It all started with a text message
Four years ago, My Sweet Dumb Brain was born.
On August 1, 2018, I texted my friend Becca. “Hey, I’m thinking about starting a newsletter about figuring out emotions and navigating life’s ups and downs,” I wrote.
It was 10:33 p.m., and instead of sleeping, I was wide awake with ideas. I shared my vision for the newsletter, and its key component—being kind to yourself. Focusing on self-kindness, I explained, “would sort of be an exercise for me since that’s the thing I’ve consistently struggled with the most.”
I even told her my idea for the newsletter name. “I’m thinking about calling it My Sweet Dumb Brain,” I shared.
Becca, ever supportive and amazing, replied within minutes. “Yessssssssssss!,” she texted back. “Love this idea!” Her only moment of pause was about the newsletter title, which she wasn’t sure would work from a marketing standpoint.
(I wholly embraced her enthusiasm, but kindly ignored her advice about the name.)
A month later—exactly four years and one day ago—I sent out the first issue of My Sweet Dumb Brain. Since then, I’ve published more than 270 issues. I’ve written more than 200,000 words. I’ve addressed topics as inconsequential as having a clean house and as weighty as facing mortality. I’ve watched my list of readers grow from 100 to 1,000 to nearly 8,000 friends and strangers around the world.
And Becca, there from the first text message, has continued to be by my side. She’s served as this newsletter’s editor ever since the inaugural issue. A year after we launched My Sweet Dumb Brain, I began paying for her keen edits and insights. (She also quickly came around on the name, once I explained what it meant to me—something I wrote about in my first essay.)
Writing this newsletter has been challenging, eye-opening, and instructive. I’ve met people who share similar stories to mine and have learned from readers who offer different perspectives. I’ve written about topics outside my comfort zone and explored different post formats. I’ve grown more confident as a writer—confident enough to actually call myself a writer, which honestly feels surreal.
Maybe most surreal? I make money from this newsletter! Almost a quarter of what I’ve earned this year as a freelancer comes from My Sweet Dumb Brain. (And that’s after donating 5% to a charitable cause each month, and giving 20% to Becca!)
Getting the opportunity to write each week, share my words with thousands of readers, and make money from my writing is an absolute dream. It’s one I don’t take for granted in the slightest. And none of it would be possible without you. Whether you’re brand new to this newsletter or have been reading since the start, thank you. It is truly incredible to know that there’s someone on the other side of the screen, absorbing these words. And a special shout-out to everyone who is paying for this work. Because of your generous support, this newsletter exists. I can’t thank you enough.
🎉 Help me celebrate four years of My Sweet Dumb Brain! 🎉 For this week only, I’m offering 20% off monthly or annual subscriptions.
Looking back at that first text message, it’s amazing how much of my initial vision for My Sweet Dumb Brain has remained intact. I felt strongly about the name, the format, and the hook. Most importantly, I felt the pull to write again. After letting go of a newsletter I created at my old job, I missed having a consistent outlet to share my thoughts with an engaged audience. And, after a year-plus of living with immense grief, I knew I had a lot to say, but I wasn’t interested in posting it all on social media nor was I ready to try writing a book.
A newsletter was the answer. I’m so glad that’s where I landed.
One of my earliest observations about grief was how isolating it is. Despite the fact that we all will grieve deeply in our lifetimes, we rarely talk about the experience, save for the initial announcement that a loved one has died. We don’t describe the intensity of loss—how scary, lonely, and unmooring it can be. And because we don’t talk about it, we believe that we’re the only ones feeling this way. That there must be something wrong with us.
The same applies when we’re feeling anxious, depressed, or in a stubborn rut. But there’s nothing wrong with us. The problem lies in society, in our bizarre belief that it’s better to keep sadness to ourselves.
If the past four years of writing this newsletter has taught me anything, it’s that speaking openly about the hard things in life benefits all of us. In doing so, we feel less alone. We are better able to support each other. We gain a better understanding of the different trials we all face. Maybe best of all, we better appreciate life’s many good moments. If we’re really lucky, we learn how to hold both the heaviness and lightness of life, understanding that one can’t exist without the other.
When I started this newsletter, I didn’t dream that I’d still be writing it four years later. I certainly didn’t expect I could make money from it! But here we are. Once again, none of this would be possible without you.
As I embark on the next year of My Sweet Dumb Brain, I’m feeling more grateful than ever. Writing this newsletter is one of my greatest joys in life, and one of the ways I feel like I’m making a small difference in the world. It was born in a time when I felt incredibly lost, and it has helped me to find so much of the purpose and meaning I was looking for.
Thank you for being here. Here’s to year five!