no wonder the quarter life crisis, mid-life crisis, Saturn Return, et al have become so widely embraced by our culture. We’re trying to teach ourselves to swim, while simultaneously trying to follow the directions of the people who aren’t in the water, yelling at us from the shore. We’re drowning in opinion.

Knowing thyself doth not make you immune to others assuming that they doth know better. Click To Tweet

The most baffling thing is how at ease others are at asking the questions or forcing the discussion of topics that are usually saved as “serious conversation” topics between the people they directly affect.

Before this relationship, I was single for five years. Five years. Contrary to what others might tell you about singledom, they were some of the best five years of my life. I got to know myself in a way I never had before. I honed my passions and found new ones. I became, for the most part, the person I am now. I think everyone should spend a good deal of time single, because it is the very best way to learn who you are at the end of the day. I loved that process.

And yet. And yet. My inbox was flooded with messages from extended-extended-extended family members trying to set me up with their rich friend’s son. While I was finding my way in the editorial world, the number one question I got was whether I was dating or not. And when I began teaching fitness classes and was really, truly figuring out what I was meant to do and give, I will never forget the family friend who instead of asking questions about why I loved it or what I was learning, grilled me about what I wanted to do with my life and made a disapproving comment about how I “wasn’t going to be an ‘exercise girl’ for the rest of” my life. During a time when I was becoming increasingly self-confident and self-expressed, that comment shot through me and sent me sinking back into my own ocean of self-doubt.

Now, the comments and questions look different. Questions about marriage. Questions about kids. Career “advice.”

Oh, the career “advice.”

On one hand, there are people who confuse my professional writing with a personal blog and like to make all kinds of assumptions/ask very intrusive and personal questions because of it. I think this happens across the board on the internet, whether it be a website, blog, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever: whereas the people I’ve met through the internet have become some of my closest, most treasured relationships, there are people who know me in real life who use what I share online to make assumptions about who I am offline.

On the other hand, there are people who think that running my own business and career is “cute.” They see it as an opportunity to crowd source how to run it best, a chance to tell me about their friend who does such-and-such and about how I should really try doing that instead. I guess that, for some people, it’s unthinkable that I’ve actually put deep thought and hard work into this. For some people, it’s laughable that I’m doing something real, that I’m making real change, and most of all – that I am in charge.

Amongst the female freelancers and entrepreneurs I’ve talked to (and I’ve talked to a lot), there is this common thread of not being taken seriously. Our professions are seen as hobbies, our work viewed as wishy-washy. And then, of course, when people don’t understand or exhaust their advice options, they jump straight to the questions that let you know they see your life as partially empty. So when you getting married? So when you having kids? The cycle repeats and repeats. So much energy wasted on convincing others we’re right where we need to be and we’ve got this.

The thing is, most people don’t believe they’re being judgy. They believe they’re sharing their knowledge, they believe they’re being supportive even. They believe they’re offering solutions, and they believe they’re letting you know they want the best for you. They believe they’re making conversation, sometimes. They believe they’re not imposing, and they believe they know where you are and where you’ve been. They believe they know.

But to the people who ask these questions: How much do YOU know? How much do you know, really?

That’s right.

You don’t.

When you ask a woman if she thinks her parter is “The One,” you have no idea if they’re floating on air or if they’re struggling to make each other a priority. When you ask a woman if she’s going to have kids, or worse, ask a married woman if “she’s trying” (which is basically just asking if she and her SO are doing it constantly, or going through the difficult and costly process of IVF or a surrogate – and don’t even get me started on all the questions and judgements that I’ve heard go along with adoption process), you have zero clue as to what kind of emotional baggage that brings up, or if she’s going through a miscarriage, or if she’s feeling distraught because she doesn’t really know if she wants kids yet and that sense of uncertainty scares the crap out of her. When you ask a woman where she wants to be in five years or tell her she should really turn her talent into her profession or comment about how she should be doing things differently, you might not realize she lays awake at night struggling to make ends meet or is busting her ass trying to make money at the thing she loves. You have NO CLUE how much work is or is not going on behind the scenes.

Here’s what I would love to say to these people:

Look. I know you care. I think you care. At least, I’d like to think you care. In an ideal world, we’d all care greatly about one another and support each others’ rise up into our own unquestionably unique life story. But the thing is, I know it’s not really that you care about me. It’s that you care about your relationship to the construct of me. I also know it’s easier to live vicariously through someone else’s experiences than completely own up to and focus on your own. I also know that you not treating these topics with the weight that I do – as in, they’re mine and mine alone – signals you do not respect my answer either way. You do not respect my answer, period. You’re simply hungry for information, hungry for ammo, craving the excitement of being “in the know” or in some cases “knowing better.” You want an in with me that I do not consent to giving to you.

How do you think asking about marriage makes us feel about this very personal, very private decision that WE have only discussed in a series of “serious conversations”? How do you think your attempts to get me paired off with your coworker’s nephew makes me feel about my ability to find love on my own? Do you know how much pressure I feel when you ask if I’m going to have kids, and when I say I’m unsure and you immediately try and “sway” my uterus and I into impending childbirth? Do you have any idea how many nos or non-responses I’ve received during the course of my career, or the late nights I’ve worked to push something out because I’m running a business, not a hobby?

Moreover, do you realize what a slight this is to me? Prying into how I live my life tells me you do not care about the decades I’ve spent getting to know myself and the person I strive to be. Prying into how I live my life tells me my self-knowledge does not matter. Imagine how it feels, after years and years of learning how to “be myself” and “trust my gut,” to be the subject of your prying questions, your assumptions, your unsolicited advice, and the subtext of it all telling me that I can be myself as long as I okay it with you first.

I allow myself to be hit with the tidal wave because I know how to swim. Click To Tweet

If you’re one of those people who cannot stop speculating or has this great idea or has “just got to ask” – DON’T. And no, “not asking” is not tiptoeing around anything or walking on eggshells. Just. Don’t.

Here’s what you can do: Ask other questions. Ask someone how they are in their head and heart. How are they physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

I promise you, if there’s information they want you to know, they’ll offer it up. But if they don’t, you’ve got to be comfortable with not knowing. And if you’re not comfortable NOT being what you consider to be in-the-know? You might do better by asking yourself why you DO need to be.

As a writer, I make my living (or at least a portion of it, for now) by sitting still and letting the entirety of me hit me like a tidal wave. I love nothing more than to sit alone, still and quiet, on a cloudy afternoon or late at night and use my HSPness to its fullest capacity. I’ve come to be such close sisterfriends with vulnerability that I simply call her Sheer Honest Living. It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating. It’s me.

I will never stop exposing myself, my truths, and the truths of the world around me I so painstakingly explore and tune into. And yet…and yet. I will always share what is personal and never what is intimate. I will fiercely live my life the way I know how, because I’ve spent a lifetime learning how I function, and my public Sheer Honest Living in the personal realm gives no one permission to use my openness as their “in” to the intimate realm. I allow myself to be hit with the tidal wave because I know how to swim.

And to you reading this? You know how to, too. I know you do. You are a badass. You are a superstar. Whatever you are doing with your life, wherever you are in life, whoever you’re doing it with. I support you a zillion percent.

 



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On Empathy: How To Talk To People Who Aren’t Quite There Yet.

On Empathy: How To Talk To People Who Aren’t Quite There Yet.

Community Love Shift Of Power Tips + Tools

I don’t need to wax poetic about how I’m feeling right now. I think we all get it. Let’s talk about what’s been helping and what we can do.

I consider myself a pretty open, aware person. I listen with all my senses, I fill in gaps before others know they need filling. I know that disagreement and understanding are two very different things, and I get that my own experiences are vastly different than even my closest of friends.

Which is why, this week, I found myself needing to come to terms with the fact that I had slipped into an unenlightened and, frankly, naive way of thinking: that everyone I knew obviously shared my opinions, and everyone I knew would obviously be as upset as I was.

My wake-up call came while talking to a friend of mine…who happens to be white, happens to be Christian, and happens to be male. Our lunch date began with me in a daze, looking not unlike a character from a slapstick comedy movie who has been turned into a drone or zombie and talks sans emotions, moving perfunctorily through the motions of life. Except it was more like a slap-in-the-face than slapstick moment, and my voice was only monotonous because I was too exhausted from crying and functioning on zero sleep for two nights in a row. I kept saying how horrible it all was, how I couldn’t believe that hateful rhetoric and lack of human decency hadn’t been a deal-breaker for so many people. It’s like building a house with just wallpaper and roof shingles, I said. Without kindness and respect, everything else crumbles. He nodded and unenthusiastically offered up some anecdote about how “we don’t know what he’ll do so we just need to stay hopeful.” So much for the drone: I felt my face starting to fume. I could have breathed fire. It’s not about what he will or won’t do. It’s about the permission slip that’s been granted to people who hate.

I must have been visibly upset, even though my words stayed calm. I tried not to get accusatory or defensive. It’s hard for me to hear you say that, and I know you’re trying to help. But I need to know. Why, I asked, do you not seem as upset about this as I am?

What happened next is where it all turned around. Deep breath in.

“I feel like I can trust you, and you won’t judge me, so I will admit this about myself because I don’t like it: I am having trouble empathizing. And I feel like I am broken because of it. My privilege is so engrained, and if I’m being honest I am the kind of person who is least affected by recent events. I can sympathize for sure. But I…I don’t know how to empathize.

Please help me empathize and tell me what I can do.”

Since then, I’ve been diving deep into how to talk to people who aren’t activist-minded…how to help those who don’t quite internalize it be able to grasp the severity of this situation we’re in. People who are good, GOOD people, but because of whatever their set of engrained experiences or backgrounds or privileges are struggling to feel empathy in this very moment. Sympathy, sure, but empathy is tough.

Of course, because I’m me, I decided to ask around to see what was making the “empathy chip” shut down in some people during these tough times.

I also found that they want to help, but feel like there is no option other than attending a protest or being super engaged on social media – neither of which are up their alley in the first place. Most of all (and most unfortunately), they feel shamed when they ask questions or admit they’re not quite on the same page. How can we expect them to get on the same page if we scold them for not being there in the first place?

People’s minds don’t change until something affects them deeply enough. Unfortunately some people have to see it to believe it when it comes to evil and injustice. We’re seeing it now, and I’m realizing how overwhelmingly many of us are on the same side. More than ever, I think. But we cannot fault people for not getting on board sooner if we don’t take measures to explain why it all matters.

We cannot fault people for not 'getting on board sooner' if we don't explain why it all matters. Click To Tweet

I’m tired of meanness and ultimatums and am ready to help mobilize those who voted indifferently, along with the 46.9% who stayed silent because they thought they couldn’t make a difference, and might just think the same is true for their voice and support in everyday life.

Here’s a list of Dos and Don’t I’ve compiled, from my own experience and those of others, when it comes to talking to people who can’t understand your pain…but want to:

DO share with them exactly why you are scared, angry, or sad. What I found is that the people I’ve spoken with really, truly want to empathize. However, they’re only hearing expressions of rage and anger over and over, which makes it hard for them to not just shut down and disengage. It’s the same reason why people delete their Facebook pages or disavow social media: after a while, the extreme high highs and low lows can become one loud vague noise, and that one loud vague noise can become overwhelming and isolating. Social media was meant to be just that: social. When you explain why you’re feeling the way you are, you back up your feelings with supporting examples. And it’s a lot easier to understand and connect with someone when they explain the WHYs behind their WHATs.

DO invite them in and encourage them to ask questions. It can feel awkward to ask about someone else’s life experiences. You don’t want to come off as ignorant, or patronizing, or just plain dumb. We’ve all experienced it. But we cannot shy away. What we can do to help those who feel shy or awkward diving deep is encourage them to always ask more, and reassure them it’s same and judgement-free to do so. Why does this scare you? What makes you feel strong? What is it like to go through XYZ? Why do you feel called to do/say/be the way you are? The more we understand about one another, the more we realize how much we are truly alike. THAT’S what activates the empathy chip.

DO ask that they relay your reactions and emotions to others – and do it as often as they can. You’ve heard the saying “You are the five people you spend the most time with,” right? Well, by this logic, we mostly run in circles that are closest to our own way of being. Remind others (and yes, remind yourself too!) that they don’t have to attend a peace rally or write an 8-minute-read op-ed on Medium or post incessantly on Facebook to be an ally and advocate (but hey, if you want to read my 8-min-read op-ed on Medium, here you go). The way to spark discussion within apathetic or unaware crowds is not to feign empathy en masse or change the subject entirely, but to relay the stories of those you directly know and love. I told my friend that what would be helpful to me would be to engage in conversations when they arise and outright mention me, along with my feelings/reasons for feeling the way I do. He doesn’t have to fake that he knows what it’s like, but instead of brushing the topic aside or trying to mitigate the moment, it would be helpful if he told a story about his friend, and how and why she was upset, and maybe even how that affected him as a friend. I don’t need him to share in my experience – I just need him to SHARE it. And in sharing, he’s validating it exists and is real and is worth standing up to. Boom. Activism.

DON’T use them as a therapist. I don’t think anyone particularly likes being an involuntary dumping ground for someone else’s emotions. Standing witness to their emotions, of course. But when we talk AT people instead of TO people, no matter the subject, they tend to tune out. And the subjects behind these emotion – racism, sexism, homophobia, violence, environmental dangers, etc etc etc etc – are way, waaay too important to be tuned out.

DON’T shame them for not sharing your viewpoints. Some might argue it’s not a woman/Jew/Muslim/POC/gay/transgender/etc. person’s job to educate those who don’t “get” their struggles – and I do agree that the other person needs to make the first move when it comes to being open to new information. But we’ve GOT to help one another, and shaming someone for their privilege is not the answer. ANYONE can be an activist and an ally. You just need to find what’s right for you – and in this case, sometimes people need help identifying what exactly that is.

DON’T expect it will happen overnight. As much as we’d love things to change instantly when it comes to getting on the same page of ANYTHING – whether it’s drinking green smoothies in tandem or fighting inequality together – big shift takes time. One conversation with your friend, colleague, or family member will not undo years and years of their way of living. But If you keep talking, keep listening, and keep asking questions, you will both awake in ways you never thought possible.

Which reminds me.

DO LISTEN. People hold onto their viewpoints or lack thereof – whatever they may be – for a reason. Whether it was something that happened in childhood or a trigger that lies beneath the surface, no one simply wakes up and decides to live their life, think their thoughts, and feel their feelings out of thin air. This especially goes for those who have the desire to empathize but are not quite there yet. Just because there is a wall up or a mental block doesn’t mean there isn’t gold on the other side of the barrier. We cannot help people listen if we are unable to do the same for them. We say it all the time here on WANT. Dive in. Dig deep. It’s the freaking hard-ass work of life to listen with an open mind and full-as-F heart, but it’s what we must do if we want to ultimately get on the same page and see some shift happen.

We cannot help people listen if we are unable to do the same for them. Click To Tweet

I started to come out of the darkness late Friday afternoon. What was a bit of a consolation was thinking about how if art has taught me ANYTHING, it’s that the massive, major changes – not just progress, but actual GOALS reached in mass – come when the pendulum has swung to a very opposite extreme.

So yes, the Now is horrifying. But SO many people are upset about what’s going on in America – liberals, conservatives, the whole spectrum – that I have got to believe this is INEVITABLY going to bring about massive activism and change on a human level. This isn’t about parties or politics. This is about human decency. The first step isn’t empathizing, and the first step isn’t activism. The first step for everyone, the VERY first step, is to be unafraid to ask for help, and even more unafraid to ask what you can DO to help.



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Navigating The Freeway.

Navigating The Freeway.

Community Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

This weekend, I went home to Los Angeles for the very first time since I’d moved to New York. Driving through the city in the daylight, I was immediately reminded of how MASSIVE Los Angeles is – not massive like New York is, in stature and borderline-overwhelming energy, but spread out and spread thin like a sheet of sprinkle-cookie dough rolled out a little bit too many times. Smoothed over, thinned out, and just the right amount of variety to make it interesting. It all seems familiar and slightly askew at the same time. I open Waze for the first time since leaving, because if you don’t own a car in NYC this app is useless. An hour and a half from LAX to the Valley. There it is. I remember now.

I feel older in LA than when I left, and it’s not just because I celebrated my 30th birthday one month ago. I have this feeling in my gut that something is off, something has changed…something isn’t what it used to be. Are the buildings a fresh color? Is that construction on the ever-elusive cross-city Metro line finally completed? Has the drought gotten better, or worse? In no part of my mind do I think I am the thing that’s changed. I try and remember what the billboards looked like the day I left. 

I surprise one of my best friends on the way home and she cries a little. I almost fall asleep in the car (don’t worry, I’m not driving). I reach my parents’ house, the house I grew up in, and I try to remember if there were always that many cars and if there was always that much road separating me from them. It seems like so much now.

I notice things I didn’t before while I’m home. The way the streets curve. The smell of the backyard in the morning. The distance. Oh my goodness, the distance. Has LA always been this spread out and spread thin? Walking from the gym’s parking garage into the doors even seems extraneous, like, why is it all that far apart? Why do I see less people in a mile here than I do in a block in the West Village? It’s so sparse. They must all be on the freeway.

I have a strange urge to stay put while I’m in town. Which, for me, isn’t normal. I remember wanting to get away, get away, get away when I was here before. Or rather, explore explore explore. Hiking the canyons. Driving to the beach. Organizing my day so it flowed seamlessly, like a roadmap, from my bed to the street and back to my bed again by the end of the night. Fitting as much in as you can at once. Out all day then back. Because anyone in LA knows that if you come home in the middle of the day, there’s very little chance you’ll be going back out again. It’s one or the other. I feel inclined this time to stay close to home.

It’s not that I don’t want to see people. It’s just that I am slowly trying to navigate myself here again. People told me before I left that I wouldn’t be able to come back unchanged and I start to believe them for the first time. How is it I can feel like the same person but so different all at once? Why is it that I can’t pinpoint what’s changed? I scan the buildings and the billboards and look for a sign they’ve shifted since I was last there.

I drive through The Valley and give J a tour of my childhood (for those not familiar with LA: the San Fernando Valley, aka the place Cher goes to that house party in Clueless, aka “over the hill,” aka the region where Encino Man takes place). That’s where I took art classes, that’s where my elementary school was. I drive from one end of the Valley to the other and for a good few blocks in Tarzana and Reseda I try and remember if it always looked this way. More of it looks like a relic of the past than I remember. I try and decide if was built that way and I’m just noticing now or what. I settle on believing that that’s it. I can’t really start to grasp the difference and so I try to ignore it…

And then I put on my dress I brought for my cousin’s wedding and I feel really, truly beautiful. But it’s not an external type of beauty, even though the dress is killer and my date’s a knockout. It’s a confidence I haven’t registered till now, and a change in posture I haven’t thought about. Maybe it’s because I’m not in a car all of the time anymore? Maybe it’s because I’m not constantly going somewhere – because I can go home any time I want? I exclaim to J on the way to the venue “I feel GREAT!” and I struggle to verbalize why so I say maybe it’s the dress and maybe it’s the confidence. 

But I know it’s not the dress. As I hug-attack my aunts and uncles and cousins, and tell people I haven’t seen in years that I’ve moved to New York, and I watch their expressions tell me that that was not the answer they were expecting when asking What’s New With You, I know there is now a Thing that separates me from them. My entire life up until now has felt like such a shared experience. We’re all from the same place, we all know the same parts, we’re all up to date with the same people. Even the old friends, they’re in on it too. And talking to them I realize I feel as if I’m back from a secret journey only I know about. Trying to explain it is both weird and comforting at the same time. Like, I still don’t quite feel like an adult and that’s okay because I truly believe that’s the hallmark of a true adult, but I feel like a grown-up for the first time ever. And I realize they’ve been on their own journey too, and even though I know the places and parts and people, I am NOT here and the space HAS changed and the buildings HAVE been painted and old things HAVE closed and new things HAVE opened and I can’t go share in someone else’s life’s setting by just driving a few freeway exits away any time I choose. Theirs is theirs and mine is mine, we’re separate but equal. I finally feel what’s shifted, and it’s the complete ownership of my own story.

navigating-the-freewaymy people.

 



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