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A Toast to Earnestness
2022 in review, and what I learned from you this year
Much of my writing this year has been inspired by the lessons I’ve learned.
My first essay for The Lewsletter, which was also the first substantive piece of writing I had published anywhere in many years, was about my difficult decision to change jobs at the start of the year. After a lifetime of working towards a career in professional baseball, I realized that what I valued in life had changed, and that it was okay to step away from something I loved. After almost 30 years, to continue my prolonged metaphor, I had finally learned how to stop ordering the macaroni and cheese.
I’ve reflected on the lessons I learned from traveling to Portugal. I passed along advice from our experience planning a wedding. The evolving beliefs I wrote about have been as serious as reconsidering where to direct the blame for individual failures of promoting public health, how to compartmentalize morality as a sports fan, and the degree to which I can laugh off anti-Semitism from purportedly friendly sources. They have also been as benign as appreciating how technology brings people together and why Bobby Abreu should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But there’s also a very specific lesson that I learned because of my writing this year: If you have something that you want to share but are afraid that your feelings and experiences are too niche to be relatable, you should do it. Not only that, but people will appreciate you for it.
I came to understand this very quickly. I had almost decided against sharing “How to Leave Your Dream Job” at all, fearing that, in the unlikely event that anyone outside my immediate social circle read it, it would come across as an exercise in vanity. Yet within a few hours of hitting Publish, I was flooded with messages from people who related to my story. From those working in sports to folks in completely different industries, from entry-level employees to entrenched veterans, from close friends to old acquaintances to total strangers, it was overwhelming to hear how many people had also struggled to maintain their senses of self as their passions became their professions. My goal had been for my story to reach one person who needed to know that they weren’t alone in such feelings. Suffice to say it spread a lot further than that.
I felt similarly apprehensive before publishing my Father’s Day essay, on how hurtful it is when loved ones reflexively insist that you should reconcile with an estranged relative. As well-meaning as the advice may be, the underlying assumption that someone cutting a family member out of their life is a problem for you to solve instead of a potentially healthy boundary is as condescending as saying “time heals all wounds” for the umpteenth time is unconstructive. I was worried that discussing my estrangement from my dad would come off as petty, and that people who recognized themselves in my complaints would see it as insulting; perhaps it was. But with a couple exceptions, the main response I heard was gratitude. Friends and family said they appreciated the honest feedback about how they could best support me. People who related to my story — sadly, it turns out family estrangements are a lot more common than I had known — came out of the woodwork to say it was affirming to know that others shared their experiences, and offered learned wisdom of their own. Some even said my words would help their loved ones understand their own situations.
For better or worse, my treasured readers — you — have spent the better part of a year confounding every expectation I had about what people wouldn’t care about reading. The travel guides I wrote after our trip to Portugal were as much about preserving a record of our favorite spots as they were about being a reference for other people, but I’ve since seen readers post photos from places we recommended. (Also in subverting expectations: our guides for the smaller city of Porto and the out-of-the-way Açores were significantly more popular than the one about the grand capital of Lisbon.) Total strangers have planned their travel itineraries based on my cheesesteak rankings — even as one notable tourist ignored them. I could never have predicted who turned out to be interested in my breakdown of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting process, or my rant about the aimlessness of the post-Endgame Marvel Cinematic Universe. I figured there would be audiences for commiserating about the reversal of Roe v. Wade and insider tips for professional networking in the sports industry, but I didn’t know how many people would kvell over the secret to my latkes, or who also had strong opinions about Reese’s holiday shapes, or were eager to listen to my seven-hour playlist of gradually worsening holiday music.
To the over two hundred email subscribers who got this post in your inboxes, the dozens of social media users who follow The Lewsletter on each of Facebook and Twitter, and anyone else who’s read my work over the last 10 months, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (Especially if you’d be so kind as to tell a friend or two to subscribe, too!) As we turn the page to 2023, I am resolute in my gratitude for your time, your (mostly) supportive feedback, and especially the constant reminder not to doubt yourself when you have something important to say.
Wishing you all a joyful, fulfilling, and earnest new year!
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