Do Good Boundaries Make Good Co-workers?


Recently at work I was asked to scan some documents by someone who: 1) is not my boss, 2), is not in my department, and 3) knows how to use the scanner. This person, we’ll call him Stuart, is older and senior to me in terms of experience, but we are both part of our company’s small management team.

Stuart’s inquiry about the scanning was weird and oblique. He explained that he was in a rush to finish something by the end of the day, and “was there someone” who could help him scan a few pages from his notebook to send to a colleague? I was flustered and unsure what he was really asking. We work in a small office without any administrative staff; everyone does their own filing, scanning, and copying. I said there was no one really to ask. He persisted. I asked if he knew how to use the scanner. Yes, he did. Finally, wanting to help out, but more than anything not knowing how to refuse, I offered to do it for him. I then seethed about it the rest of the afternoon. I was outraged that he had asked me to do something so unrelated to my job; I wanted Stuart to think of me as a peer and to treat my time as equally valuable to his. I was also upset at myself for having volunteered to do it in the first place. [Read more...]

Do you feel beautiful? Tell us by taking our survey


When I was 14, I spent the summer at an “international leadership” summer camp in upstate New York. The summer was full of learning about the cultures of the campers from around the wold, and reflecting on ourselves. One particularly memorable session was on body image. Imagine a large handful of us adolescent girls piled into a locker room, sharing how we really truly felt about ourselves and our bodies.  At the time, I had braces and an unfortunate short haircut. In other words, I was solidly in my awkward stage, and had plenty of insecurities to share. But there were many other girls in the group who struck me as absolutely beautiful: long, smooth hair, clear skin, striking eyes. I wished to look more like them. So I was shocked when, as we went around the circle, I heard them say that they felt exactly the same way about their looks and bodies as I did. There was a strange comfort to know how universal these self-doubts were; there was no objective beauty, at least not one that permeated inside.

A few years later, post-college, Leda and I took a day trip up to Tahoe. As we met up, we laughed at ourselves: we had both put on make-up to go snowboarding. We had grown used to it and no longer felt like ourselves without it.

These notions of beauty, of how we feel about ourselves and how we present to the world are complex, and that’s to say nothing of how we perceive others.  We’re interested in learning more about your thoughts and behaviors around beauty and make-up. So we’ve teamed up with research expert Meredith on a survey about the variety of habits and perceptions we all have around beauty. All responses will be completely anonymous.

The survey is geared towards women–  please take the survey and share it widely! We’d like to get as many responses as we can.
take the survey

[Read more...]

Living With Pain


I’ve been in pain every day for three and a half years.

I injured myself in unspectacular fashion: by spending a week walking, running, and dancing around the South by Southwest festival while wearing terribly unsupportive shoes. By the end of the week my heel was hurting, but I didn’t pay it much attention until the pain got worse every day for a month. By the time I was diagnosed with chronic plantar fasciitis, I was in the worst pain of my life.

Plantar fasciitis is an injury to the band of connective tissue (fascia) that runs along the bottom of the foot, continuing all the way up the back of the leg. It is often encountered by runners, and will usually heal in a few weeks when taken care of, but it can also be incredibly stubborn. Every step you take can damage it more, especially if your body is out of alignment or your muscles are tight. Chronic plantar fasciitis in my right foot has made it difficult to do so many of the things that lift my spirit and bring me joy, not to mention function as a normal human being in our society. It hurts to dance, aches when I hike, and is uncomfortable even just to stand for an extended period of time. I have battled endless frustration, bouts of depression, and the discomfort of feeling like I am not only missing out on some of the prime years of my life, but that I am letting others down by not being there in the ways I think I should be. [Read more...]

“I Wanted to See My Name on a Label” What Happens When a Passion Sours?


“Follow your passion” is advice commonly dispensed, a trope of commencement speeches and career coaches. But what does it actually look like when someone follows a childhood dream through to a business? I sat down with Sheila Moon, the women behind her eponymous company, which specializes in women’s bike gear, to ask her about her experience doing exactly that.

Sheila always had a clear vision: she wanted to see her name on clothing labels. She worked hard over almost fifteen years to make it happen, launching the Sheila Moon brand in 2003. Yet, recently, what was a driving passion and a successful business became overwhelming and stressful, and her passion for design seeped away. Sheila described, “This was a dream I’d had and now it’s like a really nasty divorce where everything I loved, I now hate.” [Read more...]

Identity + Place, Part II: Run on Sentences


It’s part two of theme week on Small Answers, where we have two stories discussing identity and place, and how these concepts overlap and diverge (read the first piece here).

Today’s author is Duyen. For Duyen, the question “where are you from?” has always felt weighty. Duyen was born in Vietnam, moved to Southern California as a child, and now lives in New York City. Her memories of each place are tied to many and varied  things – TV shows, relationships, sounds, flavors – and she finds connection to her past in unexpected ways.

The question “Where are you from?” has never had a simple answer for me. Growing up, I was never sure if the asker wanted to know where I was born or where I live, and now, I wonder if they want to know where I was raised.
It seems like a small question, but for me it holds a lot of big answers. It asks how I identify myself and what shapes me—is it the country and culture my family is from? Is it the place where I made my first friends? Or is it where I feel most at home?

So, where am I from? [Read more...]