“Like many of you, I follow Mari Andrews on Instagram,” the introduction began to a chorus of chuckles. It’s true, many of Mari’s fans found her through social media and that led to a book deal and book tour and me sitting in Sixth & I surrounded by a crowd of mostly 20-somethings with amazing fashion sense. Mari Andrew’s fame is the product of new technology, but her advice and writing is timeless. Her illustrations and writing draw hundreds of thousands of followers because they’re so relatable and comforting. It’s good to know that someone else feels or felt what you do; it makes the world feel more welcoming. Her work is also minimal, achieving poignancy with a few words and drops of watercolor.
One of the best pieces of advice she gave is to be like straight up whiskey. That is, be someone that a few people are absolutely thrilled by and obsessed with, rather than something that’s easy. Water is easy and no one rejects water, but it’s ubiquitous and no one is thrilled by it. As someone who recently got into Japanese Whiskeys and made an effort to change my pallet to suit the refined drink that defines adulthood to me, that metaphor resonated.
Mari also wanted to discuss power. She talked about coming into her power since turning 30 and the different powers she thinks everyone gains throughout life. Pain is the power that enables us to understand and empathize with others. I’ve always thought that people who haven’t experienced emotional pain or hardship aren’t quite right. It’s what rips us apart that makes us a whole person. For those who haven’t felt emptiness or loneliness or fear at the molecular level, they miss out on an important part of the human condition. They just don’t understand. And without understanding, one can’t empathize. Someone can’t imagine the possibility that someone is going through hell when the universe hasn’t disabused them of the notion that they are the center of it.
Taking her lead, I’d like to share a few more powers that I’ve accumulated over the years, that I suspect I share with a lot of other people.
- I’m a crybaby. Not a whiner, but easily moved by things. I’ve choked back tears at commercials that I know are designed to make me and resent them for it. I’ve teared up listening to movie scores, reading the news, and watching documentaries. I tear up when I see both happy families and sad families. I easily get to that place. It’s embarrassing. However, I’m also incredibly empathetic and able to be open and vulnerable. That’s a wonderful thing, and while it does invite opportunities to be hurt, I’d rather that than not be able to be honest and emotionally naked with others.
- I’m incredibly anxious — My anxiety has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older and my problems seem more insurmountable. My heart rate raises whenever I check my email (to be fair, I run a business and at least once a day get an email from someone complaining). It’s hard for me to stop working, and I attribute much of my value as a human with my output. It’s actually unhealthy. However, what I’ve learned from that is that relaxation is hard work and that I need to cherish time for myself, even if I have to put it on my to-do list to actually do it. I might not be able to some days, but I really cherish being able to relax.
- Conflict scares me — I even hate making phone calls. But I do it all the time. No joke, someone once threatened to sue me and my partner for control of the business. I have to tell people no all the time, and it makes me slightly nervous every time. But I keep doing it. I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow my need to be agreeable which I was acculturated into as a girl, but I’ve become much more comfortable being confrontational. I’m braver for doing so, but I also know to let things go and know what hills are worth dying on. I won’t fight unless I need to, but when I do, I won’t back away.
- I used to have a bad stutter — This was a while ago, but I do sometimes turn into Dan Harmon when I’m particular flustered or excited in a conversation. I remember rehearsing what I would say multiple times in my head before projecting it out into the world. It didn’t make middle school easier, but I am a much better listener for it.