Photo: NYC, circa 1999
In the wake of the Friends Reunion, 90s-nostalgia tidal wave of last week, I came across an article called The Age of the Influencer Has Peaked. It’s Time For the Slacker to Rise Again.
The author of the article, Rosie Spinks, catapults her readers back to the age of Nirvana and Reality Bites, writing, "Nobody cool was trying to monetize their lifestyle back then, or rake in the brand endorsements. Selling out (remember that?) was whack."
And a lightbulb went on in my brain.
"OH MY GOD. THIS is why I'm so uncomfortable with 'sales.' THIS is why I always turn down requests to be a 'brand ambassador' (two just last week). THIS is why all I want to do all day is talk with my clients and write words to corral the tornado of 'self-help' tropes we're all choking on into something that eases suffering and resembles peace of mind."
Clearly the "slacker" ethos of Gen X was a luxury available primarily to a set of middle class (mostly white) folks who had some form of safety net to catch them, but this reminder that "personal branding" wasn't always a thing people prioritized got me thinking that maybe Gen X was on to something. It lassoed me back to a vintage set of values based on in-the-moment appreciation of simple pleasures.
I wish I could tell you everything about my clients' stories because "simple pleasures" frequently crack open a whole new way of living for them. I wish you could know them—and the readers of this letter—like I do.
As a group, you are executives and students, homemakers and podcasters, retirees, entrepreneurs, and songwriters. Some have kids, some don't. Many of you arrive here frustrated with aspects of your lives or health, and most of you see significantly less strength and beauty in yourselves than I see in you when we connect one-on-one. You are a powerful bunch, kind and generous. We all have more power than we think, but we tend to measure it by metrics that don't matter in the slightest: social media likes, the ability to relentlessly up-scale our businesses, followers, or physical prowess, and the good opinion of acquaintances in straw hats and rockabilly bathing suits at the local YMCA.
My sessions with clients are confidential, but the work we do keeps me level and hopeful, especially during tough times... of which, this week was one.
I'm a bit roughed up today, to be honest. A friend died last week, too young, of cervical cancer. My dog is limping around after the first (of two) invasive knee surgeries. My body feels weird. Amazon glitched out and erased The Habit Trip paperback from existence for several days, along with all of the wonderful reviews you all wrote over the last six months. (For those of you who emailed asking WTF happened, thank you! The publisher is working on it, and they're also digging out of a back-order at several other outlets.) And, bonus points, I'm pissed off that Amazon glitches and similar hiccups have the power to crash my mood in the first place, especially when I have beautiful, soulful people to work with every day.
The author of the slacker article continues, "Side hustles, personal brands, gig economy jobs, or entrepreneurial leanings... to survive in the modern economy is to aspire to something much greater than what we are. The internet influencer is the apotheosis of all this striving... Nothing is sacred, art has been replaced by 'content,' and everything is for sale."
But I don't think we are for sale. I don't think we're broken either, as long as we're being truthful enough to care for ourselves and others. Truth is power. My HuffPost article touched a lot of wildly different people, and I gather that's because it was true. What we're craving, after all, is the ability to be truthful with our fellow humans—to be whole and free and fine and a mess, all at once—and outsourcing our worth isn't getting us any closer to that.
I was born at the tail-end of Gen X. I didn't see Reality Bites until a few years after it came out, and the characters in the movie were older than I was—with apartments and live-in partners and such. But there was a freedom in their slacker ways, something about being present and not-so-concerned with external validation.
I'm not immune to this ladder-climbing. Numbers matter to publishers, and, in an ideal world, the numbers represent lives touched. What really matters, though, are the people I can help to discover that they're perfectly capable of strengthening their bodies and finding their way in this madness.
Usually, this newsletter has tips for making life easier. This week, the best I've got is a naked hello from my corner of the world to yours. Maybe I'll write about exercise next time.
In the meantime, if it serves you, may you find a bit more of your inner-slacker. May we all find ourselves sitting by campfires in backyards, gathering under shade trees, reading good books, dancing, making things, encouraging each other, and cherishing the people we're blessed enough to know. May the slacker rise again, for all of us this time, not just those lucky enough to be born with a safety net.
Much love from my desk on a Monday,
I'm not 50 yet, but if I'm lucky, I will be someday! Forbes just released a round-up of 50 women over 50 who prove that "success has no age limit." Passing this along for inspiration, so you can see biochemists, CEOs, congresswomen, educators, chefs, healthcare workers, and green energy entrepreneurs KILLING IT beyond age and boundaries.
We all get to define "success" for ourselves at any age, but it seems to me that what these women have in common is a purpose to connect and uplift others along the way. And I'd guess that most of you reading this are already doing that in your own unique ways. It's not about their faces on a magazine cover. It's about making space for all of us to be whole.
This virtual event is happening on Sunday, June 13th, with 99 Walks, the same group that had me on their podcast a few months ago. It's free for members, and they offer a two week, free trial membership for anyone looking to find inspiration to walk more. You can read more about the community and the workshop HERE.
If you are in Nashville, join us on June 26th at The Happy Hour in 12 South for Re-Entry: Your Life, Your Way Post-COVID to reinforce whatever comes next. More info and tickets HERE. Every ticket includes a signed copy of The Habit Trip.
If you would like to organize a virtual or in-person workshop,
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Past posts can be found HERE.