We recorded the first episode in Kate’s converted garage office space. “Hey, welcome to Forever35, a podcast about the things we do to take care of ourselves,” Kate said to kick things off. “I’m Kate Spencer.”
“And I’m Doree Shafrir,” I said.
“And we’re not experts, we’re just two friends who love to talk about serums,” Kate said.
This was the tagline we’d landed on that we felt perfectly reflected who we were and what the pod- cast was. Just a few years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of doing a podcast about self-care. Taking care of myself was something that I never consciously thought about. I was too wrapped up in worrying what other people thought about me to look inward and care about myself. But now, I didn’t even mind that the term “self-care” had itself become a ubiquitous chimera, at once everywhere but always just out of reach. There was a Goop-y version of self-care, one that said you could only be taking care of yourself if you spent a lot of money and had access to exclusive things, like $400 facials and $75 candles. Instead, our version of self-care—which posited that paying off your student loans was just as much self-care as the ideal night cream—felt more accessi- ble. And along those lines, we wanted to make it clear that we weren’t approaching beauty and skin care topics from an ex- pert point of view—we’d never been beauty editors or worked at women’s magazines; we weren’t even skin care “influencers.” We were just two women aging out of marketers’ target demo- graphic who needed an outlet to discuss whether eye creams were a scam.
The podcast was a success in a way we hadn’t really anticipated. We hadn’t realized how many women like us had felt that they weren’t really being seen—by the media, by their friends, by their partners. Suddenly we were inundated with emails and voicemails from women grateful to be listening in on our conversations. They asked us for advice not just about night creams and serums and lip gloss, but also about whether they should break up with their boyfriends and girlfriends, how to deal with a mean boss, what to do when all your friends were pregnant and you weren’t, how to find a therapist. They wanted to know which books they should read and which TV shows they should watch. They told us we felt like their big sisters and their best friends.
We were thrilled with how the podcast had so quickly found an audience, but it was also a bit overwhelming. On top of my job at BuzzFeed, Kate and I were prepping the shows, booking the guests, editing the episodes (our pro- ducer, Samee, did the actual editing, but we sent notes), and of course, recording the episodes. It was a lot of work, but I was invigorated in a way I hadn’t been in years. Even before the show had launched, we had signed our first advertiser, a website that helped people book vacation homes.
“I think you’ll be able to quit your job soon,” Matt said one day.
“No way,” I said. The podcast still felt like a side hustle to me. If we brought in some extra cash because of it, great, but it didn’t feel like it could be our full-time jobs.
“I think you’ll be making your BuzzFeed salary by August,” he maintained.
I wanted to believe him, but I was scared to be leaving a job that offered (relative) stability and health insurance, and even more scared to be doing it at forty. If I left BuzzFeed, I might never have a full-time job again, at least not in media. I thought about all those meetings I’d been in over the years. There were never any women in their forties and fifties. It seemed like just another way that older women were put out to pasture. And I knew countless freelancers who would have killed for a staff position, which are increasingly fewer and farther between. It seemed foolhardy to just give it up.
But when I went back to doing my work at Buzzfeed, I felt the motivation leaching out of my body. I realized that despite the stability that my job offered, I didn’t want to be doing this anymore. I didn’t want to be working for someone else, making money for someone else, following someone else’s rules about what I could and couldn’t say on social media or where I donated money.
So, I WAS scared shitless when, just a few months shy of my forty-first birthday in 2018, I told Ben Smith, the editor in chief of Buzzfeed, that I was leaving.
He seemed surprised that I was leaving for a podcast. “Huh,” he said, in the way he said “huh” when he didn’t really understand why you were doing what you were doing. “Well, I’m going to miss you,” he said.
“I’ll miss you, too,” I said, and I meant it, but I also wasn’t going to miss BuzzFeed, or working for Ben, because it was time to move on.
Now that it was done, I started to question my decision. What if the podcast didn’t work out? What if, after a few months, I wasn’t making any money and I had to start looking for a new job and now suddenly I was old and out of the loop, and no one was returning my calls? Then what? I’d been turning around these “what if ” scenarios in my mind so many times that I worried they’d become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But instead of seeing it as a leap into the big, deep, scary unknown, I needed to see it as taking charge of my own career destiny. After more than fifteen years working for other people, I could define my own lane. In my forties, it was time to start working for myself—and being my- self.
From the book Thanks for Waiting by Doree Shafrir. Copyright © 2021 by Doree Shafrir. Published by Ballantine an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Doree Shafrir is the author of the novel Startup and the cohost of the podcasts Forever35 and Matt & Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.