Over / Under

We used to call my ex-brother-in-law the "serial hobbyist."

One day he was in the garage, hammering together pieces of cherry to make a plant stand. The next, he was reading about the environmental impact of livestock and exploring weekday vegetarianism, learning to cook lentils and prep veggies in new and interesting ways. Every few months, something new piqued his interest. There was another avenue of activity to explore.

(Sidenote: the hardest part of divorce now, two years after the fact, isn't the scars of degraded romance. It's missing the family I lost. I miss that former brother, my former sister, my former in-laws, so much that it physically hurts sometimes. They were my family, and now they aren't, and I still love them as though they were. Dammit, now I have tears in my eyes. Moving on.)

I've always admired that aspect of his personality, and found myself emulating him in my own habits. I'd take up barre classes obsessively for a while, then long-distance running in the months following, then I'd learn to cook a different cuisine for a quarter or two, then sketch home decor ideas for houses I'd never own, then outline stories I'd never finish. I'd go deep into those hobbies, devoting much of my free time therein, and move on when I got bored. Nothing really stuck. Serial hobbyist. I missed being a serial hobbyist when I was abroad.

For a while, I tried to paint. I'm not very good at painting, but that's hardly the point - hobbies are for joy more than proficiency. My eye for color is mediocre at best, and my hand is about as trained as a wild mongoose.

 
One of my less horrible attempts. The face looks like that drawing Rafiki does of siiiiiimbaaaa (say it in the Rafiki voice!!) in The Lion King. Oh well. It's funny.

One of my less horrible attempts. The face looks like that drawing Rafiki does of siiiiiimbaaaa (say it in the Rafiki voice!!) in The Lion King. Oh well. It's funny.

 

Anyway. I eventually got frustrated with my lack of talent and ability and decided I didn't have the patience to improve. 

But I knew I was on the right track. Painting felt almost right - not quite there, but almost.

I have pent-up creative energy that I don't get to exercise in my analytical / strategic-heavy career. Sometimes I release that creativity via the written word.... but frankly, writing isn't usually appealing after a workday spent in front of screens. And my favorite kind of writing is still quite analytical in nature.

And then I stumbled upon a lap loom on Etsy and had a feeling I'd fall in love with weaving.

 
One of my latest pieces. Incidentally, I wore those pearls on my ill-fated wedding day. Now they're art.

One of my latest pieces. Incidentally, I wore those pearls on my ill-fated wedding day. Now they're art.

 

Natural ability is such a great feeling, isn't it? I wrote about that when I visited an estancia in Argentina and was somehow good at horseback riding without study. I've always been the worst person on any sports team, I can't draw a passible anything to save my life, etc etc. I might be smart, but I'm below-average at most conventional hobbies. 

For some reason, that doesn't apply to weaving. I learned the rules on YouTube, and immediately understood how to break them.

I stopped painting because I was far from proficient, and that was frustrating. I still have a lot to learn about weaving, but I'm proficient enough as a beginner to still make beautiful things. My color theory needs work, and sometimes my pieces come out a bit... wobbly. I see other artists pull off complicated stitches and patterns that I just can't do yet. The difference: I can see HOW they made it happen. I know that I can get to that point with practice. Unlike painting. Unlike sports.

And I actually enjoy the practice. That's the key point. Weaving brings me joy. Warping the loom, planning color schemes, creating something beautiful with my hands and my imagination. It's such a welcome pleasure.

DSC_0617.jpg
DSC_0638.jpg

So for now, I spend most of my free time weaving. I spend more money than I'm willing to admit on yarn. I have so many pieces that I've even started an Etsy store to clear out my apartment.

A stranger bought a weaving from me earlier this week, which was really fucking awesome. The hobby is turning into a side hustle. 

I'm pretty confident that this time, the hobby will stick.

 

If you want to see more of my work, follow @taylorwoven on Instagram. I'm keeping my weaving photos and personal Instagram relatively separate.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

Goals, resolutions, and intention

Confession: when I set resolutions or goals for myself, I end up feeling one of two things:

  1. Disingenuous, or
  2. Inadequate.

For example. If I were to set a long-term career goal for myself, it'd probably be "CMO." But I turned down a fancy CMO job offer in 2015, opting instead to be a manager at a company I loved.  I'm not actively trying to achieve that status. It'd be kinda cool if I got to put CMO on my resume at some point, but do I actually want it? I don't know. I doubt it. I have a feeling that I will care less and less about my title as I get older. And who knows what career path I'll grow into. Just because CMO is the logical progression upwards, doesn't mean it's what I'll keep wanting as I progress. That 'goal' feels disingenuous. 

Or what about a common resolution, one I've made before: run a half marathon. I did that. I have the medal, the tee shirt, and the destroyed ankle to show for it. Running long distance was a great experience, but I pushed myself too hard in the name of achieving an arbitrary number of miles and broke my body. I felt so very inadequate when I cancelled my entry to every subsequent race (by order of my physical therapist).

Throwback to running long distance, before my ankle was a useless potato!

Throwback to running long distance, before my ankle was a useless potato!

 

The point of a goal is to give yourself direction, right?

Whether or not you achieve the goal is supposed to be irrelevant - it's all about working towards, focusing, and building.

But here's the thing. I'm not sure that methodology makes sense with my personality. If I decide to do something, I do it. Period. (Usually.) 

Setting a goal doesn't help me with direction - not in my personal life, and not in high-level career planning. For projects at work? Goal-setting makes sense and is a useful tool. But for things like making friends, hobbies, writing, traveling? Goals just stress me out. They add negativity and imposter syndrome into my life without giving me additional direction. 

I'm kind of over setting personal goals for myself. I'm definitely over New Year's Resolutions.

Resolutions are dumb, right Donder? Unless your resolution is more snuggles with your BFF's pup. Then Donder says those are good resolutions.

Resolutions are dumb, right Donder? Unless your resolution is more snuggles with your BFF's pup. Then Donder says those are good resolutions.

 

I'm framing personal growth around intention instead of goal-setting.

Jenn talked about this in her latest piece for On Your Terms. She says,

"I don’t believe in resolutions, they tend to fall by the wayside, but I do believe in intention, and in purpose."

That's exactly it.

My goals don't fall by the wayside because I've ignored them. They fall by the wayside because my intention, purpose, and priorities have shifted.

Shifting intention is not a bad thing. I'm a strong defendant of the right to change my mind. And I do change my mind - thoughtfully and with intention.

In 2017, I'm setting intentions. Just like I've always done. My intentions are the same as they were three months ago. In July (or March or November or in four years) they might change. That's fine, too.

It's about intention. Purpose. Priorities. Not resolutions.


Footnote to caveat some exceptions to my goal-setting disdain:

  • Work, as mentioned briefly above. I find motivation in setting project-based goals and self-imposed deadlines. (e.g. in Q1 2017. I want to make X amount of progress on these Y projects and start Z new ones) 
  • Money. Jeff and I don't have a set-in-stone savings goal (whether annually or otherwise) at the moment, but I see the value in doing so... possibly in the near future.

Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

The best things I ate (and drank) in 2016

In terms of flavor, 2016 has been the best year of my life. I suppose visiting lots of destinations famous for their food will do that to you.

Okay, "best" makes for a good title, but the more honest adjective is "favorite." These are my favorite things I ate and drank this year.

Ready for some really mediocre food pictures? Great. Let's go.


FOOD

Sea bream at Konoba Skerac, Kolocep, Croatia 

This is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Koločep island, just off the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia. I've written about Croatia before, how it's become my favorite place in the world. My day of kayaking around Koločep was incredible... and the sea bream! Freshly caught from the Adriatic that morning. Grilled on a wood fire. So good.

Paired with a Schweppes Bitter Lemon, because Europe

Paired with a Schweppes Bitter Lemon, because Europe

Dry aged beef at Joe Beef, Montreal, Canada

During our team retreat in Montreal, we made a pilgrimage to Joe Beef. I've wanted to eat there for years, and it did not disappoint. Everything from that meal was amazing, but the dry aged beef was the most memorable for me. 

Squid ink pasta with lobster at Quermesse, Lisbon, Portugal

Also a meal shared with Tortuga colleagues. We ate SO WELL in Lisbon. Every meal was something flavorful and, usually, fresh and delicious seafood. The standout for me was the squid ink pasta with prawns and lobster. Jenn and I shared the below dish and I want to eat it again immediately.

Not a very good picture, but... man was this dish incredible

Not a very good picture, but... man was this dish incredible

Lamb escalope at Cinnamon Club, London, England

Cinnamon Club will likely stay in my rankings for "favorite meals ever" for a very long time. It's a quintessential posh English place. The walls are covered in books and trimmed with mahogany, making it feel like you're eating in a library. The wine is served by a waiter in white gloves. The accents are refined.

And the food is modern, upscale Indian. Every dish was perfect, but the Lamb Escalope was our favorite. Our evening at Cinnamon Club is one of my favorite memories with Jeff.

Pistachio and mint gelatos in Dubrovnik, Croatia

I ate gelato every day in Croatia, because obviously I did. This particular cone was purchased during my walk through the city walls on the 4th of July. It was pushing 100 degrees that day, and the cold treat was so welcome. That's one of my favorite memories this year.

Osso Bucco at Cicciolina, Cusco, Peru

Cicciolina quickly became our favorite restaurant in Cusco. Not every dish was a hit, but many were and the prices were reasonable.

The Osso Bucco though... that was another level. Fell off the bone and finished with a perfect sauce. We got marrow, too. It was served with a ravioli filled with some kind of nut (walnuts maybe?) that complimented it perfectly.

Gingerbread in Hallstat, Austria

I don't remember where I bought this. It was a little bakery about, I dunno, halfway along the road that hugs the water before you get to the church. Yes, this is expensive gingerbread. Worth it.

Morcilla at Steaks by Luis, Buenos Aires, Argentina

FYI, morcilla means blood sausage in Spanish. We ate quite a bit of Morcilla in Argentina, but Luis' version was the best. Rich and meaty and perfectly cooked. Plus, this was just a SUPER fun night. 

It's the dark one.

It's the dark one.

Bagel and Lox at Russ & Daughters Cafe, New York, USA

When Jeremy and Hailey were in town, we met at Russ & Daughters for lunch. It's a famous NYC spot. You're probably going to order the bagel & lox. There's a reason for that. It's great. My only regret: I wore dark lipstick that day. Who in their right mind wears dark lipstick to eat a bagel?


DRINKS

Gin Garden at Cinnamon Club, London, England

Bar none the best cocktail of my life. It had gin and rosewater and beet juice and homemade bitters in it... along with some other things that I can't remember. Floral on the nose and super smooth, with an herbal finish. Also, they wheeled out the ingredients on a cart with everything in crystal decanters and made it right in front of us. I mean, come on. How could this not be my favorite?

I didn't take a picture because, as previously stated, this place was posh AF. I'm not trying to be the blasé tourist with an iPhone at a fancy London restaurant.

Aviator at Portobello Road, London, England

Portobello Road is a hella famous spot in Notting Hill. There's one bartender with dreadlocks who makes the best cocktails. If he's there, you should do the following:

  1. Give him flavor notes and have him create something for you, on the spot
  2. Order a go-to favorite cocktail (but something interesting)
  3. Ask him for another recommendation based on the previous two orders.

My favorite drink came out of the first tactic. I told the bartender (ugh, I wish I could remember his name) that I like herbal, floral, and bright flavors in cocktails, but not sweet. He made me an Aviator and it was perfect. 

Astute individuals will notice I'm not drinking an Aviator in this picture. It's a Boulevardier, one of my go-tos. That was also great.

Astute individuals will notice I'm not drinking an Aviator in this picture. It's a Boulevardier, one of my go-tos. That was also great.

"Pinky" rosé, Dubrovnik, Croatia

This was on so many menus in Dubrovnik that it's not worth listing a specific restaurant. The name for this was different in Croatian, and I wish I could remember it, but I can't. It's a local rosé that apparently translates to "Pinky." It was really tasty, and the perfect aperitif on a hot summer day. Pairs nicely with the local seafood, too, which is important. 

Kozel, Prague, Czech Republic

It's no secret that beer in Prague is both cheap and delicious. I'm usually an IPA person, but I was happily surprised to fall in love with Kozel. It's the darkest beer in the below picture, and is much less in-your-face than the dark beers I've tried previously. I probably drank two Kozels a day in Prague and I'm not sorry about it. 

 
Doing Prague right.

Doing Prague right.

 

Ginger juice thing at Gustu, La Paz, Bolivia

Bless her heart, our waiter at Gustu didn't speak English very well, but was clearly trying to learn. When we'd speak Spanish to her, she'd shake her head and ask for English. So, we ordered in English.

We tried to order the wine pairing.... but she understood that we wanted the non-alcoholic pairing. This turned out to be a happy accident, because the juices paired with the dishes were the best part of the meal. I remember some sort of ginger thing served in a shot glass that was perfectly balanced. 

Sangria at the Miraduoro de São Pedro de Alcântara, Lisbon, Portugal

There's this little sangria stand at the Miraduoro. They sell red and white. Both are fabulous. This massive cup is 5 euros. Every evening, we'd stroll over for a sangria (or three) to watch the sunset and start the night on a great note. 

It's been a good year for food.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

When the hell did I become a capsule wardrobe person?

Hey - remember when I spent 8 months complaining about my (literal) capsule wardrobe and how I was so sick of the same three outfits etc etc etc?

I was so full of it. Here I am, sitting in the fashion capital of the universe, finding that I wear a version of the same outfit every day.

Black jeans. Dark-colored top. Black sweater. Simple gold jewelry. Moody lipstick, loose curls (often in a braid), black ankle boots. My usual splash of color comes from my yellow beanie, the one Eryn crocheted for me in Bolivia. My bohemian, flowy dresses sit untouched in the back of my closet. 

What? WHAT HAPPENED.

Travel happened.

I'm realizing that I fell victim to a signal v. noise problem while abroad. I hated my clothes, and blamed the disdain on the fact that I had too few outfits, not the wrong ones.

Past Taylor, you fool!

When I got to the USA, I upgraded my base layers and spent a pile of money on ultralight down and cashmere at Uniqlo. I switched from ill-fitting blue denim to high-waisted black. I bought my favorite JCrew merino sweater in two colors. I pulled my trusty emerald-colored 7 for All Mankind jeans (shoulda packed those) out of storage and ordered a second pair, this time high-waisted, black, and stretchy. I bought better versions of the outfits I wore every day during full-time travel instead of different ones.

And now my pretty Free People dresses, the same ones I pined for in Prague, go untouched. I have a uniform. Travel turned me into a capsule wardrobe person.

YES, OKAY Tortuga colleagues, YOU WERE RIGHT. Enjoy the feeling.

 

My (accidental) capsule wardrobe

Fall/winter color scheme:

Nearly everything I currently wear matches this palette. Completely on accident.

Nearly everything I currently wear matches this palette. Completely on accident.

My Fall / Winter mainstays:

What my head looks like 90% of the time in the city: beanie, Ray Bans, side braid, moody lipstick, gold stud earrings.

What my head looks like 90% of the time in the city: beanie, Ray Bans, side braid, moody lipstick, gold stud earrings.

That's only 15 items of clothing + accessories. That's nuts, compared to the variety I used to wear.

Next purchases:

  • High waisted black skinnies that don't have holes in the knees (NYC is cold)
  • Black leather mini skirt
  • High denier black tights
  • Low denier black tights 
  • Higher quality black belt (mine is falling apart)
  • Merino base layers
  • Black leather crossbody (either Everlane or Lo & Sons)

So. I was wrong. My coworkers were right. I've thoroughly embraced this new-to-me approach to style. I'm cool with having a simple uniform and a consistent color palate for my everyday pieces.

Any you know what? A capsule wardrobe makes living in 600 square feet with another human that much easier. Not to mention packing.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

My favorite places on the Upper West Side

I've now lived on the Upper West Side for four months. I've traveled six times in those four months (often for a week or more), so I'm still nomad-ing, but I do have a home base. And I really like my home base. 

Which is a bit surprising. I thought I'd get used to living in NYC. I didn't imagine that I'd love it, or that I'd start to feel like a New Yorker. But I do - I really do. I'm a big city person now, much to my own bemusement.

Why we picked uptown

Jeff and I decided to officially move to NYC while we were living in London. We picked the Upper West for a few reasons:

  1. It's a quieter, more residential neighborhood. We both thought it would be easier to shift from itty bitty city (Durham) / full-time travel to NYC life if we lived in a more low-key area.
  2. It's still centralish Manhattan, and a short train ride to everything. We can be in more happening parts of the city in 25 minutes.
  3. Central Park. Also Riverside Park, which is on our block. Mini city escapes for when we're feeling overstimulated, since I've found that nature heals all when I'm mentally strained.
  4. It was a little bit cheaper than Greenwich or the West Village, neighborhoods I also loved and would live in gladly. Jeff and I could afford a nicer, bigger one-bedroom in the Upper West compared to downtown.
  5. Meg Ryan's character lived there in You've Got Mail. If I'm being completely honest, this was a legit factor because the UWS was so pretty in that movie. 
It really does look like this. That's 88th and Columbus.

It really does look like this. That's 88th and Columbus.

Neither of us had visited NYC in years. Jeff had only been twice in his life. We had to rely on past memories and internet research to pick a neighborhood. The UWS was a "safe" choice for us, which felt like the right call when we were apartment hunting from London. 

If I had to do it over, I might pick the West Village over the UWS... but I do love our neighborhood. And I love our (slightly more affordable) brownstone.

 

My favorite Spots on the Upper West Side

Zabar's: This store is famous a f*** for good reason. Formidable cheese counter. Great cured meats (the 18-month prosciutto is especially good). Nice housewares section on the second floor. Amazing coffee. Amazing everything, really. We don't buy ALL of our groceries here (because Trader Joe's is cheaper for the basics), but Zabar's is a weekly stop for the good stuff. 

The Reservoir: OK, kind of cheating, because Central Park doesn't just belong to the West side. We live close to one of the entrances on this path, and it's one of my favorite places for an afternoon walk. It's just over a mile and a half of pretty trees and even prettier views. 

View of the Upper West from the reservoir loop in summer.

View of the Upper West from the reservoir loop in summer.

Tucker Square Greenmarket: There's a duck charcuterie guy. There are several bakers that make me wonder how low-carb diets are possible. There are beautiful flowers and Amish farmers and artisan maple candy and NY wine and ahhhh it's my happy place on a Saturday morning. The Greenmarket represents everything I love about New York. 

 
 

Naam Yoga NYC and NY Loves Yoga: Naam is a crunchy place in the best way possible. Incense, chanting, lots of meditation. It's my favorite place to clear my head and shake off anxiety. I go to NY Loves Yoga on 83rd and Amsterdam when I want an actual workout. And apparently Matt Damon goes to the gym on 83rd and Amsterdam. So, that's cool. 

Riverside Park in the 90s: Not as in the 1990s, as in the 90s street numbers. Walk a little bit North from where I live, and there are flowers and monuments and pretty buildings and benches where you can watch the sun set over the Hudson. So pretty, so peaceful. Way less crowded than Central Park, as well, because the only people who come to Riverside are locals. 

MY FAVORITE RESTAURANTS ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE

Food gets its own section, because obviously it does.

Our neighborhood is great for 19th century brownstones (like mine!), urban fall foliage, parks, puppies, and ornate apartment buildings. Not the food scene. We're no LES. When Jeff and I want an experience of a meal, we get on the 1 train and go to a different part of Manhattan. But here's the thing about NYC, UWS included: if it's considered a "meh" restaurant here, it's probably still better than places elsewhere. 

Celeste: Really great Italian food. Carmine, the owner, will walk by and squeeze your shoulder like you're old friends. There's no wine list, at least not on paper. Carmine will tell you which wine to order, and you won't argue. You will get the wine that Carmine tells you to get. Cash only, which is surprisingly common in NYC. 

Ollie's To Go: Every Sunday, we get Cantonese roasted meat (always red bean pork, sometimes barbecue ribs, too) and boba. It's gotten to the point where the owner waves to us and has our order ready when we walk in at 12pm on Sundays. We're that predictable, and it's that good. Sichuan beef is a mainstay in our weeknight rotation, too. It's so tasty, y'all. And it's only a few blocks away from our place. Can't beat that.

 
A bad picture of amazing pork.

A bad picture of amazing pork.

 

Little Italy Pizza (92nd Street): Their Margherita slice is one of my favorite things in the universe. The sausage and pepperoni is a close second. Prepare to pay cash and be scowled at by Italians. Hey - you aren't coming for the ambiance. You're coming for the quality ingredients and greasy goodness.

French Roast: I never expect great coffee from a 24-hour diner, even an upscale one with a surprisingly pretty interior. French Roast has great coffee. Their shakshuka is also one of the best things I've eaten in the city. It's heavy on the harissa (I was sweating at the end of the dish), the eggs are perfect, and the feta is top notch. Ugh, now I'm craving shakshuka. 

Land: our go-to Thai spot. It's super affordable and always good. I get their $12 two-course lunch special (it changes every day) and a Thai tea or Chang beer. 

 

Places I haven't tried yet:

Levain: I know, shameful. It's another "famous as f*** for good reason" spots. I'll go soon. Promise.

Barney Greengrass: I've eaten so much lox since moving to NYC. But I haven't been to Barney Greengrass. I recognize that these ideas are incongruous. Especially since they carry H&H bagels.

Jacob's Pickles: This place is SLAMMED every time I walk past. I'm frankly worried that their fried pickles will be disappointing. 

Artie's: Apparently a great Jewish deli. There are a lot of great Jewish delis on the UWS, but I haven't been to this one.

Dovetail: reserved for special occasions that aren't quite special enough to merit a trip to Per Se. Or, more truthfully, reserved for nicer evenings when we're feeling too lazy to get on a train. Because special occasions probably won't be spent on the Upper West.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

#FuckTheWageGap. Ladies Get Paid.

I posted this on Instagram in response to Lauren Hom's call for stories of professional women working for less than they're worth. I'm posting it here for longevity and more info on the contest Lauren is running right now.

Here's my wage gap story.

Before I found Tortuga, I interviewed with an "up and coming" startup (lol) who wanted to hire me because they were having cash flow problems and needed a marketing professional to help with revenue. They sent me an offer for a salary that was $15k below market rate. To make up for the lower salary, I was promised a quarterly "reassessment" based on profit growth.

Here's the thing- I'd done my due diligence. I knew their revenue numbers. If they indeed had cash flow problems, their profits were either nonexistent or minuscule. "Reassessment" was their way of tricking me into accepting less money. I pushed back, of course, and asked for just below market rate (citing sources of what marketing professionals make elsewhere). This group of men (and make no mistake, there were no women at this company) was gobsmacked at my audacity. How dare I negotiate? As soon as I counteroffered, they rescinded. I asked why.

They told me, "negotiating your salary is an aggressive move and shows me you aren't a team player."

Fuck that. Fuck the wage gap. Ladies get paid.

Lauren is collaborating (as in actual collaboration, not using that word to cover up for shitty business practices) with @ladiesgetpaid. They're hosting an Instagram contest that seeks to truly empower women. Here are the deets, straight from Lauren's blog:

I’ve partnered with Ladies Get Paid to run our OWN Instagram contest that truly empowers women. The winner will receive a$500 USD scholarship to get her creative idea/project off the ground, a 1 hour creative consultation with me, and a 1 hour strategy & marketing consultation with Ladies Get Paid founder Claire Wasserman. Here are the details:
1) Post a photo of yourself (because YOU’RE inspiring) holding up a sign with something that someone has said that was offensive and questioned your creative value, like the photos above.
2) Share the story in the caption and then tell us why you value your work and yourself as a creative woman.
3) Use the hashtags: #FollowHerLead #LadiesGetPaid & #fuckthewagegap
4) Tag @ladiesgetpaid @homsweethom and @fabfitfun in the photo

This is what fighting looks like. We will not be silent.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

Some follow-up thoughts to my election piece

I just had a great discussion with my dad (a 2-hour phone call - when was the last time I talked to my dad on the phone for 2 hours?) about politics and my last post, and I have some follow-up thoughts.

Some context.

I grew up Christian. I am no longer Christian. To top it off, I have some distaste for religion... which is not an easy sentence for my family to read. To be fair, my genre of distaste is not as broad or as strong as that of friends, but the distaste is there nonetheless.

I am a humanist* (among other things). I do not rely on religion for a set of ethical standards, but instead base my morals on doing good for the wellbeing of others. Humanism also fits with my tendencies to question everything (ahem, remote work and nomadism) so there's that.

* Wikipedia's definition of humanism for the curious: "Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and affirms their ability to improve their lives through the use of reason and ingenuity as opposed to submitting blindly to tradition and authority or sinking into cruelty and brutality."

My ethical landscape is, obviously, at odds with a traditional Christian approach. I am the only one in my family who does not have a Christian approach, traditional or otherwise. On my dad's side, I'm 99% sure I'm the only Democrat.

I'm the black sheep. I've been the black sheep for nearly a decade, ever since I formed opinions in my own right. This is not a phase. This is who I am. I am wholly okay with who I am, and also okay with the fact that my family thinks differently than I do.... on most things. I'm not okay with disagreeing on equality. I'm not okay with anyone defending Trump's hateful words. I'm not okay with the acts of hate happening around the country, and I'm not okay with people ignoring that they're happening. But I'm okay with disagreeing elsewhere - I think it's important to put people before opinion in the vast majority of cases.

Trump has dredged up those exceptions to the "vast majority of cases" and caused people like myself to use our voices instead of staying silent in the name of getting along. For years, I've stayed silent at family gatherings when people talk about abortion and religion and [insert topic here]. I've learned to do so, after I tried to discuss Mohammed at age 15 and evolution at age 22 and ended up in tears on both occasions. I kept my mouth shut after that.

No more. Trump is the last straw. I am no longer silent. And by doing so, I am rocking the boat. I'm making people uncomfortable and "sad for me" and wondering how I've strayed this far, who I really am. I'm the same person - I'm just using my voice. 

And yet I forget my blog, my Twitter feed, etc are a manifestation of the echo chamber.

Liberals are talking a lot about fractured / bruised / uncomfortable / strained family relationships right now. I'm hardly the only one having a hard time. For many of us, having family members who champion Trump (not just conservative family members - there's a difference - I'll get into that below) is a painful experience. Here's a concise view that sums it up nicely:

We're not just sad Hillary lost. We're heartbroken because people we love have told us that the marginalized should stay marginalized. 

I really enjoyed this thread, entitled "a thread for white people considering how to talk to their relatives." Bailey gives a quick refresher on rhetoric (as in the art of persuasion) and how to incorporate pathos, logos, and ethos into a dinner table discussion on, say, gay rights. The entire thread is worth a read if you no longer feel okay about keeping quiet. This is my favorite excerpt:

I'm in it for the long haul. I'm not just an activist now - I will continue the fight for human rights and the discussions that lead toward progress. I will use my voice and I will do my best to cull the emotions that arise with crossed morals and be effective with my rhetoric. Per my last post, that's fucking difficult.

Anyway, the "echo chamber" piece of this:

I didn't realize that only liberals were talking about strained family relationships. I've seen so many tweets, read Medium posts, read the comments on the NYT's post, had countless one-on-one chats about it. In my world, everyone's talking about it. Everyone's throwing in an anecdote.

And yet it legitimately didn't occur to me that the discussion was only happening on the left. Of course, it should have occurred to me, because obviously it should have, but it didn't - because I was still just talking to liberals. Some more moderate lefties, some extremely liberal, but... all socially blue as they come.

Until my (conservative, but non-Trump-voting) Dad and I had a very good discussion about it.

The point of my last piece was to say to fellow liberals, let's slow down and take a different approach to progress. Per Bailey's point (again, see linked thread, it's really good), we cannot just throw facts and stand on our morals and expect to be understood or agreed with. We have to cool it on the outrage, stop taking the Ann Coulter bait (deep breaths, I know, guys), if we want to continue progressing as a society. I wrote that post to show the struggle between wanting to slow down and listen and not knowing how to stop being furious. It's hard. It's really hard. I tried to show the warring sides in my own mind via the language of my previous post.

That's exactly how fellow lefties read my post.

I got lots of messages, emails, and texts from readers who related to what I said. I'm glad I could be an inspiration for others to broaden the information we consume (other than just ultra liberal, highbrow think pieces #guilty) and seek to understand, to engage, without compromising our morals.

If you've consumed similar information and read the same thinkpieces and Twitter threads and have the same media context, you'll read my words as I intended. Overwhelmingly, the responses to my post showed that most of my readers think like I do. Not a surprise there. Echo. Echo. Echo.

If you're a conservative, though?

Yeah - that's not at all how my last post will come across.

I was seen as self-indulgent for writing about my IUD. To many, that's a subject only discussed behind closed doors. To talk about it in a public form is a cry for attention. Of course that's not what I'm after - I pretty much despise being the center of attention. I talk about IUDs because access to reproductive health is important to me. I won't stop fighting for access to birth control, while simultaneously recognizing that I am privileged enough to access it no matter what laws this administration passes. I won't stop talking about reproductive health, either, because I believe in normalizing the conversation and stopping the taboo. In fact, I don't feel ethically okay with not talking about it.

I was seen as childish for writing about strained family relationships. I didn't do it lightly - it's a moment of honesty, and one that I think needs to be told. I believe in the power of the personal narrative and raw, honest, emotional moments. Not the entire context, because there is a line, but I will talk about familial pain in a public forum when that pain relates to public issues. I believe that it's important and that the personal impact of political rhetoric is not sacred.

Here's the thing - I'm not just airing dirty laundry online. I'm not sure that some right-wing people understand how deeply our morals are shaken by Trump's election. We are deeply disturbed, fearful, and heartbroken.

Truth be told, I know that the vast majority of my family members voted for Trump. I also know (and when I don't know, I believe) that many did so begrudgingly, without making excuses for Trump's misogyny. They voted for other reasons. I know, fellow liberals, it's nearly impossible for us to get past our morals to see how someone who is not a horrible human could vote for Trump.

But that's my point from my last piece. We see Trump as a moral problem, and so did some of his voters. But not all voters see the act of voting as a moral act. I'm not sure I worded that well. Does that make sense? Am I super-off base here, Dad? Is that what you were getting at?

I also know that some voters glossed over Trump's hate-mongering, deciding it was a trivial matter. There's a difference between those two voters. Both bring me pain - but the former is the bouncing-off point for discussion, like the one I had with my dad tonight. We disagree on so many things (almost everything political, really) but we can still have a fascinating, enjoyable discussion. All I need is to hear that a conservative is disgusted by Trump's words. That's all I need. If we agree that his misogyny and racism are unacceptable, we're good. Let's talk about the economy.

However. When a person decides that Trump is someone worth cheering for, rather than voting for with a fair amount of disgust, that feels like a betrayal as a woman and as a champion for the marginalized (at least I hope I'm a champion for the marginalized - that's what I want to be). As soon as a conservative makes excuses for "grab them by the pussy," or fails to acknowledge the problematic vernacular, etc, we have a major problem.

When I wrote my previous post, that "major problem" manifested as pain and heartbreak.

Tonight, it's fury. Still pain, though, because isn't anger just corrupted pain?

 

There are probably typos in this piece because I'm sleepy. Typos do not diminish my intelligence. I'll fix them tomorrow with fresh eyes.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

Now, some thoughts about the election

Wa-howza.

Okay. So that happened. Trump is President-Elect. The nausea and sadness and anxiety have abated enough to think rationally. Here are some of those rational thoughts... even if they're a bit disjointed.

"Stay and fight" or GTFO?

Nomads are talking about staying abroad until Trump is out. Wannabe nomads have a final reason to pack up and leave, come January. Okay look. I'm in so many minds about this.

On the one hand, traveling more often sounds great right now. I get it. I remember living in London and feeling closer to Brexit than to the insane nastiness happening in my home state's politics. How refreshing it would be to care more about, I dunno, Sweden's politics, than Trump. 

But then again... it's been nice to feel proud to be an American abroad. To speak about the Obamas with a grin, feel good about my country. The world hates Donald Trump. Europe is laughing at us, and behind their laughter, they're grossed out by the smarminess. Wherever I go, I'll now be apologizing for the antics of my peers. My pride will vanish every time I'm mocked for representing things I despise, just because of my accent. I don't want to apologize. I want to be proud.

And, life in America is about to get a whole lot harder for a whole lot of people.

Not for me, perhaps. I'm respected and successful in my career. Our CEO, my boss, is as feminist as they come. I don't have to worry about 77 cents to the dollar or my voice being heard at Tortuga, no matter who is president.

Feminist CEO in his natural habitat. #HeforShe. It matters. Thank you, Fred, and every other man who fights with women.

Feminist CEO in his natural habitat. #HeforShe. It matters. Thank you, Fred, and every other man who fights with women.

Societally, too. Jeff and I are a white, heterosexual, cisgender, affluent couple. If anything, our taxes may go down during Trump's administration. Neither of us will lose our health insurance. My IUD may no longer be covered, but I can afford it out-of-pocket without feeling the financial sting. If that IUD fails, I can afford to fly to Canada and pay for an abortion. We aren't planning to have kids, so we won't fear for their future and climate change therefore impacts our family less. So, my day-to-day life probably won't change much.

But others' will. And that matters to me.

So stay and fight? Stay in NYC and, what... talk to fellow liberals? In the echo chamber? Because goodness knows I'm not moving to Ohio or Iowa or Michigan or any other Midwestern swing state.

I'm not saying I have no voice and that I can be of no help in NYC. Of course I can. But then again....

The urban & rural divide contributed to this

Trump's win is sobering to city people like me. I've been in the urban, liberal bubble my entire life. I've never lived in a rural place, and likely never will. 

And, here's an honesty moment: city people, myself included, think our way of life is superior. We hardly hide it.

We are more educated, so we think our opinions count for more. We go to fancy schools and eat artisan foods we can't pronounce and travel to exotic places and truly believe it makes us better quality people. We scoff at those who vacation in their home state (the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page) and eat processed food. We dislike religion and question tradition. We're snobs, and we aren't shy about it.

The snobbery comes to head in micromoments, not just elections. My mom belongs to the other side, and my mom thinks I'm aloof. We got in a big fight about it over the summer. I am kind of aloof, I guess. We all are, as city people, where social conservatism is concerned. My mother thinks it's a sign of selfishness and something to be ashamed of. 

Here's the part that I don't love admitting: 90% of the time, I'm okay with being aloof. I don't mind being seen as a snob. I'd rather feel superior and act dismissive than validate an alt-right argument with a response, because I don't think that argument deserves a response. I don't love admitting my aloofness, but I'm not exactly ashamed, either. My feelings of superiority are rooted in deep morals, as strange as that may sound to someone who disagrees. Like my mother.

Which brings me to another holier-than-thou aspect. Rural conservatives look at us cheering at pride parades and tweeting #BlackLivesMatter and calling out slut shamers and think we have no ethical standards.

My friend and I at London Pride. I love Pride parades. They feel like the epitome of freedom and progress.

My friend and I at London Pride. I love Pride parades. They feel like the epitome of freedom and progress.

They couldn't be more wrong. Ethics and morals are dear to us. We fight for them - HARD. In fact, we think our morals more correct than those of the rural Christian right. 

That last part is important.

We think we're more correct, so we dismiss and we ridicule instead of engaging in a constructive way.

I don't engage in a constructive way. Us liberals don't, as a whole. (Yeah, conservatives don't either, but they aren't the ones signing up for therapy because their candidate lost. Like me. I'm doing that.)

We believe that our ethics are indisputable facts and that challengers do not deserve to be acknowledged. We believe that positions against gay marriage or the right to choose or women's equality are sins against humanity committed by heartless, selfish, vitriolic animals.

Of course I still believe I'm more correct, that my morals are better than those of a conservative Southern Baptist, but... 

Trump's win shows that we have to stop dismissing the other side.

Dismissiveness hinders our agenda. If we want progress, we have to stop treating the other argument as animalistic.

I don't know how. My heart breaks for the marginalized when the alt-right starts to speak and when moderate conservatives make excuses for their words. I don't want to acknowledge a racist point of view. I can't quell the fury when someone argues against feminism, when someone calls a sexually liberated woman a slut, when internet trolls rally around "grab them by the pussy" and force badass women to defend their basic humanity. 

But... there's more to the story than our moral outrage.

Cracked has covered this really well. Go read the below article. Please. It's very good.

Equal parts sobering and fascinating, right?

There's also this:

 
 

Yes. They should be. And probably a lot of them won't. Just like a lot of liberals won't deign to listen to someone who makes fun of feminists. But we won't get this started playing a game of "I'm not listening" chicken.

The best way to be heard is to listen first, right?

Right?

I mean, I'm really asking at this point. Because I'm so upset that racist and misogynistic vernacular are 'okay' enough to be used by a President.

How can we be heard? How can we change what is seen as okay to really absolutely not okay? How can I explain to my mother that her vote for Trump tells me that she thinks my sexual assault is invalid because the dude always wins, that my voice as a woman matters less than any man's, that when I married a Muslim her peers think I consorted with the enemy? That none of that is okay? That the extent of the SONOTOKAY means that I can't bring myself to talk to her, can't look her in the face right now, because her vote feels like a deep and painful betrayal? Because her morals are so contradictory to my own?

Which brings me to some thoughts I have about religious teachings. Specifically rural Christian schools of thought.

Mommy issues and religion - we're getting real-real here, huh.

Religious teachings about right & wrong need better explanations than "because god said so."

Hey so here's a problem I don't know how to fix.

Take Joe. He's from rural Trump country. All his life, he's been taught that all of the below are seen as equally terrible sins:

  • Sexual assault
  • Adultery
  • Homosexuality
  • Atheism

They're all sins. God said so. Joe knows that atheists make god cry. So do adulterers. This is not a matter of opinion; to Joe, it's indisputable fact.

And on the other side you have Alan, married to Mike. Alan is a liberal, homosexual, polyamorous atheist. Not exactly unheard of in a place like Manhattan. To liberals, "homosexual, polyamorous atheist" are just descriptors. They're things that fall under our umbrella of "freedom" and that we will fight like hell to protect.

In Joe's mind, Alan has committed three indisputable moral transgressions and society celebrates him for it.

So, Joe wonders, why does society condemn sexual assault? Isn't it the same?

Of course it isn't the fucking same you horrible moron, we think. But saying it out loud doesn't change Joe's mind. It only confirms his idea that we're sinners.

So how do we educate? How do we shape the conversation? How do we show that sexual assault is wrong because it harms another human without consent and polyamory isn't because it's a choice between consenting adults

I don't have a source to link to here, other than my own experience. I truthfully don't have much optimism, either. I'm so frustrated with religion and with teachings that harm individuals and pollute society. I don't know what to do. But it's a problem, and dismissing Joe et al doesn't solve it.

 

That's all I got for now. 

A sad sign-off.

A sad sign-off.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

This is not a think piece about the election

Because I'm not ready to fight yet. I'm still anxious, nauseated, sad, hurt, betrayed, scared, and in shock. Anger comes next. When I get angry, when I find fire after the pain, I'll fight with words.

For now, this is a list of gratitudes on a horrible day.

Fall Colors

NYC is in full form. It's beautiful. I've strolled through Riverside Park (which is on the street where I live) almost every day to admire the view. Today, I walked through Central Park to a brand new coworking space on the UES. Everywhere I look, there's yellow and orange and a few burgundies, shifting to brown. It's centering.

Warmth

I'm sitting next to the radiator in my coworking space. The heat is slowly permeating my body, relaxing my tense shoulders and scrunched forehead. It's comforting and peaceful.

Remote Work

I can go anywhere, at any time. I couldn't stand to be alone this morning, so I decided to forgo the home office for a coworking space. Later this afternoon, I'll go back home and wallow. Maybe I'll get my nails done, or go to yoga - something for self care. I'll finish my to do list this evening. I've never been more grateful for freedom and flexibility.

Psychological Safety

I have psychological safety in love and in work and in friendship and it's beautiful. Never again will I sacrifice psychological safety in the pillars of my life, when I can help it. 

Weaving

I'm grateful that I can make beautiful tapestries with my hands. I'm glad to have a catharsis to ease my anxiety and an outlet in which to channel my creativity. I'm grateful to feel like I'm good at something other than my job.

Great Food

Tomorrow, I'm meeting one of Tortuga's co-founders at the new Russ & Daughters Cafe. This weekend, Jeff and I will inevitably stumble upon another one of NYC's gems. Living in one of the best food cities in the world is such a pleasure. I'm grateful to have a world of cuisine just outside my door.

 

Onward. 


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

Things that I bought that I love

Note: title is hardly original. It's an ode to Mindy Kaling's former blog, circa the mid-aughts. RIP, Mindy's former blog.

I've purchased a few all-star things lately that deserve a little internet love, so that's what I'm doing. Giving them internet love. Most of these are clothes because, as previously mentioned, using a capsule wardrobe was the bane of my existence.

 

Girlfriend Collective leggings

These are the softest leggings that have ever been on my person and I never want to take them off. Right now they're giving these away for the cost of shipping. Take advantage of Girlfriend Collective's marketing strategy. They're wonderful.

Denman Hair brush

It's not Mason Pearson. It's also not a gajillion dollars. I can't tell the difference between how my hair looks after brushing it with my $15 Denman versus my fairy godsister's fancy Mason Pearson. This brush gives me Veronica Lake hair and I'm into it. 

 
Thanks for making my hair look perfect in pictures, Denman hair brush, xoxo

Thanks for making my hair look perfect in pictures, Denman hair brush, xoxo

 

 

Vince tee

I'm starting to like the Vince / Everlane style more and more these days. But with punchy lipsticks. The goal is to add a little vibrance to the modernized 90's tomboy aesthetic, you know? I'd say half of my current looks are Vince-y, half Free People. 

That's on the days where I leave the house, to be clear. Because my Vince tee is a super-soft long-sleeve that I shamelessly wear with the aforementioned leggings and cashmere socks. At 10am on a Tuesday. Oh, sorry, you don't think that's appropriate workwear? I'm so sorry for you.

JCrew Merino Cardigans

My coworkers have convinced me that Merino is a magical fabric that somehow keeps you warm and also keeps you cool and doesn't stink and holds up forever and ever. I bought this JCrew cardigan in two colors (black and golden yellow) as part of my daily "uniform" and... I get the hype. Merino is amazing. Also these cardigans have gold buttons and make me feel very East Coast Cool Girl. See, sometimes I dress like a fully functioning human.

Milk Makeup Highlighter

This highlighter makes me look awake and glow-y, even when I'm most assuredly not. 

I love that it's a solid stick (travel-friendly!) that you just smear directly on your skin. It barely needs blending (lazy-girl-friendly!). In fact it's so blendable that I'm considering getting their bronzer, too. Contour is hard and I need something less intimidating than Lauren's scary Smashbox sticks. I do not have your makeup prowess, Lo. 

Tortuga Outbreaker

Okay. I didn't buy this. I got a production sample (#workperks). And I'm admittedly biased... but damn, this bag is great. We've worked on the Outbreaker for a long time and I'm so happy it's out in the real world.

 

Sometimes stuff is suffocating. On the other hand, having talismans tied to your taste and identity is helpful. My life doesn't have to fit in a backpack anymore. And for me... acquiring a few extra things feels awesome right now. 

It's just a collection of stuff... but that stuff makes me feel like me again. 

Note: none of these are affiliate links primarily because I'm too lazy to set up an affiliate account but probably will at some point and none of that impacts my recommendations and yes this run-on sentence is laughably long.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

Salt in an open wound

 You should know that I've been in a relationship with Claire* for a little while. She'll be at the funeral.

 

My emotions are buffering, unsure of whether to manifest as full-blown heartbreak or peaceful closure or something in between.

 

I'm really sorry if that hurts you in any way. I have an inkling of how it might feel.

 

K. Done buffering. It's somewhere in between. 

 

I can't decide if knowing- even liking- the girl he chose after me makes it easier or harder. I guess it's both.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship with Claire...

 

Easier because I understand why he chose her. I get why they're a good match. I can picture them, happy, in my mind. I can see why she's a better fit than I ever was. Easier because I fit with Jeff in the same way. Easier because I feel at peace, knowing we're both happy.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship...

 

Easier because I know that she's a good person. She was always kind to me, and I doubt that'll change. And, as sheepish as I feel admitting it, easier because she's a known entity. No dramatic surprises.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship...

 

Harder because I always felt a touch inadequate next to Claire. She's cool - when I knew her, I thought she was cooler than me, prettier than me, more likeable. He chose her, and that exacerbates the inadequacy. Harder because I like her. Harder because we were friendly. Harder because she knew him almost as well as I did when we were married. 

 

Harder because I always wondered if part of him left me for her.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship with Claire for a little while.

 

He says he didn't. I believe that he didn't, not directly, not consciously. 

 

And anyway, that doesn't matter.

 

You should know that...

 

I didn't WANT to know. I didn't want to know if he chose anyone at all, much less who.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship...

 

I especially didn't want to feel like a martyr to divorce while burying our friend. I want to be a supportive person for Dustin's people, not the pathetic washed up ex-wife who can only think about herself at her friend's funeral.

 

You should know...

 

Of course, that's not really true. Dustin's smile pops into my head far more often than thoughts of my ex's new love.

 

I'm not that selfish. But I do need to acknowledge this pain. 

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship...

 

And I'm not washed up. As my best friend says, I'm winning life. I just want to feel that way.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship with Claire for a little while.

 

I wonder why he said "a little while." I guess to downplay it, to assure me that he didn't cheat.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship...

 

I'm remembering a night in downtown Raleigh, the first time I saw Claire dressed to the nines. I remember being taken aback by how beautiful she was.

 

You should know...

 

I'm remembering the cabin trip in the blue ridge mountains. He made me apologize to Claire, because I was raucous the night before. He thought it was undignified, inappropriate. I thought I was feeding on the energy of the group. He scolded me, stole my fire, and looked on with a stern expression as I apologized to her. She's never raucous. Claire was very confused by my apology. You were funny, she assured me, not inappropriate.  My ex didn't agree.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship with Claire for a little while.

 

I remember a snapchat she posted after a haircut. Why do I remember that?

 

I remember her voice, her smile, her quiet energy. 

 

They really are a good match.

 

But I don't want to remember. I want to look forward. I want the past to stay in the past.

 

It never really does, does it?

 

Distance, total separation- those help with building a new life. They helped me sprint towards happiness without looking back.

 

Until a greater tragedy forces me back and I'm hit with demons I refused to face while I was running.

 

The pain of you should know that I've been in a relationship... would sting at the best of times.

 

Today, as I'm flying to Charlotte to bury a dear friend, it's salt in an ugly, open wound.

 

You should know that I've been in a relationship with Claire...

 

A constant earworm, in wakefulness and in restless sleep.

 

If my thoughts aren't flooded with an image of Dustin's smile, they're interrupted by my ex-husband's words.

 

You should know...

 

No.

 

I shouldn't know.

 

But I do, and here we are. 

 

 * name changed for anonymity.

Dustin

In moments of trauma, I'm struck by how normalcy just... keeps happening.

I'm sitting in shock.

My whole world has changed in a single moment.

I don't know what to do with my hands. I don't know what to do, period. I open Twitter, because my brain is scrambling and.. I don't know why I open Twitter, maybe I need to feel normal. Messing with my phone feels normal.

My timeline hasn't changed. Everyone's talking about the same things that encapsule this morning's zeitgeist. Life is happening, all around me. Everything is normal.

But it isn't.

Of course it isn't.

One of my best friends from college is dead.

I have to remind myself to use the past tense. He was. Not is. 

Dustin was like family. He was dear to me... but this isn't about me. He was a genuine, hilarious, loving person. He was one of my favorite people to cook for, to spend an afternoon with, to laugh with on a tennis court, to meet at our favorite Salvadorian restaurant.

I can hear his chuckle in my head. I can see his smile.

He's gone. I can't believe he's gone.

Of course death begets nostalgia. Here are a few of my favorite Dustin memories. Moments of joy. 

The Ventriloquist

First, the funny anecdote. Dustin created music. He was great at it. One day, in 2013 I think, we sat in my living room talking about his music. Dustin mentioned that he wanted a sort of persona for his music - and he landed on "ventriloquist." You know, he said, like the puppets on strings. We asked if he meant "marionette." He did. We laughed about it for hours. I'll never forget the look on his face when he realized his mistake. 

TENNIS

When my ex left, Dustin didn't take sides. He was family to both of us. Dustin made a point to text me - often. He'd invite me over for a game of tennis. That was our thing. We were both horrible at tennis, but damn if we didn't have fun. Those afternoons meant the world to me. 

"I just want you to know: if I were a lot better at tennis, I'd be whooping you right know." -- Dustin

"I just want you to know: if I were a lot better at tennis, I'd be whooping you right know." -- Dustin

Bioshock

Dustin lived with me on two separate occasions - once when he needed a free place to stay during an unpaid internship, once while job hunting after college. During the second occaion, Bioshock infinite was released. My ex-husband bought it, left it on the table, and went to work. We got home to find Dustin playing my ex's brand new Bioshock. When he heard the door, he frantically turned it off and looked at us, sheepishly, like a teenage boy caught watching porn. It was hilarious. Of course my ex didn't care that Dustin played his video game. 

FOOTSIE

Dustin had a distinctive laugh. A quiet chuckle, but so emotive in his face. Dustin loved playing footsie with my dog. She'd pounce on his feet and gnaw on his toes. Dustin's face was pure delight, that silent laugh evident in his features. That's how I want to remember him.

 

Love you, Dusty. You were sunshine in my life. I miss you already.

Career soulmates

We watched the sunset in Lisbon from a secret bar on top of a parking garage.

I sipped an Aperol spritz, my go-to drink when I'm in Europe. Jenn clinked her cider with my glass- "it was two fifty! And this is the expensive bar!" Garrett appeared out of nowhere and asked "a-which-a-porto" (in an accent meant to be Portuguese, but more Italian in execution) he should order, seco or tawny? 

The view was incredible, and our whole team was in good spirits. I was on cloud nine.

Lauren snapped a picture of Patrick and me. 

Immediately before, I was dancing like a goofball, trying to make him laugh. I love messing with people - particularly Patrick. 

Warning: I'm about to sound a bit vain.

Lauren posted the pictures, and I couldn't help but look at my face in wonder. I look so happy. My laugh is real. My smile exudes joy - it isn't a contrived, "photography" smile. It's real. It's what I look like when I'm too happy to care about anything else.

Happy enough to dance like an idiot in a bar full of polished people, even.

Attractiveness is irrelevant. That's not my "good side." But who cares - these shots capture a moment of friendship and shared laughter. They aren't a show of beauty. They're a snapshot of joy, on my face, and on Patrick's. Lauren's, too, behind the camera.

I can't remember the last time I looked this happy. The last time I WAS this happy. I'm not sure I ever have been.

Wow, does that feel good. 

There's a reason for that. My life has been nothing but turbulence for years. Only saved from being defined by pain because stubborn optimism won.

But now... everything has fallen into place. The dust has settled, and left something beautiful.

  • Jeff - a loving, healthy, sustainable partnership.
  • Friendship - plentiful and invaluable.
  • NYC - a pleasant surprise.
  • Career - more fulfilling than I could imagine.

I've always been a career girl.

I'm also a partnership person, in love and in friendship. I live for deep, real, human connection. I don't do shallow - I don't think I CAN do shallow.

Those two realities - driven in career and only concerned with genuine connection - can butt heads.

The workplace isn't where you break down into tears about your divorce. It isn't where you share intimate details of personal lives. It isn't where you talk politics or swap financial advice. It isn't a place of psychological safety.

It's a place where your facade is carefully crafted and your skin is required to be thick.

Unless that workplace is like Tortuga.

We call those workplaces "on your terms" companies. Of course we do - it's our tagline, our mission. 

I knew that our team shared a philosophy. I knew that Fred, our CEO, makes psychological safety an intentional priority.

I should have extrapolated the obvious - that our team wouldn't just be a group of coworkers. That we'd grow into a certain genre of soulmates.

And we are. We make each other better. I work hard - for them. Not for me. For my career soulmates, my partners in the "on your terms" mission. My tribe. 

When Angela talks about why customer service IS marketing, I'm reminded of why I can trust her with anything. She gets it - and she's fired up about our mission.

When Lauren writes about each of us, showing her unique level of kindness, I ugly-cry with gratitude. I don't know anyone who loves as hard as Lauren.

When you smile, Lo, the world smiles with you.

When you smile, Lo, the world smiles with you.

When Patrick laughs at my antics, I breathe easy - the biggest shame I could imagine would be to see disappointment in his (or any Tortuganaut's) face. I never want to let him down.

When Garrett and I debate about "being the best" - my soul lights on fire. He is the best. I'm constantly motivated to match his level of excellency. 

Garrett also don't give a fuuuuuu-

Garrett also don't give a fuuuuuu-

When Jenn's words cascade so easily and with unparalleled poignancy on a Skype call, I am reminded of wisdom itself.

When Fred calmly explains his vision for world domination, I am humbled. I came to work for Tortuga because I wanted to learn from brilliant people. Fred reminds me of that with his quiet authority, every time he speaks. He doesn't ask for authority - he earns it.

"Everything the light touches..."

"Everything the light touches..."

When Jeremy comes in to poke holes in everything, I sit back and listen. He always sees a project through a different lens, and usually catches something that I don't. 

When Giulia laughs about having to shout at people in 6 (or 10, or something absurd, I've lost count) languages, I can only admire her flawless execution of no-bullshit. I don't have that skill. Hers is formidable. 

Damn, did I win the career lottery. 

Is this bond scalable? I don't know. But it's here now. Today, deep human connection and career drive are synonymous.

I work with soulmates. I don't want to work another way. Not anymore.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

On coming home

This year, home has been a fluid concept.

I wasn't always convinced that "home" existed for me. I didn't own furniture. My art wasn't lovingly hung on any walls, there were no touches of Taylor in a space, and I didn't have that blissful pang of nostalgia for any place or any room. My parents divorced when I was a teen, so goodness knows neither of their houses feel like home. 

Each space I inhabited abroad, whether it was our pretty studio in Buenos Aires or our eensie weensie flat with the great view in London, was temporary. I'd unpack my capsule wardrobe (that I grew to despise on a visceral level) and try to add my own little touches to the place I didn't choose.

It was never mine. It was never home.

Gorgeous. Loved it. Still not home.

Gorgeous. Loved it. Still not home.

And yet, I never pined for Durham. I felt homesick for familiarity and for health, but never for place.

I didn't miss Durham because I needed to leave, I think. I needed to find myself, fully knowing how vomit-inducing that sounds. I needed that insufferable millennial eat-pray-love shit. And so, even through the hard, I didn't miss my home.

In fact, I didn't realize how strong the power of "home" is.

Because I've always thought of "home" as a specific building.

In childhood, it was the cute little ranch on Ridgefield Road. Dean Smith's first house in Chapel Hill, and also mine. Last time I drove past it, two years ago, the mailbox hadn't changed. My mom painted that mailbox in the style of Mary Englebright in 1999. Mom's purple flowers, framing the carefully painted street number, reign on.

Later, after my parents divorced, it was the crappy run-down glorified shack that Dad and I shared on Carol St. Man, that was a completely terrible house, and man, I loved living there with my pops. 

After college, it was the pretty townhouse on Grapevine Trail, covered in vines. I'd always wanted to live in a house covered in vines. My then-husband and I put our hearts into the townhouse on Grapevine and made it ours. It was full of love and full of memories. Walking into the front door would fill me with a huge sense of belonging, of comfort. Until he left, and the building's spell was broken.

That's when home stopped being a building.

That's when I started floundering.

That's when it was clear that I had to leave Durham.

When deep roots are unceremoniously hacked apart, what else can you do? I tried to stay, to rebuild in the same place. And then I found I couldn't, and I left in the biggest way possible. I tried to rebuild around the world.

Neither worked.

Both taught me a lot.

First: that home isn't fluid, not really, not for me. I can't feel at home everywhere. I'm not sure I can feel at home anywhere that isn't Durham, actually. 

"Not sure" being the operative phrase. Perhaps I haven't stayed in a place long enough to try. Granted, I haven't liked a place enough to stay and give it a real shot. I'm trying with New York. I'm giving New York a real shot.

I kind of hate New York. I also might kind of like New York. Shit, I don't know. But I'm giving it a real shot. 

I have no idea if it'll work. Right now, I project that I'll grow to enjoy living in New York, but that Manhattan will never be part of my identity. It won't feel like home. 

Second: home isn't a building. It's not an apartment with my carefully curated art. It's not the smells of my go-to dishes, pouring from the stove. It's not the bedroom with layered textures or the reading corner with a yellow chair and paper lantern. 

It's an entire city.

It's the touch of grit that comes with a city built from tobacco warehouses. It's the slight hint of a southern accent that might be rare, but doesn't catch you off guard. It's the smiles that are given easily, to stranger or friend. It's the open highway and the mountains and the ocean and even the girls in their Lily Pulitzer and Wayfarers and Jack Rogers, sporting looks you couldn't pay me to wear. 

It's the damn forest that is our entire region, evident to all who fly into RDU. There are so many trees here, visitors say. Yes, we say proudly, yes there are.

Maybe it's familiarity. Maybe it's nostalgia. Maybe it's "roots." 

Whatever it is, it's home. Durham is home. That, perhaps, should be obvious, but it took flying around the world for me to realize the significance.

I love Durham more than I can say.

But I can't live in Durham. It's like a breakup that I'm not quite over. For my sanity, for my own personal growth, I can't live here. Not right now.

Remote Year is problematic, but I signed up for a reason.

I didn't sign up for easy, and I didn't sign up for my comfort zone. I just graduated out of that specific challenge... but it doesn't mean I'm ready to go back.

Part of me wants to say "screw it" and come back home. That would feel great.. for a year. And then I'd get itchy feet again.

When I come back to Durham, I don't want it to be because I'm exhausted. I don't want to come home out of need, looking for sanity in the place that brings me comfort. I don't want to greet it as a desperate ex, sobbing and begging for the city to take me back.

I want to come back to Durham as an old friend, with a hug and a grin and a satisfied nod. Knowing we've both grown, both ready for a new iteration of something with each other.

That's when I'll move back home. 

God knows I'm not there yet.

Images of home.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

What I think will happen to Remote Year

When I talk about the issues with Remote Year, there's a question that inevitably pops up:

"So what do you think will happen to them?"

Current and former participants have varying views on the matter. Some are staunchly convinced that RY will figure it out and get there eventually. They're ride or die participants, and they trust that everything will come together. We didn't sign up for easy!

Others give RY a year, max, before they go out of business. They've experienced the rampant issues firsthand and so they'll scoff, incredulous that RY has managed to stay afloat this long. They're completely incompetent!

I think both views are myopic. Getting out of your comfort zone doesn't need to mean handing your daily life over to a company that makes decisions averse to your wellbeing. Changing your reality and disassociating yourself with a company you don't respect and don't trust is a perfectly adult thing to do. At the same time, a company that screws up - a lot - still can do enough things well to keep going for a while.

I don't think Remote Year will figure it out, but I also don't think they'll crash and burn anytime soon.

I think they'll die a slow death.

Here's what will happen before they call it quits.

 

Remote Year will raise VC.

I've mentioned before that RY's actions show that they care about growth before all else. It's more important than creating a good program, and way more important than lowering attrition.

I think it's because they're trying to raise.

In Q2 of 2015, they had one active program. In Q3, they started recruitment for the second (mine). In Q4, before the second program had launched, they started recruitment for the third.

Today, in early Q4 of 2016, they have:

  • One completed program
  • Four active programs
  • One program starting later this year
  • Several slated for 2017.

Issues aside, that's impressive growth. And their revenue numbers aren't shabby, either. I put together a quick back-of-the-envelope to show where they make their money, and the approximate value:

Click on the chart to make it bigger.

This is a hugely mega rough guess and the revenue numbers are certainly off. Changing the assumed values, for which I took a wild guess (like number of applications who make it to the essay round, which requires a $50 fee, or average number of months that participants who don't complete the program stay on the program) changes the revenue numbers significantly.

Some important things to note:

  • The initial deposit isn't a deposit, because you never get it back. It's actually a fee.
  • Starting with RY4, the initial deposit changed to $5,000. The 12th month is included in the deposit. RY did this to account for their high attrition rate. If you leave halfway through the program, RY still gets a chunk of money from you. When I say that RY has accounted for their high attrition rate in their financials, this is the kind of decision that I'm referencing.
  • RY used to have exit fees if you left the program early. They did away with exit fees because too many of us refused to pay and some threatened legal action. Now, they wrap the exit fee into the initial deposit, so you pay before you're pissed. Smart.
  • I used RY-cited numbers when I could. E.g.: they've publicly said that RY1 got 25,000 applications. I have no idea if that number has gone up or down, so I kept it constant.
  • The # participants to completion is a guess based on what I know about RY1 and what I'm seeing with RY2. Same with avg months on the program. These numbers are shaky, but not THAT shaky.

Even with high attrition, RY's revenue is pretty damn good. $9Mish from 2015-2016 will keep them going for a while, and is probably enough (paired with their quick growth) to attract VC.

Their overhead is very high, which I'm not going to even attempt to calculate, so I don't know how they're doing profit-wise. But if they want to prove to an investor that high revenue is happening? Done.

Another note: in general, customer acquisition is seen as "the hard part" when growing a business. RY is good at customer acquisition. They have no shortage of interested people and don't struggle to fill out their participant numbers.

If you're good at customer acquisition, and if you can prove market viability, traction, and scale, an investor will listen. RY checks all of those boxes, and they can gloss over the high attrition in a pitch deck. Oh, we can fix that with funding. Look how quickly we've grown! Give us money!

 

ONCE THEY RAISE, THEIR FAST GROWTH WILL CONTINUE.

They're in the start of the exciting section of the hockey stick. That growth will continue for a while. Their success will make it look like I'm completely wrong, because that graph will keep skyrocketing up, up, up... for now.

 

BUT GROWTH ISN'T EVERYTHING, AND THAT'S WHY THEY'LL DIE

If they successfully raise, it'll take even longer. They'll have more of a cushion and (probably) more pressure to focus on retention as well as acquisition.

Acquisition might be the darlingest of KPIs to investors, but high attrition isn't easy to fix. 

I don't think RY will get to the point where retention is strong. Their growth philosophy is to keep running when things are broken, then scramble to patch the worst of the breaks. 

They do not thoughtfully make the program as best as possible, then grow carefully and with intention. They're making the same mistakes, over and over again.

They get the same complaints every month from every program, about iffy wifi and insufficient accommodations. I can't do my job with iffy wifi, which is a deal breaker (obviously). Accommodations that wear on your every nerve (no heating with nights well below freezing, minimal hot water, even running water that stops working) cause participants to wonder where, exactly, their $2,000 / month is going. There are a lot of complicated answers to this, and I honestly see both sides. At the end of the day, poor accommodations means that nobody is happy and that participants start leaving. And there are often poor accommodations. The complaints are the same, and yet nothing changes.

They enacted a new visitor policy, without prior notice or consulting participants, wherein we were required to pay for every night a visitor stays in our RY-provided accommodation. It was clearly a cash grab and it did not go over well. While on RY, our accommodations are our homes. It's not a hotel room to us. It's where we live. And friends visit us - where we live. We own nothing except what's in our suitcases. We change places constantly. We crave stability, sometimes with desperation. But we still have a home, of sorts, in our accommodation for the month, which is where we make our own version of routine. Except that it's regulated by RY and we aren't allowed to treat our space like a home, which yanks away any sense of stability we might create for ourselves. They pulled back on the policy because there was too much uproar.

They did away with exit fees in a panic, because people like me wrote exposés and too many participants complained about feeling like a cog in a wheel. We don't (didn't) feel like important people with livelihoods to RY, we're customers who signed away control and must take whatever happens to us. Yeah, right, no thank you.

RY put on a desperate smile and said "there's no bad blood!" to all of the former participants glaring at them, frustrated from being treated like a bag of money and not a human. 

The examples I cite above are byproducts of a bigger problem: the practice of sprinting toward growth when things are broken, ignoring cracks until they become crises.

If you're seeing attrition because your app has too many bugs, sure, hiring a new development team might help. But they're dealing with people, not software. They can't write new code and turn it around, because the issue is systemic.

 

WHAT COULD KEEP THEIR SLOW DEATH FROM HAPPENING

A couple of these-won't-happen-but-man-what-if's:

Fire the founders. If I were an investor, I'd attempt to make change in leadership a condition of funding, because I don't think RY will be able to fix their attrition problem. Greg and Sam won't let that happen, because RY is their baby, so this is purely theoretical. A change in leadership could mean a change in philosophy, moving away from the sprint even when things break mentality.

Massive change in philosophy. This also won't happen, because egos, but the leadership could realize that attrition will be their undoing. They could take a step back and focus on creating the best possible program. 

I don't think either of those things will happen. 

 

MORE LIKELY:

A newcomer to the market will do things better. If I'm wrong and RY stays in business, this will be why.

If Wifi Tribe or The Remote Experience or Terminal 3 or another competitor builds a better program and can present a threatening-enough alternative, RY might be forced to get on their level. They'll have to gain market share and offer an obviously superior program at a similar cost. If that happens, RY will have to pay attention and improve their product accordingly. Capitalism at its finest.

RY won't do it on their own. They'll do it because competition forces their hand. They'll do it because they achieved growth early on and have a financial cushion to iterate in the face of competition.

Not because they believe in creating a great program and caring for their participants, but because they'll have to in order to survive.

Just like Time Warner upgraded speeds and lowered prices in Durham, my home, when Google Fiber started rolling through. Time Warner doesn't care about giving you the best service that they can. That's hardly why they're improving.

 

Who knows, maybe RY will surprise me. Maybe they'll hang on for so long that they'll accidentally get it right. 

I won't hold my breath.

 

These are my own predictions, based on my experience and nothing else. I was a participant on Remote Year and witnessed the issues firsthand. 

On the professional side, I have several years of experience building growth models for startups and helping founders fill out their investment pitches with data. My forte is strategic analysis and I'm well-versed in growth modeling. That's where I'm coming from in this analysis and forecast. 


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

On traveling alone and why this blog is so damn blue most of the time

So, I left Remote Year. I'm traveling alone. 

I spent a blissful 10 days in Dubrovnik. I spent every meal in solitude. I lounged on the beach, listening to the chatter of several languages around me - conversations in which I didn't have to partake. I climbed the city walls, kayaked in the Adriatic without a partner. I worked my pattotey off, completely out of passion. My passion for my work and the bliss I found in solo travel fed each other, building in a beautiful snowball effect of awesome.

I was on my own schedule, victim to only my whims. I didn't have a checklist of sights to see, adventures to have. It was sorta-kinda-planned serendipity, - serendipity designed by Taylor and no one else.

And it was fucking fantastic. In Dubrovnik, I was on cloud nine all the time. Dubrovnik felt like healing, like a big hug when you're sad or like a hot bath after a chilly day. Croatia is a friend that I can't wait to introduce to everyone.

Toothy grin brought to you by the Dalmatian coast.

Toothy grin brought to you by the Dalmatian coast.

That's the blissful side to solo travel. 

And then there's the other side.

Today, I'm in Vienna. I've wanted to come to Vienna for a long time. It's a Taylor kind of a city - art, architecture, history, etc...

But for some reason, it all feels kinda "meh."

The glittering palaces aren't inspiring a sense of wonder. Nor are the museums or the cafes or the sunny skies, admittedly nice after rainy days in Salzburg. I'm finding myself strolling the beautiful streets, fantasizing about meal planning. Meal planning. I'm strolling Vienna, wishing I were in the fucking produce section of Harris Teeter.

Maybe I'm sick of cities and should have allotted some time in a village or two in the alps. Or, maybe, the honeymoon of solo travel has worn off.

Because here's the truth, something I talked about with Tortuga's cofounders a few weeks ago:

Travel is more fun when you get to come home.

Until I FedEx-ed my newly-signed lease from London to NYC, I didn't know where "home" would be. I left via a one-way ticket to Uruguay without an idea of where I'd live next, or when. "Not Durham" is not exactly enough direction to conceptualize a feeling of home.

But now I know where I'm going. As soon as the option was there, it felt right. 

I'm strolling Vienna dreaming of the mundane because it feels like I'm in purgatory, waiting for the next iteration of life to start. Beautiful, privileged purgatory, yes. But still an in-between, still not where my heart is. Or my mind, clearly.

Hangin' in Hallstatt

Hangin' in Hallstatt

I have a home now. A home I've only seen via Skype, a home that doesn't have furniture yet and won't feel cozy at all. It does contain my Jeffers, though, and it offers stability and routine. God, I want stability again. 

I don't want to fall out of love with travel.

Dubrovnik proved that I hadn't. 

Vienna is proving that it's still a possibility.

Which brings me to another, semi-related thought:

Why do I mostly write about the downsides of digital nomadism?

Because dang, reading through my catalog of posts is downright depressing. No wonder my aunt was worried about me.

I'm fine. Happy, even. 

No, really. Shit's good.

Here's why this blog reads as otherwise:

  1. I wasn't happy in South America
  2. I wrote a lot in South America
  3. I've been mostly (very) happy in Europe
  4. I've written next to nothing in Europe
  5. I write out of passion, nothing else, and that itch to write happens when I feel blue
  6. My best writing comes out of malaise
  7. When I'm happy, I don't want to be in front of my computer.

And, of course, I started writing colloquial.ly as a foil to all of the misleading "work from the beach!!!" digital nomad blogs out there. The downsides aren't covered, not really.

And I don't gush, as a rule. When I'm happy, it's almost a private experience. Shared happiness is really just shared with the people present. I forget that not everyone operates that way. With my friends, it's easier - Brendan and I tell each other the bad, but still understand that the great is there, because we can see it on each other's faces.

You can't see my face. You can't hear my laugh. Jeff and I had tons of happy moments together abroad, but I didn't talk about those - I told you about the hard part. 

Every joy is unique, every tragedy common.

A musing from an ex I adored, one that's stuck with me.

I don't think you need to hear about my unique joy. I don't think you even want to, unless you're my dad or, like, Chloe.

But I do think that someone needs to know that their tragedy is common. Someone reading this will relate, will have strolled an exotic location, wondering why the wonder is so elusive. Someone will have embarked on a grand adventure, just to find their dreams changing to the mundane.

My six months abroad have not been tragedy. I've made lifelong friends, explored the world, laughed and snuggled and danced.

But there have been plenty of hard moments, moments that aren't unique. Moments that I haven't read on other blogs, not in connection to nomadism, no matter how common they might be. I'm offputtingly direct and will tell you the emotional stuff that other people won't talk about.

I'm good at communicating the hard. I think descriptions of the tough moments should exist in a public forum. So I'll state them.

That's why this blog might read as depressing. 

Not because my relationship is doomed (hardly), not because I'm depressed (nope, definitely past the divorce depression).

Because I'm selectively honest, just like the idyllic pictures of nomadic life I critique.

Really, I'm no different. I'm only telling you the downside, and they're only telling you the good. Blend us together and you get a more balanced picture of what it's like to travel the world full-time.

 

PS: Brendan, I miss your blog posts. You are my favorite writer in the whole world and I want to read more of your stuff. Please. Pleasepleaseplease. In case pleading doesn't work: I'll mail you all the cilantro I can find if you don't send me at least one of your unfinished novels.

xoxo,

T


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

When marketing isn't about more-more-more

Aka, that moment when you're the marketing arm of an ecommerce company, but also dislike the "buy now!!!" consumer culture.

I wrote a piece for OnYourTerms.com, Tortuga's Medium publication. It's about consumerism, why I'm happy with linear growth (at a startup?! what?!), and some general businessy shit mixed in with social commentary.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

Why I'm leaving Remote Year

So. I'm leaving Remote Year, and I'm telling you why. 

 

Why I'm leaving: RY is too hard on my relationship.

This, above all, is the reason Jeff and I are leaving. Apart from this, we likely would have stayed.

Remote Year can be a tough way to exist in day-to-day life. Every single emotion you can possibly imagine is something you'll feel - sometimes daily. It's exhausting and there's a lot of negativity in a lot of genres.

That piece is hard to explain, and I've written about it before. For now, trust me that Remote Year is an emotional roller coaster for absolutely everyone on the program.

That's hard enough as a single person. Now compound those emotions as a couple.

The roller coaster is rarely in sync. When Jeff is on a travel high, I'm cranky and tired and feeling ill. My mood crushes his happy. When I'm feeling blissful, Jeff is cranky and tired and mad at the world. His negativity crushes my happy. We're never aligned, and rarely have moments of simultaneous gratitude for the other person.

I can't count how many times that has happened. Those moments build on each other in a terrible cycle that only ends in contempt. A month of hard goes by, and we realize that we both feel unloved... but simultaneously love the other person dearly. We've just had no emotional energy to show it.

That's not to mention the fact that we don't get a break from each other. We live together, walk to the coworking space together, work in the same room, eat together, travel together. We have very little time apart, even when we schedule solitude. We run the same (tiny) circles and never get a break. That's unique to Remote Year.

And so the cycle continues, quickly snowballing and never really dissipating. 

So many of our problems will be immediately alleviated upon exiting the program. It's worth mentioning that none of Remote Year 1's non-married couples stayed together. I can see why. This program erodes a relationship, and I value Jeff and my partnership way more than I value traveling with this program. That makes our decision simple.

The only responsible choice, for the good of our relationship, is to leave Remote Year. So we're making that choice.

On the plus side, getting through this with so much love still intact means we can probably get through anything. Because yes, it's been hard, but we love each other just as much as when we started. Probably more, because it's not a love based in warm fuzzy feelings. It's based in choice and action. Like damn adults.

 

THE SIMPLEr REASON: I LOVE A GUY WHO GOT A DREAM JOB IN NYC.

Career is hugely important to both me and to Jeff. I certainly know what it's like to leave a job that was a terrible fit and land somewhere that makes you starry-eyed. I'm in my dream job. Jeff wasn't. But now he is. 

That job is in Manhattan. It isn't remote. He doesn't want it to be remote - he likes working in an office. And, so, we made the choice to leave Remote Year in favor of a wholly different adventure: moving to NYC together. Neither of us have ever lived in a big city before. This is all very new and very exciting. 

One of our last days in London before Jeff left for NYC.

One of our last days in London before Jeff left for NYC.

 

As a single person, I probably wouldn't make the same choice.

That realization took me a while to come to terms with. In many ways, I still see myself as the post-divorce, free, in-control, defiant Taylor. I still am all of those things.

Single Taylor would still be on Remote Year (the next section could make you question my sincerity here, but I do actually feel this way).

But I'm not a single person, and at the end of the day, I'm giving this relationship a fair shot. It matters. I value this partnership and I choose to make it sustainable. That might be controversial, you might think me anti-feminist, but you're wrong.

This isn't Jeff forcing me to leave something I love in order for him to do something he loves. This is a joint decision, a choice made to maximize happiness for both of us. This is on my terms - on our terms.

I am not an N of 1 and I cannot act as though I am. Jeff is a priority.

 

The secondary reason: RY, as a business, frustrates me.

My biggest professional strength is marketing strategy. Which, often, is just plain business strategy. Good marketing isn't just a perfectly curated Instagram channel- it's about having good business practices to begin with.

I say that to demonstrate that my professional knowledge makes me feel well-versed enough to judge Remote Year on this point.

And they get a low grade. To their credit, that grade is improving. They're starting to actually listen to their current clients (hey, shocker, we have voices and people listen to us) and make changes based on things we're upset about. Previously, the response was essentially "tough shit, this is how it is."

Yeahhh that's not the way to operate a client services company. The companies that win aren't the companies that try to eek every penny out of every client. The companies that win make decisions that cater to existing customers - not piss them off - and recognize when to take the high road (aka a short term loss for a long term gain), and handle attrition with grace.

The companies that win play a long game, not one of short-term revenue optimization. RY plays the short-term revenue optimization game, (probably) in order to maximize cash flow and grow more quickly. Which really frustrates me. You're doing it wrong, RY.

Remote Year was founded by two people with a lot of drive. Drive is always so valued, so revered in our society, but there's a fatal flaw in ambition.

Drive can lead to wanting to grow a business too quickly. To set huge growth goals, talk about those goals openly, and pursue that growth while sacrificing a lot. It's a trap that a lot of entrepreneurs fall into. Don't be Zenefits, Remote Year. 

It's understandable to want to grow quickly, but here's the thing. A technology company desperately working to grow to 10M app users is different than Remote Year's goal of getting 10K participants. Because the responsibility to each set of users (/ clients) is wholly different. Remote Year cannot responsibly set the growth goals they're trying to achieve.

Here's why I think that. Using an app is a small part of a person's livelihood. So, that company scaling quickly to gain more app users can make a ton of mistakes without really changing the lives of their customer. Remote Year is, de facto, every single piece of my life. It's my work (because I rely on them to be able to do my job), it's my home, my leisure time, my calendar, my friends, my livelihood. 

If you screw up at a tech company and treat your clients poorly, it's a problem, yes - but it's a problem that impacts a small moment of that person's daily life. But Remote Year's decisions truly impact the livelihoods of the individuals they serve. Not just their employees - their clients, too. 

I'm not convinced that the founders understand the responsibility they have to us, as their clients. We are not a typical client. The stakes are higher. You can't act like a nimble, fast-growth startup when you have the responsibility that RY shoulders. 

I gave control over to a company whose whose decision-making processes I don't trust. The decisions are made strategically to optimize for growth, not to create an awesome program. Their financials are built to cover the high attrition they've built in to their model, rather than strategically trying to minimize that attrition by improving their product.

I'm biased, yes, but I think they make more wrong decisions than they should. As a marketer, as a businessperson, I cannot endorse Remote Year.

But that doesn't mean I'd refuse to stick it out if I were on my own.

 

Am I burning a bridge with this post?

Quite possibly. I don't generally believe in burning bridges. But in this case, I think honesty and transparency wins.

You'll read other blogs, hear other voices, talk about the downsides of Remote Year. How accommodations are inconsistent, how new policies are enacted seemingly randomly with no voice from the community, how it's expensive and not worth the money.

Yeah, those are valid concerns, but that's not necessarily the point I'm making.

I bring up a larger, more systemic issue. Remote Year's leadership cares about scaling the company and growing quickly. Period. That comes at the expense of those who are on Remote Year.

I disagree with their business philosophies. I believe in building great products first and foremost, and basing all growth upon a quality service. Remote Year isn't doing that.

I wouldn't have left for that reason alone, because goodness knows I'll miss my friends more than I care about being right, but it's something that makes me feel better about parting ways.

 

So what now?

I'm traveling on my own for a little while, through Europe, before I meet Jeff in New York. He's already there. We need a little time apart to hit the reset button.

After that, we'll have a home base on the Upper West Side. I'll travel several times per year, often for a month or so at a time. I'm not sacrificing nomadism. I'm just making my own pace.

When I was exhausted, completely at the end of my rope, after bouts of illness in La Paz, Jenn told me to slow down. Slow means something different for everyone - for Jenn, it means staying in one place for months before moving. For me, it means coming home often and traveling for shorter periods. One month instead of six.

I want to travel, I still want to work from anywhere, but I want to come home.

That's tough to do when you don't have a home.

 

My new itinerary:

  • June: London
  • July: Dubrovnic, Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, Amsterdam
  • August: NYC and North Carolina, to see my friends and family
  • September: NYC, Lisbon, Porto, Morocco, Barcelona
  • After that, for the forseeable future: NYC.

Trips that are probably next on the list:

  • A very relaxing beach with Jeff
  • San Fran, with Chloe, in early 2017
  • Japan, with Jeff
  • Scotland, with Chloe, in a few years
  • Rocky mountains, with Jeff
  • Somewhere with Amanda. Where do you want to go, Amanda?

Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

Answers to your burning questions

Why haven't you written anything in forever?

Because writing Colloquial.ly for me has always been a passion project. I never gave myself rules or deadlines. I write for joy.

I haven't needed to write to find joy in London. I'm too busy finding joy in London.

What are you up to? 

EVERYTHING. Just look at my Instagram

You've written a lot of RY critique lately. What are you doing now?

Well, after London (on June 30th), I'm leaving Remote Year. I'll write about why in the coming week.

I'm traveling on my own in July, then moving to NYC in August. I'll be there for a couple of months, then traveling for another month, then back in NYC. Long-term, I'll still nomad, but I'll have a SWEET home base on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. 

Where are you traveling?

In July: Dubrovnik, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Amsterdam. Helluva July. 

In Sept / Oct: Lisbon, Porto, Morocco (cities TBD), Barcelona.

Alone?

Sometimes, sometimes with / meeting up with friends. I have friends all over the world now. It's great.

Can you elaborate?

Later. Right now I'm enjoying my last few days with my RY family. Martin baked bread and we're watching Game of Thrones.

To be continued.

An updated, annotated packing post

A reader asked me today if I had a packing post. Technically I do, but I wrote it before I left and before I knew anything about anything.

So it's basically worthless.

Here's that list, annotated and updated.

CLOTHES

  • 5 short sleeve shirts -- I think I still have 5, but I want different ones because I'm so bored of them
  • 2 tanks -- ditched one, now just have a basic black one
  • 1 long sleeve shirt -- I spilled pasta on this in Bolivia and had to ditch it
  • 1 wool sweater -- I don't think I actually brought this. I SHOULD HAVE.
  • 1 wool cardigan -- SEE ABOVE. I AM COLD.
  • 3 jackets -- I only have two now, a thin floral one for hot weather and a black bomber for chilly
  • 1 skirt -- still have this, but very much want to replace it
  • 1 pair of denim shorts -- ditched. They've never fit right and it's cold in Peru. I'll buy another pair in Europe.
  • 1 pair of jeans -- I want to replace these so badly - they don't fit right at all
  • 1 pair of tights -- also something I didn't pack and TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE
  • 2 jumpsuits -- ditched. They fell apart.
  • 2 sundresses (one that's nice enough for going out) -- Still have, but haven't worn them since it's been cold.
  • Black combat boots -- ditched, but wore them to death first. MVP packing item. They're just falling apart.
  • Bronze oxfords -- reluctantly keeping since I ditched the above
  • Rainbow flip flops -- kept, for beaches
  • Old (but cute) sandals that I'll either ditch or replace during the year when they fall apart -- keeping until they actually break
  • Running shoes -- keeping, duh
  • 1 ultralight rain jacket -- MVP, I wear this all the time
  • 1 packable down jacket (La Paz, Bolivia is at 12,000 feet elevation - brrrrr) -- ditching after Peru
  • 1 zip-up hoodie -- reluctantly keeping because I'm cold
  • 7 pairs of socks (a few no-show, one set of Smartwools, one black pair, and some trusty Balegas) -- keeping all of these.
  • 10 (probably) pairs of underwear -- I almost wish I packed more.
  • 2 sets of PJs (two comfy tees, one pair of PJ pants and one pair of PJ shorts) -- ditched everything except one tee and one pair of PJ pants
  • 1 pair of workout capris -- I packed two, why?? Who knows.
  • 2 Nike dri-fit workout tops (the best) -- Only needed one.
  • 1 sports bra -- keeping.
  • 3 necklaces (one that I'll never take off) -- Only packed two. Keeping both: one casual, one dressy.
  • 1 set of earrings + 1 ear cuff -- keeping, and I wear them every day
  • 2 rings (that I'll never take off) -- see above.

TOILETRIES

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste -- keeping because I'm not a monster
  • Dr. Bronner's -- MVP. Keeping.
  • Travel sized skincare - cleanser, moisturizer, and maybe a travel sized mask -- I would do terrible things for a face mask right now
  • Makeup (which makeup? TBD) -- I'm almost out of everything. Restocking in London.
  • Chapstick -- SO necessary
  • Travel sized shampoo and conditioner (I'll buy more when we get there) -- Protip: shampoo in South America sucks. Bring a full-sized bottle.
  • Simple wipes -- should have brought more of these. 
  • Nail clippers -- very glad to have them.
  • Tweezers -- see above.
  • Add: tampons

ELECTRONICS

  • 15" Macbook Pro, in a hardshell case -- yep, still have this
  • iPhone 6 -- see above
  • Bose in-ear noise cancelling earbuds (totally worth the splurge - they're an introvert's dream)  -- see above
  • Nikon D3200 + 35 mm lens  -- see above
  • Zoom lens -- want to ditch, but too expensive to ditch
  • Kindle Paperwhite -- use it often!
  • Chargers -- necessary, I have my in a cable organizer pouch and it's great
  • Converters (one universal, one Apple converter set for my computer and phone) -- very useful, but I ditched the universal one and just steal Jeff's
  • Backup battery (for my phone) -- I didn't bring this and haven't needed it
  • External hard drive -- for peace of mind!
  • SIM card ejector tool -- an earring works just fine

ETC

  • A portable pharmacy (brand names only if I don't know the active ingredients off the top of my head): ibuprofen, dimenhydrinate (motion sickness), doxylamine succinate (for snoozy woozys), Pepto, Immodium, malaria pills. -- glad to have the advil, sleeping pills, stomach meds, and cold meds. The rest is superfluous.
  • Tortuga packing cubes -- so helpful for organization
  • Pen + travel journal -- it's my thing and I kind of regret that it's my thing
  • My ankle brace (you suck, broken tibia) -- super valuable.
  • Travel towel -- oddly useful - I use this a lot more than I thought I would
  • Neck pillow -- duh, for overnight flights
  • Curling iron (a luxury to make me feel more normal) -- yep, glad I brought this
  • Collapsible tupperware (maybe) -- didn't pack them and I'm glad I didn't
  • My travel spork (hey - it's useful) -- ditched, why the hell did I bring this?

There ya have it. For the stuff I'm going to buy to add to this packing list, see here.

Header image via Unsplash.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.