“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”

Photo by Dylan from Pexels

Is she mad at me? I wondered. I had met a new-ish friend for lunch the week before, and after our hangout, I texted her. “Had a great time,” I said. “Let’s do it again soon!” She never responded. Naturally, I flipped through the Rolodex of Dumb Things I might have done. Did I make too many puns? Was it my rant about people who don’t like cats? Maybe I shouldn’t have let her pay — how rude of me! Eventually, she called. She had gotten into an argument with her partner and was in a crap mood the whole…

As busy, anxious adults, is it possible to relive those carefree days?

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Summer as an adult is not quite like summer as a kid. I spent part of my summer days on chores, but mostly, I sat around and watched TV, read books, and hung out with friends. We’d splash around in the sprinklers. Or we’d go on long bike rides into the forest with some made-up goal in mind — let’s find a haunted house! — only as a pretense to have an adventure. We were along for the ride. Even then, I realized this time was limited. …

“We waste our lives trying to recreate these zones of safety, which are always falling apart.”

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Late one evening, my best friend and I walk home to my small apartment in Hollywood when two men emerge from the sidewalk and point guns at our bellies. Don’t scream, they say. It’ll be okay, as long as we don’t scream. My friend whimpers. I hand over my wallet, look away, and the men bolt. We hear their feet slap the pavement until the sound becomes distant then disappears. My friend and I put our hands around each other’s shaking bodies. Fifty feet away, the intersection bustles with partygoers in Halloween costumes. We thought we were safe with so…

And more importantly, the lessons learned.

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I once read a quote that suggested we think of our career as a climbing wall, not a ladder. It’s an especially apt metaphor for a career like freelance writing, which doesn’t have a single tried-and-true path toward success. There are lots of ways to build a career as a writer, and much of it is trial and error.

You move forward a few steps, you take a couple of steps back, you learn, you move on. Before I took on a staff job earlier this year, I worked as a full-time freelance writer for over a decade. …

Digital intimacy is no substitute for IRL connection.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

I Google people from my past the way day traders check their stocks. Which is to say, obsessively. I search for childhood friends. I hunt down old teachers. Former coworkers, too — anyone whose name I can remember. Some of them have children or have moved across the country or have started their own businesses. One night before bed, I take out my phone and Google an old college professor who had blazing white curls and a cynical but kind personality — sort of like an edgy Mr. Rogers. Surely, someone like that must have done something fascinating with his…

Shutting people out in the name of ‘self-care’ ultimately feels like self-destruction

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Not long ago, I attended a panel that featured a few established writers. An audience member asked one of them a personal question: How do you practice self-care? The answer was brutally honest.

The writer said she didn’t respond to text messages and often flaked on people. Her friends had to accept that she would be hard to reach. If they wanted to spend time with her, they would be the ones to make an effort. Her schedule was too packed for more obligations. If you want to be successful and keep your sanity, she said, you have to accept…

More than advice, many brands are selling you a lifestyle.

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

Everything is shopping. Walk down the street, browse social media, tune into your favorite TV show — everyone, everywhere wants you to buy stuff. Shop our sale. Buy this fancy pillow for your cat. Support small businesses, sponsored by American Express. Ironically, even efforts to get you to stop shopping have also become shopping.

Personal finance exists at a tricky intersection between financial services and self-improvement. And it’s a lucrative consumer product. There’s a lot of money in teaching people how to be better at money. …

Five tasks to stave off the Sunday Blues.

Photo by Cristian Rojas from Pexels

Like wet socks and the word “moist,” Sunday evenings are notoriously unpleasant. Even if you work for yourself, you don’t work at all, or you have a job you like, Sunday evenings still seem to carry that last-day-of-vacation vibe. The end of the collective week is kind of a drag.

I once came across advice that argued you should do a small amount of work on Sundays. This way, Monday morning feels less shocking, less like jumping from a warm bed into a cold shower. I gave it a try and used Sundays to catch up on emails. Turns out…

‘What you can plan is too small for you to live’

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When I was 12, I plotted out my entire life on a ream of perforated printer paper. It was a long, skinny timeline of events and milestones: go to college, teach, publish a book. Maybe even get married and have children. I brought the ream of paper to my mother and pointed to each milestone — I needed a witness — then I rolled up my entire life and shoved it into a desk cubby.

I’ve always been a planner. It feels good to make a goal, work toward it, then check it off your list, even if your goal…

All you have to do is cooperate with a demon

Illustration by Draden Ferguson

Sometimes hard work pays off, but sometimes it makes things harder. If you’ve ever struggled to fall asleep, you know what I’m talking about. It’s always easier to fall back asleep when you stop trying so hard.

Writing can feel that way, too. Sometimes I brainstorm, I outline, I edit, and I end up with a blah draft. So I brainstorm and outline and edit more, and the second draft is a little less blah, but it still needs work. I continue this process until I have a draft that’s pretty good — or at least not completely terrible. …

Kristin Wong

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, ELLE, Travel + Leisure, and Glamour magazine.

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