“How can I come to terms with the fact that I can’t do it all?”
-Question submitted by Anonymous
Kate Scelsa Says:
Okay, I am going to give both of us this advice at the same time because I am guessing that you and I have a lot in common. I’m going to go ahead and assume that you are an overachiever who is excited about many things and is overloading your schedule and making lists and giving yourself a really specific timeline for when you want to have reached certain achievements.
It’s like I’m talking to myself already.
I’m a writer, but I also have a podcast with my DJ dad (see, you’re talking to the right multi-tasker here). We recently had the cool task of listening to an old interview that my dad got to do with David Bowie (!) in which Bowie said something that I found to be so helpful. He was talking about how, when he was young, he felt all of this urgency to get as much work out as he could as quickly as possible. And that, as he got older, he realized that life was long. “You realize that you have all the time in the world,” said David Bowie.
David Bowie was right! Not everything has to happen RIGHT NOW. Some things can wait. They’ll still be there if you want to come back to them later. The most important thing is to fully commit yourself to what you’re doing in the moment. Maybe even try to (gasp) enjoy it! If you’re doing one thing, but thinking about getting to another thing, or wondering if you’re missing out on a third, you’re not bringing your full self to the beautiful moment of the thing that you’re actually doing!
A really important part of this is actually honoring the fact that you are a person that has a lot of interests and things that you’re enthusiastic about. That is awesome! Some people don’t want to do ANYTHING! And you want to do ALL THE THINGS! It is a beautiful thing to have enthusiasm, to care about things, and to want to experience life in a lot of different ways.
But (and now I’m going to get a little mystical on you here) everything you do isn’t actually about the things you’re doing at all. It’s about you. It’s about the You that you are bringing to it. The experience that you make of it. WHAT you do is less important than THE YOU that’s doing it.
We live in a world of choice, and this can be overwhelming to ALL of us. And it can be paralyzing. It’s not your job to make The Best Choice—because there is no Best Choice to make. It’s your job to stay curious, and to learn about yourself and what makes you tick and how you can best serve that thing. And, if you’re paying attention and bringing your whole heart to the moment, then you are going to learn something about yourself no matter what you’re doing.
If we honor each thing as it comes, and the people who come into our lives and the opportunities that we are given, we can exist in the kind of flow that will bring us to exactly where we’re supposed to be in each moment, where things can happen that we actually couldn’t have even planned. And I promise you that that’s when life gets really interesting.
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"What should you do when you say a shitty thing to someone? I am generally careful about my words, but I made a joke that was actually not very nice to someone I care about. I have recognised what I did wrong, apologised to the person whose feelings I hurt, and respected their need to be distant from me for now. But now, all I want to do is fall into a spiral of self-hatred and never leave my house again for fear of doing something shitty again, which doesn't feel healthy or productive."
-Question submitted by Anonymous
I want to start by telling you that, given the context of this question, you have already done two incredibly wonderful things: First, you’ve recognized that your misstep affects two people – yourself, and the person you care about. Second, and most importantly, you’ve prioritized the needs of the person you care about by recognizing, apologizing, and respecting their space. The importance of those actions cannot be overstated. So, so many people who are in a similar position to you, Anonymous, get so wrapped up in that self-hatred part of the equation (and we are gonna get there, hang tight), that they do not prioritize the overarching respect that is so critically important to the person who has been hurt by their actions or words.
I want you to begin by acknowledging the respect you are giving to the person who you’ve hurt. That is a productive, positive action that you have taken and are continuing to take.
Now listen to me: you are not defined by one moment, one action, one utterance. What defines any person is the way that they respond, learn, and adjust after they do something that has hurt another person (or a group of people). Yes, of course, it would be just lovely if no one ever said words that hurt others, never took actions that caused harm… but that just isn’t possible. We do not live in a utopia, we live on a planet that is riddled with misinformation, complicated and troubling messages, and a whole butt-ton of inter-personal feelings. The truest path on this little planet to a place of healing and growth is found by learning from the moments where we all, inevitably, misspeak or misstep.
Once, at a speaking event that I did years ago in Tennessee, a student expressed concern, and hurt, during the Q&A. With the room full of hundreds of students, she said to me, “during your talk you said that people were either LGBTQ or straight. I am a trans woman and I identify as straight, and that really made me feel erased.” My eyes likely got as big as dinner plates as I realized what I had done – I had used my words in a way that not only caused this person to feel erased, but that had potentially misguided a room full of people! I felt horrible, but I also immediately realized that this person speaking to me deserved an immediate apology, recognition, and a promise for change. And, that is what happened. I apologized. We had a long, incredible conversation about gender, sexuality, and erasure while the audience listened, and I changed that part of the event forevermore so that I wouldn’t ever misinform anyone else on that false dichotomy.
Now, that doesn’t mean I never misspoke again, Anonymous. It does mean, though, that I never misspoke in that way again, and that I became even more vigilant about choosing my language and constantly, consistently educating myself. You will leave the house again (you must! you’ll at least need some gummy bears from time to time), and it is completely, 100% possible (and even likely!) that when you do you might hurt another person through your words or your actions. You are not a perfect person. You do not know all the things about all the people or even all the things about your own language!! No one is, and no one does. What I can promise you, though, is that you have learned something from this experience, and you can use that knowledge to help you make better choices and choose better words in the future!!
So. When you feel that pang of “what the fuck did I do,” turn it on its head and make it productive. That’s how you escape from a self-hate that will always, only be unproductive! In the morning, when the moment flashes through your brain and you wince and start to spiral, find a quiet spot and meditate. Clear your brain. Help your emotions to find a place of balance, because that balance will better guide you and your words next time. In the afternoon, when you think “what the hell is WRONG with me, how could I have done that,” find a book, an article, a video, a podcast that has informative, balanced content so that you can be better informed and educated. That education will help you to understand the world around you in even more complicated and nuanced ways, and that will also help to guide you next time. In the evening when you start to sink into a deep, desperate longing that it had never happened… remember that it did happen, and that you are learning from it, and that is the way that the world changes. Keep working on yourself, continue to respect the needs of those around you, and please, please leave your house. That courage, Anonymous, is what will help change things for yourself, and for a whole lot of others.
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“How do I overcome the fear of looking like an idiot? As it applies to both dating and karaoke.”
-Question submitted by Anonymous
When I was four years old, my mom took me to my dad’s office building for the first time. I don’t remember anything about the visit past one critical moment that happened in the office cafeteria. I had carefully selected a bunless hot dog out of the vast array of lunchroom options and I must have been feeling quiteproud of myself, because I also asked to be allowed to cut the hot dog up into tiny pieces all on my own. Permission to cut the dog was granted, and I took my plastic fork and knife and proudly began my dissection. Two cuts in, however, I met with resistance. My knife was having difficulty making it all the way through the hot dog. I knew what would help: I just needed to use all the force in my mighty four-year-old body to push the knife through to the other side. I wasn’t yet well versed in physics, and so didn’t foresee the knife completing its cut, leaving my hand entirely, and ricocheting across the cafeteria alongside more than half of my hot dog.
Every single person in the cafeteria stopped, and turned to look at me.
Upon collectively realizing that one of their co-workers hadn’t been suddenly inspired to start a food fight, but rather that a sweet, innocent, helpless 4-year-old had just had some difficulty with her plasticware, they all laughed. They all laughed. My parents and every other grown-ass person in the room laughed, and their laughter meant one thing, and one thing only to me: They thought I wasn’t yet capable of being as big, as grown, or as smart as they were. They thought I was too small. I was devastated. Inconsolable.
In that moment, two things were happening at the very same time. The fire in my belly was screaming BUT YOU ARE SMART AND YOU DO KNOW HOW TO DO THIS THING AND YOU ARE STRONG AND BIG AND THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, while the shrinking feeling in my chest was whimpering, what if you aren’t all of those things, what if they are right, what if you are too small, too stupid?
We’ve all had this experience, Anonymous, both as four-year-olds and as grown-ass adults, both cutting hot dogs and going on first dates… and if you are anything like me you still carry those same conflicting feelings of insistent confidence & total self-doubt. We value what others perceive sometimes (oftentimes) over our own knowledge of ourselves, and we doubt what we already know. Just like I knew I could cut that hot dog when I asked for permission to do so, you know that you are a fucking great human and that when you set out with the intention of having a blast, both karaoke and dating become much, much easier (and much more entertaining). But then! With just one sideways glance from another person, many of us suddenly lose that footing and wonder and worry that maybe we really weren’t capable, maybe we really weren’t so great, and maybe we should put down the microphone.
My advice to you is twofold: First, remember the tale of tiny Kristin and her bunless hotdog. Remember that the capabilities that I had in that moment did not change just because a room full of people thought I was small and cute. Many of them likely still even believed I was capable, but the bigger point is that even if all of them thought I was so small and silly, I was a four year old with the force of the whole universe inside of me. I could and did have the ability to cut that hotdog – not to mention the ability to learn from my missteps. Only I needed to know that to make it true, just like you are the only person who needs to know that you are the fucking best when you go on that date or belt out a RENT showtune. If the person or people you are with think otherwise, that’s on them. You are you, and you aren’t stupid. You’re a person. People are SO INTERESTING AND COMPLEX (annnnd for the record karaoke is not about singing talent, it is about having a goddamn blast.)
Second, the more we enjoy ourselves and speak our truth, the more attractive we become. I cannot tell you how much I lean on that knowledge every day of my life. I see people like Amanda Palmer or Elle King or Nicolette Mason or Janet Mock (and the list goes on!) who speak WHAT THEY FEEL and walk through this life not apologizing for their thoughts, their vision, their bodies, or any piece of themselves, and how goddamn brilliant and endlessly attractive I find them all because of that lived existence. Remember them, or the many other people who you admire because they are unapologetically themselves.
If you still find yourself wavering, feel free to tell your audience (whether that be your date, a full bar, or otherwise) the story of Kristin and her flying hot dog. It is usually a crowdpleaser.
"Why is 'being comfortable with yourself' like the hardest thing ever?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Because the world is set up to make you feel bad so that you buy things to feel better.
You’re fat, buy a gym membership. You have wrinkles, buy this facelift. You’re trans, buy a new body or we won’t agree that’s your real gender.
“Being comfortable with yourself” isn’t actually about how you feel. It’s about how people perceive how you feel. That is very fucked up, but that is why is it so hard. There aren’t very many people putting out magazines, movies, TV shows, and music about how wonderful we are as individuals.
AND – There really isn’t a ton out there that actually allows you to see the world is painted a certain way and set up for the success of only a few, and that things are put in place to make 99% of people feel absolutely awful. You are having trouble feeling comfortable in your skin because you grew up in a world that desperately hopes you feel that way. If you feel uncomfortable you won’t stand up for your rights, you won’t go after your dreams, you won’t question authority, you won’t try. This society is hoping you won’t try. It’s unbelievable.
I think the best way to get out of this rut that we’ve put you in, is to recognize it and adopt the mantra, “fuck those people.” Who are those people YOU ASK?! Those people are all the people that make you feel judged. If you have those people in your life, get em out. If you have friends who make fun of you, who make your emotions feel invalid, fuck those people. If you have family members who only call to make you feel guilty, who blame you for their unhappiness, fuck those people. If you’re shopping in the men’s section and someone is looking at you weird, fuck those people. If you’re talking about minimalism super loud and people in your fave cafe are laughing at you, fuck those people. You don’t want people like that in your life, so don’t let ‘em in.
Spend your time and energy with people who make you feel like being yourself is the only way to be, people who support you, love you, inspire you. Work on things that make you feel great. Work with people that make you feel great. Stop wasting time on people and things that make you feel terrible. You will feel comfortable when you have dedicated yourself to being the happiest and healthiest version of you. You can have your version of the best life, a life where you’re truly comfortable. You just have to do it.
"How do I make all of my dreams come true?"
-Question submitted by Anonymous
Dannielle & Kristin Say:
Allow yourself to fail, don’t put shit on the back burner, ask for help, & keep dreaming. Here’s what we mean:
(1) Allow yourself to fail, because it happens. No one just comes up with a dream and then flies into the sky on a giant dog muppet and gets everything they want. It takes a ton of hard work, a bunch of mistakes you’ve got to learn from, and a crap load of pulling-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps. But you can do it.
(2) Don’t put shit on the back burner. It’ll be so easy to take a shitty job that pays a little more, but doesn’t allow you the time to do what you love. SO EASY. Don’t do that. Work the shitty low-paying job that gives you a flexible schedule and supports you following your dreams. Money is not more important than your happiness. Dannielle’s dad always says, “If you like making money now, just wait until you’re making it doin’ what you love.”
(3) Ask for help. People want to help you, they just don’t know how. Ask your friends to help you with a project. Ask your family to help support your newest venture. Ask your co-workers to help loosen up your schedule so you can take the time you need. Ask your old professor how they got started. Ask for help. You can not do it alone.
(4) Don’t. Fucking. Stop. Dreaming. We don’t care how many goals you’ve achieved… don’t ever stop dreaming bigger. Dream the biggest shit you can possibly dream. You can do it. We promise you.