"Please let me testify"

A reflection on how weed made me better at work and so many other things

Today’s newsletter is a bit more of a story than usual. It’s been on my heart to talk about how weed has helped me be better, specfically at work. At first blush, my work in tech might seem irrelevant to my cannabis work, but I beg to differ. I think weed has made me a better human who is more in touch with herself and that's made me better at my job, despite what the stigma says. Below is a bit about my consumption journey, how it’s helped me improve my mental health, and how that efects how I show up in professional settings. 

Where I started…

Circa 2016-17

When I initially started smoking, it was to ease anxiety and increase my focus. At the time, I probably wouldn’t have called what I experienced “anxiety,” but today, I know that’s exactly what it was.

Consuming slowed my mind down, a welcome respite from my normal obsessive, racy thoughts. I thought smoking made me less uptight and calmer, two things that felt impossible at the time. I thought I just needed to chill out, and it was MY fault that I couldn’t focus on one task or thought. I thought it was my fault it took me days to move on from any feedback that wasn’t overwhelmingly positive. But when I smoked, I experienced a resolve and confidence that undid some of that fault and allowed me to embrace myself, and I knew I deserved for that to be my norm.

This realization hit during a time when I had recently learned I was prone to panic attacks. Again, I had experienced them before but would not have called them “panic attacks.” Some of my lowest, most pivotal moments occurred on the streets of NYC, and this day was one of them. I was headed to work and had a panic attack on the walk to the subway. That moment led to rounds of therapy and psychiatry work that I will say I could only do with the help of cannabis. Smoking helped me cope with the excavation required to understand why I am the way I am, decide who and how I want to be, and then try to be that person even when it makes others upset. Weed literally gave me the courage to be myself and unlocked my passions, personality, and voice. I was shocked by my evolution. In the years leading up to my consumption, I did not feel like I had agency over my life, certainly not as much as I do today. Back then, everything required permission and perfection, which meant I passed up on a lot of things out of fear. I kept my thoughts to myself out of fear of saying the wrong thing or pissing off the wrong person, which was basically ANY person. In hindsight, I think holding everything in made those feels and thoughts literally ooze out of me in the form of tears and gasps for air, and fear that I wouldn’t catch my breath… i.e., panic attacks.

So what does this have to do with work? I had started a new job at the time, and I wanted to be great at it, but the imposter syndrome was REAL. I deserved to be there, but there were all these caveats in my head. Being a good product designer is being a good writer, storyteller, creative, and influencer. Not in the IG sense, but showing how I can influence my team and the company at large if I wanted to succeed. Deep down, I wanted to be good at this work, but I knew my introversion and fear would get the best of me. It always had. I’ve always had “good” jobs because I can ace interviews (I perform well under pressure and know what people want to hear, key people-pleaser behavior. I don’t say this proudly.). Still, in practice, I could not engage with my teammates or the work because I was too afraid of not being perfect, and that fear was damn near debilitating. So much of work in “professional” spaces is about how people perceive you, and if you’re quiet, because you’re different, aka not loud, you don’t get a say in that perception. I hated how people used introversion and extroversion as a marker for intelligence or personality. I knew deep down I was fun and funny and smart, just a little reserved about it. My anxiety kept a hold on “fun me” and made sure she only came out while drinking, which, let me just say, is not for me. I enjoy it sometimes, but I’m not meant to imbibe regularly. Not to mention, I wanted to feel fun, free, and confident without drinking, like when I needed to give a presentation or meet someone new for coffee. My desire to pursue the things that made me anxious pushed me towards cannabis. I started to take my consumption more seriously. I did more strain hunting and Leafly searching to find what might work for me. I asked my connections more questions about what I was buying to get closer to what worked for me and be more mindful about my consumption.

The changes I noticed in myself are what made me passionate about weed. I saw glimpses of who I could be if I stopped caring as much about what other people thought. Moreover, I saw who I was, loved her, and wanted more. After more rounds of therapy, more weed, and more time, I felt more in tune with myself.

Circa 2019

When I moved to Chicago almost two years ago, I was probably the most confident I’d ever been, and little did I know it’d only be up from there, even during the pandemic. I started a new job just before moving and was feeling more confident in my design work. I was more vocal at work and in my personal life, which caused some tough conversations on both fronts, but they too gave me more resolve about who I am, what I deserve, and what I bring to the world. This time was not without its tears and anxiety, but I’d like to think it was mostly in the name of progress.

A few months into my time in Chicago, I started Up in Smoke. This was a telltale sign that I was not the same me I was when I started smoking. It felt so risky, and still, I felt so sure I was meant to start it that I couldn’t not do it. There would be no UiS if not for the confidence weed gave/gives me. I found my voice because of this plant, and now I get to freely share this story with y’all, somewhat unbothered about who reads it because my values about life are the same at work.

My Values

I want to practice radical transparency and sincerity with those I engage with.

I want to celebrate myself and those I love like there’s no tomorrow.

I want to do AMAZING work, make myself proud, and have that work positively impact the world. Yes, that’s cliché, but I’m really excited about my new role and think it has the potential to make the internet a bit safer for marginalized folks. I’m optimistic about that, despite everything to the contrary.

I quote Drake and whoever said it before him all the time, “I’m here for a good time, not a long time.”

I want to laugh and have fun as much as possible.

I do not want to pursue perfection in any form. I’d damn near rather pursue mistakes because I know what the opposite gets me. (This one might need some positive framing, lol, but I also like its realness.)

These are core aspects of who I want to be, and they translate to all of my work. I’m a better teammate, communicator, writer, and creator, because of my consumption. I’m not as afraid of feedback because I’ve worked on my ego a little bit, lol. I’m not afraid to give constructive criticism because I have faith in my ability to express myself in a productive, effective way, and if I fumble, I’m mostly willing to apologize. Before weed and therapy, I might have a mental fit at the idea that I did something wrong and someone might hate me for it. This is not an exaggeration; it’s literally how my brain works. Today, I’m more likely to reach out to the person and ask if we’re good.

The stigma says weed makes us lazy, sedated, dumb, and careless, but I’ve never cared more than I do now. I care about myself and my community more than I ever have. I have more of a capacity to care because I’m not as hung up on everyone else’s opinions. I’m more empathetic and understanding, traits that make me an even better product designer. I’m picky about my work because I care, but I don’t let that keep me from producing, which applies to ALL of my work.

Where I’m at now…

There are still things I want to get better at that I plan to use weed to improve. These include public speaking and asking better questions. My wife is a great question asker/interviewer, and I aspire to engage with new people the way she does. I know weed has already made me way more likely to put myself out there and express interest and curiosity, but I will be actively working on these things as I think about how I want to stand out in my new job. As I write this, I realize my identity has always been very tied to my work, but I didn’t even know my identity until recently. Now those words mean something different. My work and identity feel connected because they’re more aligned, and I operate at work much like how I move through the world.

I am by no means done with my self-work, but I’m so far from where I started that I HAD to share. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop code-switching or caring too much about what other people think, but I hope to make them less frequent occurrences. Sometimes I catch myself being what I’d call “too authentic” and laugh to myself. I guess you could say I like my personality how I like my weed….full spectrum. * 🎤 drop * lolol


Do you want to testify? Let me know how weed helps you work, whatever “work” means to you. I’m thinking of making a carousel of quotes about weed + work. If you’re down, send me a quote and any info you want me to include.

Cheers,

D

* Editor’s Note: I’m trying out a Tuesday publish date so I don’t kick my week off in a panic.*