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Transcript: A Year of Big Changes in Work, Sobriety, and Friendship
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Below is a transcript of the Cruel Summer Book Club podcast episode “A Year of Big Changes in Work, Sobriety, and Friendship.” Please excuse typos: this text was transcribed by otter.ai and lightly edited.
Host Jillian Anthony: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the first episode of season two of the Cruel Summer Book Club podcast. I have been working on this season since this spring, and I'm so excited to bring you another season of interviews with incredible authors, artists, activists, and many more. Making season one of this podcast was the most creatively fulfilling thing I have done in years. It's just me out here. This is my passion project. And there is nothing I love more than talking to people about their lives and learning from them. So thank you to all of my guests this season who were so gracious with their time and their personal stories. And if you're new here, make sure you check out all the amazing people I talk to on season one.
So this season you will hear from my dear friend Samantha Stallard, who is the first two-time guest on the pod; Tiffany Philippou, author of the memoir Totally Fine and Other Lies I've Told Myself; political strategist Brian Derrick, who is the founder of Oath, which helps people maximize the impact of their political donations; Dylan Marron, author of the book Conversations with People Who Hate Me and host of the podcast of the same name; Nicole Cardoza, who created the Anti-Racism Daily newsletter and who is also a magician who is currently on tour; Stella Gold, a financial literacy coach who is the founder of Gold Standard; Jessica Dore, author of the book Tarot for Change; and author and strength trainer Casey Johnston, who writes the column Ask a Swole Woman and wrote a book for beginner strength trainers called Couch to Barbell, which I am currently working my way through.
I am obsessed with this lineup of guests. I'm so honored to speak with each and every one of them and I can't wait for you to hear our conversations. But for the first episode of the season, I wanted to give you an update on me and my life and the changes I've been going through since you last heard from me on the podcast over a year ago. And yeah, this year as with all years I'm learning has brought a lot of change with it.
So summer just ended. And luckily this summer was not a cruel one for me at all. This summer I spent time at Walt Disney World with my parents. I had friends visit Austin. I spent a lot of time tanning topless at Barton Springs—that's my favorite Friday morning activity. I spent nine days in New York City visiting friends and attending a wedding. I went camping by a dirty Texas river in 103-degree heat with all my friends here in Austin. And then I spent a month in Europe visiting five countries. This summer was very, very far from the quiet indoor summer of 2020. And it was wonderful in so many ways. The whole year has really been a good one overall. But also one with a lot of change that I've been thinking about a lot.
So for this episode, I want to share with you all three of the ways my life has changed the most in 2022. So number one, I deprioritized work while also strengthening my portfolio as a freelance writer and editor. Number two, I spent almost the first six months of the year sober. And number three, I heavily felt the impact of changing friendships and shifts in my social circle. So I want to discuss each of these big changes with you and dissect them a little bit more.
So my first big change was committing to deprioritizing work in my life. This one has been a long time coming and has probably been the thing I've just that has generally been on my mind the most this entire year. Because I changed the way I think about work, I changed the way I actually work. And it's very much still in progress. So bear with me as I explain more of that to you.
So I worked in full-time corporate media jobs for a decade in New York City and I had a lot of success there. But I got laid off in March 2020. The pandemic started and we all lost our jobs two weeks later. And that was really a turning point for me. I didn't work much for about a year after that, partially because it was hard to find work at the time, but also because I wanted to take some significant time off of work I left New York City after nine years there in August 2020. And then I went on a three-month solo road trip to national parks around the US in fall 2020. Then I moved in with my parents for six months in Las Vegas in January 2021. And those were some long, slow, sad months.
As far as work, I applied to jobs, and I really got nowhere, I still have a spreadsheet of all the jobs I applied to it was 30-something jobs around that time. And you know, I was getting lots of interviews and second interviews and nothing landed.
During this time, I had so much time on my hands, too much time on my hands. I've never done very well with that. But I was trying to imagine what my work life could look like beyond the nine to five jobs that I had had up until now. Could I cut corporate ties, at least as a full time employee? Could I follow my dreams of working remotely from another country? Could I stop doing the kind of work I really didn't like to do? More than anything? Could I finally bring more personal creativity into my life? Could I work less for other people and create more for myself?
So many things helped me visualize my new work life around this time. I did a course with a group of people through life coach Catherine Andrews, who was a guest on season one of the podcast, check out her episode. And in this group, we all read the book The Artist's Way, which is a 12-week program to regain your creative self. That helped me sort through a lot of this. And I'll be honest, I only finished nine of the 12 weeks. I hear that's very common with The Artist's Way where you have to kind of circle back start over again. Maybe my my next time is coming. But still, it really helped me focus on, what do I genuinely enjoy? What are some of my biggest dreams?
I journaled a lot, I did Fran Hauser's Four-square Model, which is a way to identify and organize your priorities in life. I did new moon and full moon tarot readings and I journaled on those, I took an entire day at the beginning of the year to fill out YearCompass, which is a booklet and I've been doing that for about three years now. And it's really fascinating to look back on these three years, because now I can see which goals I carry over year after year and don't complete. But also I get to celebrate the goals that I do reach. So you know, it kind of helps me see these very long term arches and themes that I really want to reach in my lifetime that I still haven't achieved yet, or I'm still not even trying to achieve really.
So one big goal for me, as far as work goes, was to have a 40-hour max work week, less would be great, and to spend 50% of my time working for clients and 50% of my time working on my own creative goals. So spoiler alert, that exact percentage has not happened yet. But I'm still working on it. And I am hopeful. And honestly, I think a lot of it just has to do with me, figuring it out and making it happen.
So I decided not to pursue full-time work. And I gave myself until the end of 2021 to make freelance life happen. And I figured if I really needed the money, I just bartend here in Austin, which I would have been happy to do. I think it's also important to note that I was on unemployment for a full year, which helped me tremendously and made it so that I didn't need to eat into my savings. So that helps a lot.
And when I moved to Austin in June 2021 work really started coming together for me, freelance life started picking up. Several jobs just fell into my lap, mostly through bosses at former jobs. I made enough to live on and my new schedule was amazing. I was no longer chained to my desk nine hours a day. I loved to go to Barton Springs on a weekday, something I still do regularly. I tried out working while I travelled here and there. And it was just so nice to not have the pressure for asking for PTO days. Or having to be back in office. You know, you have a three-day weekend where you have to travel manically and you don't get much time and space in the place you're actually going before you have to just hop on a plane and travel back. I set my own schedule and it was so freeing.
And in 2022 this year, freelance life really got even better. I opened my LLC in April, which is something I've wanted to do for years so I'm really excited about that. I continued to gain clients through word of mouth. I had a couple of anchor gigs, which meant that I always knew where the bulk of my money was coming from for at least the next three months. And I started to gain confidence in asking for more money, better rates, as well as turning down clients for low paying work or work I just didn't really want to do.
And actually, in April, I had, I found myself working 12-hour days, and like waking up and getting a write on my computer and working through dark. And I had actually taken on too many clients at once. And it was so interesting, because this time, I had no one to blame for that sort of schedule. But myself, I was the one that had taken on much too much work, I had gotten myself into the situation. So I was really like angry at myself for a couple of weeks. But it was a good thing to experience because you know that I think another important thing during that time was I, the whole point I was going freelance was to do more of my own creative work. And I wasn't doing any of it because I was so busy with these corporate clients. So I changed tactics. Once again, I pared down my clients, and I committed myself to working on the next season of the Cruel Summer Book Club podcast, making sure to carve out time for interviews in my week. And you know, I really enjoyed working on that these last few months. Plus, I also had something really big on the horizon to consider, which was taking an entire month off, so I could travel Europe.
I planned this big Europe trip for pretty much an entire year, even longer. I'd really say the inception of this trip was like three full years ago, when, you know, I was supposed to go on a big trip to Europe that got canceled because of the pandemic early on. So I saved up for this trip. And I decided to leave my laptop behind for the entire five weeks I was traveling. And you know, I spent a few flew to Vegas, spend a few nights there then spend a tire month in Europe, and then a few more days in Vegas. So all in all, it was about five whole weeks. I have not spent that much time off of a computer. Since I started using computers when I was you know, 11, 12 years old. It was a very significant life change to just not have my laptop be like the center of my universe, really a friend at home that I'm so used to spending hours a day with. And it really did feel restful. I visited Britain, Scotland, France, Switzerland, and Italy. And when I got home, I felt genuinely refreshed.
I did stress about money a bit while I was on the trip, you know, it's a totally new experience for me to take this much time off. And on top of that, like it's not PTO. I'm not getting paid. If I take work off, I am off. So that was a new experience for me as a freelancer. But I regularly talked myself down and reminded myself that I had planned this for me. And this was my opportunity to fully enjoy it. And that work would be waiting for me when I got home and that I have the rest of my life to work. So I always try to remind myself of that every day. And you know, while I was gone, I didn't miss working at all. And that was a new feeling too.
And it helped me being on this trip and seeing how so many people live and seeing all these new beautiful sights. It just reminds me of the vast possibilities that exist outside of my desk chair in my home office. And that's one reason travel is so important to get out of these are our day to day life only provides us with these limited visions of life. And I think just the American way of thinking about work and life as a whole. So it's great to get outside of the country, meet other people meet other adventures, meet other travelers and just hear and see oh, there are other ways to live than just this one way I've been taught.
So the best thing about deprioritizing work was one, reprioritizing travel, but definitely also the time spent with family and friends. I took a lot of time off. I saw my aging parents a lot and I spent a lot of quality time with them. And I know I will never ever regret that. I tried out working while I was traveling remote work, which was great. And now that I now I know that I am very much someone who can handle remote work. My work weeks are generally 30 to 40 hours max. I still have time for morning coffee and journaling and long lunches and walks in the evening. And I generally don't feel exhausted at the end of the day when I'm on a good schedule. I have time to go outside and you know all in all, I make a good living. It's been a huge change not to have to follow that normal American schedule of okay you get 16 days off a year and that includes all your national holidays. And you better be here at 9am on Monday. I can log on at 11am. If I want, I could read for leisure when I wake up, and sometimes I do. I can work from the pool, and sometimes I do. And so freelance life has been a huge change to the way I live day to day, in overwhelmingly positive ways.
You know, it's not all perfect. It can be scary when you have work lulls. And your workload can be tough to juggle clients and schedules. I'm not like a super naturally organized person. So that is tough for me, but I'm getting better all the time. And it's definitely a lot of admin, emails, invoicing. And, you know, I pay about $400 a month for my own health insurance. So those kind of costs are just on you, rather than being taken on by your company and whatnot. But overall, the pros really outweigh the cons for me personally. And the successful year-plus of freelancing has given me so much confidence to keep pursuing the kind of well paid work I really want while not losing sight of the podcasting and writing and creativity I want to keep as a priority in my own life.
So my second big life change this year was long term sobriety. If you read my newsletter, you might have read my thoughts on my experience, which was such a positive one. So I have been thinking about my relationship to alcohol more seriously for years now. And while I do not think I'm an alcoholic, there are parts of my relationship to alcohol that I have been uncomfortable with and ashamed of. I've taken 30 or 40 days off of booze here and there for probably the last six years. But you know, I do that break and I've quickly get back into what I feel are negative habits that really hold me back in life.
My drinking habits are one that would probably be considered pretty normal by a lot of social circles. You know, maybe I drink two to four nights a week. And I'd have sometimes two drinks but like, let's be honest, sometimes eight drinks in full if we were, you know, having a long day or night out it would sometimes be that many, depending on what we were up to. And it was these like, more binge drinking night outings that were the biggest problem for me especially because they came with such intense hangovers that really derailed my life.
Alcohol is so ubiquitous in our lives and in our society, especially in the event heavy life I lived while I lived in New York City and worked in an events media culture. Alcohol is offered and encouraged not only in nightlife, or in dating, but also at work events, at workout events, with every single meal, even breakfast, with every single celebration, and with every single downfall people experience too. I felt like alcohol and recovering from alcohol was just taking up way too much of my time. And also my mental energy. I wasn't putting in the hours I wanted to as far as creativity and pursuing my artistic goals. But I was investing many hours a week to drinking culture. And my hangovers would sometimes leave me languishing on the couch, rather than going to that art show I wanted to go to or making my own art. It felt like my priorities and values were off. And I was really sick of feeling like a failure in that way.
Plus honestly, party culture, nightlife culture, it gets boring after awhile. Like, I I've done it for so many years, I've been to all these parties. I've drank all the alcohol, I've seen everything that goes on. It's like, what could there be beyond that? Maybe I should try something different now that I've tried that for 15 years. So as I tried to be more intentional about how I drank, but found that moderation was often often failing me, I wanted to try something else.
So in 2022, the word I chose for the year in my YearCompass workbook was "feel." So it was a goal of mine to really feel everything I could in this year and to be present to that. And I knew sobriety would help me feel more all of the ups in my life and all of the downs. I was trying to build a life I didn't want to escape from. That was my number-one goal in moving to Austin was getting my life to a place where I felt so good inside of it. Yet I was still using alcohol as a numbing agent regularly. So what would happen if alcohol was not there for me to fall back on anymore or to use as an easy way out?
I dedicated myself to 100 days of sobriety. I had my last drink on December 31. And I began my sobriety journey fresh in the new year. And January is always a really quiet month for me. I look forward to it every single year. I focus inward very deeply and intensely. I eat really well. I sleep a lot. I read a lot. I just get, you know, a little extra spiritual during that month. And I reread the book Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington. And every morning I would write in her 100-day journal called The Sober Curious Reset. Sober curious is the definition for people who want to explore sobriety in their lives. It doesn't necessarily mean you think you have a problem. It doesn't necessarily mean you want to stop drinking forever. It means that sobriety in some way and exploring that is speaking to you. And that's how I have felt for many years now.
So every morning, the journal would ask the prompts, like how do I want to start and end my day? How do I want the start and the end of my days to feel? How do I connect alcohol to relaxation? And does alcohol actually help me relax? Alcohol is a known toxin and carcinogen, so why am I okay with drinking it multiple times a week? And am I actually okay with that? Does alcohol actually improve any situations in my life? Or have I just been programmed by society to believe that it does? And most importantly, how present am I actually in my day to day life?
Now I'm going to read you some of what I wrote in my Substack post about this called The Gifts of Sobriety:
Over the next few months, I became more like the woman I had long dreamed of being. Drinking alcohol then recovering from it had been priorities in my life for 15 years, regularly taking up 10 to 72 hours of my week, depending on what I was up to. I got so sick of it. Now, time stretched before me. I no longer had alcohol as an easy excuse to give up on myself and the things I really wanted to do. I challenged myself to do everything I would normally do with a drink in hand—parties, pool days, concerts, dates—but also let myself leave early if I felt like it. And I left early a lot. Turns out most activities can be enjoyed within a couple of hours. When tequila is an activating the more more more sector of my brain. My fulfilling weekend routine made it so I no longer drowned in Sunday scaries. I became more productive effortlessly. Chores no longer loomed, I just did them. Without alcohol sapping my energy and my attention span, a lot of the bad habits I've loathed about myself simply went away. I was happier. I liked myself more. I even made more money.
I loved learning all of this about myself as I turned 34. I took in a habitual lesson: I have been and will be so many people. And I can choose to leave behind anything that no longer serves me at any moment. The power is mine.
So, in spending 100 days sober, I really showed myself a different way to live. So the 100 days came and I wanted to keep going. So I ended up spending 167 days sober, which is almost six months, I kept this huge promise to myself, which grew myself trust even more. And I felt everything in my life that was going on deeply without falling back on easy escape routes. I showed myself that I could be brave and social and even romantic without alcohol.
It really wasn't always easy, although it actually was easier than I thought for the most part. But I think the toughest part about the whole experience was strangely that I got so tired by 10 o'clock. And it was hard to stay out when I did go to parties that part of it made me feel bad and like an old but I think what I'm understanding now is that the present version of me enjoys being in bed by nine o'clock most nights. I like to be phone off and in bed reading by nine and lights out by 10:30 and that's perfectly okay. This experience helped me shed some of my past self that I was holding onto so tightly. You know, I don't want to be the party girl anymore. So it's time for me to let her go and it's perfectly okay to be who I am now.
So for now, you know I have decided to drink alcohol again, but I feel my sober experience fundamentally shifted my relationship to booze. I want to keep the time and energy that booze often takes for me, even if I only have a couple of glasses of wine. So I will likely try long term sobriety again sometime soon. But for now, I am really proud of what I achieved. And I encouraged anyone else who's sober curious to listen to that part of yourself and give something else a try.
Finally, it's been a really big year of noticing changing friendships within my life. I know that so, so many of you have experienced this in the past couple of years. I know I'm far from alone. But it has been painful and challenging discovering how many of my friendships have fundamentally changed and that some of them are over for good.
The psychologist Robin Dunbar wrote a book about our capacity for friendship called Friends: Understanding the Power of our Closest Relationships. And in the book, he talks about the number of meaningful and stable relationships you can have at any time. And that includes your family members, and your extended family members. And the number of friends that anyone can really keep at any time is about 150, on average, and the number of close friends is really as high as five. So it's interesting information about how many friendships you can actually maintain at once, because, of course, we are all people with limited capacity and limited time and only so much emotional space.
In June, I hit my year mark of living in Austin. And that was really a turning point for me. I have a solid group of friends here who I really enjoy spending time with. And I feel that I usually have someone to go out with when I want to go out. However, none of my close friends live here. And that has been a hard and big change. My family lives in Las Vegas and LA and my close friends live in Seattle and Chicago and New York and other places too. And making close friends is something that just happens organically, you can't force that and it takes time. It takes a lot of one-on-one time. And it's often said that making friends gets harder the older you are. So while I do feel lucky for the friends I have here, and I liked them a lot, I also started to feel lonely in a new and unfamiliar way.
And visiting New York City this summer really shook things up for me. I understood for the first time how much all of our lives have changed. You know, I have already bit not lived in New York City for two full years. And as my life has vastly changed over the last three years, of course, so have the lives of my friends, the pandemic changed so many things for each and every one of us. We've lost jobs, we've gotten new jobs, we've moved, we've gotten in and out of relationships, we've been caretakers for sick people, we've lost family members and loved ones. And, you know, proximity and ease of your friendship really does have a lot to do with keeping friendships alive. If you're not close by, you do have to transition to you know, regular phone calls, or regularly regularly seeing each other on a level that has to be reciprocated on both sides. And that's just more effort than it is to ee each other in your regular friend group at brunch every Saturday or at a party every month, or whatever it is that you and your friends like to do.
So I realized that by continuing to hold on so tightly to old friendship structures that I had made in New York where I had lived for nine years, I really wasn't making enough room for new friendships in Austin, I didn't have enough room to really attend to those. I was living like my life was still really where my long-distance friends were. But it wasn't. My life is in Austin and I realized that I really needed to start living that way more.
When I talked about all of this with my therapist, she suggested that I write out a friendship circle where you write down all the people you'll feel close to. So Dunbar's Friendship Circle, I use it as an example. And it had a bunch of different layers. It starts from intimates, and then goes to close friends, best friends, out to good friends, and then three more layers out it's just the people you know the name of. So writing out this friendship circle for myself helped me center myself in my own social world and be able to physically see those connections and visually see who I want in the had to keep in touch with. But it also really put into perspective how I was being unrealistic about keeping so many close friendships alive.
Our friendships are constantly changing. And I know that mentally, but I think I just hadn't had to face that head-on as much as maybe some of you have. Because I did live in one place for so long. I lived in New York City for almost a decade. And most of us stayed there during that time that I remained close to. But all of our lives are evolving in different ways. You know, I'm working on accepting and embracing those changes. Loving my friends for everything, they gave me an all the love they brought into my life over the days or months or years, we knew and supported each other. And then most important of all, making sure I am now turning my attention to the friendships I want to be sure to hold on to, that make sense in my life today. And that's not easy. But that's a lifelong process that I'll have to keep reassessing. And I feel like I'm learning a lot about that right now.
What I felt this summer was the full impact of how my life was really up-ended over the last three years, I'm still in the process of seeing and accepting my new reality as it truly is, when I moved to Austin as a 33-year-old single woman to a city where I knew almost new one. And overall, I've done a hell of a job creating the life and home that I envisioned for myself. But I still have a ways to go. And that's hard. And it's also hard to know that the responsibility for creating a good life and making all the things happen that I want to happen really rests solely on my shoulders.
This fall, my goals are centered around immersing myself in Austin groups, I can show up too regularly to be a bigger part of my community. And also to have groups that were, you know, people know my face, I'm supported, and I can just naturally meet people that way. I've signed up for a Spanish class, and I'm likely going to join the Democratic Socialist Alliance so I can support more grassroots organizers here in Austin. And I'm also challenging myself to introduce myself to a stranger every time I go somewhere alone, because I realized that I go places alone all the time, and I'm really comfortable with it. But I rarely ever make the effort to actually meet people when I do go out. So I really want to change that and also try to actually meet dates out in the real world. Imagine that. Wish me luck.
So that's a little bit about what I did this summer. Thank you all for being here and listening to the first episode of the next season of Cruel Summer Book Club. There is so much more goodness to come.
If you like this podcast, please take the time to subscribe and give me a five star review on Apple podcasts. It really really helps me reach more listeners. And please know you can find more of my work at cruelsummerbookclub.substack.com And follow me on Twitter and Instagram at jillathrilla. And if you want to reach out with any feedback about this episode or anything else, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you next week, and take care of your heart.