{the lessons} On Not Improving

by Rachel on August 16, 2012

On Tuesday, Eric and I paid $60 for a repairman to come out and plug in our garbage disposal. When it wouldn’t work, we thought perhaps it wasn’t plugged in, but upon further investigation, all cords seemed to be in place. Turns out, when we had our cabinets painted, they taped up the cord and then it was painted over, effectively camouflaging it. There was really no way to know that without knowing exactly what we were looking for, but still, wasting $60 on it hurt. And we felt stupid for not knowing more about garbage disposals.

Later in the evening, I was talking to my friend Dallas about not being good at certain things and trying to decide how long you attempt to do them anyway and improve your skills, and when you just give up and pay someone else to do it. Having a house has meant I’ve been making this decision a lot more often lately, but really, I’ve found myself thinking about this a lot over the past 18 months or so.

On the one hand, I feel like I owe it to myself to learn to do basic things. Every adult should know how to, say, iron her shirts, right? It doesn’t seem like it’s that hard and knowing how to iron your shirts can save you time and money in the long run. On the other hand, I’ve tried and tried to iron my shirts, and while they are technically less wrinkled than when I started, they always look like crap, no matter how much time I spend on it. At this point, it seems like dropping them off at the cleaners is faster and cheaper. Yes, when I read about people DIYing things around their home, from repairs to improvements, I’m really inspired to do the same. But when I look at the crappy job I did trimming our kitchen (despite actually having a lot of experience painting), I’m like, Why did I insist on doing this myself? 

Then yesterday, I got some negative feedback on the new blogging project I launched last week, and last night, I wondered if maybe what I was doing with that project was the Internet equivalent of trying to have a baby to save a failing relationship. Maybe it really was the worst idea ever and to think that it would solve my frustrations with blogging was just unrealistic. Why didn’t I take a cue from Netflix when they split into two? Or maybe it was a cool idea and I just needed to give it more time and work harder. I didn’t know the answer, and likely won’t for some time, but the good news is, it doesn’t matter — it’s easy enough to just password-protect it. I wish I had more confidence in what I was doing, or more confidence that it was truly horrible, but with this project, I just don’t know yet. I thought I did, but I don’t. I’m going to continue to work on building it because that makes me happy, but I’m not going to do it publicly for the foreseeable future, because that makes a lot of people (and me, by extension) unhappy. So I’ve quit making it public. I can’t remember the last time I quit something so quickly. When it comes to quitting I tend to have this mindset of…don’t. And that brings me back to the home improvements.

Eric and I have this joke about Lowe’s, where we now go at least once every weekend; their slogan is “Never stop improving.” He imagines a drill sergeant shouting at us as we paint; I imagine a dominatrix. “Never stop improving!” she’d shout, and then crack her whip. It sounds terrible, but it’s an oddly effective marketing strategy, because our culture likes improving and hates quitting.

I try not to feel guilty about my choices and own everything I do, but quitting is definitely hard for me. When I quit something, my instinct is to prepare a million arguments rather than just preparing to shut it down with “Sorry I’m not sorry.” It’s hard to convince people that you had the right to quit, or that you really had exhausted all your options. It seems like everyone’s knee-jerk reaction is to just tell you that one thing you had never considered that would have totally fixed the problem. A few weeks ago, my friend Meghann got ripped apart for saying she had given up trying to make coffee because she failed every time. And that’s just coffee. With creatives, the immediate reaction is to remind you that quitting squashes innovation and “Where would we be if [daVinci, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga] just quit?” And, you know, they have a point. But the creatives we love for their willingness to push through when they were told no also probably discovered at some point that sometimes it’s best to keep things close to the heart, and the people you trust (who are also not your mom or spouse), for a long time before you go and tell the world, “LOOK AT THIS THING I JUST CREATED!”

Whether it’s coffee, or art, I just struggle with the fact that when we’re not good at something, people feel the need to tell us to change ourselves rather than reminding us that we can just move on. We call it support and encouragement, but it feels rather sadistic. It seems like all it does is encourage more people to stick with their own shitty situations that are making them feel bad or that are just ineffective. Lately, I’ve found that I have less and less interest in punishing myself by doing everything I can to stick things out. I’m starting to realize that not everything that is hard should be looked at as a challenge, or a reason to buy more self-help books and devote more time to the cause. Maybe it’s a reason to just stop doing that thing, move on with your life, and not be sorry.

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maggie August 16, 2012 at 7:17 am

No more Elena Has It All? Although completely different from mine, I was loving reading her point of view and laughing, yet seeing the truth/irony my whole way through the posts.


2 Rachel August 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

Not publicly, for right now. :) But I really appreciate hearing that, thank you.


3 Rosy August 16, 2012 at 7:22 am

Hi Rachel,
I totally agree with you in this regard. My philosophy is that there is a finite amount of time and energy in my life, and I want to devote my time and energy to things I feel are valuable. And I’m sorry but ironing my shirts is not valuable to me. I used to buy, like, cheap Target shirts and get them dry cleaned because they would look amazing when the professionals pressed them! If you can afford to pay professionals to do a task you don’t enjoy doing, then why not? I finally caved this year and hired a dude to mow my lawn, because I hatehatehate mowing my lawn, and would stress about it all summer, and not do it frequently, and not do a good job, and hate every minute of it. It was such a weight off my shoulders! Sometimes it’s not only the time you spend actually doing the activity, but also all the time you spend fretting over it, dreading it, and/or regretting it.
On the other hand, I really enjoy cooking, and eating unprocessed food is valuable to me, so I’ll always spend the time cooking and prepping food, even though it’s kind of expensive and time consuming.


4 Nic August 16, 2012 at 7:27 am

It’s OK to know when you just can’t do something, or just aren’t good at it, or just admit that you don’t like/want to do something. In our 4 years of being home owners, we’ve struggled with this a lot. We are just not yard people. After some initial unimpressive attempts to tame the jungle, we decided to pay people who can actually identify the trees and plants. We do now know what the trees/shrubs are, but that doesn’t make us want to buy more tools and trim branches. We couldn’t even swap out a kitchen faucet. We spent hours trying to unscrew the old parts under the sink and they were just…stuck. Then when we gave up, we couldn’t undo what we’d done and get the water back on. We felt better when the plumber had to go out to his truck to get his special saw to cut through the top of the old one and basically dismantle it in parts because he couldn’t do it ‘the right way’ either, but $100 to swap a faucet stung! It took the plumber a total of 10 minutes. Sometimes the money spent isn’t just about the job done but about saving you hassles, stress, frustration, time, energy, injury, pains/aches, etc. Not to mention saves on the fighting/arguing. It’s not quitting.


5 Amy August 16, 2012 at 7:30 am

I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now, though I’ve never commented before. I just want to tell you, I love the blog (and I’ve been recommending it to all my friends), but Elena Has It All was just…awesome. I adored what you were doing, and I thought it was really brilliant, and it’s a conversation that should be had but rarely is, even amongst the best of friends. Not in any way trying to change your decision, because everyone should have the right to decide what they want to spend their time and energy on without grief from others, but I thought it’s never a bad thing to hear that people appreciate what you’re doing (especially when others are telling you they don’t)!


6 Rachel August 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

Thank you! And I do appreciate hearing that! I am going to keep putting time and energy into writing it and see where I want to go with it from there.


7 andrea. August 16, 2012 at 7:43 am

AMEN. I used to have OVERWHELMING anxiety about filing my taxes — I know, a totally simple thing, especially with the software and online options now. Every one thought I was ridiculous but it stressed me out so badly that I didn’t file my taxes for FIVE YEARS. That is terrible. And finally one of my coworkers said, “Andrea, you do what you’re good at, and pay someone else to do what they’re good at.”

And that really struck a chord with me. Not just that I didn’t have to do it MYSELF but that, in fact, by paying someone else to do it, I was supporting someone else who either really actually ENJOYED doing taxes, or at the very least, was trying to make a living / extra income on it. The lady I found to do my taxes was glad for the business, just like your laundry place is glad to iron your shirts, and a housepainting company would have been happy to come paint your place. It’s a great opportunity to find and support small businesses, and people making a living off something they’re passionate about, which is something I really value.


8 andrea. August 16, 2012 at 7:48 am

Oh, also a tip about home repair stuff. If there’s stuff you don’t want to do yourself, save it until there are a few things on your list (assuming nothing is urgent), and call in a handyman who charges by the hour. Usually they have a minimum price for a visit (say, $60), but if you have three or four small things that they can do quickly, they might be able to get everything done in just one or two hours, meaning you still only pay $60-120.


9 Rachel's Mom August 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm

This is a very good point about getting several things done at once. Our plumber charges for an hour, even if the job takes ten minutes, so he always asks if there is anything else that needs to be done.


10 deva by definition August 16, 2012 at 8:27 am

I understand that feeling of not improving, especially where it comes to blogging, and even moreso when it comes to home improvements. We were 24 hours out from calling an electrician regarding our exterior outlets when The Boy tracked on into the house….and discovered that every time I did laundry I was flipping the switch that powered the exterior outlets to turn the light by our laundry room on and off.. Oops.

And I struggle with ironing, too, and my mom works with fabric for a living! Which reminds me.. I still need to REPLACE our iron, hah. It died before we moved..


11 Christa August 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

I’m sorry to hear you had negative feedback about Elena. I loved the post from yesterday and had to really control myself not to laugh out loud at work. I think part of our gift as humans is being able to express ourselves, and that gift can take so many forms. If you felt more comfortable expressing your thoughts and opinions as Elena, who is anyone else to judge or critisize you for it? I love this blog and have loved the way you have grown it and it has evolved over the last year and a half or so. Thank you for being yourself and not conforming to the mold society sets for women. Your posts and thoughts bring joy to so many people, along with the inspiration that WE can improve ourselves. Keep your head up and know that for every hater that comes along there are 100 people who are encouraged by your writing…or at the very least, highly entertained :)


12 Hannah August 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

I know I made a snarky comment over at your Elena site but I really do admire you for putting yourself out there and trying something totally new and different. Even though I don’t think it was working how you had pictured, I think there may be something to it and I look forward to seeing how you’ll revise and rethink it. All is not lost!


13 Becca August 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

Rachel! Thanks for writing this. I think that this is a HUGE problem in today’s society, especially for women. It’s not okay to be bad at something, its not okay to take the easy way out once in while. It’s like you aren’t a successful female if you don’t do everything perfectly yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up in this sentiment and ultimately spend a lot of wasted time and effort when you could have just gotten someone else to do it. And then feel bad about yourself if you failed or feel bad if you want/need someone else to help out. Its just smart to prioritize, do what you can do, and the MOVE ON.

Also, regardless of whats going on with Elena Has It All, I HEART this blog. I say, keep posting when you can about on point stuff like this. You have loyal readers!


14 Hannah D August 16, 2012 at 8:57 am

I was really enjoying your Elena blog, since it was so SPOT ON, with men paying the check, and volunteering, and friends, just everything! I saw a snarky comment on the most recent post about not knowing if it’s real or fake (as in making fun of thing), so maybe a note at the bottom of every post would help people who don’t already know about it reaize that you’re exposing the silliness in today’s world?

Oh, and also this post might be helpful (and their blog is FULL of home DIY tricks): http://www.younghouselove.com/2012/01/dealing-with-criticism/

Whatever happens, I’m just glad to be along for the ride. I’m truly enjoying reading about what you have to say! So thanks for that! :)


15 Shannon August 16, 2012 at 9:03 am

I didn’t read every post, but I will tell you that no matter what, Elena made me think critically about society’s message to women, among other things. You probably made a LOT of people think, so there was really no failure. You accomplished more by briefly blogging as Elena than some people accomplish in a year. Good for you for taking a creative risk. Fun Fearless Female!


16 Stina August 16, 2012 at 9:26 am

First of all, I’m definitely bummed to see Elena go (for now anyway). I was really enjoying the blog and looking forward to seeing how Elena and the blog evolve and grow. Regardless, as Amy said, you need to do what’s best for you.

But the rest of the post is something I’ve really been struggling with lately. I’ve actually been drafting my own blog about it for the last week. I recently came to the realization that I do not like not being good at things. It seems like a really obvious statement because honestly, who really enjoys not being good things, but I’ve found that my inner perfectionist really comes out when I’m doing things I’m not very good at.

I WANT to be good at these things (crafting, interior design, ironing, strength training…), but it seems like every time I attempt to craft something, that inner pefectionist is by my side whispering “You screwed that up” or “That’s not good enough” or “Why aren’t you better at this?”

I think it ultimately comes down to deciding what you really want to be good at vs what you really just feel like you should be good at because you’re an adult or a homeowner or whatever, and then focusing on improving those skills while paying other people to do the rest.


17 Hannah D August 16, 2012 at 9:39 am

Maybe this is another thing that Elena to would have commented on? The pressure to be good at everything and make everyone happy at the same time. Do men feel that same stuggle, or is it more of a women thing? I know I feel it just trying to do my job some days!


18 Rachel August 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks for your kind words about the other blog!

And I feel ya on the inner perfectionist. It’s just like…all the things start to pile up FAST as we get older, I think. There are just so many more things to be good at, and now we’ve had time to learn (we’ll excuse a kid not knowing how to stuff, but an adult?), and we’re surrounded by peers/colleagues/bloggers who DO know how to do all this stuff, and it’s just very hard not to feel inadequate. I agree that deciding what you WANT to be good at is a really good first step.

Looking forward to seeing your full post on the matter!


19 Breck August 16, 2012 at 11:27 am

“There are just so many more things to be good at, and now we’ve had time to learn (we’ll excuse a kid not knowing how to stuff, but an adult?), and we’re surrounded by peers/colleagues/bloggers who DO know how to do all this stuff, and it’s just very hard not to feel inadequate.”

EXACTLY this! And, I think it’s even more prevalent nowadays due to blogs/pinterest/facebook. Seeing other people’s “perfect” lives with their “perfect” new jobs/home improvement projects/partners really gets those inadequacy juices going. To save my sanity, I try to remind myself that these portrayals are not TOTAL reality. Like reality TV, most blogs and facebook posts have been edited and cut together to show a certain side of what’s going on… usually the awesomest side.


20 Jessica vz August 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

I’m not normally one to comment on blogs, even though I truly love and appreciate a lot of them and read new posts daily, but I needed to tell you, I am going to miss Elena. I loved reading her point of view and drawing comparisons to what I was doing in my own life because of what someone told me was right. I do hope you bring her back at some point in time. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate your blog here, because I do and I’ve been reading it for quite a while. I hope you keep posting here. What you blog, the strong voice you use and the humor and intelligence you write with is an amazing gift and I come here every time you post something new because I love to “hear” that voice. I try to go to every link you post to other pieces of your work, and that voice is always there. I appreciate that and think you should know that a complete stranger in Iowa appreciates your work.

I’ve made so many choices that go against the grain of what others believe, choices that don’t necessarily affect anyone else, and I have to continually explain myself to people who will never understand or support the choice I’ve made (not going to church, living with my boyfriend of 8 years without any intention of getting married anytime soon). While these choices are right for me, I understand other people wouldn’t make the same choices, or don’t agree with mine. I think Elena is/was an amazing character and she opens up a window into the way society views things and into our own person.

Anyway, this is much longer than I intended. But, thanks!


21 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie August 16, 2012 at 9:34 am

First, I’m sorry about Elena. It’s terrible when people are that critical of someone else’s efforts to do something creative, I’m sorry that you had to deal w/ negativity & haters.

Second, I am so painfully guilty of things like this (i.e. coffee & ironing). When my bf and I got together I was working 12-15 hour days and weekends, and my initial reaction was always to have someone else do things for me – from laungry to dry cleaning to tech issues to apartment cleaning to pet sitting when I traveled. He’s taught/forced me to learn to do things myself and not immediately pay someone else to take care of it for me. True, I work less now so I have more time to try, but I also feel much more competent these days. I definitely still give up, but now I’m at least trying which gives me a liiiiittle bit of satisfaction. :)


22 Melanie August 16, 2012 at 9:35 am

As a fellow new homeowner, my husband and I are struggling with this too. We want to learn a lot, and we’re fairly handy, but there are still some things we’re accepting that we’re better off outsourcing. We painted our kitchen, master bed and master bath on our own, but the main areas of the house have so much wall space, so many closets, and such high ceilings, that it’s just impractical to do it ourselves. And I know the pros will do a way better job than we could ever do in a much shorter period of time.

A lot of it is about saving your sanity, too. My husband HATES to paint, swore he wouldn’t do it, then did, and would get really frustrated. To me, if we have the money to avoid that angst, it’s more than worth it.

I read Young House Love daily, and I aspire to be like them, but I just don’t have that all-consuming “let’s do it ourselves as cheaply as possible” (and as a full time job) drive that they do. Even knowing that, it’s still a struggle for me when I see what I *could* do if I was more like them.


23 Kely August 16, 2012 at 9:39 am

I think you’re really brave. First, for creating Elena has it all, and then being honest and up front about not being sure of the direction your new project is going. Your creativity and honesty are applauded and appreciated. Kudos to you for thinking outside of the box.


24 Tish August 16, 2012 at 9:50 am

There’s nothing wrong with stimulating the economy sister! Always remember that! Lisa Bloom discusses hiring a cleaning lady once a week and how if you have the means to do it don’t feel guilty. You’re helping someone out with their business, you’re making more time for yourself to focus what you’re really good at and you get something snazzy and put together (both physically and mentally) in the end!


25 Sandra August 16, 2012 at 10:08 am

Sometimes I hate the internet. I find that there is so much judgement on always being MORE or Better or NOT needing someone’s help. Sometimes it isn’t quitting, it’s simply recognizing that you don’t excel with that specific thing or you’d rather just pay someone. With buying a house a little over a year ago, I’ve embraced the fact that sometimes saving my sanity is worth a few bucks.

FTR, I actually really liked Elena Has It All and I’m sad it’s been taken down. I think I went back and read every article a few days ago.


26 Paul (@minutrition) McConaughy August 16, 2012 at 10:17 am

I liked your alter ego Elena and I like you… so there. Maybe there’s a difference between quitting and failing. In failing you invest something and then realize that it’s not the best investment. In quitting you don’t even try, no investment at all. “They” keep telling us we need to fail. “They” definitely don’t tell us we need to quit. So, never quit trying new things as long as you are sure you’re willing to make the investment.


27 Bridget August 16, 2012 at 10:28 am

I really didn’t get the Elena blog. I really hope as you continue (privately) working on it, you hit your stride. Because honestly, I would LOVE to have a place to discuss these issues. But the Elena blog felt awkward to me and not conducive to discussion. However, I think the idea is great and have no doubt that you will figure it out.


28 MelissaH August 16, 2012 at 10:41 am

I was going to write this exact same thing. Don’t stop questioning these issues. EVER. And you mentioned you were going to stop buying self-help books and I think that’s awesome. Start buying books related to women’s issues. I just picked up a book called Slut! about the effects growing up with a bad reputation effects a young woman later in life and why as a society we’re okay with slut-shaming. I’m only on the second chapter, but it’s great so far. Keep reading and keep discussing!


29 Rachel August 16, 2012 at 10:55 am

Thanks for the rec! I’m looking forward to reading Female Chauvinist Pigs next. which I’ve heard good things about; just finished How to Be a Woman and I really loved it!


30 Laura August 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I have to say, I’m with Bridget on this one — I didn’t really GET Elena. But, just because I didn’t get it, didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to continue reading with hopes that I’d eventually come along. There were things I really enjoyed, Elena as a fictional character, for starters, but things I just couldn’t wrap my head around, like the intensity of the sarcasm. But I applaud you for going out there and trying it. I think you’re on to something here, but it may just need to be re-worked a little bit. At the end of the day, you’re still pretty awesome in my mind, so keep doin’ what your doin’!


31 Deva @ Deva by Definition August 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Female Chauvinist Pigs is really good, but when I read it in women’s studies classes many of us felt she missed her mark often. When you’re done, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’d also recommend Pink Think and College Girls if you’re reading non-fiction in that vein :-)


32 Amanda August 16, 2012 at 10:37 am

I only had the chance to read Elena Has It All a couple of times, but I really liked what I read. And the idea behind it was so great! So maybe it didn’t come out quite the way you hoped. Or maybe it didn’t get the feedback you expected. Who cares? You obviously did it for you. I hope you’ll continue writing from Elena’s point of view (even if it is privately) until you’ve found her voice and can feel more confident about it. I really enjoyed Elena Has It All, and I’d love to see her again in the future.


33 Phoebe August 16, 2012 at 10:55 am

Bring back Elena please!


34 Allie August 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

It is certainly a struggle to let our inner perfectionist go & move on from things that aren’t really bringing us the kind of joy or satisfaction we hoped for or deserved. I really was enjoying Elena Has It All though. I was looking forward to seeing how it evolved & if it could become a place to really discuss some of the issues you brought up. I noticed the snarky comments & went back & added to an older post. Maybe my comment was too critical as well. I was just hoping for clarification on whether the blog was meant as a place for conversations or just fun/interesting satirical reading. Either way, I’m excited to see where your efforts & creative energy take you.


35 Rachel August 16, 2012 at 11:14 am

Your comment wasn’t snarky at all! I appreciated it, and the previous ones you left! I honestly didn’t have the answer to your question, and I think that’s the kind of thing I need to work out privately and over time, so that I can be more clear if I ever make it public again.


36 Julia August 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

I think it’s totally okay to make the Elena blog private for a little bit, or even for a long time. Writing can be so personal and such an investment. Taking on a new creative challenge is hard enough without constant negative criticism. I agree that sometimes you really do have to be like, “you know what? I am only sharing this with people I trust, a select few.” And that goes for SO much in life: baby names, life goals, certain dreams, future plans, engagement plans, wedding styles, faith, money choices, etc. Basically, if YOU enjoy writing Elena, then do it for you in a way that feels comfortable to you. Don’t ever feel shut down or silenced by other people.

The older I get, the more I realize that opinions. are. everywhere. And sometimes that can be very exhausting, because I want to just do what I want to do and try what I want to try, without being told the 43782 ways it is incorrect, won’t work out, could’ve been done better/faster/easier.

That being said, I really believe in your original purpose behind the Elena blog, and I am sad that it isn’t available to read right now! Maybe it will evolve into a different sort of project over time, but I think you are onto something very important with it… and maybe that is why people are responding negatively. It sounds backwards, but (as you well know) sometimes people are resistant to new ways of thinking about things.

As for the improvement stuff, I am a self-proclaimed hater of all things DIY. All the “make your own laundry detergent! use rubber bands and a hanger to store all your jewelry on a wall! spray paint two mirrors to make a kitchen tray!” — it stresses me OUT to the max, which is why I avoid that shit on Pinterest. Sometimes I am envious of friends who are actually good at that kind of thing, but then I remember how much I honestly don’t enjoy it.

For household stuff, I totally get that doing it yourself can save time and money, but unless it involves the normal tasks (laundry, dishes, general cleaning), I’ll probably pay someone to do it. If I happen to be decent at it and enjoy it (gardening, cooking), then I’ll do it. OR if my boyfriend wants to get all handyman, that’s cool too–yeah, I am “that girl.” I just honestly would rather it get done, and well, then screw around with it myself. (P.S. I had to laugh at your ironing statement! I avoid ironing at all costs. I will peruse my entire closet for something not wrinkly rather than take the time to iron the thing I was going to wear in the first place.)

Sorry this comment is so long–overally, I’m a big fan of Elena, a big fan of your blog in general, I think you’re doing some great, creative things and always write thoughtful posts that push boundaries on a variety of topics, and I hope you continue :)


37 Lynn August 16, 2012 at 11:26 am

Have you ever heard of Strength Finder? It’s sort of a personality inventory book/test that I once did as part of a work retreat.

The premise is that in our work or school culture, we spend so much of our time devoted to working on our weaknesses, and some things, we’re never going to be that good at. So, instead of spending hours and hours improving something from bad to mediocre, we should spend more of our time working on our strengths. Your post reminded me a lot of this concept.


38 Rachel August 16, 2012 at 11:29 am

Oh Rachel! Do what you need to do, no need to feel obligated to write Elena, write Elena a certain way, or share her!
In the past year I have learned a lot about life and have had to come to terms with many decisions and lessons. The one thing that I have had to remember most and I think we all need to remind ourselves every once in a while is the fact that we cannot make everyone happy and sometimes you need to change gears (even if it makes everyone unhappy or makes you feel uncomfortable) in hopes that you will find what you’re looking for.
I was definitely enjoying getting to know Elena. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about her! I suppose that keeps me reading. She is funny and I love her sarcasm (I’m assuming there is a bit of sarcasm within those posts!) I look forward to when we get to see her again.


39 stef August 16, 2012 at 11:55 am

I’ll be honest and say that I read Elena’s site a few times, but it really didn’t appeal to me. I think maybe her voice is too young for me these days (29) but I would have appreciated it more right out of college. That said, I’d never post a snarky comment about how I don’t like it, because I don’t get off being a big asshole to people on the internet. Do what you have to do with it, I just really hope *this* blog continues.

I’m going to ramble now.

I think I saw a comment above about other bloggers “having it all” or “doing it all” and I definitely saw a comment about Young House Love – it’s SO easy to get the vibe of them “having it all” since they’re literally constantly pumping out new ideas/stuff. The thing is, not one bit of me thinks ANY of them have it all. YHL posts “keeping it real” moments of their house being a mess just like any of ours. They also make very intentional decisions with how they spend their money, for example, just having one car. We certainly don’t just have one car in our family. Maybe if we did, we’d have more money for a new couch or cute pillows. Kendi from Kendi Everyday is like stupid gorgeous, has a little clothing shop of her own, a beautiful husband and photography business… but she literally just posted about feeling uncertain of herself, the difficulty of running a small business, etc. etc. etc. I feel like there’s been this wave of ladies finally being like “whoa, calm down. I don’t have it all. I’m stressed too.” Trying to keep up the image of perfection is exhausting for anyone and maybe everyone is finally fed up.

I don’t think we ever should stop improving (homes or selves or otherwise), but the older I get the more I just think “fuck it” in response to other’s reaction to my decisions. Maybe I’m misguided or that’s super selfish of me… It’s like the ultimate sorry I’m not sorry – do what you need to do on your own terms, on your own time, your own way.

Btw, we just moved away from home, quit our jobs to run a small business, THEN eloped in Vegas and I got word through the grapevine that people think I’m like on “sabbatical” and will come crawling back, so I totally GET this feeling of pressure or judgement. EFF IT though, we’re happier than ever!


40 Mandi August 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Aw, bummer! I was enjoying Elena, even when we had a different interpretation. I think she’s a really interesting idea, and that a fictional voice is a fun way to talk about these issues, since a little satire takes the edge off a differing opinion. That said, I wholly endorse the idea of putting a pin in something if you’re unsure about the way you’re executing it. There’s this idea in our culture these days that “quitters never win” and you should just “fake it until you make it,” but I think a sign of the true creative mind is the ability to critically review your work and decide that you have a stricter criteria than just “Did I write this?”

Which I know was not the whole point of your post, but I also feel like there’s a weird divide in our society where paying for services indicates some kind of…elitism? Or elitist aspiration? With the proliferation of DIY blogs (and I am a DIYer for some things, because I truly enjoy it), there’s this idea on the internet that “having it all” (to take a page from Elena’s book) means “being able to do it all,” and that’s not entirely true. Not to mention that in this crappy economy, there is an army of qualified handymen and professionals who actually NEED you to call them to come fix your wiring or plumbing or install your floors. That’s kind of how the economy works, isn’t it? You train or specialize in one thing, offer those services to others, and with the compensation from that, buy goods and services from others. Accountants hire plumbers, electricians hire accountants, etc.

Anyway, tl;dr, I know, but I guess I’m saying that unless your job is fixing plumbing, you should not be ashamed of hiring someone else to fix your damn plumbing. DIY what you enjoy or can do, pay qualified professionals to do what you don’t or can’t, and at the end of the day, well–you had a post a while back that I never forgot and still summarize for others. You said something about how there’s a myth your day job has to be the thing you are number one most passionate about, but that in reality, it’s perfectly okay to have a day job you enjoy but do not invest in with every fiber of your being. And then you use the benefits and proceeds of that to invest the rest of your time in what is truly of your heart. I guess the same kind of applies to the idea that modern fulfilled living means being a floor-to-ceiling jill of all trades, if you kind of squint at it and tilt your head sideways and dimly light it.


41 Christina August 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I’m sad to hear Elena has it all is gone. I was thoroughly enjoying it and taking a hard look at what messages are sent to women. Sorry to hear about the negative feedback.

Props to you for trying something new! Most of us aren’t courageous enough to do that publicly.


42 Kate August 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm

So, I keep coming back here hoping to see pics of the new house!
Maybe you should just focus your creativity on your new dwelling.. the rest will come.


43 Emily Susan August 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I think you are very brave. I think one of the reasons Elena was awkward to the readers is that we knew it was you behind the “mask” I hope you continue trying! I would love to read her posts again!


44 Aj August 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Oh Rachel! I’m just reading this now because I’m entirely behind on the internet, but it totally struck a chord. My coworker really wants me to go back into blogging but more “vegan recipe-fashion blog” rather than a personal blog. I had an instant response of “no f-ing way” because of how blogging really made me feel less-than. I couldn’t exercise-cook-dress-etc as well as the others on the internet (and be a good partner and employee) and, while I would love to have a “I’m great as me” attitude, I do have a problem with negative social comparison. Everyone on the internet seems to be able to do it all. My own self-concept has improved since I took a step back from blogging and the internet.

But the secret truth is: very few folks really can do it all. Some of us. The majority of us? If we’re lucky do some things very very well. And other things not-so-well. And sometimes that’s ok. I can be ok being an “ok, definitely not great” runner. I would not be ok with not excelling in my career. I’m ok with being really good with cleaning bathrooms and never ever ever ironing. There are some things I would love to improve (see: running) and I am will to work at. Other things? Not so much. Those decisions I make from a reality-based perspective that takes into account who I am and my finances. For instance, despite my love of rules and order, I cannot for the life of me learn to read the damn Ikea instructions before attempting to put together anything. This results in fights between me, my partner, and that weird metal L tool that we now own about a billion of. I can’t really afford to pay someone to put together my furniture, but I have a friend, and she doesn’t cook, but she puts together Ikea furniture like a beast. Match made in heaven. I would (and have) paid someone to clean my carpets. No way I’m attempting to rent one of those things and DIY.

TL;DR: The internet is a selected glimpse into the lives of those who choose to share their lives. And they get to choose what they share. And to photoshop it. So keep on doing what you do well. Keep on working to improve in the areas that are important to you. And throw money at the rest of it.


45 Stina August 22, 2012 at 8:06 am

“I’m ok with being really good with cleaning bathrooms and never ever ever ironing. ”

Yes! I totally just struck a deal with my boyfriend’s brother to clean his bathroom in exchange for him doing my laundry. The man irons his jeans. I can’t iron a damn thing, but I can clean toilet like a champ!


46 Rachel August 22, 2012 at 9:19 am

Striking deals is the best! And I feel like having a significant other can really help, because a lot of times they are better at (or at least don’t despise) the things you aren’t great at or can’t stand doing!


47 Rachel's Mom August 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I am always doing things around the house, but when it’s something I just can’t do, or just don’t WANT to do, I call an expert. For example, I needed fourteen holes dug for the deck I was building. My neighbor said he would loan me a pair of post hole diggers and an auger. If I had dug those holes myself, I would have been digging them for fourteen years! I called an expert, and he came out with his Bobcat power auger and had those holes dug in an hour. I paid him $215, and it was worth every penny. I always think of it as “stimulating the economy.” That’s how he pays his bills, and I was more than happy to help.


48 Dean Joseph August 16, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Hey! Sometimes you just got to one thing at a time. I know this Summer I’ve to focus on one task complete it then move on to the next. This way you get good at one thing and can build on what you learned. Good posting as always…


49 Amanda August 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm

How boring would life be if everything we tried was a huge success? These mini-failures are the best opportunities for learning and growth. Hang in there.


50 Kimberlie August 17, 2012 at 2:29 am

Just wanted to add my two cents worth, like one of the other comments I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years and love it but never left a message before.
Despite the fact you’re a year younger than me I feel like your life is a couple of years ahead of me (in terms of relationships, careers etc) and I find your writing incredibly inspirational, I work in online marketing myself and always site your blog as the perfect example of a well written and well publicized blog. Although I definitely prefer this blog I thought Elana was great and the reasons you cited for doing it made perfect sense, you’re definitely not bad at it and in terms of blogging you’re about as far from being a failure as possible. I appreciate you’ve had a stressful few months but please don’t stop something you enjoy just because of a few people’s opinions. As for the house stuff you’re 27 – give yourself a break, you’ll learn it all as you’re going along, you’re a social media person not a plumber or electrician the fact you even want to learn to look after your house (and clothes) yourself is a great first step, just keep putting one foot in front of the other


51 Rain August 17, 2012 at 9:48 am

I agree! I think there is a fine line between not giving up, and just stopping something because it’s not working out or not right for us in the place we are at.

It’s not really a failure or something to be sorry for, it just is. If it’s not working, it’s not working.

And on learning to do stuff around the house….I think you will get better at it after time…but some people, like me, just aren’t too handy! And I can’t iron a shirt to save my life!!! Nor can I sew on a button! Sometimes, I feel bad like I should learn how to do something that is so simple!


52 Hannah August 17, 2012 at 1:10 pm


I am happy to see you back on this blog, but I am really going to miss Elena. I was loving laughing at her silliness, while also digging into the bigger issues and reading lengthy articles and insights from people who are more well versed in gender politics than I am. Please do not feel downtrodden. I cannot wait to hear more from our overachieving friend.


53 Sarah Crowder August 18, 2012 at 9:52 am

I’m glad you’re not abandoning Elena altogether, because I think it could be really great. I wonder if it’s easier to “get” if you’ve seen/heard Elena on video?

Since I deleted Syrup & Honey I’ve started two blogs (and now a third) that I never made public. You’re eons ahead of me in the “figuring it out” department.


54 April August 19, 2012 at 8:14 am

I am so sorry you felt this way. Everyone has times in their lives where they doubt their ability/ creativeness. I enjoyed “Elena has it all”. I hope you will one day be able to open it again in your own time. Don’t give up. I love reading your blog.


55 Nikki August 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Bummer. I was a big fan.


56 Lori August 19, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Rachel: I’m glad to hear you aren’t giving up on Elena. I just started up my own writing project and I’m amazed at how opinionated people are about it. My first post, a friend and my husband tore it apart after publishing it. In an effort to appease them, I switched thing s up, pleased them, but earned the ire of another friend and my mother. Barely anyone commented to the world, but rather told me to my face. You can’t win.

was Elena my cup of tea? No. Was I going to keep reading to see how your character developed? Yes. But I understand why you are pulling back. It is extraordinarily hard to hear harsh criticism of something you consider your baby. I’ll tell you what people have told me: you are brave for putting a piece of you out there, to pop out something different, to try something different. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good. It just means you aren’t ready to let her fly yet. Good luck!

It’s OK not to be good at everything. At least that’s what my therapist keeps saying.


57 Kristy @ Kristy's Health Revolution August 20, 2012 at 7:13 am

Hey, Rachel!
I just found your blog from some HLS2012 posts, and I wanted to let you know that my sister-in-law once paid a repairman $100 to flip the breaker for her AC. We’ve never let her live that one down! So, you’re not alone :)

Can’t wait to keep reading your blog, I like your writing style.


58 Hannah August 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Random: I don’t remember where I first read this but, “‘Having it all’ means having all the shitty stuff, too.”


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