Usually I try to talk about something significant on this blog. But today I’m going to talk about emails. Silly, inevitable, and sometimes significant emails.
Every morning, like most people of this day, age, and generation, my morning begins by sifting through a barrage of messages. It’s only gotten worse since I came out here because of the East Coast-West Coast time difference: no matter how early I get up, it’s still 3 hours later on the East Coast. This means two things: 1. I’m still human and my attempts to master time are futile 2. I have an extra 3 hours’ worth of emails to manage.
It's like waking up to the correspondence equivalent of a snow day: I go to bed, clear skies, clear mind, and wake up with a couple of inches[' worth of scrolling through texts and emails] to plow through before I can start my day and get to work. And much like a snow day, where you don't know if the forecast was right or how severe the snow was is until you look out the window, I--no matter how well I try to forecast--have no way of telling what I'll find in my inbox or how much attention it's going to deserve until I open the [app] window and see for myself.
If I don't plug my accounts with new retailer subscriptions, I’ll probably be able to directly correlate my career success or life status based on the number of messages I receive overnight. Of course, that’s assuming more leadership on the work front and more responsibility on the home front translate to more pings.
Soaking up the tech scene for 6+ weeks, I'd be surprised if Google or some tech company hasn't already come to the same conclusion. I’m probably not the first person (and I'm definitely not the first MIT student) to have considered testing the linear relationship between email quantity and career responsibility and running a regression analysis. In all likelihood, some startup is already making money off of this insight and thereby affording to equip its ranks with those awful motorized scooters that zip past me at every turn on every block in San Francisco.
Perhaps by the time I’ve married myself to an industry and to an individual and to the prospect of children, the world will have changed and the landscape of communication will have changed along with it. But unless I become important enough or wealthy enough to have personal assistants, more people in my life--whether I hire them, marry them, or produce them-- will doubtlessly lead to…more emails.
Even at 25, in my relative lack of career and personal importance,and even after using Unroll.me to eliminate subscriptions, I still wake up to a minimum of 20 emails in the morning.
These emails include:
~Emails from retailers from whom I bought one item years ago but from whom I consistently forget to unsubscribe until after I delete the email.
~Emails from media and business news outlets spewing gossip and gloom, and my guiltiest pleasure, gloomy gossip (e.g. anything involving the fates of the contestants in the Bachelor/ette franchises)
~Emails about reordering business cards from the business I’ve put on hold indefinitely, the email account that makes sad eyes at me like a puppy waiting to go outside to play and makes me feel guilty for the hundred other things to which I’ve been devoting more love and attention.
~Emails about bills paid and bills owed, making my nostalgic for true full-time employment. Sephora was careful to call our internship pay package a stipend and not a salary. This deliberate wording, along with the lifestyle of San Francisco, is reflected in the current state of my bank account.
~Emails about new posts from a handful of lifestyle bloggers that make me wonder why I don’t write more. On good days, the wondering inspires me to write. On bad days, it guilts me for not writing more and I “productively" procrastinate. In the case of putting off this post, it meant cooking my lunches and dinners for the week (and, going back to gloomy gossip, watching anything from the Bachelor/ette franchise).
If you’re anything like me, you get enough emails you could organize into stacks by category like stacks of cash money in a bank vault or in a mafioso’s suitcase (and of similarly dubious but potentially lucrative quality). You get enough emails to have caused a paper avalanche at a different time and place in human history. Maybe you get caught up in the emails, as I do, but maybe you ignore them, letting the little mail app notification glare at you from phone or computer, turning your back on and eyes away from the angry, hopeful, longing masses of messages in the queue, desperately begging you, “Open me! Read me!"
Emails stress me out. I have to put restrictions on myself for when I look at emails and how much time I spend replying to them. And knowing I’m not the person who can avoid opening them, I’ve ensured that I have some things I can look forward to in my inbox that I can keep me sane amid the "snowstorm.”
Even on my worst days, even when I want to delete them, I consume a regular "brain food" diet of of two spiritually-inclined “quote a day” messages and one poem from a “poem-a-day” subscription, and I cement the impressions from them in one page in my journal every morning (in case you wondered why I’m always up early, this is it).
Some people feel prepared to face the morning by getting the Wall Street Journal or New York Times headlines straight in their inboxes. Others derive joy from waking up to little flash sale notifications from Groupon or Gilt. Others consult Facebook, Twitter, and the like on social media to get started on the day. For me, drinking in thesemessages and writing is like drinking hot cocoa before heading out into the snowstorm—it’s the comfort and peace I find before confronting DealBook’s analysis of quarterly earnings. It makes the calculating, unfeeling parts of the world easier to swallow.
But whatever it is that makes you feel ready to conquer, whether it’s reading the news, listening to your favorite song, or checking the weather, make sure it’s one of the first things you see or do in the morning. Build in the joy, “because the world will turn if you’re ready or not,” as one of my favorite songs goes.
The snow is going to fall no matter what you do. But you can put on your parka and snow tires. And it doesn’t mean you can’t look forward to building a snowman.