Yet for all that, Cousin…

By Jess Hutchinson

Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in Much Ado About Nothing

Yet for all that cousin, let [it] be a [job that aligns with your values, respects your boundaries, offers equitable pay that allows you to thrive, thoughtful management, and human-centered policies],

Or else make another curtsy and say ‘[Employer], as it please me.’

Much Ado About Nothing if Beatrice was job hunting in this economy. Or so I imagine.

I recently wrote the most brazen cover letter of my life. This was for the top job at a nonprofit I know well – a job that I had already told myself I didn’t want. But then came a gchat from a dear friend that was basically “you applied for this, right? I just told the recruiter to hire you,” and over the course of telling him why I had not in fact applied for the job I whipped myself into a frenzy about what I would love to do if I were given the reigns. “See? This is why you should apply,” he said. And so, I did. And I was honest.

Some excerpts:

The many systems of oppression baked into the foundation of this country and our city are also alive and well in our arts and culture organizations. And now, the American theater has come to a crossroads. As we continue to emerge from two and a half grueling pandemic years, the dual forces of nostalgia and a scarcity mindset are encouraging us to scurry “back to normal” as quickly and cheaply as we can. But we are not the same people we were in February 2020. We have an opportunity to recognize that “normal” wasn’t working for everyone, which means it wasn’t working full stop.

I believe the [organization] can lead by example and take the combined opportunities of the broader cultural context and its own leadership transition to ask the deep, existential questions that so many in our field are afraid to ask.

If given the opportunity to serve as the [organization’s] next [HBIsugarcoatC], I would, with care and rigor, take this organization down to the studs.

I believe that, in order to be able to deeply listen to and integrate the community’s feedback, the next [leader] as well as the Board of Directors must be able to stomach the possibility that the answer [to whether the org is serving its community] is “no” or at least “not like this.” I am not advocating in advance for the dissolution of the organization I’m applying to lead – but I want to be clear that without creating room to openly ask deeply existential questions about an organization’s efficacy within its community, continued relevance, let alone new growth, is never possible.

I had a lovely first interview with the firm leading the search. The recruiter asked me for my availability for the next round. And then – the selection committee did not invite me to move forward. But what I got from the experience of telling the full, unvarnished truth in this process is proving to be far more valuable.

Having been socialized as female in the capitalist hellscape of the late 80s/early 90s, I was taught that the path to success was paved with saying no to drugs and “following my bliss.” I was assured that I could grow up to be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard, was a good girl, didn’t cause trouble, and waited my turn.

Fast forward 30 years, and this conditioning, like a polka-dotted Mary Engelbreit nightmare, bloomed where it was planted, and here I am, spending a great deal of time, effort, and therapy working to weed a whole seed catalog’s worth of perfectionistic, people-pleasing invasive species out of my brain garden. Figuring out what I actually want, what “bliss” or at least contentment looks like, how to essentialize my values and let alignment with them measure my success (rather than counting the pages in my sticker-book of “attagirls,” admiring the artifacts of a job well done begrudgingly affixed to it by the powers that be): this might be, as it turns out, my most challenging life’s work.

For perhaps the first time, while I wrote this cover letter and answered first interview questions, I didn’t sugar coat my ideas or try to bend my responses into what I thought would please the search committee. I owned my experience, my point of view, and my understanding of the moment in which we find ourselves and the work I believe is required to anchor our efforts in authentic equity and justice. Turns out, I might no longer be content to be a good girl, to not cause trouble, to place other people’s approval over my own integrity and vision.

When I was younger, I remember hearing that the difference between a woman under 30 and a woman over 40 was this: a woman under 30 walks into a room thinking “oh god, I hope they like me” while a woman over 40 walks into a room thinking “oh god, I hope I like them.” This is, as is any such distillation, an oversimplification. But here’s what: I remember hearing that in my 20’s and thinking “oh god, I hope it’s true.”

Well, Past Jessie, I’m happy to report that, at least when it comes to how you make the money that lets you live inside the house, it just might be.

A Story in Memoriam

Last month, our community suffered a huge and very unexpected loss.

Deborah Napier was a remarkable human being – her talent and humor were somehow, inexplicably, matched by her generosity of spirit, friendship, and unwavering support of her friends and colleagues.

There are so many stories we could share, but we loved what our own Jennifer Dean wrote in a fitting tribute.

By Jennifer Dean

I met Deborah Napier in the catering world and like so many in that world, she was talented and creative – and I was lucky enough to get to work with her creatively. She was a wonderful loyal friend and a hilarious co-worker, but for this post I want to tell a story about Deb – the actor/writer/director

May be an image of 2 people

When I showed Deb the above shot she referred to it as her “Law and Order” look. We were working on a 30-second video idea she had for a competition. She had mentioned it to me during a catering event – and I offered up shooting and editing it. Despite my being new to film school and not really knowing what I was doing, she took me up on it. I am not quite sure if the other elements also came together at various events (her friend Rachel suggested the location, her friend Brett acted in it) – but she made it all work in a super short amount of time. My friend Daniel from film school joined us to help out and we shot the bulk of it in an afternoon.

Deb’s idea was to have a horde of cats chasing her at the end of the short. Well that was WELL beyond my VFX skill set… but she was gracious enough to work with me to come up with something simpler – using my favorite neighbor cat Thomas and the pig outside Rudy’s… Well here’s the thing – we didn’t know anyone at Rudy’s and didn’t have permission to shoot there. I figured we could just quickly get the shots on my small DSLR camera without anyone noticing… of course, I was not at all experienced and things didn’t go as smoothly as I figured they would.

SO… of course we got caught by the bouncer – who it turns out was an actor who had been on “Orange is the New Black.” Deb being Deb ended up chatting with and charming him so not only did we get to finish shooting, but he offered to help us and bought us both a drink when we were done.

Deb was a creative force in so many ways. She supported so many in their work as well as exploring different forms of expression herself. She will be missed – and remembered.

One of my favorite lines in literature is at the end of a chapter in Madame Bovary – “elle n’existe plus”… which literally translates to “she no longer exists.” When I first read it, I thought to myself, ah yes but this is far from the end of the book, we have at least another chapter, and the titular character is no longer… she doesn’t cease to exist because there’s more to the book. She lives on in memories and those she has affected in life.

Deb lives on with those of us she has touched and I look forward to the time when the memories make me laugh not cry.

Sending hugs to all who loved and lost her.

the 30-second video from that day way back when

My Pandemic Diary Drawings

Original drawings and text by Judith Sussman

When friends suggested that I capture these surreal times by drawing empty NYC streets, I thought that was too depressing.

Then I got the idea to do these “Diary Drawings” of my experiences and observations living through this pandemic…

PANDEMIC WALKS summarizes the daily walks my friend and I take, often in Soho,  and some of the architecture we got to admire especially in the beginning when there was little traffic or other distractions. But even now my walks with my neighbor are all about interesting discoveries in architecture, murals, street performers, etc.  

Pandemic Walks

CO-OP LIFE is more about the differences in living in a large co-op during a pandemic.

Co-Op Life

SHELTERING IN PLACE is about the initial lockdown and all we had to do, and not do, differently.

Sheltering in Place

DIFFERENTIATING DAYS was in response to so many people asking me what I did all day. And aren’t I bored? (NO!!!)

Differentiating Days

PANDEMIC-INDUCED SELF RELIANCE is all the things we needed to learn to do without our “support system” of housekeepers, handymen, nail salons, trainers, etc.

Pandemic-Induced Self Reliance

UNDER MY WINDOW relates how the protestors affected my neighborhood – and while they were certainly loud, they were peaceful (except for the looters who, for 2-3 days, infiltrated the protests and made them look lawless).

Under My Window

BEYOND HAPPINESS “Sometimes muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”

By Aaron Andrews, CEO/Founder of Beyond Happiness; Edited by head of Operations & Production, Jennie Moss

 Where Did It All Start?

I have personally dealt with depression and anxiety while growing up and wanted to create a space where I could deal with all of the emotions I was feeling. I did not have friends I could talk to or anyone who understood what I was going through at the time. I naturally started to take matters into my own hands as I began to focus on taking care of myself more. Beyond Happiness Is broken into three main avenues of wellness that I have built for myself.

Products: One of the ways I did that was through skincare. Unfortunately, I could not find any products on the market that were a good fit for my skin type as men of color. The market for beauty products for black men was minimal, so I researched and started creating my own skincare products that worked for me. I developed each product intending to help me with the different emotions I was dealing with at the time. For example, there was a time when I was dealing with a lot of anxiety, so I made a cream with lavender to help calm me down. The products become a way for me to check in emotionally with myself through physically being present with what I’m putting on my skin.

Events: Being active and connecting with people was a huge stepping stone for my wellness. The act of me taking care of my skin spun into multiple different ways I engaged with health. I started to work out a lot more, became a certified fitness trainer in my first year at Hampshire College, and worked at the YMCA in Northampton, Massachusetts. As a result of me taking charge of my wellness and developing healthy ways to cope, I immersed myself in new relationships and friendships with people in hopes of building a community and meaningful experiences for myself and others around me. Now I can host events through Beyond Happiness that encapsulate different aspects of wellness while helping others share stories and connect with themselves. 

For Anyone Having a Bad Day

Videos: I can think back to when I was fifteen years old. I remember the first time I got a device on which I could record video. I would create many videos of my friends and film everything that meant something to me. My friends would ask, “Aaron, why are you always filming stuff” At the time, I didn’t have an answer besides “I just like to,” But today, I do have an answer. I make videos because sometimes people can’t say what they are thinking or feeling and when I film people and myself, I can capture the emotions and feelings that can’t be told in words but only in moments. As a result of taking care of my skin, working out, eating healthy, creating new friendships, and learning about wellness, I was able to create an environment where I was actively managing my depression and anxiety and completely changed my life. Beyond Happiness has improved my life in all areas, and I got excited about figuring out how to help others overcome their own wellness struggles. I am not saying I can cure depression or anxiety. I have realized that I can share with people the tools to help them manage it themselves.

That is how Beyond Happiness was born – a multimedia business/brand. Our mission is to help other people love who they are and provide tools where different people can learn more about themselves while engaging with unique, sustainable skincare products and wellness-related video content. As you see, it is more than just skincare products. It is about wellness overall. I like to say, “Happiness is not what you go get. Happiness is what you do every day.”

Feel encouraged to reach out: Aaron Andrews at / Jennie Moss,