Everything I've Learned: A New Newsletter

Hello friends,

I've been planning to launch a newsletter for over a year now, but the voices in my head always stopped me short: There are so many great newsletters! There is too much email in the world! What can I possibly share in 2019 that people will find helpful? Why bother?

I don't have sufficient answers, except the most important thing I've ever learned: never listen to those particular voices.

I want to do this for myself, so that's enough for now. This newsletter will document lessons I've learned, mistakes I've made, and some links from the internet that have challenged me and opened my mind. (This wouldn't be a proper newsletter from the founder of Longreads without some #longreads recommendations.) Special thanks to Sari Botton for the newsletter inspiration -- you can follow her Adventures in Journalism here.

I'd like to share what you've learned, too, so send me a Letter to the Editor by replying to this email.

-Mark (@markarms)


P.s. If you forgot you even signed up, and changed your mind, you can always unsubscribe below.


Lesson #1: Ignore the voices.

See above.

Lesson #2: Shun 'normal.'

Today's experiment: Think about every time you consider something "normal." Pause every time you compare your life, your habits, and your challenges to those of the people around you.

The world is constantly trying to measure us against the average. My brain knows that averages are merely numbers, not people. But my heart still wants to "fit in."

Jonathan Mooney is on a mission to conquer the cult of normal, particularly within our schools. Mooney was 12 years old when he learned to read. He was called lazy, stupid, a bad kid. Eventually he was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD, but not before dropping out of school and considering suicide. Because he had learning differences, he struggled, he was traumatized, he nearly didn't make it.

His mother fought for him. He eventually returned to school, thrived playing soccer, and eventually attended college at Loyola Marymount and Brown University, earning a degree in English literature. He wrote three books and became a speaker and activist for equity and inclusion in our education system.

I spoke with Jonathan for this week's Longreads Podcast. His latest book is Normal Sucks, which is part memoir, part letter to his children, and a call for society to embrace our differences rather than pathologize them.

Further Reading

At Risk in the Culture of 'Normal' (Mooney, New York Times)

Here, Mooney connects the dots between our failure to understand and embrace differences to growing rates of anxiety and depression among children and teens.

Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey credits his ADHD for his massive success. Now he wants kids to find their own ‘superpower’ (Washington Post)

"There will be kids who will have posters they hold up that say that they’ve 'got dyslexia like Dav,' or they’ll tell me proudly that they have ADHD. I don’t call it Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I call it Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Delightfulness. I want kids to know that there’s nothing wrong with you. You just think differently, and that’s a good thing. It’s good to think differently. This world needs people who think differently; it’s your superpower."