In ELLE.com’s monthly Office Hours series, we ask people in powerful positions to tell us about their first jobs, worst jobs, and everything in between. This month, we speak with Glennon Doyle, best-selling author, founder of the nonprofit Together Rising, and host of the podcast. we can do hard things, named for his signature and oft-repeated motto. Doyle began sharing her writing on her viral blog, Momastery, where she opened up about her life as a progressive Christian mother. Since those early days of the internet, Doyle’s fans have watched her transform on and offline, all while she navigated some of the hardest and most beautiful things in life. Throughout her three memoirs, she has written about eating disorders and addictions; maternity; infidelity; divorce; falling in love with her now wife, soccer legend Abby Wambach; shared parenting; and her continuing mission to share her bravest and most authentic self with the world. “When we are open and radically curious, we inevitably change,” says Doyle. “That, to me, is victory.” Here, she shares how she has carved out her career as “an anxious and very sensitive person,” the intentional ways she protects her work, and the dream job she hasn’t done yet.
My first job
My first real job that was important to me was teaching. My parents were teachers and it was understood to be the most important job in the world. I still think that, and I still miss him. Little Known Fact: The first book I ever published was a teaching book. My entire class spoke English as a second language, and most of my students were new immigrants. It was back when No Child Left Behind was all the rage, and standardized tests were beginning to track children in profoundly negative ways. I saw that happen to my students, because they were brilliant, but they couldn’t show their brilliance on these tests. My colleague Amy Greene and I figured out a way to help them pass the tests that was legal. Our school started using it, and then a bunch of schools in the district, and then it turned into a book called test talk. Teaching is when I saw up close the effects of institutionalized racism, ableism, and classism. I had a front row seat in a third grade classroom, watching my babies being slowly sent off before they had a chance. I think that affects everything I do.
my worst job
I was a waitress for a while. In most jobs, there’s a set of expectations that everyone agrees on, and if you meet those expectations relatively, then you get paid, right? With the waitress, that’s not what happens. Every damn person that walks in has their own set of expectations for you and how you should conduct yourself and what good service means to them. A million times a night, you have to analyze other people’s expectations of you and deliver, hoping to get paid. I don’t know of any other job that is so dependent on the whims of whatever person walks in, whether you earn a living or not.
Why being a podcaster is perfect for me
I have always been a huge introvert. I have always said that I love people, but not in person. I love humanity, but not human beings. Being a supersensitive and introverted child, I met people by sitting in a corner and reading ramona and again. And that’s what I do now. Basically, I do a book-wide report on each person that comes in the capsule. I go for a walk, and I think about them, and about me. [co-host] my sister and I got together and exchanged ideas. After [my other co-host] Abby responds to everything in real time. I recently sent him this meme that read, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to have the job of a podcaster whose only job is to respond in real time to the other podcasters that have been preparing?” But that’s why people love her, because she’s in the moment.
The best and worst of working with my wife
Working with Abby means that our life is an ongoing conversation. We don’t have any separation between what happens in our work lives and in our personal conversations, and that’s also the hard part. For example, I realized that I was letting go of a frustration I was having with her on the podcast. we were in a staff conversation, and I was so upset, because I felt that she was not being concise enough. I was like, “Wrap it up, wrap it up.” Then we had to talk about how maybe we need to communicate more professionally in the podcast space so that we can say things like that there and not carry it into the house. My point is that the hardest part is putting on two different hats. Here we are colleagues, who also love each other and want to be tender with each other. Then when we’re not on the podcast, I can’t send it anymore. It’s hard, but I feel very lucky. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And it’s only difficult because we are very careful with each other, because we love each other very much.
The intentional way I built my team
Throughout my career, I have strategically kept my team very small. There have been a million turns along the way where we could have grown, but I knew I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to create a monster that I would have to feed for the rest of my life. And as an artist and an activist, I needed to be with people who knew that I could screw this up for us at any time, even on purpose; He could say something that would mean it was over. Everyone on my team knows that this is how we live. We will never let what is “okay” to say or do dictate whether or not we do it. That kind of agility requires everyone to be so aligned and passionate about what we’re doing. So our entire team is me, my sister Abby, and our two best friends, Dynna and Allison. There is a silver lining to keeping it so small, but the dark side is that everyone is overworked. We don’t have big boundaries between us, which is ironic, because we teach about boundaries. We are obsessed with limits; it’s just that we don’t believe in them ourselves [laughs]. So we email and text each other at two in the morning. But it works for us, because we are a small family.
The way I view mental illness as a strength
I constantly discover that the people I like the most, who I think are the most interesting, the ones who do the most for the world, the most creative, the kindest, the brightest people, are often people who have mental illness. sort out. Many people become addicted because of that deep sensitivity or longing for something different from what is shown to us in everyday life. The distance between accepting everything as it is and yearning for more, even though that can lead to turning that off with things that hurt us in the long run, is art, philanthropy, and activism. We can reach for the things that hurt us, but when many of us realize that, we keep reaching, and that reaching turns out to be all that is good in the world. I think people who are sensitive or anxious are often just people who are really paying attention. If you’re paying attention, there’s a lot to be looking forward to. Having said this, [mental illness] can be a fool
How do I refocus after a stressful day at work?
I will go for a walk with my wife. I think walking saves me every day. I no longer want to exercise in a way that causes suffering; I’ve done enough of that in my life. And I don’t put anything in my ears so I can hear myself think. Then when I get home from that I usually sit with my dogs. I just love my dogs very much. It’s something about how they are the only beings who love me the more the less productive I am. Everybody else says they love you, but they really want you to do shit. Dogs say, “Please, if you sit here all day, if you binge on Netflix, if you stay here, we’ll love you more.”
How I’ve changed in the public eye while still honoring my past
I have come to believe that life is about evolving. It’s about constantly taking in every conversation, everything you read, every person you meet, every place you see, and allowing it to transform you into the next most beautiful version of yourself. And I don’t think it has to be dramatic. When we are open and radically curious, we inevitably change. That, to me, is victory. But I have come to understand that this is not how everyone sees life. People will say to me, “How are you so different now than you were in your first book? Are you being honest now, or were you being honest then? But that was as true as it could be then, and I am being as true now as I can be now. If I were the same person I was 10 years ago, I would be devastated. I am constantly surprised by myself. Seven years ago, I thought I was a straight Christian Pisces. Now, I’m a queer, agnostic, [and a little] Christian-y Aries. I found out I’m not even a fucking Pisces. I have been reading the wrong horoscopes for 20 years! And I won’t write another book until I’m a new person. So I hope to keep changing.
This interview has been edited and abridged for clarity.
Madison is a Senior Writer/Editor at ELLE.com covering news, politics and culture. When she’s not on the internet, chances are you can find her napping or eating banana bread.
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