Dr. Christine Koh Talks About Vulnerability, Overwhelm, and Mental / Emotional Well-Being
This week I’m thrilled to share with you a friend who is someone I learn from, grow from, and continue to be inspired by, Dr. Christine Koh. Christine is a music and brain scientist turned multimedia creative, and a fierce believer in the power of humans, small moments and actions, and vulnerable, authentic storytelling. Christine is a contributor at the Washington Post, Boston Globe Magazine, and CNN; as well as a co-author of Minimalist Parenting; and founder of the award-winning blog Boston Mamas. She also hosts the podcasts Edit Your Life (which I love).
Full disclaimer: This is a bit of a different episode for the show because we’re not going to be focusing on a specific diagnosis or even talk about neurodivergent kids. But we are going to talk about ways we can more fully show up for ourselves as creative, resourceful, and whole humans. And because I benefit so much from Christine’s way of being in the world, in her social media, her podcast, and her writing, I wanted to share some of Christine’s goodness with you all, too.
In this episode, we will get into all kinds of topics, like vulnerability, boundary setting, leaning into discomfort, and making big, messy, life pivots. So sit back, grab a cup of tea, and join Christine and me in conversation!
About Dr. Christine Koh
Dr. Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned multimedia creative. She is a fierce believer in the power of humans, small moments and actions, and vulnerable, authentic storytelling. She communicates on these beliefs through her work as a writer (she is a contributor at the Washington Post, Boston Globe Magazine, and CNN; co-author of Minimalist Parenting; and founder of the award-winning blog Boston Mamas), podcaster (Edit Your Life, Hello Relationships), designer (Brave New World Designs), and creative director (Geben Communication). You can find her at @drchristinekoh on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- The importance of showing up for ourselves, more now than ever
- Ways we can reduce overwhelm in life, especially when navigating really hard things
- How the pandemic shifted Christine’s worries and parenting approach
- How to set boundaries that are clear and that feel good to you
- Why Christine believes intention requires attention and vulnerability
- Why now is a great time to consider making a life pivot and change to bring us closer to our true North
Resources mentioned for Dr. Christine Koh
- Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest
- The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey
- Share Your Stuff, I’ll Go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine
Christine Koh 00:00
But I truly believe that every path that we take is a stepping stone and leads us to another thing and it’s learning it’s not a waste. So I wanted to say this to you and your audience because I really love that piece. But also that I feel that so many adults are amidst change right now. And maybe considering different things and I just don’t want the logistics of life to kind of grab hold of self doubt. I don’t want those two things to intersect. If you feel strongly that your calling is somewhere else. I want to invite you to explore it and think about it and give it some air. Give it just as much air as you know, the naysaying side would give you because it is really important.
Debbie Reber 00:50
Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber. This week, I’m thrilled to share with you a friend who is someone I learn from, grow from and continue to be inspired by Dr. Christine Koh. Christine is a music and brain scientist turned multimedia creative, and a fierce believer in the power of humans, small moments and actions and vulnerable, authentic storytelling. She’s a contributor at the Washington Post, Boston Globe magazine and CNN, as well as the co author of Minimalist Parenting and founder of the award winning blog, Boston Mamas, she also hosts the podcasts, Edit Your Life, which I love, by the way, and Hello Relationships. And a full disclaimer, this is a bit of a different episode than my more typical fare, because we are not going to be focusing on a specific diagnosis or even really talk about neurodivergent kids. But we are going to talk about ways that we can more fully show up for ourselves as creative, resourceful and whole humans. And because I benefit so much from Christine’s authentic and vulnerable way of being in the world. In her social media, her podcast and her writing. I really wanted to share some of Christine’s goodness with all of you too. So in this episode, we’ll get into all kinds of topics like vulnerability, boundary setting, leaning into discomfort and making big messy life pivots. Good stuff. So sit back, grab a cup of tea and join Christiane me in conversation. Before I get to that, as you may know, I’ve been working to create some self study programs for parents and caregivers who are looking for very specific support. Last fall, I shared a new mini course called the Emergency Reset. And now I’m excited to announce that I’ve launched something I’ve been working on for the past several months. It’s a self-study version of my Differently Wired Club. So this is a 12 month program each month focused on a different theme. It features videos, worksheets, accountability challenges, deep dive resources, and weekly emails to keep you on track. So I try to take the best of the club and reformat it in a way that works for busy parents who just don’t have the time for live calls and engagement, but would really benefit from the content of the club. To check it out. You can visit courses.tiltparenting.com Or go to Tilt Parenting and just click on courses in the main menu. Lastly, don’t forget to check your podcast feed on Fridays as a playback Fridays, where I release some of my most favorite episodes from the first two years of this show. It’s here again, coming up. I’ve got episodes with Dr. Ross Greene, Alfie Kohn, Karen Young, Dr. Dan Peters, and much more. If you’re already subscribed, no need to do anything special. Just check your podcast feed on Fridays. Thank you so much. And now here is my conversation with Christine.
Debbie Reber 04:10
Hey, Christine, welcome to the podcast.
Christine Koh 04:12
Hi, Debbie. How are you? Thank you for having me today.
Debbie Reber 04:16
I’m good. Thank you for asking. And I’m super happy to be having this conversation. I’ve been wanting to have you on the show. For a long time. I’m a listener of your podcast, the edit your life podcast. And there’s just so many things we could talk about today. So I’m going to do my best to guide listeners along and in just a lovely conversation between the two of us.
Christine Koh 04:37
Oh, I’m so excited. And Debbie if I can just embarrass you for a second to your listeners and just say that you are one of my favorite people I have met virtually through the pandemic who I’ve yet to meet in person. So one of my upcoming goals in the next year or two whenever you know things settle down is to actually hug you in person. It will happen, we will manifest it.
Debbie Reber 05:00
That sounds amazing. I was thinking of you this morning, that also you are someone who has really leaned into baking in the time that I’ve known you. And this may have been a pre pandemic thing for you. For me, it’s new. But your stuff looks amazing, as does yours. And I was thinking that too, we need to bake together someday. So yes, I look forward to that. Awesome. Well, what I would love to do to start this conversation, you are someone who to me can’t really be defined as such a great thing for this audience. Because we are raising kids who don’t neatly fit in any boxes, I don’t think you fit in any boxes. And you know, I’ve already read your former bio, but if you could just share with us how you define or describe yourself and the work that you do in the world.
Christine Koh 05:45
Yeah, sure, I’ll give the super short summary, which is that in a previous life, I was a music and brain scientist. And then I pivoted about 15 years ago. And now I’m in a position where I am just super passionate about creating meaningful content to help people figure out how to make the small tweaks in their life in order to live better, feel less pressure, find ways to just tune into more meaning in their lives. And it applies to everything, whether it’s mental, emotional, physical types of clutter. And I’ve just in various mediums, whether it’s video podcasting, writing, I’ve just grown incredibly passionate about this space.
Debbie Reber 06:29
You know, as you mentioned, we’ve gotten to know each other over the past year and a half, virtually, I rarely meet people. And I’m not saying this to toot my own horn. I am doing a kabillion things at any one time. And then I see what you’re doing. And all the different hats that you wear and the writing, the podcast. You’re a thought leader and an expert. You’ve got a business and all of these pieces. What are some of your favorite areas right now that you are playing in?
Christine Koh 06:57
Well, yeah, that’s such a great question. Really this year have or in 2021, rather, I really found my voice kind of unexpectedly on a larger platform writing for major media outlets, that was just like a small little, I’d had a goal to just publish, try to achieve one byline and ended up becoming a regular writer for a few outlets, which was really weird. But I still, I have to say, I feel so passionate about podcasting. Like you, I’m sure you find this with your listeners, it’s just such a different and intimate and special way to connect with people. I suppose because you’re literally in somebody’s ears. My podcast has undergone a big transition recently with my co host hanging up her spurs. But I feel like it was very clear to me when she made that decision that I still had a lot of conversations that I wanted to have with people, you’re going to be on my show, which I’m so excited about. And there’s just, there’s still so much we’re all working on. Obviously, that is certainly related to the edit your life mantra. So I think those are the two major buckets that I’m really excited about. But you know, I also work as a creative director, and just anything creative, visual, you know, finding ways to move people to think and maybe do things a little differently. I’m always excited about it.
Debbie Reber 08:22
Well, one of the things I love about your podcast and listeners, I’m going to be having a lot of links in the show notes. So definitely check out the edit your life podcast, the new episodes and also go back into the archives, because there’s some fantastic conversations in there. But one of the things that I love about your work and your Instagram where you also have a great presence is just the authenticity and the vulnerability in the way that you show up. And it’s refreshing. It is inspiring to me, there’s something that you almost kind of come through my Instagram to really just connect on this deeper level. And I’m wondering what motivates you or kind of guides you in being so vulnerable in the way that you show up?
Christine Koh 09:07
First, that’s incredibly kind and means a lot to me to hear you say that to me. So thank you. I think I’ve had a number of people say that to me that they feel like when they come to me or my page or whatever, they just feel like I’m this is just who I am. And it’s absolutely true. And I was wondering why that is? I have reflected on that in the past. And I actually think I grew up in very challenging circumstances with quite a lot of trauma. And I think my husband and I have not exactly joked but we’ve talked about how I think because I’ve experienced so much I kind of have this like no shame there’s like basically nothing I feel shameful, shameful about because it’s just stuff that happened and stuff that I had to live through and stuff I’ve talked about. So I think that When I am sharing something, actually, it probably wasn’t always this easy. But a couple years ago, I realized I had this little litmus test for myself that I felt like there was something I wanted to share about that I thought was really important. And I felt like I was going to barf then it meant it was really important to share it. So, and time and again, whenever I just said, Art Christine, just get ready to barf and just share it. When I did that, people would react to it and just feel connected, they would feel like their own struggle was seen and validated and heard. And that was really important to me. So I think I’ve just always felt like you know, what? We are, we are better for sharing things. And certainly I don’t know if you know Laura Tremaine, but she has a book called I believe it’s called Share Your Stuff. And she’s a podcaster. Her podcast is called 10 Things to Tell You. And we’ve talked about how, actually, I did interview her on my podcast, but we’ve talked about how, you know, sharing whether it’s with your friends, whether it’s, you know, with family, really cracking open and being authentic and vulnerable. That’s how you grow closer. I mean, you can’t do it with everybody. You have to, you know, you have to pick your people. But it really is an important step to growth together.
Debbie Reber 11:21
Yeah, as you were talking, I was thinking of guests I had on the show, maybe a year ago, Mercedes solutio, she wrote a book called shame proof parenting. And a lot of that is about kind of tapping into our internalized shame that we brought with us that we bring into our relationship with our kids, and how that can impact the dynamic. And so I’m just wondering, you know, your parents, how has this vulnerability and dealing with the nausea and sharing anyway, how has that impacted or changed the way that you show up for your kids? If it has?
Christine Koh 11:56
Yeah, that’s a great question. I have two kids ages 10 and 17. And, you know, it’s interesting, also, raising kids in this age of social media, because I’ve certainly found, especially as my older one has, has become a team that I’ve really moved off of sharing a lot of about my kids, and, and really keeping the lens more on me, because I really have thought, you know, this is I can tell some of their stories, you know, those sort of light things, but I want to be careful about what I disclose. So, I think there’s, you know, that’s like one piece of the story with them. But I think I always try from the very beginning. My biggest struggle from the very beginning with my kids was to try not to overcompensate with them for what I didn’t have as a kid. And that started out as material things. But I think also, it’s just been really important for me to remember, hey, it’s really good for them to see me make mistakes and to feel okay about their mistakes. I mean, we know Jess Leahy, she’s a great friend, and she, you know, talks about the Gift of Failure, her book is incredible. Those moments are so important. And so I have not tried to burden them with the stories of my past, but just when relevant and age appropriate. I’ve tried to intersect, you know, different little bits, in order for them to both just kind of give themselves a little grace, give other people a little grace and try to figure out a way forward if they’re experiencing a point of struggle.
Debbie Reber 13:32
Yeah, that’s great. Thank you. So I wanted to actually revisit a post and Instagram post, I think it was from spring of 2021. Kind of really in the heart of the pandemic. Or 2020. Excuse me, I don’t even remember. So I have no idea when this has happened. What is time?
Christine Koh 13:51
What is time? Yes.
Debbie Reber 13:52
This is the post in which you cut your hair on Instagram live, I watched it. And I think it was James your dog’s scissors perhaps?
Yeah, grooming scissors.
And I think we were just getting to know each other at the time. And I was like, What is she doing? Like I, I, I loved it so much. And I was like, wow. And so you talked about that. In an article you wrote I think for the Washington Post you said I later realized that this moment reflected something bigger, I was learning to choose what was actually worth stressing about. Everything became relative to the daily stress of the pandemic and the magnitude of the world. The world’s problems. It changed how I parent. Can you say a little bit more about that moment and in that shift?
Christine Koh 14:47
Yeah, well, you know, it’s funny, I I had just felt like all of us I was exhausted. I’m probably still exhausted, but you know, exhausted, frustrated and ready. by everything going on and what I didn’t I don’t think I mentioned it in that Washington Post article but the impetus was actually that for cutting my hair off was I had seen my former now former stylist, you know, posting pictures on Instagram of like his super spreader holiday parties, and I just kind of was like, WTF like, what, what is even happening? And the funny thing that I don’t even I’m not sure if I included either in that Instagram post or somewhere else was that I just decided to cut my hair off. I did it with these dog scissors. I literally had a choice. I didn’t have any like, apparently we don’t have any Hair Cutting scissors. It was dog scissors or my husband’s tiny mustache grooming scissors, like the choices were not great. And after I did it, my teenager saw it and her mouth hung open because my hair is kind of a thing. Like, I’m usually like, I like styling it, I like it to look good. And I think she just the delight on her face was unreal. And then she said, Can you cut my hair off? And I cut her hair off too. And it was just a sort of great moment of feeling like, Okay, what is really important here? Is his hair really that important? No. And then it led to you know, my daughter, my younger daughter did not trust me to cut her hair. But she did ask, could I get a blue streak, a blue dye streak in my hair? I’m like, Yeah, sure. Absolutely. You know, so. And actually, that was one thing that I heard from other readers for that Washington Post article who had said that some of those little moments of self expression and being able to actually hair was like a big part of that story, whether it was cutting hair, dyeing hair, growing hair, any of it. Kids really needed something like that to latch on to, to get through this enormously tough time. I mean, kids and grownups, I mean, I was in that bucket. So I think any of those moments that we can take to just have a little insight into our experience and think, okay, you know, is there something I can do that, you know, will change my experience, and really helped me figure out what’s the big deal and what’s not? Like? That’s a good thing, I think.
Debbie Reber 17:11
Yeah, it’s something I talk a lot about is just getting really comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s something I think that you are modeling. Does it get any easier? I mean, you said that, you know, feeling like you’re gonna throw up and doing it anyway. Like, is it getting easier to make those chairs?
Christine Koh 17:29
Oh, yeah. Now I just, I don’t have the barf litmus test has gone out the window, because now I just go forward, and it’s fine. And I just say what’s on my mind. And, you know, recently I went on a family ski trip. This would be December of 2021. And I had a real moment on the mountain where I, I just, I wanted to share something on Instagram about feeling like my body had failed me like, or has come to fail me over the last year or two. And that doesn’t feel great to share it. But I’m like, I’m certainly not alone in this. And I think this is an important thing that people need to hear. And certainly people were like, yes, like, let’s talk more about it. So I just think we, there’s so much common experience that we all share, even if we aren’t particularly personally connected. And I think the more we can come together around that stuff will help us feel just less siloed in our experience. And that’s really important, especially given everything going on and how much isolation there has been the more we can find that connection, the better.
Debbie Reber 18:31
Yeah, it’s everything. It really is everything right now, you have a lot of passion. So as we’ve discussed, I know that reducing overwhelm is something that you’ve been really working on. I’ve seen you do that . In another podcast, I was interviewed for a podcast yesterday about slowing down and pausing over the holiday break, I did this with Susan Stillman and you came up. Because one of the things I appreciate is that if you can’t do something, you just say, Oh, I’m not able to do that. And I’m like, Oh, you can just say that, like I don’t need to have reasons. Like it’s so oh my gosh, you’re such a role model for me in that way. And maybe that’s a boundary setting or or, you know, I don’t know how you would classify that. But that is something even just saying what you need and not feeling a need to explain is an excuse to just put out what you need.
Christine Koh 19:29
You know, can I take a second to just explain that a little bit more because it’s so funny. This exact topic just came up with my kids and they were like, wait, you can do that? So one of the things that I hear about back in pandemic times although or pre pandemic when I was doing a lot of speaking in person but it’s also come up on speaking engagements virtually too but one thing that I always bring up and people always go what you can do that and then they try it and then their minds are blown it I say, you know, I think the the reason that we as people struggle with saying no, is because we feel like we need to make an excuse about it. And sometimes we don’t have a I’m using air quotes, legitimate excuse and we don’t want to lie. Right? That doesn’t feel great. So I have told people repeatedly, you don’t have to say, you don’t have to give an excuse. You can just say, No, thank you. Thank you for thinking of me. I’m not available. And you don’t have to give an excuse. When I told my kids this this past weekend in the car, they could not believe that anybody would take that for an answer. And I’m like, Yeah, I do it all the time. And and once I started doing it, I always recommend to people, if your listeners want to take away something to do this week, I’m very action oriented in sort of life edits, but you know, go through your email, and you will invariably have a thing, maybe five things that you really don’t want to do. Somebody is asking you something, you really don’t want to do it. Simply respond with, oh, I’m not able to do that. But thanks for thanks for reaching out. That’s it, no excuses, nothing. Once you just get over the cringe of doing that once or twice, I swear, your life will change and you will be able to fire off those emails, you’ll respond. So you won’t feel bad about not responding. Because the other thing is when we don’t want to give an excuse, then we don’t respond. And then we feel bad about the lag time. There’s this whole thing. I mean, I just did that with an editor this morning, where I realized I was like, I just don’t have time over the next couple of weeks to develop a bunch of pitches and write a bunch of stories and reach out to sources. So I said, Hey, I really, really would love to write some stuff. But the next well, actually, for her, I did share that I was just going to be out of pocket. But I said I’m just not going to be pitching anything the next couple weeks. Have a great holiday. Yeah. How did that feel? Yeah. And it was great. It was just really direct and was honest. And I think that being honest, actually, even if that means giving less information is a real sign of respect to another person. So I think that’s like a really good thing.
Debbie Reber 22:13
Yes, it feels free even just hearing you talk about it. And it’s something I’ve been working on as well. And you know, as Tilt Parenting has grown, my inbox has exploded, and I want to help all the people and answer all the emails. And that’s a tricky balance for me. But saying no to some of the opportunities that I get for guesting on a podcast or an event or things like that. It has been. Yeah, I don’t have to say yes to everything. And so for listeners it doesn’t matter if this is about your business or anything like we all have the right to, to do what we need to do for ourselves and for our families. And it can feel really uncomfortable, but it does get easier.
Christine Koh 22:56
Mm hmm. It does. The more you practice it, it’s just you know, like a kind of muscle memory, you just need to get in the swing of it a little bit.
Debbie Reber 23:03
Yes. 100%. Well, so any, you know, you said you’re action oriented, and you are and and also, you know, you are the co author of a book, minimalist parenting like this is stuff that you for lack of a better word you’d like to geek out on, which I do too. So I would love any other tips or hard won wisdom on that boundary setting piece because that is a really tricky thing. It’s what I’m hearing a lot from my community right now, especially as we’re recording this, we’re leading up to the holidays. But this can happen any time. The demands placed on our families that we know are going to trigger our kids are going to create stressful situations, whether it’s an expectation that we have to attend this family gathering and we know it’s just the perfect storm for our child. Like any specific strategies on how we can really clearly set boundaries in a way that can feel good. And, and not I guess we can control what other people think or respond.
Christine Koh 24:03
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting. I I had posted just a little quote from a recent episode, and people really responded to it. And I basically was saying this was in advance of the holidays and really realizing that I wasn’t sure I was trying to decide whether I had been like this before the pandemic or if the pandemic changed me, but I just was really feeling like, I don’t want big holiday stuff. Like I don’t want to go to shows I don’t want to go to parties. I just want one on one I want or a very very small group like I’m talking like six to eight people small. I just, you know, wanted less and people were very much like yeah, that’s me too. That’s me too. And so I followed up actually in Instagram Stories, although maybe I should actually put it somewhere a little more permanent as I said, you know people often want sample language for me which is sort of funny because actually, I think my therapist husband, I’ve joked about the fact that I want to develop someday. A what would John say app because he always has the perfect response for every single thing. But in general, I laid out, I said, in order to try to carve out these boundaries for yourself, and you know, to protect your space and your family, and to also be respectful of people you care about, I felt like it kind of boiled down to three things. So first, I feel like it’s really good to start by affirming the other person. So for example, you can start by saying, Hey, I understand everybody, this is actually literally what I did in a family email recently, Hey, everybody, I realized everybody has different expectations and different wants for the holiday season. So that’s like the affirming I see you part. Second, I always use and not but so Hey, everybody, I know everybody has different wants and expectations for the holidays. And, then the third part is just to be really clear about what you want and what your family wants. And so in our case, actually, our kids said, we just want Christmas day, just us, just our family of four, we did that last year for the pandemic, they loved it, it was really fun. So what I ended up saying to my family was the first part, first one, two, and three, it was, Hey, everybody, I know, everyone has different expectations and wants for the holiday season. And my family has decided that we want just a small, quiet Christmas with just the four of us, or the five if you include the dog. But then the fourth, the fourth little piece is to then offer a point of connection that feels really good to you. So I follow that up by saying, I’ll follow up by, you know, phone or video chat with people individually, to connect around the holidays. So it’s not like you’re just shutting people off. But it’s connecting in a way that is true to you, that will not lead you to feel resentful. Our connection time with people. And our own availability is so precious, that I feel like we have to move forward in a way where we’re not doing things out of resentment, or really believe that and I think we can do it, we just need to really tune into what we want. And then to just be direct and honest, you can be direct and honest and be loving too.
Debbie Reber 27:36
Yeah, and you know, use the word respectful before it is respectful, to be honest with people. And I think that isn’t what we initially think, right? So many of us just think we’re letting people down. We’re disappointing people, this is going to be a big deal. This is going to be a problem. Like we can often revert back to behaviors or thinking patterns from when we were younger, or relationships with siblings and all those things. But speaking our truth is respectful to everyone involved. Right? It gives everyone the chance to kind of level up their own game.
Christine Koh 28:07
Yeah. And I personally would like to show up, as you know, a happy and engaged person. And, and that’s harder to do if you’re feeling like, wow, somebody said I should be here. So I’m here, you know, that doesn’t feel good. I also wanted to add that because it’s on my mind as we approach the holidays, since we’re recording in December. But it’s also really good to explore creative solutions. I mean, we’re all doing things differently, thanks to the pandemic, right. So for example, for the holidays, I’m taking one of my kids to see my in-laws like my husband’s parents. You know, he took the other kid there for Thanksgiving. So we’re doing Christmas, we’re just splitting it up. And that’s going to be the way to give everybody enough space during the holidays to do the things they want to do. But still connect with people we care about.
Debbie Reber 28:57
Yeah, I hope that that is one of the things that we take with us when this pandemic eventually ends. is just, yeah, a clearer sense of who we are and what we need, how to ask for it. As you were talking, I was also thinking this is really important modeling for our kids, to show them that they get to be in choice about some things too, that, you know, that certainly wasn’t the way I was raised to realize that I could say no to things. And there was a lot of obligation or just expectation around how things were done. And so it’s a great opportunity for our kids.
Christine Koh 29:35
I think that’s a perfect, wonderful point because it really is so important, like the way that I grew up in a family of seven, you know, traditional Korean patriarchal like there was no you just took your orders and you moved forward like there was no discussion about anything. So I would like to invite your listeners to reframe this to think think of it as a time time of opportunity, you know, this is a time of opportunity for us to, to get clear on what we want to advocate for what we want to help model for our kids that that’s important to help them use their voice. Like there are just so many intersections that are really great and important for them to become full people like full like happy people. So it’s really a good thing. It’s again, it can be uncomfortable, as you said, but those moments are really important, too.
Debbie Reber 30:29
Yeah, it’s where all the good stuff happens on the other side of that discomfort, or maybe in the middle of it, but we don’t appreciate it until we’re on the other side of that discomfort. I have been consuming your content all over the place. So thank you for going with me as I jump around through the history of your, of your various outlets. But I think this was on your newsletter that you have, you wrote that intentions require attention, and vulnerability. And that really jumped out at me, one of the things I talk a lot about is being intentional about the way that we show up, being intentional about how we want to be with ourselves, be with our family, be with our kids. And that’s something we can set our intentions every day, like I get to do over I’m going to just this is how I intend to be. And I’m just wondering if you could say more about what you were thinking when you wrote that intentions require attention and vulnerability. What was that about?
Christine Koh 31:27
Yeah, I believe that one was when I was sort of walking through the story of how I decided to pursue a goal of writing for major media. And I think the vulnerability in sharing that story was that during the pandemic, I wrote a book, like I wrote 75,000 words, I read an ad of your life book, there was preliminary interest from a publisher. As we know, the landscape of publishing, a lot of things changed, and I couldn’t get any traction on it. And in fact, I had one at one agent completely ghost me, I had another agent tell me to go double all my social media followings and then come back in a month, and I was like, okay, yeah, that’s never gonna happen unless I engage Russian bots. So, it was a little, you know, that was a moment of vulnerability, because it’s hard to say, Hey, I worked on this thing. I put a lot of effort into this thing, and it went nowhere. But I think that that clarity, also helped me realize, you know, I can’t do everything by myself, when I wanted to start writing for other publications. And on a bigger platform, I realized, I have no idea how to pitch an article, like, I don’t know what editors want, like, I don’t even know any editors. How do I do that? So I had to reach out and ask for help. And I mean, I didn’t need I didn’t need somebody to hold my hand. But I had to ask somebody, a mutual friend of ours, I said, I have an idea for an article, like, would you one be willing to read it? And so that’s time. So I’m very sensitive to asking people for things and then if you like it enough, would you be willing to introduce me to your editor? So to me, those asked her hard because I’m so mindful of people’s time. And then also what if she hates it, and then she has to deal with the emotion of having to tell me she hates it. So there is a lot there. But I think that if you really identify something that you care about like that, and you just feel it really strongly in your gut, I am a gut person more than a head person. But I think that it really is important to put yourself out there because otherwise, it’s just difficult to gain traction on something that you really care about. So that was such a pivotal moment for me because I am used to just getting the things done figuring out how to do it. And in this case, I did need to ask for help. And I was really grateful that this friend was receptive to reading and then she ended up having a couple suggestions to just like, polish it up a little bit. And then she made the intro and it was kind of history from there.
Debbie Reber 34:09
Yeah, it has been history. I remember when you stated that goal. And now I feel like I see a byline in a Washington Post your regular contributor to CNN, The Boston Globe, like you’ve really done a lot in the past year and really strong pieces. You know, you’ve covered so many topics in the parenting space. I’m wondering, and we’re gonna wrap up, I’m being mindful of the time here. But is there any piece that really jumps out at you as being something that you didn’t get that you really got some deep learning from or that you were most excited about as you shared it?
Christine Koh 34:44
Wow, that’s a hard question. I have really just been so grateful to be able to put my voice out there on a different level. But what I think is the piece that I will reference Because, obviously, you have adults listening to your show. And so I think this is an important piece for all of us. But I wrote one for the Boston Globe magazine about career jumping. And you know, one of the things that I really wanted to communicate because one of the first questions I invariably get when people learn about me is Wow, do you regret wasting all that time as an academic? Always, always. And so my point in that article is I kind of stepped through different experiences, as I said, you know, I, I get it. Like, it’s hard, especially if you’ve undergone a career where it’s required a lot of training, a lot of money, a lot of time, it is tempting to say, Oh, wow, that was a waste, or I can’t change because I already invested all this time. But I truly believe that every path that we take is a stepping stone, and leads us to another thing and it’s learning, it’s not a waste. So I wanted to say this to you and your audience, because I really love that piece. But also that I feel that so many adults are amidst change right now. And maybe considering different things. And I just don’t want the logistics of life to kind of grab hold of self doubt, I don’t want those two things to intersect. If you feel strongly that your calling is somewhere else, I want to invite you to explore it and think about it and give it some air, give it just as much air as you know, the naysaying side would, would give you because it is really important. And I feel so lucky to be in a career that I mean, listen, every day is not puppy dogs and unicorns. Some days, I’m exhausted, but I do a lot of different types of work now. And I’m ultimately calling the shots. And that is something for which I’m incredibly grateful, because it’s very different than my life in academia used to be.
Debbie Reber 37:06
That’s great, great advice. And, yeah, I always tell people when they interview me that this was not part of my master plan to have created, you know, a community for parents. That was not my career goal. But I’m so grateful to be doing this work. But sometimes those hard pivots can feel super uncomfortable, because it can, there can also be so much identity wrapped up in past careers. And that shift can be painful, but freeing ultimately, as a way to to wrap up. Well, I had two questions, but I’m going to combine them into one. Just as an outside observer, and a stalker of your social media, it has felt like COVID has really been there’s been a growth spurt for you, as a person during this time, as has been the case for so many of us. But I’m wondering, what are you kind of excited to bring with you moving forward? And maybe just as part of that, what are you most excited about right now? Like, is there something you’re really jazzed about?
Christine Koh 38:04
Yeah, well, you know, I think this goes in the vulnerability lane. But as I mentioned earlier, you know, my podcast is coming to like a very big crossroads that my co host is leaving. I’m going to fly the show solo. So I think part of me is feeling quite vulnerable, like, Are people gonna come still. But I’m also excited for the opportunity in that and, and the ability to just kind of see where it goes, like, I’m really truly excited about that. I will, okay, I was totally not planning on saying anything about this. But I will just say it first with you, Debbie, because we’re talking about vulnerability. But I have been thinking about exploring the prospect of writing some kind of memoir, something. So I’m thinking about not just going out writing it, but just starting to like, put some feelers out. I already you know, talk to a friend or message a friend who’s a memoir saying, Would you be willing to just talk to me for an hour about, like, what that’s all about? And, you know, reading some books about memoir writing, and just kind of exploring it a little bit and not having a firm plan, but just kind of seeing where it goes. Because, you know, one thing I keep hearing is that these stories that I share about, you know, the connection of the past and how that informs me as a person in the present and how that can inform many other bigger things in life for anybody else. It feels like those stories need to come together in some way. Wow, I can’t believe I just shared that but here we are. Because listen, thank you.
Debbie Reber 39:46
I feel so honored hurted here first, and I you know, as someone who likes to create lots of different things I know that feeling of, of just knowing that there’s something there’s something in this other area that You’re curious about and when it kind of explore a little bit and that is so like, I can feel it. That’s really cool. Thank you. Thank you for showing up with such vulnerability.
Christine Koh 40:11
Well, I love you. And so obviously I’m very comfortable sitting here. And hey, you know what, to our point earlier, I did not feel like I was going to barf when I just said that. So yeah,
Debbie Reber 40:21
there you go. Awesome. Well, on that note, I just want to say thank you so much. Love you too. I think you’re just a phenomenal human I. I really wanted to just share you with my listeners, because you do inspire me, you make me think and I really do. Yeah, I get a lot out of the way that you express yourself and just keep showing up. It does, like push me further. And I’m hoping that it does that for listeners, too. So thank you so much.
Christine Koh 40:50
Oh, thank you so much. That is just the kindest, and I appreciate it so much.
Debbie Reber 40:57
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