This week we are joined by Gabriela Ulloa, a Cuban-American journalist and mental health advocate who spent the early years of her career working in Joy’s alternate-universe dream job: as the assistant to Amy Astley in NYC. Gaby and Claire discuss life changes, changing career paths, opening up about mental health, imposter syndrome, and age-based self esteem problems that never go away, no matter how old you get.
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This is Joy & Claire Episode 76: Too Young Too Old
Episode Date: May 27, 2021
Transcription Completed: June 8, 2021
Audio Length: 46:28 minutes
Claire: You are listening to This is Joy and Claire. Today we are joined by Gaby Ulloa who is a Cuban-American journalist and mental health advocate. She’s also the cohost of the upcoming Thoughts May Vary podcast, which is launching in June 2021. That podcast illuminates story of lessons of personal development and mental health. Previously she was the assistant to the editor and chief at Architectural Digest, where she spent two years assisting Amy Astley and writing for the magazine. You can find her words in publications such as The New York Times, Architectural Digest, and more. Gaby, welcome to the podcast. So excited to have you.
Gaby: Hi. Thank you so much for having me here. It’s good to be here.
Claire: So, I just read your boiler plate bio, which is so great to catch everybody up from the basics. But tell us a little bit about who you are and your background.
Gaby: Yeah. So, like you said in my bio, I’m Cuban-American. Both my parents are Cuban immigrants. I always really start with that because I feel like it’s such a large part of my identity. I grew up in Miami, which there I didn’t even think about the fact that I was Cuban or that I was Latin because it was everywhere around me. It was really when I went off to school to college in George Washington in D.C. I was like, “Oh wow, my Latin identity is so deeply ingrained into who I am.” Yes, I always lead with that. I’m very proud to be Latina and to be a part of that community. I’m also a journalist. I think you mentioned I started my career at Architectural Digest. It’s funny when I say I started my career, that’s when I started my career post-college. But working has always been something that I’ve done since I was very young. My mom never let my sisters and I have summers off. We were always working at summer camp or volunteering or doing something. And throughout college, I was taking summer internships every summer and I was working in the fashion space and in the magazine space. I always knew I wanted to work in magazines. That was always the goal for me. Once I graduated from school in 2018, I moved directly to New York and basically started freelancing and applying to everywhere that I could find. That’s when a couple months later I ended up getting the job at Architectural Digest to assist Amy Astley. I really fell into design by accident. Because for me, the goal was Condé Nast. For those who don’t know, Condé Nast is a big publishing house that owns all the magazines that I’m sure you read, from Vogue, Teen Vogue, to Glamor, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest. So that’s where I wanted to be. That’s sort of the big place to be. I basically was going to take any job that I could get. I’m definitely that mentality of I’m here to learn, I’m here to work, just throw me in and I’ll do it. When I was interviewing for jobs, I was interviewing for a bunch of closet positions. For people that don’t know, it literally is what it sounds. You’re in a closet, whether it’s a beauty closet or a fashion closet, just organizing whatever is in said closet. And I was like, yep, this is my way in. Around that time, the job to be Amy’s assistant came up, and Amy Astley – if you are not aware, she founded Teen Vogue, is a Condé Nast veteran, and she’d been at AD at the time for about 3.5 years. And I was like, you know, I don’t know anything about design. I feel like I just found my footing in fashion, but let me try this because I want to work for her. It was all about her. I wanted to learn from her. What a great opportunity to be able, at 22 years old, to learn directly from someone like that. So yeah, that’s how I got my start at AD. While I was there, I was assisting her, which was obviously a full-time job. And luckily, because she’s such a wonderful boss and really enjoys mentoring her assistants, she really made sure to have me know that she wanted me to grow. So right off the bat, she was like, “What are your interests? What do you want to do aside from being my assistant?” I told her that writing is what I wanted to do, so those opportunities then slowly began presenting themselves. Throughout those two years of assisting her, I was also writing for the publication, both for the site and for the actual print magazine, which was such a great experience. And then fast forward. October 2020, we’re in the thick of the pandemic. I decided it was time to go, and I ended up resigning and I’ve been freelance ever since. Throughout that whole process, I’ll just squeeze in, I started Should We Talk About It, which is a mental health IG TV show. That I started in May 2020. So, I was still working at AD. Like everybody else, mental health was kind of at the forefront of my mind throughout the pandemic. It’s been something that’s always been deeply important to me, but it wasn’t really until I started writing in that space. I had basically written as a favor pretty much to a friend of mind that has a blog that covers mental health. I wrote for them. I had gotten the call to do it right before the pandemic hit, but it wasn’t published until – I think it came out in March 2020, right in the beginning. That was sort of my “ah ha” career moment of this is the conversation I need to be having. I always searched for intersections in what I do, especially in the style and design fashion space. Those things can sometimes just feel really trivial. And so, I always tried to connect it, whether it’s fashion and politics or design and culture and how they all influence each other and mental health and beauty and so on. That was really when it clicked for me that this is the conversation I need to be having. And from there, everything all sort of snowballed, and that’s where the podcast was later born. But yeah, once I clicked that this is the path that I need to go on, the position to leave fell into place. That’s sort of how I’ve been freelancing for the magazines that I’ve been freelancing for now. While I still freelance for AD, a lot of the other new work that I’m doing with places like Byrdie, it’s a lot more focused on mental health and lifestyle and wellness. I could ramble about it forever.
Claire: So, as you were describing that, I was just imaging a Devil Wears Prada scene of walking in and being like, you actually have to have an interest in fashion. But I am interested in architecture.
Gaby: Yeah. I mean, it’s so funny. Whenever I talk about Condé Nast, that’s the first question I always get is how Devil Wears Prada is it. I mean, honestly, as a whole it’s pretty accurate. I got lucky. I won’t lie. But I did get very, very lucky in that my boss was I think one of the only editor in chiefs at the time there – she’s really one of a kind, and truly is such an incredible person and a great boss and really, really loves to mentor her assistants. So, I just got lucky in that.
Claire: That you did not get paired up with Meryl Streep.
Gaby: Right. But did have to interact with the other editor in chiefs, the big one that we all know. Beginning with my boss. It’s funny, all the assistants, we all just became friends with each other. Because you get it. We’re on a team here.
Claire: So, when did you relocate during the pandemic. Because I know that you spent a lot of 2020 living back at home in Miami throughout the pandemic, but did you start out March 2020 in New York City?
Gaby: Yes. So, I’d been living in New York for about 1.5 years at that time – no, about 2 years at that point. I was just in my new apartment that I was so happy to be in. I felt like I was moving in New York every – every time my lease came up, I left. And I finally felt like, okay, this is the place I’m going to spend a couple of years. And then the pandemic hit. I’d been in that space for about 6 months. Just like everybody else, thought I’d be home for about 2 weeks. I think the only reason I was going to go back too is my mom, my sister, and I were supposed to take a trip. We were going to be in London. Because every year, my vacations were planned around my boss’ vacation time. So, every year for her daughter’s spring break, they would all go as a family away for two weeks. So that was my big chunk of time off. So, I had taken two weeks off. Literally, March 14th was my first day off, and the world shut down March 13th. I was planning to go to London. Mom was like, you know what, London’s not happening. Why don’t you just come home for a little since you already took the time off? And she was like, I have a feeling this is going to get wild. Why don’t you – mother’s intuition. Why don’t you just come home. I’m like, okay, sure. So, because I’m me and I’m very organized and clean, I cleaned my whole apartment. I cleaned out my trash. I took out everything from my fridge. That’s just what I do when I travel. And thank God. But thought I’d be gone for two weeks. They’d told us March 30th to be back in the office. And it was really surreal thinking about it too because when we got the “go ahead” to go home, we were all sitting in a tiny conference room watching a video conference. They had brought a doctor in to speak to all the Condé Nast executives, and they were live streaming. It’s like my boss was in that room with all the other execs and editor in chiefs. And all of us worker bees were in one tiny little conference office listening to this. We were like, oh, maybe we should not be on top of each other right now. We all took the subway to get to work that day.
Claire: We’ve talked about this so many times. We’re all going to have that story of here was the last thing that I did before the pandemic started that I didn’t realize was super gross at the time.
Gaby: I know. I think about getting on the subway every day and touching the poles. And even then, I wouldn’t even touch it with my hand. I would wrap my elbow around it. But still, you cough into your hand. You touch your face.
Claire: Someone next to you, just breathing their air.
Gaby: Even just existing next to me is too much these days.
Claire: Just respirating, not into it. I know. I was in Southern California for a 90,000-person trade show that the company I work for had to cancel the night before it started. But I was across the street from Disney Land. We were like, aw, it’s cancelled. Can we go to Disney Land? Looking back, ew.
Gaby: Ew. And the privilege that I was existing. I was reading back some of my messages with a friend of mine the other day, talking about my trip to London getting cancelled. And I remember I said to them, “Mom’s just being difficult. It’s fine. We’re going to end up going. It’s fine.”
Claire: It’s not ideal, right. This is going to blow over.
Gaby: Like March 1st, around there. And my office was just disgusting too because fashion month had just happened. Everybody had to come back from – they were in Paris, and then they all went to Italy, and they all came back to New York. Everyone was sick. I was sick when I came home. So, to answer your question, March 13th flew back to Miami luckily. Thought I’d be there for two weeks, was there for almost 10 months. And then I moved to LA.
Claire: So how long have you been in LA?
Gaby: I’ve been in LA since January.
Claire: When you had that realization that working for Condé Nast maybe isn’t the goal that you want to pursue anymore, you want to do your own thing, you really want to be talking about mental health, you had started this IG TV series. Talk a little bit about that and how that evolved into what you’re working on now.
Gaby: Definitely. So, I think I mentioned earlier, mental health has always been something that has been very, very important to me. I always felt growing up so deeply misunderstood, especially when I would talk about how I was feeling. I really just felt really alone in that. I couldn’t talk about it with people. And if I would talk about it, people would just think I was crazy. I always felt very misunderstood in that space. I think I mentioned, when I was able to write for my friend’s blog, they asked me to write about my personal mental health experience. I wrote about my experience at something called the Hoffman Process. Which is basically this week-long therapy retreat, which is the best way that I can say it. You basically go no phone, no books, no distractions whatsoever, and for a full 7 days you are just unpacking every single pattern that you have. Essentially rooting it back to your childhood. Did this come from mom or dad? Where did this come from? Unpacking it, then rewiring your brand sort of. A lot of guided meditations. Honesty it was the best thing I ever did.
Claire: It sounds so intense.
Gaby: It was a lot. It’s a lot because you’re jam-packing years of work basically into 7 days. It’s very intense. I always say I think everyone should go to Hoffman. I think everyone should do it. You learn so much about yourself. You leave there with such compassion for your parents and for yourself and so much forgiveness as well. But that said, there are a couple people in my life that have been like, oh, you think so-and-so should go? I’m like honestly no. Because they’ve never gone to therapy and they’ve never done work on themselves, and I think it would be toxic talk.
Claire: Right. Like, you don’t go to the Olympics if you have never been on a jog.
Gaby: Right. So, I definitely recommend it for people who are already – even if you haven’t gone to therapy, if you’re already aware that there’s something that you want to improve, then I think it’s for you. It’s just for those people that feel like they’re being forced into something that they –
Claire: Totally. If you’re not even open to that awareness.
Gaby: Exactly. So, I had done Hoffman right when I graduated from college in 2018. I went to New York to start working 2 weeks later. It set me up for success, honesty. I think nothing would have happened the way that it did if I hadn’t done Hoffman. So, when I wrote for this blog, I wrote about my experience. Of course, some of my friends knew that I had gone. And this was almost 2 years after I’d done Hoffman at this point. But most people just had no idea. And I was really nervous to talk about my experience. At this point, the people following me online were primarily people who knew me on a personal level. So that made me even more nervous to open up because I’m like these people can attach a name to a story. They know what I’m talking about. But it was so cathartic to write that article. And to publish that article was a whole other level. And then after that, just hearing – that would have been enough for me to say, this is what I want to be talking about. Because I feel like as a writer, we’re always searching for that excitement. It’s so funny. I talk to a lot of writers, and everyone always says once you start getting paid for writing, it’s no longer fun. I’ve always just tried to search for that spark again. I finally felt it again. Then on top of that, getting messages from people in my life that I knew and that I didn’t know just saying, either A, thank you for talking about this. Not a lot of people we know are. Or B, I went through something similar. Thanks for making me feel not so alone. I was like, okay, wait. No one’s talking about this, and on top of that I had felt such an intense stigma when I had returned from Hoffman. When I started opening up about it, the narrative was, “Gaby cracked, and her mom sent her to a mental hospital.” That was the narrative. Instead of being like, I actually went to go work on myself and this was a really cool experience. That’s something that now in 2021, no one would say, at least out loud.
Claire: Right. The stigma that was – and I think it is still there, especially among different types of groups when it comes to talking about therapy and especially intensive therapy.
Gaby: Absolutely. Especially in the Latin community. I feel like in all minority communities, and I can only speak for the Latin community, but it exists. It exists in the way that our parents were raised and in the way that they raise us. I always say that I’m very lucky that my mom is very open about these things. But a lot of people aren’t. So yeah, basically once I had written for – so to answer your question about Should We Talk About It – once the article came out in March 2020, I knew that something had to shift. I just wanted to find my footing and find my voice. I feel like my purpose on this planet is to tell stories and to help elevate other people’s stories, as well as my own. I was like, okay, I’m doing this with writing. What’s another way that I could do this? Okay, I could interview people and just record it. I’m the type of person that doesn’t just jump. I dip my toe in the pond before I jump all the way in. People are like, “Just do a podcast.” No, sorry, I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to upload it to Instagram. So, I started uploading these interviews that I was having with people in my life that I knew were in the same industry as me and particularly more influencer-type people. Because in my opinion, I had been seeing a lot of things just from the expert perspective, which of course is deeply important. And whenever people come to me with specific questions or things, I always remind them I’m a peer turned to an expert. I always direct people in the direction of an expert. But at the same time, I think that it’s so digestible and so humanizing to hear stories from “normal people,” especially these people who have made a career off of being on social media and have these facades up and to sort of break that wall down, ask them questions that they might not be asked or at least answer publicly. Really lets their viewers see them in a different light and a very helpful light, I think. So, I just started having those conversations on my personal Instagram. I just saw that there was something there. People were asking for more, and I was enjoying it more and more. And then I created its own page. It was all very new to me. It just sort of grew very organically. And yeah, I’ve sort of been searching for what the next iteration of Should We Talk About It would be. I always knew it was going to be the beginning, and I was laying the foundation for something bigger. But I just didn’t know what that was. I think that’s something that I wish I would hear more entrepreneurs talk about, especially because I am so young. Sometimes I don’t tell people how old I am because I don’t want them to think I’m not as smart as I actually am or not as capable or resourceful or whatever it is. Then I remind myself, no, embrace what you’ve been able to accomplish at – I turned 25 last week. So, embrace it. But yeah, I always knew I was laying the foundation with Should We Talk About It. Everything sort of happened organically. I’m allowing it to take that organic route. And now with this podcast, I think it’s time to bring in a different perspective. So, my cohost, she is a mental health expert and has worked in the mental health space for ten years. So, it’s interesting to have the peer and expert perspective. It’s still that same sort of conversational attitude of, if we’re here to destigmatize and normalize and ask you to talk about your mental health, we know that we need to share our vulnerabilities and our stories first, and that’s what we’re really trying to do with the podcast.
Claire: I was going to say, with you being 25 and landing that dream job pretty early and moving to New York City and having this sort of glamorous, from the outside seemingly glamorous, get-whatever-you-want trajectory, it is always so important to hear the other side of that. And I’m doing all this work on myself. And things haven’t been easy. And we never talked about this growing up. And my community is not accepting of this conversation around mental health and having both-and. That, yes, you can be successful. You can get what you want. You can land that assistant job. You can start from scratch on a new project, whatever the case may be, while still having these really hard things that you’re working on and having these insecurities. We talk about this quite a lot. Joy is a mental health therapist. She’s been in the field for decades. We have that similar dynamic of, I just am sort of here as the voice of I don’t really like my feelings. I would prefer to not dive into them. I don’t want to dig stuff up from my childhood. If it is buried, let it stay buried. I am functioning just fine. But then you do have those moments where you realize, okay, what you were talking about of having that first piece published where people started really coming out of the woodwork and identifying with it. It’s that moment of connection of, I thought I was the only one. I think it’s so awesome when you’re having those conversations around mental health is that, at least how I’ve experienced it, it goes both ways. You know that you’re creating that feeling of validation and connection for someone else, but it also helps you to feel like, I also feel like I’m not alone. It’s great to be able to do that in service to a community. But it also can be so encouraging for yourself too to realize, okay, this is something that is really going to get m somewhere. I have experienced this talking about postpartum depression where you kind of have this feeling of I feel like I owe it to other people to be the person who they can think, “If they can talk about it, then I can start talking about it.”
Gaby: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think it’s so important to talk about, too. I’m the last person to ever be like, “Woe is me. Look at all my problems.” I’m the first person to check my privilege and understand that I had a leg up in certain situations. And it’s funny, whenever I hear people talk about when they go to where they are in their jobs and connections and this and that, it always comes from the dad’s side. For me, that was my mom. Both my parents and their families came here from Cuba with absolutely nothing, had to build what they had. My mom has worked her ass off to get to where she is and to make sure my sister and I have lived comfortable lives. I’m not shy to say my mom is the one that put me through private school and pay for my college. Because of her support, I was able to move to New York every summer and have unpaid internships. Which is also absurd, and that’s a whole separate conversation of the barrier to entry in these types of companies is ridiculous and starting salary at somewhere like Condé Nast is completely unlivable, and that just disqualifies an entire population of people. But by the same token, I think because I’ve had all of this lucky experiences, I feel like I do not give myself enough credit. That was something that I really learned at Hoffman was everything is truly relative, and that’s what I always try to talk about on my platform and Should We Talk About It. Everything is relative. To someone like me who I feel like I had a “pretty good” childhood. To be sitting in a room with people at Hoffman whose parents were addicts and abused them and passed way or whatever it was, these tragic stories that people had. No one in that room looked at me and was like, “Calm down, sweetie. Relax.” You know. Because everyone understands that I haven’t lived that experience. I’ve only lived my own experience. So, to me, this could feel like the end of the world. But to the person next to me, they gloss over it. I always try and emphasize, yes, understand how you got to where you are and check yourself when necessary. At the same time, I am going to stand up and say, no. I’m very smart, and I work my ass off. Yes, my mom helped me be able to have those unpaid internships. She didn’t know anyone in the industry that I was going into. Every single connection that I made was through a network that I built because I hustled and I stalked them on LinkedIn, and I kept in touch with all my old bosses. I worked my butt off, and I was a damn good assistant. And that’s why I have the connections that I have. I still work a ton and maintain those connections. I’m learning to give myself credit where credit is due because I think I allowed that privilege to then cancel out and negate everything else that I’ve worked for, if that makes sense. So, when I talk about mental health, I try and emphasize that too of like, everything is relative. You’re allowed to feel your feelings.
Claire: Yeah, we talk a lot about comparative suffering too. Of course, there’s always going to be someone out there that has it worse than you. Perception is reality. And where I feel like that phrase can feel a little belittling because it makes it seem like you’re just perceiving this. No, perception is reality. What I’m perceiving that I’m experiencing is what I’m experiencing. That’s my reality. And that perspective is important, yes. It’s always important to recognize other people have it harder. Things could be worse. But that doesn’t mean that what you’re going through is easy or that things aren’t hard. I think that that’s such an important perspective for us all to be reminded of. Especially women who I think really are so hard on ourselves to try to always push through that thing, not complain, not be the squeaky wheel, not be the one to speak up and say I’m having a hard time. Because you don’t want to be seen as being ungrateful or you don’t want to be seen as complaining or you don’t want to be seen as seeking attention, whatever that b.s. is. I think that what you’re describing around, hey, I know I’ve had it easier that some people, but things haven’t always been easy. And also, that doesn’t mean that it’s been a bed of roses this entire time. It doesn’t have to be either-or. It doesn’t have to be, oh my life’s been really hard and I’ve come up from the ashes. And it also doesn’t have to be, I’ve had a silver spoon this whole time. You know, everybody’s lives are a mix of those experiences. I think that it’s been really interesting to hear from your experience as somebody who – you know, I’m 33, Joy is 43. Most of our listeners are more in their 30’s and 40’s, kind of more of this like… what are we called now? Geriatric Millennials? I think that was the most recent headline. And the fact that I’m getting my social media news from LinkedIn probably tells you something about my life. And Joy I think is technically Gen X. It’s just interesting to hear that this conversation is still so relevant. Right now, especially. We’ve had this TikTok thing where we can’t part our hair on the sides anymore. It can feel very separate, this big distinction between the Gen Z. They’re just fighting tight the Millennials about all the things that we have to cancel or whatever. But to hear, no, we’re all still really going through this similar process. Not to turn this into an age thing, but it is still interesting to hear your perspective as someone who has gone through this past year really from a completely different lens than, like I have a family and was working from home. Joy is a therapist. She was still going into the office. For you to be somebody who your day-to-day life was really put on hold. You had to move back in with your mom, and now to have that big shift. But to hear the thought process and that mindset and awareness is still universal, it’s great to know that those conversations are still happening and continuing to happen at earlier and earlier ages.
Gaby: Absolutely. It’s so funny. First of all, I was born in ’96, which technically is in between Millennial and Gen Z, so I do not know how to identify. I feel like I pull from both, and that’s when I pick and choose and I get picky.
Claire: Zillennial, is that the thing? I don’t know, these are hashtags I get from LinkedIn, so don’t talk to me about being cool and knowing what’s up.
Gaby: I love a LinkedIn influencer. I love it. Guys, don’t sleep on LinkedIn. It’s really great.
Claire: It’s pretty cool.
Gaby: But yeah, I don’t really know where to fall, but it is exciting for me to see the conversation just happening at least, in terms of mental health. Before, everything was just so stigmatized. And while these stigmas still exist, it’s why I am doing what I’m doing because they’re not gone. I think now what we’re facing aside from just stigma is everyone’s capitalizing on mental health. And that’s what we see now is brands just slapping a super tokenizing statement on a hoodie and selling it for $130. That’s not helping literally anyone. Or people not having trauma-informed people on their teams or licensed therapists on their team and they’re sending out deeply triggering messages to people. Or just posting sharable infographics that help no one and could actually be really triggering to someone. That’s something that my cohost Meadow and I always talk about. She’s not licensed, but she is trained. One of the companies that she works for, they have a hotline that the do. So, Meadow runs a hotline for them. So, she’s at least trauma-informed in that way. She still always points people in the direction of therapists and licensed professionals I should say. And now, we see, because people are talking about it, big businesses – they just see a dollar sign now. My friends and I always joke, “Self-care isn’t a face mask.” Even though the act of putting on the face mask can be your way of taking care of yourself that day. Your skin routine, you identify it as self-care. The actual $40 face mask is not healing your trauma from your childhood. Let’s not ignore it. Let’s actually unpack it and then maybe use that time to take a deep breath after you’ve done all the work and unpacked it.
Claire: So, you’re in LA now. When did you know that you were ready to leave Miami? Was it just kind of when the pandemic started slowing down? Did something push you to LA?
Gaby: So, I actually always wanted to come out here. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always seen myself out here. I have family out here. My older half-brother – complex family tree over here – he has lived here for I think the past 20 years. So, I grew up being able to visit him. Something about LA always just called to me. When I was graduating from college, I actually wanted to move out here but knew that it wasn’t realistic for the career path I wanted to take. I knew New York had to be step one. It’s funny, my mentor at the time told me, getting a job in what you want to do in New York is one obstacle. Getting a job in what you want to do in LA is two. Don’t do it. That just stuck in my brain. I knew I wanted to come here. I just honestly thought it would happen in my 30’s. I thought it would happen when I was “established enough” and climbed up the Condé Nast ladder enough and I’d be able to go out on my own and do my own thing and be here. But the decision I think to leave AD and the decision to leave New York were hand in hand. Because once I made that choice and I made the choice that I didn’t want to get another full-time role at a magazine from Condé Nast, I was like, okay, there’s no point in me going back. I’ve also never been someone who’s really glamorized New York or romanticized it. I was like, I’m here to work. I love the hustle. I love the energy. I love that everybody there is working so hard, just as you are, and you all understand each other on this weird level because everyone’s stressed out all the time. But I was like, I’m living in a tiny apartment. I’m being paid no money. Everything is really expensive, and I’m really anxious every day on the subway. I’d rather not. So going back to Miami was sort of the reset that I needed. It really hit me how much I’d missed just space. Once I resigned, I was like, okay, my lease is up. I’m going to move everything out. When the time is right, once I’ve made enough money from freelancing in the beginning and saved enough – because that was another great thing and privilege that I had was I got to be home during the pandemic. I wasn’t spending any money. So, I saved all of that and was able to come out here and just start a new life I feel like.
Claire: With these new projects that you’re working on, being in LA, does that really feel like the location is going to help you get that off the ground? Does it just feel serendipitous that all of these new beginnings are coming together, or do you feel like LA is where I need to be for X, Y, Z reasons?
Gaby: I think all of the above. I think just in terms of the landscape, I think LA has always been my speed that way. You have the mountains, but you also have the ocean. You have space. I have a car here. A car brings me so much safety. Just knowing that I have my own space to get from Point A to Point B just makes me feel a lot calmer. But in terms of career, since I’ve moved here so many things have been put into motion so much quicker. I think that has to do with the type of place LA is, and I think it also has to do with my networking style where I definitely find people that I want to connect with and go for it and shoot my shot and do all those things. I talk to a lot of people who are graduating from school and are trying to get their first job, and that’s always what I tell them. LinkedIn, network. Instagram, network is the best thing to do. What I love about the energy here is that it really allows you to create your own path and pave your own road, and nobody looks at you funny when you’re doing it. You don’t have to explain it a hundred times. You tell them, “I’m a freelance writer who talks about mental health and wants to help people in that world, and I’m still figuring out if I want to start a company” and this, this, and that. “Oh great, good for you.” No one’s like, “What’s your return on that?” They trust that you can figure it out and you can pave your own road because that’s kind of what everyone else is doing too. So, it really has inspired me to work harder and to also believe in myself in a way that I didn’t because a lot of my friends here that are around my age or even younger are so successful at what they do at such a young age, it really reminds me that I can get things done very young. And that’s okay. Just because I haven’t reached a certain milestone in terms of years that I don’t know well enough to know what I’m doing and to make the right decisions now.
Claire: And honestly, not to be like, I’m so much older and wiser than you. But I’m in my 30’s. Joy’s in her 40’s. Age-based self-doubt never goes away. It just changes. You go directly from “I’m too young to do this” to “I’m too old to not have started this already.” There’s no in between. And maybe there’s some of you out there who are like, “That’s not true. I woke up one morning and was like, I have arrived at the age where I can achieve.” But I think really, you go straight from “I’m too young. No one’s going to take me seriously” to “I’m too old to know what’s going on and no one’s going to take me seriously.”
Gaby: I was talking about it with a friend of mine who’s 22, and she was telling me – she is so successful, period. And then being so successful at 22 is a whole other thing. She always tells me, “I never tell people my age because they don’t take me seriously.” I’m like, that’s so funny because before, I used to love that people knew that I was 24 when I was still 24. Because the reaction was, “Oh my God, you’re only 24 and you’ve done so much.” It was that reaction. And now that I’m 25 – and I’ve literally been 25 for about a week – what’s hit me is this feeling of –
Claire: You’re not so young anymore.
Gaby: Is it exciting? Am I still young? Do I qualify at that? Or am I just in this weird in between? I was talking about it the other day with a friend. Do you remember being in high school and being s sophomore in high school? No one cares about you when you’re a sophomore. You’re the irrelevant age. That’s how I feel right now.
Claire: That’s so funny. Maybe when you eventually get older and you become like Iris Apfel status where you’re just so iconic. When do you go from just being middle aged to being icon age? That’s the age I want to be.
Gaby: Just doing whatever you want, and no one can say anything.
Claire: Yeah. Which maybe that’s every age and we just need to stop worrying about it.
Gaby: I think what it is, especially as women, we’re just told so many things all the time. We’re always told to calm down and relax and that we have to juggle 400 things at once and be moms and have natural birth and then also have a full-time job, obviously things that you can speak to but I cannot, but hope to one day. But yeah, I think that we need to step into our light more at any age. I talk to my guy friends.
Claire: This does not affect them at all.
Gaby: No. A friend of mine has been trying to negotiate a new role for himself at this company for about a year. He always sends me his emails to proofread, which is hilarious, and I love and I’m grateful that I’m that friend. But his emails are so wildly assertive that I get heartburn reading them. I would never send this. He’s like, “Gaby, you need to stand up for yourself.” I’m like, you never had someone knock you down 400 pegs and tell you to calm down and that you don’t deserve to be in a room. I was appalled at his emails. And he sent them and is getting that promotion.
Claire: And is getting it. Yes. One thousand percent. I have been talking about this with some coworkers. They’re like, “Do I go for this promotion? What do I do?” I’m like, “Listen. The men that I know would never think for two seconds – oh well…” I feel like there was a statistic that came out about this where women wait until they’re 90% qualified for a job listing before applying. Men will do it after like 30%. They read the first three, and they’re like, “Bachelor’s degree, 2-5 years’ experience.” You’re like, “But you’re an engineer. This is for design.” They’re like, “I don’t care. 2-5 years of experience.” Women don’t think that way, and we just need to.
Gaby: We have to. My sister is 28, and she’s in a role that she’s been told a million times she’s too young for. She told me when she was applying, she was so nervous about it. I was like, “You’re going to get the job. You’re going to get it. You’re so absurdly qualified that this is a no brainer.” Her mentor told her, “You just have to start acting like a man.” Start thinking like a man. Because no guy in your position would think, “Am I qualified enough? Are people going to take me seriously?” They just wouldn’t. It would never cross their mind because they never have heard those things before. So, they’re not conditioned to think anything else.
Claire: Exactly. There’s no voice in the back of their head because they’ve never had that… and they’ve never heard… have you seen Mean Girls?
Claire: Okay, thank God. I didn’t want to assume. You know when they’re standing in front of the mirror and she’s like, “I used to think there’s only fat and skinny, but now I know there’s all these things that can be wrong with you.” That’s sort of how I sometimes feel and definitely felt when I was younger when I would hear people say, “Oh yeah, and then I overcame this self-doubt about X, Y, Z.” I was like, oh my God, we’re supposed to be doubting that? Okay, I guess I’ll start self-doubting that then. Then on the flip side, you see someone out there. And we talk about this a lot when it comes to body image things. When you see someone walking around with their stretch marks, with their belly hanging out, with their pale skin, with their unibrow, whatever the case may be, and they are not walking around being like, “I don’t care, I’m doing it anyway.” They just don’t even mention it. It just doesn’t even register. And you’re like, oh. Do I have permission to not care about this? Then I guess if that person’s not even noticing it about themselves, then I guess I’m going to stop worrying about it on myself too. I feel like it’s the same way with those imposter syndrome, self-doubt feelings. If you see someone else out there who’s just going for it, it gives you permission to be like, if they’re not worried about coming across as being too outspoken in a meeting or if they’re not worried about coming across as being attention seeking by going for the promotion, then maybe that means I don’t have to worry about that either.
Gaby: Exactly. I believe it was Ashely Graham. You know, Ashely Graham, the super model? Gosh, I want to say it was her. I know I was listening to her, but I hope that she said this and I’m not just making this up in my head. But I’m pretty sure I remember an interview of hers where she was talking about not enjoying when people call her a plus size model because she’s like, “I’m just a model. You’re pointing it out. I’m just a model. I’m a super model. I do the same thing the girl next to me is doing.” It’s exactly what you said of pointing out the “flaw,” but then we’re like, “I didn’t even notice. Let me add that to my list of insecurities. Thank you so much,” because the world hasn’t already done enough.
Claire: Yeah. Like the new conversation lately where it’s like, don’t call me “she-EO,” don’t call me a “mom-preneur.” Call me the owner and founder of this business. Call me entrepreneur. Call me the founder. Call me a CEO. I’m not a female founder. I’m a founder. Don’t call me the whatever X, Y, Z. Don’t qualify it. Don’t take me out of default. I read something recently that I loved that was like, if we could get away from centering men, then it would be the National Basketball Association and the Men’s National Basketball Association. It would the National Hockey League and the Men’s National Hockey League. Instead of the WNBA, the WNHL. If you didn’t make it so that it was the default we all understood to be the men’s league and then you also had the women’s version. What if we all understood the default to be the women’s version and then you had the men’s version. If reading this or thinking about this made you uncomfortable or blew your mind, think about why that may be. It’s so automatic for you to center men in that experience that it feels like writing with your opposite hand to think about the women’s version being the default. The thought experiments are endless.
Gaby: Yes, definitely. And then thinking about it, too, I grew up with a mom who is an entrepreneur. She was the only woman in every room that she was in. It’s very, very interesting to watch the way that she runs her company and watch what an emphasis she places on hiring other women. But also, just the reputation that she has in Miami. She’s a shark. She can be a bitch. It’s this narrative that you wouldn’t say about a man. You’d be like, he’s a beast. He’s such a baller, good for him. You would never ever deem anything else, but she feels as though she has to put on this persona because if not, she’s not taken seriously. Which is just so unfortunate.
Claire: Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see generationally how that changes, if it changes. I think there’s still so much resistance. And I also think it does come down to the women in those positions kind of owning it and saying I don’t want to be a “she-EO” or whatever the case may be. But for a lot of women, that makes it feel more comfortable. I am able to be more comfortable with my success if it’s a little bit qualified.
Gaby: Yeah, definitely.
Claire: Because that’s the role that I filled. On the flip side, why not emphasize that you’re a woman in that role? Why not lead with that? I think that’s valid too if that’s what feels true to you. But yeah, I think it will be really interesting to see how that changes. And then of course we’re going to have the whole fallout from the pandemic with so many women leaving the workforce. That’s it’s whole other podcast episode.
Gaby: Gosh, yes. I’m actually very curious to see the numbers after we’re able to really study this from a different perspective, about how many men who were unfortunately laid off ended up staying stay-at-home dads, versus women.
Claire: Right, versus women who had to leave their jobs –
Gaby: To take care of their children, so that their kid could literally continue an education.
Claire: Yeah. My husband’s a nurse. He was working on a COVID unit. I was working from home. I work in marketing. We were lucky enough to have an au pair who had moved into our house in January 2020. And that was just an amazing freak situation we found ourselves with. If we had not had that, I would have had to quit my job to watch the kids.
Gaby: Right, because what else are you supposed to do?
Claire: Right. He’s not working from home. He’s going to the hospital every day. He’s taking extra shifts. He’s working overtime. He’s working in other hospitals. And I’m here trying to be on meeting with my, half the time, one year old. It’s just, yeah. It’ll be really interesting to see in the coming years how things weave themselves back together.
Gaby: And then you’re also in a position where your husband did actually save lives.
Claire: I mean, ours is a little bit of an extreme. He was on the frontlines doing the thing. But even if for whatever reason, I feel like women are the default for so many things.
Claire: So, I want to be respectful of your time. I know we’re coming up here on an hour. I want to hear a little bit more about your podcast that’s in development. If you want to talk a little bit more about what you’re excited about around that podcast. I know you’ve talked a little bit about your cohost, Meadow, which I love that her name is Meadow. That’s so LA. I don’t even know if she lives in LA, but I’m projecting that on her.
Gaby: San Diego, but yes.
Claire: California. What are you guys kicking off with?
Gaby: Yeah. So, we haven’t announced the actual date yet because you never know when things will be happening. But mid-June 2021 is what we’re going with as of right now. We’re both really excited about it. I’m just excited to continue to have these conversations on a regular basis. Honestly selfishly it’s so fun to get to hear other people’s experiences and meet all these incredible women and people in general. I always said that with Should We Talk About It, I just respected every single person that came on the show so much, and I’m going to feel the same with anyone who comes on the podcast. I’m going to have such a deep respect for them because they’re opening up in a way that they’re not used to, and that’s very different for them. Anyone who is taking time out of their day to talk about themselves in a different light, I’m just appreciative of. I’m very excited about that, and I’m very excited to learn from Meadow as well and become more well-versed in actually providing helpful solutions. I think that’s the number one thing that I’m always trying to do is, yeah, it’s nice to have conversations and to humanize us. And while I do think highlighting that invisible thing that connects us all that’s our mental health is deeply important, it’s also – you know, we were talking a lot about privilege in today’s conversation. That is always sort of at the forefront. Allowing mental health to become way more accessible. It’s heartbreaking that taking care of mental health is still a privilege. And while it shouldn’t be, it still is. I can’t say that me getting to go to therapy at noon on a Wednesday is common. When a single mom taking care of her kids and having to put food on the table and still going to work, a smoke break might literally be her self-care. It might be her form of taking care of her mental health. So that’s what I’m excited about with the podcast. Continuing the conversation, and continuing to hopefully provide helpful resources to people, and to continue to destigmatize this narrative and encourage people to take care of their minds. Because their mental health really does trickle into every other aspect to our lives. How are we going to be good parents, how are we going to be good partners, how are we going to perform well at work if up here mentally we’re not clicked in, we’re not doing great? So, I always just try to remind people in my personal life and now at the podcast that we’ve got to tap into that first because it trickles down into everything.
Claire: And where can people find you and eventually your podcast?
Gaby: So, people can find me on Instagram. I’m @gabyuloa_, and you can find the podcast at @thoughtsmayvarypod. It will also be linked in my bio on my personal page, should you be confused.
Claire: Awesome. And we will add your personal Instagram to the show notes. And then when your podcast is ready, let our listeners know about it. Our listeners know that if you have any questions ever about seeking out mental health, please just email us as Joy, as you all know, is a licensed mental health therapist. She is happy to help you find or navigate that system. We have a highlight on our Instagram called “Therapy,” which just highlights some very, very basics if you are looking for a new therapist, how to get started, how to look at different pricing options, how to find low-cost options if you don’t have insurance. So, check that out. Always email us. We are always more than happy to help. If you have ever emailed us in the past and we haven’t gotten back to you, as we say all the time, please feel free to reach back out. Gaby, I’m really excited to hear that you guys are starting this podcast, entering this space, and going to be encouraging people, and spreading stories of different mental health experiences. I think that’s so important. I’m really grateful that you took the time today to be on the show. Thank you so much.
Gaby: Thank you so much for having me. This was great.
Claire: And listeners, you can find us at @joyandclaire_ on Instagram. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will talk to you next week.
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