Since launching this weekly newsletter in July, I’ve learned a lot — not just about the general logistics of planning and sending out a new issue each week, but also from the people I’ve interviewed and writers who have contributed essays.
Today I wanted to reflect on those conversations and writings and remember my favourite quotes or pieces of advice that I hope to carry with me into the new year.
Until next week,
In November, I married my best friend. Though I was hesitant about marriage for many years, I believe it’s possible to build a partnership between equals. I also believe that people can change social norms and redefine the concept and structure of marriage.
Sidra Qasim and husband Waqas, co-founders of Atoms shoes, are a great example of a couple who help support each other, building a life and business together.
I particularly love this quote from Podium’s interview with Sidra on how they work to keep their relationship strong:
“I don't want to sugarcoat it. We were 18, 19 years old when we connected… And we have seen our ups and downs. We learned a lot about ourselves…We are still learning about ourselves. But the good thing is that as long as you are listening to each other and giving each other that space, you can make it work.”
Perhaps 2021 was my year of exciting partnerships because I also launched a production company with Apple TV+ in March. It is something I’ve dreamt about for a long time and we have some exciting projects in the works that I hope you will be able to enjoy in the next few years. The woman tasked with bringing those films and TV shows to life is Erika Kennair, a brilliant and effervescent Hollywood veteran who has produced fantastic series like The Flight Attendant and You.
Podium spoke with Erika ahead of the Emmy Awards and she offered great insight into forging a career in entertainment – but I also think it’s applicable to any industry.
“Sometimes people think that there's a really set path to being in the entertainment industry – that you have to work at an agency, then get on a desk and then get promoted on that desk. I did not follow that path, and I feel like I am a better producer for having a varied experience.”
After reading Nadia’s memoir Aftershocks for my book club, I asked her to contribute a piece for Podium since I loved her writing so much. (President Obama just added Aftershocks to his favorite books of the year list…but my Literati book club read it back in March! To join my trendsetting group of booklovers, sign up here.)
Nadia chose to write about apologies – and how uncomfortable we can be with authentically giving and receiving them. This particular section of her essay stuck with me:
“I am someone who apologizes often. I say sorry for responding to an email a day after I received it, for needing to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water during a meeting, for being shoved into someone on a crowded train, for asking a question, for crying. In this, I am not alone…But, if we can’t apologize sincerely for small hurts we cause to the people we love most, who are most likely to easily accept, then what chance do we have to repair serious hurt and secure reparations for historical harm?
Perhaps my discomfort with responding to the apology texts and emails I received last year was not just because I was tired. Perhaps it was also because there were things in myself I wasn’t yet prepared to examine. And isn’t self-examination an important step toward accountability? Isn’t it the difference, or an important part of the difference, between self-righteousness and righteousness?”
Speaking with the cast of Ted Lasso about teachers who made an impact in their lives was a personal highlight for me this year. (Yes, it’s up there with getting married and launching a production company. If you’re a Ted Lasso fan, you understand.) When I asked Cristo for a sentence or two about a memorable teacher, he generously contributed a long, detailed response, which included this lovely anecdote:
“I’m grateful for my family and friends back home in Guadalajara, because it was with them that I found the support I needed to move on. Especially my parents Martha & Enrique who, just like Mami, encouraged me to always keep trying new things. After fútbol, they encouraged me to pursue education. They said ‘study anything, but just study.’ So I went to university for a BA in Communication and it was there where I found my passion for filmmaking and acting.
You can imagine my parents' faces as I said to them: ‘So Mamá, Papá, you know how I mentioned I quit fútbol?’ ‘Yes, son, thank God you did that,’ they replied. Then I said to them ‘Well, now I wanna be an actor!’ and my parents replied, ‘Ay Dios mío, why?!’”
COP26 was a major news story this year – but amid all the analysis and theater, I was most interested in how young people, particularly young women, are leading the fight against climate change. Last month, I had the pleasure of learning from 19-year-old Xiye Bastida, a leading voice for Indigenous and immigrant visibility in climate activism. She shared this quote as part of our issue ahead of the COP26 meetings in November:
“Women are linked to the source of life, the source of water and food. Their right to cultivate a traditional connection to life systems at different scales (family, community and water basins, for instance) should be at the heart of their demands. Nurturing life systems rely on nurturing women, and this is taught [to us] in Indigenous and rural communities [from when] we are small girls.”
Afghanistan continues to weigh heavy on my mind this year. In November, Podium spoke with cookbook author Durkhanai Ayuba about her book Parwana and how her family is helping support the Afghan community from their home in Australia. Our Q&A with Durkhanai went way beyond recipes and measurements – she has become a steward of her family’s history and discussed how we can better reframe the Afghan people’s story in the global context.
“As an Afghan woman, I am thinking about the narratives and language I normalise now, that I want to pass on to the next generation – where we don't see ourselves as a problem or an issue to be solved or as victims alone. We have to be able to reclaim the narratives of ourselves and reorient the world in how it engages with us.”
Finally, my friend Vee celebrated the launch of her first book Empowered this month. She inspires me every day – and this particular quote from our Podium interview shows why:
“I feel there is a beauty in failing, a beauty in discovering what does not work for you- so set your goals as deep as your desires run. Do not hold back from what you really want because you will always wonder what if, so shoot for stars, the moon and the universes we are yet to discover.”
Thank you again for reading my newsletter. I hope you also found meaning and inspiration from Podium. I also would love to know what you’d like to see more of — or voices you think would elevate our discussions. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please leave them in the comments below.