An Advice Column I Write to Myself: THE INTERVIEW


I’m taking a break from the letter-to-myself and subsequent response-to-myself to share with you something about the Advice Column that made me real happy. Someone who reads it and is also a writer asked to interview me about the column! She came up with some Q’s and I spit out my A’s and there we have it — an interview was born.

My advice column to myself is, well, like, one of my favorite things in my world. It almost feels like another child of mine. Ask Oliver how many babies I have, and he will answer, always-always-always, “Two.” And who are they?, you might ask, and he will answer, “Me. and Bela.”

But this advice column is pushing for its place as number three. I LOVE writing this thing. I love the very rare act of being soft with myself — and pacing myself — and slowing down, delving into the why. I love the blatant focus on my own instinct, my own knowledge, and the power that comes from knowing the particulars of my own past. This advice column is literally one of the only moments in my life that I am compassionate with myself. Normally, I am a hard, demanding bitch to myself. I have always considered that my strength.

It’s not.

It’s not a strength to be cruel to yourself.


Recently, a friend asked to interview me about the column. She is a writer and has told me she connected with my column and wanted to share the process of writing-oneself and responding-to-onself with the people she shares her writing with — and she, additionally, wanted to share my writing and my process with them. So she sent me some questions and asked me to give my instinctive answers, and then she formatted it and added it to her newsletter and sent it to her people. And now I’m sharing that interview with my people.


It can be real hard for me to take myself seriously sometimes. To validate myself. My column does it, by way of its very nature. And this interview did it, too. So onward — to all of us. Find the things that validate you and stay near them. Answer them. Sit with them. Validate yourself. You are worth it.


VANESSA: Who are you, in two sentences or less?

KELLY: An intensely grateful and bold individual.

VANESSA: What have you learned, or what has surprised you most, in the experience of asking — and answering — your own question in your advice column?

KELLY: That — while I often know the answer to the question before I even write it — deep in the pit of me — I don’t usually know the why behind it, or how I arrived at knowing it in the pit of me. The act of answering the question in longform (meaning not just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — or ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’) has proven to be such an opportunity to see all of the nuance in the why. Once I have written it out, I am beyond sure of the pit feeling. I am sure with the knowledge that I have walked through the dark and actually seen the light on the other end — not just assumed that it is there.

VANESSA: Why should people try this exercise in writing to yourself — what is there to learn?

KELLY: You get to know yourself — even more than you think you do! You get to rely on yourself — the person on whom we have to rely, are born to rely on. You create a personal standing that feels unshakable. When I write it all out, and I reach the end, I feel like a wooden pillar of a carved eagle (or something hahah) — like I am firmly rooted in the ground and I know exactly what I need and where I need to be.

VANESSA: Where were you when you first had the idea to write your own advice column to yourself?

KELLY: In my kitchen. I had gone through a box of old papers, looking for something, and found my bib number from the day I ran the San Francisco half marathon years ago. I was in a deeply sad place, that morning — and when I saw the bib, I was yanked out of my sadness and brought back to the fact that I am so goddamn capable. My sadness usually originates from feeling incapable — or hopeless- or like I don’t know where to turn. And the only place I have ever needed to turn was inward. I ran 13 miles with shin splints and bad knees and no natural athletic ability because I DECIDED TO. Because I decided I was capable. The act had almost nothing to do with actually being capable. And I realized that I was my own worst critic and own best cheerleader and I needed to TELL MYSELF WHAT THE FUCK WAS UP AND LISTEN. I didn’t need to call a friend. I had all I needed in my own body and my own mind and my own grit. I always have. WE always have.

VANESSA: When did you decide to share them publicly?

KELLY: Immediately. Reading other people’s writing has saved my life. Essays and poems and books save my life every day. Every time I feel known, or seen, through someone else’s words — I feel comforted and exhilarated at the same time. The minute I finished writing the piece I wanted anyone that could possibly get any strength from it to read it — so I put it on my blog and posted it on Facebook.

VANESSA: How are you so brave…to write so honestly and openly (in questions and answers) about your life?

KELLY: Not to be cliche, but for me — it doesn’t necessarily feel brave to be open and honest. It’s my knee jerk reaction. It’s the only way I know how to act. When I feel anything other than completely exposed, I feel like I’m hiding or lying. But obviously, I have also noticed that the more open and honest I am with everyone I encounter, the more I get back. I GET SO MUCH BACK. So it is super natural to me, but it is also super rewarding,which reinforces it at every turn.