Don't apologize for asking

& ask for what you need

I hope the sun has been brightening your spirits this week. What a gift. It’s as almost as if this past week didn’t even happen, although the distressed cacti all over the city and their owners letting them be is a gentle reminder of what we endured.

Shakespeare is back to his sunbathing routine and going strong. He’s been giving me 1000% of his emotions recently, being obnoxiously grumpy with you-neglect-me eyes when he doesn’t get a walk or an afternoon lounge in the sun. He’s also begun to express a whiny, growly complaint in moments of distress, often when he’s surrounded by slippery wood floors, like this past week when he was stranded on a rug island after I maniacally mopped after Snowpocalypse 2021. Is that bad parenting? I work to keep him happy.

The past few days, it’s been a balmy 80 degrees, and all of Shakespeare’s complaining paid off because he took us on some leisurely long walks where we could feel the steamy sizzle of the sun again.

Out of all the phrases that Shakespeare knows (walky?, TREAT?, hungry, foodies, potty, water, w a i t), one that sticks out when we’re on a sunny walk is “Nice day, huh, Shako?” and he’ll get an immediate case of the zoomies and supercharge us forward.

I’m reassured that his most basic need for happiness is just a little time outside every day. Who can blame him for making his demands known? He’s very forthcoming with his sunny smilies when he gets some time around the block.

This week’s tip is: Be unapologetic about what you need to do your very best. Explicitly name it and proactively ask for it, whether it’s in your power or not.

The past half-year, I’ve been meeting with a career coach through a very generous benefit that work has provided for us to cope with the whirlwinds of all sizes this last year. My coach has been astounding, which was a surprise to me because 1. telehealth, and 2. she’s already far exceeded a previous expectation of ramp-up time, circular conversations, and spinning my wheels from some of the counseling I’ve done before.

One of the lessons I’ve taken most to heart with tons of fruit already is asking for more information in order to make decisions, and being explicit about what I really want—for myself, not for other people.

In the past few months, I’ve been struggling with a lack of direction with my career and beginning to deconstruct why I’m reluctant to pursue more. Thanks to my career coach, I started to become unapologetic about it and to ask myself what I really wanted. Only after I admitted it to myself was I able to ask for what I really wanted from other people and even more, to not apologize for it. I felt empowered to create my own options, which sounds so cliché, but I realized that this was something I had always believed in and strived for but never believed it was possible for me. Where was this agency before?!

I had always believed that you had to follow pre-existing rules and diligently work within an existing structure to get where you want to go. I wouldn’t be surprised if many Asian Americans or people of color or immigrants have experience in firsthand, either through culture or familial advice. But, I’ve been brooding on how privilege influences an individual’s self-perceived ability to believe they can change an existing system. Or create their own non-default options. And increasingly more, I’m seeing how individual people now can use their personal agency to deconstruct bad systems, and the narrative around following the rules feels different now.

It’s easy to think of excuses of why I haven’t exactly always pursued everything I wanted before (I’m a rule follower, I don’t want to get fired, I’m not white, I don’t want to be seen as selfish, no other women are doing this, I don’t want to be pushy, I have enough, it’s not my place, I’m not from here, I’m already doing this for the right reasons, blah blah blah), but today I’m reading all of these and realizing how incredibly stupid these reasons are as justification for not to do something. By creatively filling in the blank with a reason why I can’t do something, I was pre-vetting myself and disqualifying myself first. I blamed my lack of opportunities on the fact that they weren’t presented to me, but by not believing in myself and my worth, I was self-sabotaging. For someone that considers themselves somewhat self-aware and proactive in areas of my life, this was pretty surprising to me.

I’ve historically not been afraid to stand out in rooms where people don’t look like me or think like me (and I hope that those that never have experienced the feeling of negative “otherness” try to do it sometime). It’s another level though to show up intentionally when you haven’t been offered a seat at the table, or you know that people don’t like you because of <insert your self-defeating thought here>. Sometimes people of your demographic, personality, looks, status, etc. will never be offered a seat at the table and if it’s important, it might be worth showing up anyway.

So, after realizing what you need and choosing to build on top of what’s important to you from last week, I say this week, embrace and be honest with yourself about what you do not want to settle for, and don’t apologize for your needs or diminish them. I think some of us might already say ‘sorry’ too much to begin with. Create another option. If it’s appropriate, potentially negotiate (oh gosh, one of those loaded words on-par with others like sales) or compromise depending on what’s on the other end. If you consider how much negotiation you actually end up doing in other areas of your life (relationships, friendships, planning, family, lifestyle, etc.) in order to make sure all parties are involved are being treated like people and getting what they need, maybe it won’t seem so far-fetched next time it comes to mind.

Is this what adult creatives do? If actually being honest with ourselves about what we want out of life leads to more golden opportunities, I’m going to ask for them and hold out an open hand for what the results will be.