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How do we move forward post-Election Day? How do you know when/if to have kids? Why does the space bar sound like that? And more!

 (00:00) to (02:00)

J: Hello and welcome to Dear Hank and John.  It's a comedy podcast about death, where myself, John Green, and usually my brother Hank Green, although not this week, because he is on paternity leave, answer your questions, provide you dubious advice, and bring you all the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon.  This week, I am so thrilled to be joined by Ashley Ford.  Hi, Ashley.

A: Hi, John.  I'm so glad to be here.

J: So tell us a little about yourself.  Right, I like to put the self promo right at the beginning, so 100% of listeners hear it.  

A: Okay, my name is Ashley Ford, obviously.  I'm a writer and an editor and I do those things, you know, sort of like, freelance or as some people want to be more fancy call it, "self-employed", and then during the day, I'm a Development Executive at a company called Matter Studios and I work in webseries and documentaries for them.  I'm working on a book.  I write stuff on the internet all the time, and I'm just, like, pretty much around.  Like, I'm just around.  

J: Ashley's, I think, one of the best follows that you can possibly have on the website Twitter, but also I'm a huge fan of your essays, both memoir-y and otherwise, and very excited for your book.

A: Aw, thanks, John.  I'm excited about it, too.  We just gotta, you know, do the thing.  Finish the thing.

J: I am familiar with that very problem.  I am living with it right now.

A: Yep.

J: Uh, so, Ashley, we've gotta start the pod by answering the question that we received overwhelmingly over the last few days, which is one version or another of "What!  Oh God!  Panic!  What!  How!  What do we do!  How do I move forward!" from people who are concerned about the results of the US Election.  

 (02:00) to (04:00)

And I don't know what to tell them.

A: Um.  You know, it's really tough.  I don't necessarily know what to tell people right now, which has been strange for me, because I am, you know, I am that friend people usually have who they call and they say I don't know how to feel and I don't know what to do and I can offer reassurances and it was harder this time.  It was so much harder.  I had a really hard time reassuring myself.  I'm still not, I would say, properly reassured the way I want to be, but you know, I think at the end of the day, the thing that helps me sleep and the thing that helps me get out of bed when I wake up is the idea that I'm one person, but I'm one person with some privilege and some power and some say, and I did what I was supposed to do, I showed up at the polls and I cast my vote and my person didn't win, but I don't think that that's the last vote I get to cast, you know, and I think I actually cast votes every day with my choices, with my money, with the things that I share on social media.  I feel like now, more than ever, I just need to be conscious of how many votes I'm casting and in what direction I'm like, you know, hopefully influencing the country in one way or another.  

J: That was so beautiful, I have literally nothing to add to it, except to read a Tweet that you wrote a couple days ago that I found very useful.  You wrote, "I'm feeling a lot of things.  Not all bad.  Not all good.  Kinda scared and definitely nervous.  Mostly, I'm committed to caring for myself." and the only thing I wanna add to that is that you know, people need to take care of themselves and you know, take care of yourself and remember, like Ashley said, that every action that you take is casting a vote.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

A: Yeah.

J: That's very beautifully put.  I have nothing to add.

A: Thanks, John.  

J: Um, do you want to permanently replace Hank?  He wouldn't have been nearly as good in that one?

A: Oh, no, no, because I love listening to the pod and I love you guys' banter and you know, Hank has such a particular way of talking and is so fast and it is so, like, and (?~4:34)

J: I know.  I know, he talks so fast that you think that he's smart.  

A: I--you know what, if that's what he's doing, it's working, okay, becuase I'm usually, like, things happen in the world and I'm just like, you know, I'm really interested in how Hank is going to respond to this, because I know he's going to say smart things, and now I'm really questioning whether or not he's really saying smart things or if I'm just like, sounds smart, I'm in.

J: Right.  I think he might be speaking very fast and it's easy to mistake, it's easy to mistake that for intelligence.  Alright, I wanna ask you some questions from our listeners and maybe you can ask me some as well since I know you have access to the magical Google Doc.  

A: I do.

J: But I thought we could start with this one.  It comes from Caroline, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't actually come from Caroline, Ashley.  She writes, "Dear John and Hank, I wanna start off by saying that I love your podcast."  Thank you.  "The reason I'm writing to you is because I just lost my class election for the senior class secreterial position.  I'm feeling very sad about the loss, and even though it was a close race, I still feel as though my classmates do not like me enough to elect me to such a position.  What do you guys suggest in order to cope with this loss, and how do I still try to maintain a position to make my senior year fun for my class?"  Now, Ashley, I think we both know that Hilary Clinton wrote this e-mail.

A: I think she did.  I think she did, man.

J: Yeah.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

A: And picked Caroline, of all names and I'm like, as someone who went to North Carolina to talk to college students about (?~6:08), I'm highly suspect right now.  I am so so suspect.  

J: It's very suspicious.  Ohh, I called a lot of voters in North Carolina in the five days before the election, yeah, it was fascinating to talk to them.  I did greatly enjoy my many conversations with undecided voters on the days leading up to the election, so yeah, I don't know, what do you say to somebody who has lost an election that's very important to them?

A: Um, you know, I think that the beauty of elections, if there is a beauty, is that you really have to like, be committed to this idea that you might lose.  You know?  Like, there's this thing--

J: Right.

A: You know, like, the beauty of it isn't in the winning, necessarily, but it in the fact that people have a choice, like, that's the beauty of an election is you know, the choice, and you know, that people get to have that choice, and it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt and it doesn't mean that it doesn't smart a little bit but I think, you know, I'm a realist who errs on the side of optimism as a choice, and what I found that has been true in my life is that anytime I didn't get the thing I wanted, something better eventually came along for me that I would not have been able to take part in had I gotten the thing that I thought  I wanted, and--

J: Yeah.

A: It ended up being better for me in the long run, and I'm not saying that that's true for everyone and I'm not saying that that's how it's always going to go, but I think there is a chance, and I think there's a lot to be learned from our losses as well as our wins and I think sometimes the lesson isn't just ours.  

 (08:00) to (10:00)

I think sometimes a person loses and the people who learn from that situation are the people who either didn't choose that person or the people who didn't choose at all.  

J: That's--again, very good advice.  The only thing that I would add to that, in my life, I've definitely found that I learned more from failures and losses than I learned from successes, but it often takes me a while before I understand what I've learned, like, in the moment, it can be very painful, but then looking back on it later, I'm grateful for that experience, but I don't know how much it matters to me in the moment.

A: Yeah.

J: That later, I'll be grateful.  Like, I remember after I had this horrible breakup, just after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and this woman and I had been living together and we were, you know, we thought we were gonna get married and then we broke up, and it was very, very difficult for me, and I went through a really hard time, and I remember my mother saying to me, one day, you will look back on this as one of the greatest things that ever happened to you, and I was like, well, maybe, but not today, and I'm in today.  Like, I'm stuck in today, and today sucks!  So it does suck and I'm sorry, but I also do think that there will be lessons to be taken from it and you'll grow from it, Caroline.

A: Absolutely.  You absolutely will.  And you know, I have a similar situation where, you know, I had a really bad breakup in college with someone who you know, we were looking at apartments together and we were so in love and we had never had a fight and all of these things, and we got into one argument and over the phone, he said I just don't wanna be your boyfriend anymore, and it was terrible.  Like, and it threw me, you know, there were a lot of things going on in my life at that point, but you know, that one situation just threw me into this really terrible depression and it was the worst of my life, and you know, for--that was about seven years ago, and I have not since then felt anything that dire, felt anything that bad, until last week, and it was suddenly in the last week that I was like, that was the first time I've ever felt truly grateful for that bout of terrible depression from 2009, was last week, because suddenly I was looking at this depression that felt or this feeling that felt insurmountable and, but it was so similar to that thing that I had gotten over before that I was able to be like, oh no, now I know the way over.

 (10:00) to (12:00)

Like, I know that it's not easy, but I also don't look forward and think there's no way over or I'll never know the way over.  It's like, no, I've been here before, and it sucks that I'm back here, but I can get out.  Like, and I think that that's what's really hard in a moment, especially when you're hurting from something that you're not used to dealing with, is that you don't know the way over yet, and sometimes like, that is the lesson in that moment is now you know the way over from this place.  Alright, John, I've got a question for you.  It's from Daisy.  I'm gonna read it right now, cool?  

J: Great.

A: "Dear Hank and John, My husband and I have been married for over five years now, together for eight, and we always said we would be ready for kids at five years to give us time to enjoy just being a married couple before we start a family.  But five years has come and neither of us feel, well, ready.  Like, I want kids, I want a family, but I don't have that "I need a baby" feeling that I thought I would have, but part of me thinks that maybe that feeling will never come.  I've never been a baby person and so the choice to have kids might be more driven by logic than desire, like, this is a good time to start a family rather than I want a kid now.  We are starting to get the "Time's ticking" comments from friends and family, but I don't wanna make that important of a decision based on others' opinion.  

 (12:00) to (14:00)

How do you know when you're ready to start a family?"  

J: I mean, this is a tough one.  I think it really, obviously, it depends and it's gotta be a conversation with your partner.  For us, I don't think it was really a profound feeling of like, we need to have a baby in our lives.  It was, to be honest, at least for me, like, more of a sort of, I'm ready to enter that part of my life now and I'm excited to enter that part of my life now, like, we'd moved to Indianapolis from New York and we had a lawn and we, you know, a home and everything and there was a bedroom, there was nothing to do with the bedroom.  Henry, if you ever listen to this, I want to be clear that I did not bring you into the world because we had a spare bedroom, but.  

A: I don't know, Henry, that sounds like that's what he's saying.

J: We did, we did have a spare bedroom, like, there was room in our lives for a kid, which made it kind of make sense.  

A: It does, I mean, like, I totally get that like, in some ways, I am more prepared to be a mother than I have ever been in my entire life, and I am also at a point where I am more adamant about making that decision exactly when I feel like it's right than ever before, and you know, I did the opposite, you know, of you and Sarah.  I moved from Indianapolis to New York, so now--

J: I know.

A: I'm in Brooklyn in this, you know, I mean, it's a good apartment, but listen, I'm born and raised Hoosier so for the amount of money that I'm spending, I still, even though I like my apartment, I often look at it and just get mad at it and kind of wanna, like, kick it or like, you know, or something, because I'm like, all of this money, all of this money for a one bedroom apartment--

 (14:00) to (16:00)

J: Yeah.

A: And, you know, it's more, like, what I pay now in you know, rent, is literally, I'm not kidding you, literally five times what I paid when I was living in Indianapolis to share a four bedroom condo with two other people, and--

J: Right.  Yeah, that doesn't surprise me at all.  

A: So it's--so I'm very much, you know, my boyfriend and I, my partner and I, Kelly, we are very much of the mind that like, yeah, we might wanna have kids at some point, but not here, you know?  Every time I see somebody carrying a stroller up the subway steps, we're like, why, why are you doing this to yourself?  Like, there are places, I promise, where you can move and it won't be like this.  Like, it won't be this hard and kids in New York just seem so jaded.  They're like, at the Museum of Natural History looking at dinosaur bones like, ugh, again?  And I'm just like, what?!  What?!  They're dinosaurs, man!  And kids here don't care about dinosaurs.  They're just like--

J: I know, they're all little Holden Caulfields, that's how I felt when I lived in New York.  I would always be like, oh, there're just the sweetest little Holden Caulfields everywhere you look.  

A: Exactly.  They are.  They are.

J: But people do have babies in Brooklyn.  In fact, like, lots of them.

A: Lots of them.  So many of them.

J: There are tons of strollers in Brooklyn, but yeah, I feel, I mean, I think the reason I feel the same way is probably because I grew up, you know, in a suburban America, and so when I thought of having kids, I imagined lawns and neighborhoods and cookouts and all the things that were part of my childhood.

A: Yeah.

J: And so, we never really considered having kids when we lived in New York, although, for the record, lots of people do it and do it very successfully.  I have many friends who live in New York and have kids and their kids are lovely.  It just was never in the cards for us, but yeah, I do think there's an element of it never being quite the right time.  

 (16:00) to (18:00)

The other thing is that, on occasion, you know, the decision is made for you.

A: Yeah.

J: Or in the case of Sarah and I, we thought we had a ton of control over the timing and then it turned out that of course, like, we didn't, so you know, it--there's an element of chance to it that, I don't know, you can potentially work that into your considerations, but yeah, I think ultimately, probably the place to make that decision is not while listening to the pod, but while talking to your partner.

A: I agree, but--and you know, it's just one of those things where I'm glad to see someone, especially a woman, exploring, you know, their decision-making when it comes to having a baby.  Like, I'm really glad to see a woman stopping and saying, wait, like, am I doing this because I want to do it or am I doing it because it's on a checklist and it's just the next thing?  You know, I had so many women friends from college, you know, who have had babies at this point on purpose and a couple of them not on purpose, you know, but, you know, they have these babies and some of them are very much, like, you know, I had my baby, I wanted to have my baby, and now I have them and it's the best thing in the world, and others of them are like, I wish I'd waited.  I wish I didn't think that like, you know, well, I got married and then we bought a house so now I have to have a baby, you know, and I'm glad to see someone exploring that and really thinking about what they actually want and what family looks like for them, because not every family includes kids and that's totally okay and you know, there are a lot of different ways to be a family, so start, you know, like, I think it's important that, you know, if you're asking yourself these questions, to just keep asking them, and I think eventually the answer will come to you.

 (18:00) to (20:00)

I think at some point it does become pretty clear whether you're gonna do it or not. 

J: Right.

A: And when that happens, you know, it's just--it's really comforting to know that like, this is not something I rushed into and it's something that I really thought about.

J: Yeah, no, I think that's a great point and I do think it's really important for women to be able to have those open conversations about having kids, bringing kids up, not having to pretend like it's always easy or always fun or like the pressure surrounding especially, I think, motherhood don't exist, because they do and the social--societal pressures are really really intense.

A: They are.

J: Yeah.  No doubt about it.

A: As someone who was a nanny for several years, I can tell you like, the pressure on moms is intense and--

J: Yeah.

A: And not so for nannies.  Nannies, like, we can really do what we want, to be perfectly honest.  Like, the kids I used to nanny, I still, you know, I go spend a couple days with them before Christmas almost every year.  Every time I'm in Indiana, I try to go see them.  We all end up sleeping in the same bed.  It's the most fun in the world, but at the same time, I'm so aware.  I'm so aware that like, their mom has done so much, like, so much, and I just get to be fun Ms. Ashley.

J: Right.

A: Who shows up and doesn't have to deal with like, the mommy politics, so when I teach them to say, you know, terrible things, it's because I can get away with that and it's fun, 'cause it's Ms. Ashley, but if Mom did it, she'd be, you know, neglectful.

J: Total--right, yeah.  Alright, Ashley, I've got another question for you.  This one comes from Emma, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, I was wondering why the space key on a keyboard makes a different sound than all the other keys.

 (20:00) to (22:00)

Is it due to its size or perhaps is it due to the urgency with which we finish our words and feel the need to get on to the next one?  I'd like to know because maybe I will now spend my study hall doing work instead of pondering this."  

A: Oh my goodness.  I think it's the finger you hit it with.

J: This is a real thing.

A: It is a real thing.

J: Let's just establish that at the start.

A: It 100% is a real thing.  I have thought about it a lot, I'm not kidding, like, the minute I read that question--

J: Me too.

A: I started thinking about it, and you know what I think it is?  I think it's just--I think it's the finger that you hit the key with.  

J: I agree.  I think it's--I think it's the thumbness of it.

A: I think so, too.  I think your thumb is, in my mind at least, like, your heaviest finger, because it's like stout and kind of fat and like, weird, and also that like, when you hit--at least when I hit the space key, I'm always hitting it with the side and not even like the pad of my finger.

J: Right.  It's not a fingertip.

A: So I think that's what it is.

J: The way you hit a J, you know, I am--so there's actually a word for like, the way the keyboard feels when you push the key action.  It's called the key action, is when you push down and the way that that feels and how different it feels on different keyboards and in my early writing career, I have OCD, but I would argue that this isn't necessarily a compulsive thing, but I was very, very obsessive about key action and different keyboards and this, before I got a laptop, I kept the same keyboard through several computers while I was writing Looking for Alaska because I felt very strongly that the key action was what made it possible for me to write well, and when I would try other keyboards, I would be like, no, no, no, that sounds all wrong.  

 (22:00) to (24:00)

That's extremely distracting.  Who could possibly write a good novel with this terrible keyboard?  So I would just take the old keyboard that I'd had since college and reinstall it into the new computer, and I eventually got over that, but I did use a different keyboard for each book that I wrote until the last five years, until the end of The Fault in Our Stars and now I've decided to be a little bit less specific about it but it is, it's so real, the way the keys feel when you're writing.

A: It's so real.

J: It's part of the magic for me.

A: It's so real.  I still, you know, I started writing on PCs and so going to the Mac, which obviously has such a different key action from the PC--

J: Totally.

A: When you're on a Mac, I hated it.  Like, I immediately hated it, like, loathed it.  

J: Yeah.

A: Like, what I would--I used to--we didn't have a computer in our house until I was really like, either right before I went to college or after I went to college did we have--

J: Wow.

A: --a computer in our home, but the library was very close to my home and my brother and I used to walk to the library all the time to use the computers, and I was the kid who would sign up specifically for a PC computer and I would wait.  Like, I would wait.  Like, they would be like, there are five Macs open, and I would be like, I don't care.  I do not care.  I will wait here, don't mind me, I'm over here rereading this, like, Lucille Ball biography, and then I'm going to walk over and do like, my thing on the computer, which to be fair, was mostly like, me writing stories about my life, which were real, but that I pretended to, you know, fictionalize, and then also--

 (24:00) to (26:00)

J: Right.

A: --looking up to see if anybody was posting lyrics from Kenny Loggins albums because I loved them and I wanted to make it sure I was singing the words right, but back then, not a lot of people were posting Kenny Loggins lyrics on the internet, so.  

J: Yeah, I mean, you probably could have cornered that market if only you'd had a computer at home by launching the definitive Kenny Loggins lyrics website.  This is a thing that I find completely fascinating about you.  You are unironically deeply passionate about the songs of Kenny Loggins.

A: Yes.  Absolutely.  100%.  Like not even...yeah.  Like not even funny.  Like it's real.  It's very very real.

J: Yeah, no, it does--yeah, and I think it's great.  I am in favor of people being super enthusiastic and unembarrassed about the stuff that they love.

A: Oh yeah, you know--

J: Whether that's Kenny Loggins albums or anything but.

A: Well, you know, I just, like, I've always--people ask me this a lot, like, I've had quite a few people who have met me in person who first met me on the internet and they'll be like, you are so much of who you are on the internet, like, it's all the same and I'm like, oh, I'm just, like, this is not--I'm just really bad at pretending.  Like, super bad at it.  Like, I'm really terrible at it.  Like, I can't keep it up.  The thing is is that like, I could, you know, have an account online or you know, wherever and like, sort of pretend to be a different way for a little while, and then I would just be so exhausted that you'd be like, Ashley, what's wrong with you?  Like, I would be like a robot shutting down, like I would start to say things that didn't make sense and you'd be like, what's happening and I would be like, I was pretending and I'm sorry.  I have to go back to being me now, which means I'm gonna like, listen to Celebrate Me Home a lot and also means like, you know, The Return to Pooh Corner album is my fave, you know?  

 (26:00) to (28:00)

I'm gonna watch Golden Girls a lot.  I'm gonna watch The Nanny a lot.  It's like, these are just things that are part of who I am and you know, they're not harmful, so what do I have to hide, I guess?  

J: I think it's great and I think it encourages everybody who has their weird, the weird thing that they love, to love it without any hesitation or embarrassment.  

A: Well, that's awesome!

J: And Emma, that includes you and your fascination with keyboards, which I am 100% behind.

A: 100%.

J: So Ashley and I theorize that it is because you are hitting the spacebar with the side of your stoutest digit that causes the thud, but I will say, I don't think there is anything in my life that I like more than when I'm writing and it's going well and that sense of, it's almost like the rhythmic thud of the spacebar is--it's almost like that's the like, you're driving at night and that's the sight of those lane lines going past your car.

A: Yeah.

J: Or something.  It's just tremendously fulfilling to hit that space bar and feel like you're moving.

A: I imagine it's what people who write or have written on typewriters a lot feel when they hear that little like, ding at the end when there's like that thing that's just like, ding, and then like it goes back to the other side.  It's like, wow.

J: Right.

A: It's like another row.  How dare I be this amazing?  Like, how dare I be this awesome to like, just hear all these dings while I'm writing?  Like, I'm on fire over here.

J: Yeah, yeah, it's that feeling--that's the feeling of like, being on fire, and I totally agree with you about the Mac keyboard being utterly suboptimal when it comes to that feeling because there's almost no key action in these keys.

A: No.  There's almost none.  It feels like, like there's little pillows under them or something and I'm like, I don't need--

J: Yeah.

A: I don't want pillows under my keys, man.

 (28:00) to (30:00)

Like, I want, like, I don't even want key action.  I want key impact, okay?  Like, I need to hear it.  Like I want it to come together and I wanna like, hear like the click click click, like I need it, so yeah, that's basically where we stand on these keyboards.  I frequently wondered if I should just, like, do the thing where you put your Mac up on, like a stand, and then have like your PC keyboard attached to it.

J: Yeah.

A: That you type on, because maybe I could finish my book.

J: Yeah, I have thought of doing that, but then I think, like, that--when I--if people ask me about that when I am explaining it, I'm going to seem uh, like I'm totally out of touch with reality, but I'm really glad to know that I'm not, that you agree with me about this.

A: On this we definitely agree, John.

J: This question is from Isaiah, who asks--sorry, Ashley and I are laughing at something that you guys didn't get to hear.  This question comes from Isaiah who asks, "Dear John and Hank, I'm worried that I'm losing a very special skill.  For years, I've been a practictioner of jazz music.  I've spent thousands of hours studying theory, practicing, rehearsing, and jamming, and even forming a spiritual realization of music.  However, as a young person rising through the ranks, I quickly realized that music pays way fewer bills than I ever imagined.  We all know that musicians rarely make much from records nowadays, but at least in Chicago, venues don't pay for live shows either.  I've sold all my tickets to House of Blues twice on Friday nights and went home with $0.  I was lucky enough to make it into Evanston, Illinois' most famous University," which, by the way, Isaiah, counts my wife among their alumni, "to study biology, which I enjoy.  I make a modest living with a low ceiling as a teacher.  However, the feeling of being me felt different when I was better at jazz.  I haven't completely stopped playing, but without spending hours on it each day, I feel rusty and I wonder if I'll spend my whole life feeling rusty."  

A: Oh, that question makes me a little sad.  

J: I know, it's a hard one, because this is a--this is a true fact of being an artist or making things for a living or performing for a living, which is that many times, it isn't your living.

 (30:00) to (32:00)

A: Yeah.  Yeah.  It's really hard to do that and you know, that's not, you know, that's not Isaiah's fault, that's no artist's fault for the most part.  The biggest fault is that, you know, people tend to devalue work that is enjoyed while it is being made, so it's like, if you liked it, then why am I paying you for it?

J: Right.

A: And that's unfortunate, and I think that's sort of, you know, the wrong way to go, but it is kind of the way things are right now, and it's hard.  It's hard when you love something and you study it and you devote all this time to it and then feel like you can't maintain that level of expertise or that level of production or you know, whatever, but at the same time, you know, I think sometimes we have to shift our idea of what art is for and I think that while we wanna be experts and we wanna be people who are always at the top of our game in art, that you have to make a decision somewhere along the line about whether or not that's something that you can actually do and also whether or not that's something you can sustain, and it's just such a hard question and it's so private, I think, a really personal question.

J: Yeah, I mean, it is a very much like a case-to-case thing.  I mean, I come at this from an incredibly privileged position because I've been able to make a living writing for a long time now.  I mean, for the first several years that I was writing and even when I was writing semi-professionally, I didn't, but I have for the last, you know, nine or ten years.  

 (32:00) to (34:00)

But I do have maybe like an analogous experience in the sense that after my book The Fault in Our Stars came out, for a long time, I wasn't writing because I was doing other things, because there was movie stuff and our CrashCourse channel was taking off, our educational video channel that Hank and I started and then also because writing became un-fun and I started to feel rusty and I started to feel like I wasn't good at it anymore and like maybe I was never gonna be good at it again and there are lots of examples of this happening, like, it's not an irrational fear, you know, I  mean, there's famous stories of people who were among the best golfers in the world, for instance, and one day they picked up their clubs and found that they could no longer play golf well.  There's a very famous example of a baseball player who made three straight throwing errors in the major leagues after a very successful major league career and never again was able to play major league baseball.  Like, just was never able to do it again, never could complete the throws, and uh, and of course, like, in the case of writing, there's lots and lots and lots and lots of examples of people like that, from, you know, wonderful writers who had very successful careers like Harper Lee to many, many writers out there like, including my great uncle who wrote one novel and then found it impossible to write another, whether it was the first one was successful or not, so I did, I started to feel rusty and I also felt like it was something that I could never do again or never enjoy again.  I found, though, for me, that by keeping at it and by continuing to try to write that it got better.

 (34:00) to (36:00)

I didn't stop feeling rusty and I still probably think that, and I'm not--well, I'll just say this, I still do probably think that my best writing is behind me in a lot of ways, but I have--what I found was an ability to enjoy writing again because I stopped making it about wanting to be the best or wanting to be better than some past version of myself or better than other people I admire a lot who write YA fiction or better than this or better than that, and instead of seeing it as like a pyramid or something that you're trying to get to the top of, I started seeing it as a huge ball that I'm trying to like, contribute one layer of paint to, and lots of other people are contributing layers of paint and through that, the ball gets more beautiful and interesting and also bigger, and instead of me being--needing to be like, at the top of my game somehow, what I can really do, I think, in the end, is contribute in a small way to a very big conversation that's very old and that's what art is for me.  

A: Oh my gosh, John, you're really messing me up right now, because--I mean, so many, you know, like, my fears as a writer, as a performer, and as someone who, you know, needs to make a living, are so wrapped up in a lot of, you know, those same thoughts and those same, you know, like, the rustiness and the, you know, what if I have already done the best thing I'm ever going to do, and--

J: Right.

A: --I think, you know, as someone who has a day job, somebody who has a place that she has to be, you know, like, every day, even though, even in terms of like, day jobs, I'm still kind of sitting pretty because I have unlimited vacation at my job and also, you know, they understand that I am a writer and do other things and you know, allow me room and space to do those things, which is not true for everybody or even most people who have day jobs, but you know, I have a lot of those fears that by having this day job or you know, by doing things that are not just sitting down and writing, that I am not being a good writer and that I won't ever be a better writer because of those things, you know?  

 (36:00) to (38:00)

But sometimes, I'm like, you know, some things, you just--they're important and they are part of living a full and whole life as an artist and that's important not just for your art but also for the way you experience the world in general.  Like, at the end of the day, we're people, you know, and we might be artist people, but we are still people, and people have to eat and people have to have somewhere to live and people have to have, you know, certain things to feel you know, comfortable and feel like they can get to a place where they can even create in the way that they want to, you know?  So, I don't know.  I guess I'm just saying that you know, I feel like tonight I should be working on my book, but instead, I'm interviewing Zadie Smith, you know, and that does not feel--

J: That sounds pretty great actually.

A: Right, but it--my point is like, that doesn't feel like being less of a writer.  That doesn't feel like being less of an artist.

J: Right.

A: That doesn't feel like I'm throwing away some future and I think, I think that the key to art that we forget sometimes is joy, and you know, you talking about finding the joy and being able to enjoy writing again, I think--I don't think that the problem with Isaiah is that, you know, because he can't spend hours a day, he'll never be happy.

 (38:00) to (40:00)

I think he sort of has to redefine why and how music gives him joy and how and why playing music gives him, you know, space to feel like more of himself or the person that he wants to be.

J: Yeah, I think that's exactly right and I think ultimately, the conclusion that I've come to about writing is that regardless of whether I ever publish anything again, writing helps me feel like myself.  It helps me--it is, it's like, it's joyful for me.  It's the only--it's kind of the only time that, for me, that I can get lost enough in something--I feel this occasionally when I read, when I can get lost enough in something that I feel like I can escape myself for a minute, which is a very joyful thing.  Like, to me, it's sort of terrifying, the thought of being stuck inside of one consciousness for decades and decades.

A: I couldn't do it.  I couldn't do it.  Like, I'm already--I already have a hard time just like, you know, I tried meditating and meditating sounds so awesome in theory and I really wanna do it because I really wanna be the kind of person who can do it, and every time I'm just like, whoa, it is, like, it's not safe in here.  I can't just be in here like for ten minutes.  

J: I totally agree.  

A: It is not safe in here, and you know, maybe that's its own problem, maybe I should be talking to somebody more about that, but you know--

J: I mean, I completely agree with you and I know that I'm actually having to meditate every day because of this new health and fitness show that I'm doing on YouTube,, never not self-promoing, and um, it's not going great.  

 (40:00) to (42:00)

A: Oh, John.

J: And lots of people are telling me, oh, you're just meditating wrong and I'm like, you know what?  Criticizing my meditation is also not helpful.  Like, that's not--

A: No.

J: That's also not getting me to where I need to be right now, like, because before, when I wasn't meditating at all, I was happier and now, with you criticizing my meditation on top of not enjoying the meditation, you're making everything worse.

A: Everything's worse now.  Thanks for nothing, meditation.  Like, just blame it all on meditation.  You didn't do right by me, meditation.  I thought this was--you know, it's just one of those things where it's just, it is not going well and boy, did I give it my best shot, but you know what, there are other things to master in this world and I should probably move along.  This just--this one just ain't for me.  This one just ain't for me.  

J: I talked to my friend Josh Sundquist about meditation, he's a big advocate for it, and he was like, oh, I didn't see any much improvement at all in the first year, and I was like, I can't do something for a year where I don't see any improvement.  I can just barely brush my teeth every day for a year, like, knowing that there are real risks to not.  Like, there's no way I'm gonna be able to put in the time necessary to get these rewards. 

A: I, John, like, I'm so with you on this, and it's like, a thing about myself that infuriates me about myself but also it's like, I just have to know that that's true.  Like, I just spent a lot of money on a personal trainer who I've seen like, four times and now I'm kind of like, I think I got all I needed out of that.  I don't think I'm the kind of person who personally trains, you know what I mean, like, after just like a few sessions, 'cause I was like, hmm, I'm not really losing any weight here, uhhh, yeah, I don't really feel better.  People were like, your energy's gonna get better and I was like, nah, I've just been sleeping more, so, no, I'm okay.  I'm cool.

 (42:00) to (44:00)

J: Yeah.  I mean, you really do--I have found benefits to exercise, but it is totally true that they are not immediate, but yeah, I'm--

A: I should go back.

J: Well, but, I don't--just take care of yourself in whatever ways you can find.  

A: Thank you, John.

J: We should move on to the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon, Ashley.  I know this is your favorite part of the podcast and also the listeners'.  Just kidding.

A: It absolutely is.

J: Nobody likes it.  The news from Mars--I looked up some news from Mars for you people.  It was physically painful.  I did not enjoy it.  Mars is a boring cold rock in the vastness of space.  It doesn't matter.  However, since Hank is not here, I did look up some news from Mars and they've just found a depression on Mars, not caused by the election but caused by a crater at the edge of the (?~42:55) basin, which is surrounded by glacial deposits and near to another similar depression and the nature of this depression is such that it has--it was likely a place where life would have formed if life indeed formed on Mars, so they now know a place that they can go look for life on Mars, if and when anybody ever gets to Mars, which will hopefully not happen 'til 2028 because if it doesn't happen until 2028, we get to rename this podcast Dear John and Hank, which is my dearest dream.

A: I don't know, John.

J: That is the news from Mars.  

A: I don't know, John.  I think post-election, people might be speeding up their Mars plans.  I think--I think--

J: I am concerned.

A: I'm not saying that that's true--

J: I'm a little concerned.

A: I'm not saying that I've heard rumors, but I am saying that I live in New York City and talk gets around, okay, and I am saying that, you know, Mars is looking better and better every day, John, and that's not a personal opinion.  

 (44:00) to (46:00)

I think that's just--

J: Yeah, no, no, no, yeah.  Yeah.

A: You know?

J: I am concerned.  I think that this election was very bad for my ability to make sure that humans are an Earth-only species until at least 2028 so I can get this podcast renamed. 

A: Man, we really took a hit.

J: Alright, so there is also news from AFC Wimbledon, the third tier English soccer team sponsored by Nerdfighteria, owned by their fans, who've worked their way up all the way from the 9th tier of English football, now to the third tier.  They played the FA Cup yesterday, which is a competition that the old Wimbledon actually won once, and they beat a team called Bury, as in "we buried them".   We beat them 5-0.  We scored five goals in just 90 minutes, and we won 5-0.  Who scored the goals?  Frickin' everybody.  Everybody scored.  It was amazing.  Paul Robinson scored a goal.  Dom Polion scored a goal.  The Montserratian Messi, Lyle Taylor, scored a goal.  The leading scorer on Montserrat's national football team, Lyle Taylor, scored a goal as well.  It was just, it was a beautiful, beautiful game, 5-0 victory, you can watch the highlights on YouTube.  The YouTube highlight reel is like, 17 minutes long because it's just--

A: Oh my gosh.

J: The goals just kept coming.  Yeah.  It was great.  That means that we're going to the second round of the FA Cup, where we are going to play a team in the 6th tier.  We--the draw has already happened and it's--I wanna give you the name because I know that--I know how much this matters to everybody.  The name of the team is (?~45:50) and if we win that game, we will then get to the third round of the FA Cup, where we could potentially play like, Manchester United or Chelsea or something.

A: What!

J: Which would be incredibly exciting and also quite lucrative.

 (46:00) to (48:00)

A: John, what!  

J: I know, yeah.  I know.  I know!  It's pretty great!

A: Okay, the last time I looked up stuff about AFC Wimbledon, I was actually super shocked at their ranking in the third tier, but I have--

J: They're doing great.

A: But I have--I know, which was like, they were only like, I think the last time I looked, they had 17 points, but now they have--

J: Things have gotten even better.

A: Things have gotten even better for AFC Wimbledon, which makes me very happy because I decided to get into club soccer a little bit over the past two years, which was heavily influenced by your enthusiasm, so I knew a little bit about a little bit.

J: Aw.  Yay.

A: But, here's my question that, you know, like, I'm wondering.  What does it mean if AFC Wimbledon were to beat a Manchester United?

J: Uhh, I mean, it would be--it would be like, in the scheme of things, like, probably nothing, because then they would just, in the next round, draw another team like Manchester United that would presumably at some point beat them.

A: Yeah.

J: But in, of course, like, in the long run, nothing matters, you know?  Like, in the--if you wanna really zoom out, like, nothing matters in football or in anything else, so--

A: John.

J: So you don't wanna zoom all the way out, right?

A: Right.

J: Like, you want to live in the moment and in the moment, it would be ridiculous, like, it would be--it would be the--it would just be--it would be so beautiful, especially if it was Manchester United, the team I hate most in the whole world, except maybe Chelsea.  If it were Manchester United or Chelsea, it would feel so good.  Especially Chelsea, because they also play in South London, so like, they're sort of rivals with AFC Wimbledon but of course, Chelsea has never paused to consider AFC Wimbledon as a rival.  

 (48:00) to (50:00)

That would feel pretty great.

A: But that's why they need their butt kicked, in my opinion.

J: Yeah, totally.  Totally!  Yeah, they need to be reminded that there's another team in South London that's coming for them.

A: That's the thing.  It's like, sometimes you don't need to win all the games, you just need them to know you're coming, like, you just need them to know that like, I'm around.  

J: Right.  Yeah.  You just need them to be--just the thought of them being aware of you is tremendously fulfilling, you know?

A: Yeah.

J: Like, the thought of them having to worry about it, having to be like, oh gosh, which of our players who make $200,000 a week are we gonna start against AFC Wimbledon?  

A: That's how I feel about--

J: That would be great.

A: That's how I feel about my enemies, personally, is like, I'm not really trying to like, do anything to them.  I just need them to know I'm around.  

J: There is something tremendously fulfilling about your enemies worrying about you.

A: Yeah.  I only have two, but should I ever acquire more enemies, I hope not, I don't really like having enemies because then you have to think about them and that seems wasteful.

J: It's stressful.

A: It's stressful and wasteful.  There are so many things to be thinking about in the world, and just like, enemies seems like the worst thing to have to think about, except like, going to the dentist, which, you know, does seem like a pretty, you know, like, not like a waste but definitely like I wish I didn't have to think about that, and I feel like enemies are kind of the same way.  Like, I just wish I never had to think about my two enemies who are also both in their 70s, so, maybe I won't have to--

J: They're in their 70s?

A: Yeah.  

J: Oh, so, I mean, obviously I'm not gonna ask you to name them because that gives your enemies power.

A: It does.

J: You may not wanna give them that power.  

A: I don't.

J: But I love your chances of outliving them.

A: My chances are great.  I mean, not just based on like, age, but also based on like, general wilderness survival skills, of which I have many and they have none and so I just, like, I feel like no matter what happens, I'm still probably going to outlive them, just because of my like, just because my--just because of my wilderness skills and also because of my general youth, which is you know, just slipping, slipping by the day.

 (50:00) to (52:00)

I'll be 30 in January.

J: No, ugh.

A: It's coming.

J: You're so young.  Oh, to be so young.  Um, I'm glad to know, though, that in the like, post-social order collapse Mr. Robot future that we're all headed for, your wilderness survival skills are gonna come in handy, because I will be knocking on the door of your tent.

A: You better.  You can come through, John.  You can totally come through, you and your fam.  Listen, my boyfriend is really great with a bow and arrow, I am--

J: Oh wow, great.

A: I am great at sewing and cooking and building fires.  I was a Boy Scout post-high school so I just learned a bunch because that's what I do, I'm an information junkie, and then I just would practice it sometimes, because I'm just--I'm also an anxiety junkie and so every once in a while, I'm like, this whole structure, this whole like, civilized, like, society, nope, could come crashing down any minute.  I gotta be ready.  I gotta be so ready.

J: I agree that it's exceptionally fragile, but I haven't done a good job preparing.  I am a reasonably astute starter of fires, so perhaps that can be the way that I contribute.

A: Yes.  You're in.  You're in the club.  The survival club.

J: All I need is a lighter and a Duraflame.

A: Okay, you're out of the club.

J: To get the fire started 99 times out of 100.  

A: We might not have a lighter.  You might be out of the club.  

 (52:00) to (54:00)

J: Well, Ashley, thank you so much for being on the podcast with me.  This has been an unadulterated joy.  I wanna tell everybody to follow you on Twitter to keep up with all the things that you're doing, even though you are taking, and I think this is very smart, the remainder of November off from Twitter.  

A: I might be back sooner, though.  For my job.  Because I might be taking a road trip, like an interesting little road trip that requires my Twitter usage, so we'll see.  We'll see.

J: Oh.  That sounds exciting.  But yeah, so you can follow Ashley on Twitter at @ismashfizzle, i-s-m-a-s-h-f-i-z-z-l-a--nope!  F-i-z-z-l-e, I'm really bad at spelling.  It's just the exact way that you would think ismashfizzle is spelled.  

A: Yeah, no, it's so phonetic, it's very, very easy.

J: It's not a challenging Twitter handle to spell.  You can also find me on Twitter @johngreen, j-o-h-n-g-r-a-a-n, and um, you can send us e-mails at, that's all one word,, yeah.  So you can be in contact with us and we will try to answer as many of your questions as possible.  I apologize to all the people who we didn't answer your questions.  I also want to apologize to all the Trents out there, because in a recent episode of the podcast, Hank used the word, the name 'Trent' as an example of a millennial name.  I made fun of Hank for that.  Several Trents felt that that was a bit of a personal slight, so I just wanna say to all the Trents out there, just because you almost certainly aren't a millennial, doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with your lovely name and I am sorry if I implied otherwise, and in fact, if you are a millennial, I am sorry about implying that you weren't, if you want to be a millennial, which seems like a dubious proposition to me, but whatever, it's your life.  Ashley, thank you so much, though, for podding with me.  This has been a joy.

 (54:00) to (54:48)

A: This has been so much fun for me.  This is a little bit of a dream come true, because I love listening to the pod and being on it just makes me feel like even more of an old Nerdfighter.

J: Awesome.  Well, I will say, nothing ruins this podcast quite like having to listen to your own voice on it, so look forward to that pleasure.  Again, you can write us at  Our podcast is edited by Nicholas Jenkins.  Victoria helps out with questions, as does Rosianna Halse Rojas.  Thanks to everybody for listening and to Gunnarolla for doing our theme music and as we say in my hometown, don't forget to be awesome.