Career Advice

IN PURSUIT: Nora McInerny, Episode 9 Transcript

Feature img Ep 9

In the span of a few weeks, thirty-something Nora McInerny had a miscarriage, lost her father to cancer, and lost her husband due to a brain tumor. Her life fell apart. What Nora discovered during this dark time is that, when you’re in these hard moments, it can feel impossible to feel like even a shadow of the person you once were.  Amazingly enough, Nora has built a career out of her pain. Through her books, podcast and speaking engagements, Nora doesn’t just offer advice to those who have lost a spouse, but for anyone who has gone through a major life struggle.

I can relate 100 percent. At 32 years old, I lost my husband, Jeremiah. He died very unexpectedly after his heart simply gave out while he was on vacation with friends. Needless to say, it changed the entire course of my life and his family’s lives. Though I tried to go back to work, thinking it would help, there was no way for me to prioritize work when my entire life had shattered. I was fortunate to be able to quit my job and take time off, but my family didn’t have that luxury, nor did they have employers who understood that it takes more than 2 days of PTO to process the loss of a son, brother, cousin and friend.

Oftentimes, grief is treated as a feeling that someone will either “get over” or “move on from.” However, in my experience and in Nora’s, nothing could be farther from the truth. Grief can be like an unseen illness or disability it affects everything you do but yet those around you don’t know what you’re battling.

Furthermore, grief can be felt for the loss of a loved one, but also for the loss of other sentimental things. As Nora Tweeted, “Grief is not *just* reserved for death loss. If you’re grieving a loss of love, self, career, health, dreams…that’s real and valid. There is no hierarchy, no point system.” 

Take a little time to enjoy our conversation about all things grief, self-care and the importance of empathy at work.

Click to listen now.  Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Through honest and candid conversations, guests share how they navigate their careers through achievements, hurdles and heartbreaks encountered along the way.  If you have a question or feedback for us, message us on Twitter (@glassdoor using the hashtag #InPursuitPod).


Amy Elisa Jackson: I’m Amy Elisa Jackson and this is IN PURSUIT, the podcast from Glassdoor. In every episode we share the real stories of people navigating life’s most pivotal moments, at the intersection of the personal and professional. In the span of a few weeks, 30 something Nora McInerny had a miscarriage, lost her father to cancer and lost her husband due to a brain tumor. Her life fell apart. What Nora discovered during this dark time is that when you’re in these hard moments, it can feel impossible to feel like even a shadow of the person you once were. Amazingly enough, Nora has now built a career out of her pain through her bestselling books, award-winning podcast and speaking engagements. Nora doesn’t just offer advice to those who have lost a spouse, but for anyone who has gone through a major life struggle, Nora, welcome to IN PURSUIT.

Nora McInerny: Thank you for having me.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Are there days when you wake up and still can’t believe that this has become your career? That having a amazing podcast, having two bestselling books, but talking to people about sort of the uncomfortable aspects of life that we’re all trying to avoid? Are there days when you realize like, wow, is this really my life?

Nora McInerny: Yeah. And there are days where I actually appreciate it, which is, I mean, truly let it sink in that I get to do this stuff because I had a pretty successful career before this. I worked in advertising and marketing and I worked in-house at a big company. I worked at agencies and it was something that I was good at and it was also something that felt like life force depleting for me. And I come from a family of people who worked in advertising and found it pretty fulfilling. I remember my dad when I was in college saying, “Truly one of the most meaningful things about work is not necessarily what you do at work, but the fact that you provide for your family, that you are able to make a life from your work, not that your work has to be your life.”

Nora McInerny: So, I never harbored any delusions that the meaning of life was also the meaning of my work, but it does feel really special to have those two things be connected in that way. And I’m wondering how much of this you can relate to, but part of surviving a spouse who died young, it does put a lot of weight on you. I suppose the simplest way to put it is like a survivor’s guilt, where I do feel like the things that I do have been my way of trying to earn my place on the planet, to prove to myself or to some unknown entity that I still, I deserve to be here.

Nora McInerny: Even though Aaron, who’s my husband who died, who was so talented and so kind, and so wonderful, and everybody says that about a dead person. But it’s really true. Everybody who met him was like, “He’s so funny, he’s so welcoming, he’s so creative.” And I loved living in Aaron’s light. I loved being known as Aaron’s girlfriend and then as Aaron’s wife, and I still love being known as Aaron’s widow. And I feel most important or the best feeling days to me are not just like a gratitude that I have the work that I do, but also an acceptance of it. That I get this, and that it’s okay even though I don’t have Aaron, that it’s not as if I traded him for this life and this career. But I took what was left and I used it to make something else.

Nora McInerny: And this morning I did have that kind of morning where I was like, this is really special and really incredible. And I wrote in my journal and I talked about how yesterday I came to work and I worked with Marcel and our other producer Jayca, and we worked on an episode that I care so much about. And I got to be with these people who care about the same things that I do and work so hard at the same things I do.

Nora McInerny: And that 10 years ago I was sitting in conference rooms making creative briefs for discount haircut companies and that was okay too. That was okay. It’s just, I like this better, this is a better fit and I don’t get the Sunday sads, I don’t get that sort of anxiety on Sunday nights, because my work does reflect what I care about deeply as a person. And that is an absolute luxury and I do appreciate that.

Amy Elisa Jackson: I love what you’re saying in terms of feeling that sense of purpose in your life and feeling fulfilled in the work that you do. I want to, though, jump back a little bit to that place of when you were in advertising and just going on about your day. Would you have thought that your career would have taken this sort of turn? Had Aaron not passed, would you still be in conference rooms, writing creative briefs for an advertising agency?

Nora McInerny: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And Aaron worked in the same field as I did and he loved it because also he had such a sense of self, outside of work, and he brought so little ego to his work. So, he was a designer, so he did very different things. He works with pictures. I work with words. And I always felt like if my idea were rejected it was because I was bad, I was less valuable. And he would be like, okay, well, we’ll just do something else. So, he and I experienced that world so differently and from the moment we met, he had always encouraged me to write more, and write more on my own, not writing in an advertising capacity. And he had really encouraged that. And also, when you’re making a certain amount of money and you’ve gotten a certain amount of promotions, the idea of starting over is so-

Amy Elisa Jackson: Daunting.

Nora McInerny: … it’s so scary. It’s so daunting. And I look back at myself and I think, Nora, you were 25, you were 27, that is almost a ridiculous fear. You had no responsibilities. You had your rent to cover and that was it. You had no children, you had no real amount of debt. You didn’t own a home. You were just out in the world and it would have been fine to start over, but I was so afraid. I was always waiting for permission. And when Aaron was sick, the reality is both of us worked up until he died because we had to, and because we had not been great financial stewards for our own money because we were young and we figured we would have more time, and he got sick and we didn’t. And I stayed at work, he stayed at work, and I was unable to imagine a future for myself at all, at all.

Nora McInerny: When Aaron was very sick, I was so focused on getting through the present moment that I was unable to imagine a life without Aaron. I was unable to imagine what my world would possibly look like. And that was depression, obviously, that was grief even before he died. But I had no sort of imagination for my own self. I had no sense of who I was and what I could possibly do that would have any meaning. And also possibly more important than having meaning, would help me pay my mortgage.

Nora McInerny: So, the way that I got to where I am, is strange. I think people reach out to me often and they say, “Hey, how do I find a literary agent?” Well, I can tell you how I found one. I wrote my husband’s obituary with him, that’s not the typical route, and someone found it and then they found the blog that I had kept when Aaron was sick, and from there they asked me, “Oh, are you interested in being a writer?” And I was like, “Yes. Oh my God, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.” But I needed somebody to pick me and tell me that it was okay to want that.

Amy Elisa Jackson: That’s so interesting, this idea of wanting to be picked and wanting to be selected to do this work because it wasn’t a pivot that you decided to make, right? Talk to me about that time that you were still working and Aaron was sick. Aaron was battling cancer, brain cancer, and you felt like you still were going to work, you were still doing what you needed to do. What was that transition like between you have a steady job, you’re paying the bills, you’re doing what you need to do and then now there’s this opportunity to follow your passion, your purpose?

Nora McInerny: There was not like a big light bulb moment. It was like, and I’ve used this term before, but it was like a dimmer switch, just sort of illuminating. But first it was very, very dark. So, while Aaron was sick, I was working and my ambitions were to get my boss’s job and then my boss’s boss’s job, to make a 3% raise every year over the next 10 years and just stay in my house and figure out what I was going to do. And Aaron died and I did not, could not, do anything. I think that the thing about grief that people don’t know is that it takes up your entire brain and your executive function, which I think is like basically the front part of your brain, is fried.

Nora McInerny: You can’t do things like hold a full conversation, sleep through the night, fall asleep, wake up, you’re constantly exhausted. And I’d fallen into this depression that I kept very carefully hidden. If you wear enough makeup, if you always look somewhat put together, if you tell people you’re fine, they will believe you. Aaron died and I had stopped checking my work email, and I had assumed that I would be on FMLA leave and that would protect my job for some time. And then through whatever series of intentional or unintentional errors that were made, I was not on FMLA, and my job was not protected. I was asked to come back, I could not do it, I couldn’t do it. And I knew that everybody around me was like, “Go back, go back to work. You have a child, you have a mortgage, you have medical debt, go back to work, you’ve got to go back.”

Nora McInerny: And I could not do it, and I did not have a signed book contract yet. I had some vague interest from one agent and I just couldn’t do it. So, it was not necessarily a choice that was made, but it was made for me, and I did present it as my choice and maybe it was me being brave, but honestly it was me being depressed, and it was me being broken, and me being unable to show up to a job and do anything.

Nora McInerny: And I had an online fundraiser run for me when Aaron was sick, which is humbling and humiliating, a little bit, to be like, oh, we’re two people who have jobs and yet we don’t have any money. We did not have life insurance. And that fundraiser was a cushion, a miracle to help me pay for a funeral, pay medical debt, and keep the lights on while I sort of floundered, and I reached out to some people around me, people I trusted and said, “I can’t go back to my job. I’d really like to just focus on doing some copywriting. If anybody has a little bit of freelance work they can throw me?”

Nora McInerny: And some people reached out and I got a few jobs and it didn’t matter where I did them or when they did them, as long as I met the deadlines. And that was the kind of work that I could handle. And a book deal was made, and I had six months to write it, and that felt like forever and it was not. And I wrote that book and I wrote that book sometimes at two in the morning, and sometimes at four in the morning, and sometimes at two in the afternoon when my child was asleep, and I just cobbled something together. And my biggest motivating factor in that time, as all of these things were happening, was fear. It was fear. It was fear that my time here without Aaron wouldn’t be worth it. That I wouldn’t do enough to honor him, to honor what he had been through, and that I wouldn’t be able to survive. So, truly, as shiny as it looks from the outside, it was a lot of scrambling on the inside.

Amy Elisa Jackson: At 32 I lost my husband, Jeremiah. He died very unexpectedly after his heart simply gave out while he was on vacation with friends. Needless to say, it changed the entire course of my life and his family’s lives. As a writer I’ve often thought about writing a book, or speaking about how I’ve navigated grief. However, those close to me have said, “Amy, if you write a book, you’ll only ever be known as a widow. That doesn’t have to be all that you are. You’re so young.” But I always wonder if that’s true and what it would really mean. Nora, how did you decide that you can handle melding your personal loss and your professional life? Do you ever second guess that decision?

Nora McInerny: I don’t know that I realized that that is what I was doing. I would love to say that this was all a very strategic series of events, but really I was just doing the thing that I knew how to do, or that I was trying to figure out. So, I had not stopped, really, to consider how much of my identity would be wrapped up in my work, even though I was working on a book about my own experience. But I will say that I specifically use the word widow when describing myself, even now that I am remarried because I think that there is a lot of power in self-identifying. In taking a word and deciding what it means to you. Because when people think of a widow, they think of an older person or they think of like, an evil Disney character, a lot of evil widows out there, a lot of like embittered, they’ve got a grudge, they got-

Amy Elisa Jackson: Bitter, ugly, hunched over.

Nora McInerny: Hunched over. Yes. Yes.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Is that why you created the Hot Young Widows Club?

Nora McInerny: A little bit, because it’s so strange to be then handed this identity that doesn’t seem like it fits, and yet it is. That is what happened, your husband has died, there is a word for you and what does that word mean? And especially in western culture, I think this is specifically pretty American. We don’t have a lot of space for grief. Even if you come from a culture that has a strong grief tradition for you, you still have to fit it into the HR practices afforded by your company, and that’s even if you are lucky enough to have a full-time job. So, being able to grieve is actually a privilege.

Amy Elisa Jackson: It is a privilege.

Nora McInerny: It’s a privilege. My friend Moe is a hairstylist. She is my co-founder of the Hot Young Widows Club. She was back at the salon two days after her husband died. And you were back at work, what? A week later, you said? Two weeks later? It’s like-

Amy Elisa Jackson: I was. Yeah.

Nora McInerny: And that’s because it’s like, you don’t work you don’t make money. And if you go and read your HR policy, it might say that you have three to five days of bereavement leave and maybe you will be a lucky person who has a manager who’s like, “No, take all of the time you need.” But what is that time? And when do you feel like somebody’s personal generosity runs out, and really should that be left up to a personal choice made by a specific manager? And it’s all just very difficult. I do think that it is also very western of us to say that a person should move on from something that has happened to them, from especially something traumatic.

Nora McInerny: There’s this fear that to remember it or to discuss it is somehow dwelling on it. When really, and I said this in a Ted Talk, but let me plagiarize myself, which is that we move forward with all these experiences and we don’t tell somebody, nobody would tell you, by the way, five years into a marriage, “Could you just get over it already? Could you just move on? We get it. You’re married.” Nobody says that if you have a child, nobody says that about your career. Like, “Get over it. Oh my God, we get it. You’re successful.” We want people to do that specifically for negative things because we feel like they don’t have a value and they do, these things shape who we are. And I am very proud of who I am now, and who I am is a person who lost their husband, who went through a beautiful love story and a traumatic story of loss, when I was 31 and, I mean, barely. I mean, by the way, a month later I was 32. FYI. But time of death, I was 31, so.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Correct.

Nora McInerny: And all of these things can exist at the same time, and they do in a life.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Agreed.

Nora McInerny: Like, the highlight reel of our life, the things that are noteworthy, that we remember, are the really happy things and the really sad things, and they have equal value. And so, it will be always a part of my identity. It will be a different part of my identity. I don’t necessarily introduce myself right now by saying, “I’m Nora, and I’m a widow.” In all situations, but in some I do. In some it feels like I want to acknowledge this huge part of my life, and especially at the beginning we don’t walk around wearing all black like Queen Victoria anymore. There’s no way to express to the outside world, hi, I just experienced something that is still with me.

Nora McInerny: I am still in the middle of something, so treat me accordingly. And so, the way that I could attempt to do that was to lead with that part of my identity. So, was it was a crucial information for the person at the Honda dealership to have? Maybe not, but I think it helped explain some of my weirdness. Like, I am here to get my oil changed, also, my husband died. I might be crying in your lobby. I don’t need any human interaction. Maybe just tell me where the Swiss Miss hot cocoa is.

Amy Elisa Jackson: I completely can relate to you. I almost find myself telling people that I’m a widow because I almost need that to sort of be like the base coat at which they understand me as a person, and they understand that everything may not always be perfect and I might start crying, and I might be sad at a particular moment, and I may be completely high functioning. And I find myself saying that I’m a widow in the very same sense that some other people say, “Oh, I’m a Pisces.” Or, “Oh, I go spelunking. Or, “I’m a yoga instructor.” It just takes up a very significant part of one’s life.

Nora McInerny: Right.

Amy Elisa Jackson: I did want to ask you, Nora, you have a real talent for sort of turning your pain into relatable humor, but how do you manage those moments when the real grief seeps through the polished exterior, when the real grief comes through and it’s not the perfect punchline, or it’s not the amazing analogy that you’re sharing with someone? How do you navigate the moments when you can’t control it?

Nora McInerny: Oh, I just let it happen. I just let it happen and it’s still so unpredictable and I say, still, and that’s five years. That’s really like, it’s just not that long. And you described it as the accordion of time and I feel that so much. Some days it feels like, wow, did that happen? Was that a hundred years ago? And some days it feels like, that just happened, wow. Aaron and I have a son together. His name is Ralph, and Ralph is seven now. What having a dead dad means at age two is so different than it is at seven, and will be different at 17, or 37. So, going through that, and also going through that with a living husband alongside me, Matthew has seen all of those moments, he’s seen all of those moments. I fell in love with Matthew as I was finally having the time to grieve.

Nora McInerny: It was a year after Aaron died. And most of those first weeks in my relationship with Matthew were him coming over and I would just be sitting on the floor of my living room, and reading poetry and crying. And I would be like, “I have to read this to you because you have to know. You have to know this is how I feel about Aaron, and I will someday feel this way about you maybe.” So, I still let that happen. And I would say most of my experience with grief has been really unpolished.

Nora McInerny: And also that part of my personality is not that I’m trying to find the funny parts in it, but that I was raised by a funny man. I married a funny man. My siblings are hilarious. And throughout all of these horrifying moments, we just had this natural levity, where Aaron as he was dying would tell me, “I will always be with you and I need you to promise me…” And I lean in and I’m like, “Oh my God, I’ll promise you anything.” And he’s like, “You have to stop picking your nose because it’s so disgusting and where do you even put the boogers?” I was like, [inaudible 00:22:38]. And you know what? I’ve not kept that promise. I still pick my nose because I like it, okay?

Amy Elisa Jackson: Well, I’m not going to tell you no, Nora, I’m not going to tell you no. Some of those moments when grief shows up are in the workplace, right? They’re with your professional colleagues. They’re in a setting where you’re supposed to be buttoned up and you’re supposed to keep it together. I think I am very privileged to work with employees and with colleagues who understand who I am, and embrace the fact that I am a widow, and the fact that I can be high performing, but I can also have emotional moments and need to work from home or just need to excuse myself from a particular meeting.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Do you feel like the workplace has become more accepting of loss and its impacts? Because grief is an emotion and an experience that every employee will have to face. But how is the workplace either improving or not improving? I think from my perspective, it is improving. But I’d love to understand from you because you hear from so many other folks who’ve gone through grief and loss.

Nora McInerny: I would say overall it’s still a terrible place. I just do, I think so much of it just ends up relying on who a person’s direct manager is. And I completely understand the need for, especially larger companies, to have, everybody needs a policy in place for something, but it ends up feeling so inhumane for so many people. And part of that is hugely systemic and it’s that we don’t have universal basic income, and that we don’t have universal health care for people. And so, especially if your person has died after a prolonged sickness, you cannot afford any more loss.

Nora McInerny: You cannot afford to grieve, because your grief has been stretched out over a long period of time and is then compounded by serious financial stress. And so, I would say, overall there are some people who feel very lucky and I am obviously … I am one of them. I had a colleague of mine go through some losses recently and I said to them, “You are taking six weeks off and we are going to pay you, and in six weeks you can come back if you want, if you’re truly ready, and we will slowly onboard you, but I need you to take this time because you will regret not taking it, and I will regret not giving it to you.”

Amy Elisa Jackson: One of the things that you highlighted was that it’s really people specific, right? This ability to handle grief and really accept loss in the workplace. What are some of those ways that all of us can really create more empathetic workplaces? How can we be better humans to those who are going through loss?

Nora McInerny: One of the things that I think is important is agency and the worst part about grieving is, I mean, everything, but one of them is that you do have this responsibility to teach the people around you this new operating system of yours that you don’t even understand. So, you are not the same person as you were before all of this happened, and yet you look kind of like the same person, maybe slightly thinner, but you-

Amy Elisa Jackson: Or in my case, a little thicker.

Nora McInerny: You look the same and you are not the same, and you might not know what you need. And so to have an environment where the people around you can give you choice and give you agency for when you come back and also give you flexibility to say, “This is how I feel today, but I don’t know if I will feel that way tomorrow.” And to understand that this is like a long-term, chronic thing. I think there’s, I really should just know this before I like spout off a fact, but there’s research that if you lose a significant other, it might take you four to seven years to feel vaguely normal again. And that’s not a scientific term, but it takes time.

Amy Elisa Jackson: I wish more people either knew that rough fact, even if it’s not a fact, that it takes four to seven years. I think there’s this expectation that if you are a high performer in the workplace and you lose your mom, or you lose your dad, or a sister dies, or even your best friend, as is the case with a lot of my husband’s friends, who lost my husband, that it does take this time. There’s this sense that somehow you are supposed to be recovered after the funeral or that you can shake it off in a few weeks. But that’s not really how it works. I have to ask, Nora, do you feel pressure to continue on the path that you’ve developed? Do you feel pressure or a sense of responsibility to continue holding this mantle in your career with your nonprofit of Still Kickin, and the Hot Young Widows Club, and books, and the podcast? Do you feel a sense of responsibility to continue on that, or do you feel like you can wake up mid 2020 and say, “You know what? I’m ready to do something else.”

Nora McInerny: I think I still just really like the work, but also to the point we made earlier about your family being like, “Then you’ll only be a widow.” This is not the only thing that I am. And I think if you read my books, or you listen to the podcast or you even come to you one of our Still Kickin events, you will understand immediately that all of my work is about the multitudes that we contain. And that I am a happy person and I am a goofy person and a funny person, and that is a big part of my identity. And the next project that I have coming out is purely humorous. That’s all. It’s a novel based on the movie Mad Moms, which is the movie that put me into labor with my youngest child.

Amy Elisa Jackson: I love that movie.

Nora McInerny: And I got to take those characters, and that story, and make it bigger, and make it funnier and have so much fun with it. And I’m going to do projects like that too. So, I think that there’s always a fear that you are only as good as, for me, it’s, I’m only as good as the next thing that I do. I don’t even allow myself to metabolize an accomplishment and I’m trying to be better at that this year and to just be happy with the things that I’ve done, and not feel this need to strive. But I do have a lot of interests that are outside of the world of sadness and grief. But I also think that this is also a permanent part of my personality and I reserve the right to express all of those facets of myself.

Amy Elisa Jackson: I love that. I love that you’re unapologetic about it. I think a lot of people who navigate a significant loss or major life struggle almost feel a sense of guilt, for either bringing other people down or not being the person that they used to be. And there’s a bit of confidence that you just have to start to develop around the new 2.0 version of you. Whether or not that’s someone who has experienced tremendous loss or just someone who is different.

Nora McInerny: Yeah. And I mean-

Amy Elisa Jackson: Oftentimes we don’t allow people to be different. Right?

Nora McInerny: No we don’t, and I think that’s a huge thing. My social circle is very different than it was before Aaron died. And I think part of that is, is it’s hard for people to be around a different version of you. And that made me very angry for a long time and now I have a lot more compassion for it, because it’s hard for me to be around people who represent that other part of my life too. And so, I think it’s just hard for everybody and everybody is doing their best. And, of course I’m not the same person that I was five years ago, and I hope that I’m not the same person in five years. I hope that you all continue growing and changing, and what else would be the point of life?

Amy Elisa Jackson: What is a great piece of professional or personal advice that you’ve received and who gave it to you and how has it really enhanced your life? For me, I think about my husband. He, I mean, quite the jokester, hilarious at all times. Thought that he knew everything, but he used to say that in your career or in a particular job, you’d only get three things. The pay, the people, or the projects. There are three things that will stand out and will be remarkable. In any one job you’ll only get two of the three. And so, you really have to think about, okay, is this job, am I going to get the pay and amazing people? Am I working on amazing projects, and the people kind of suck, but the pay is great? You’re never going to get everything that you want. And so, that has always stuck with me as I think about career decisions that I’m making, or I’m thinking about just life decisions that I’m making. But what’s a great piece of professional or personal advice that you’ve received that has just really stuck with you?

Nora McInerny: I don’t know where I learned this. Who knows? Probably a third grade teacher. And you know, your teachers used to always say, “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” And what they meant was, don’t cheat. But the true keeping your eyes on your own paper is to focus on what you are doing without comparing it against how somebody else’s doing. And that’s very, very difficult to do in a world where we have constant, constant input as to what other people are doing, or how we perceive them to be doing. And nothing can strip you of your own sense of comfort or happiness, or even just vague personal wellbeing than looking around and seeing, well, but she’s doing this. Oh, God, but she’s … I mean, Amy interviewed Brene Brown. I’ve never interviewed Brene Brown. I must be a loser. It’s just, it’s so, so easy to do that and it’s very, very easy for me to do that especially. And so, as much as possible, I do try to just keep my eyes on my own paper and do my own thing. And that is very, very difficult.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Yeah. Running your own race is difficult, especially in the face of not just the accomplishments and success, and you look at what’s on Instagram, but then in the face of grief, it’s really, really tough to keep your eyes on your own paper and run your own race, when friends are getting pregnant, friends are married, folks are like, “Oh yeah, just celebrated 15 years of marriage.” And you’re like-

Nora McInerny: Wow, good for you. That sounds so great.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Yeah. It’s tricky, “All right, stay strong, enjoy.” You know?

Nora McInerny: Yeah.

Amy Elisa Jackson: It’s really, really difficult. But it’s a lesson that we all can take away, whether you have a significant loss or not, it’s just keeping your eyes on your own paper.

Nora McInerny: Especially grief, people have reached out to me and been like, “God, I just wish I was doing better. I wish I was doing as well as you are.” And I’m like, “Hmm, how badly did I misrepresent those first two years?” Because, yeah, it looked great on Instagram, there I am on top of a mountain in Arizona. I had drank a whole bottle of wine the night before, so I was on top of the mountain by 2:00 PM not 8:00 AM as I’d hoped to be and it was so difficult. But you only saw the highlights because the low lights are, they’re really not for public consumption. So, it’s very hard to be a person in the world who only knows your interior, and to be able to look around and compare that to everybody else’s exterior. So, don’t do it to yourself. Remember you are watching on Instagram, on whatever your poison of choice is. You’re really just watching somebody else’s presentation.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Nora, lastly, as you look ahead, what are you most in pursuit of? Aka, what’s next?

Nora McInerny: I am honestly in pursuit of peace and appreciation for the things that I have already done, because I have not enjoyed them and I have not appreciated them, and I have not even taken a moment to savor them, and I want to retroactively savor them. That is what I am in pursuit of right now, is to pause the pursuit. Truly, is to just appreciate, for once, because it’s been such a frantic five years and I really want to take a minute and be here. I just want to be here.

Amy Elisa Jackson: We are more connected than you can even imagine. My focus is contentment. Trying to just focus on not being extremely happy or extremely sad, or extremely in pursuit of something, or just lazy as fuck. It’s just contentment. Just being okay with just being, because so many times, like you said, you can feel like you’re constantly on the go, that you have to achieve the next thing, meet the next milestone, get the next promotion, climb the next mountain, but there’s something about being content.

Nora McInerny: It is.

Amy Elisa Jackson: And looking back and savoring what you’ve either accomplished or what has come into your life. Thank you so much, Nora, for joining us on IN PURSUIT. I truly appreciate it.

Nora McInerny: Thank you. Me too.

Amy Elisa Jackson: Thanks for listening to IN PURSUIT, the podcast from Glassdoor. This episode was produced by Lee Schneider and Alison Sullivan, music by Epidemic Sound. Production by Red Cup Agency. Look for us on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. If you’re on Apple, don’t forget to share the love. Give us some stars. Leave a comment. Thanks for listening. I’m Amy Elisa Jackson, and this is IN PURSUIT.

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