Today Leiden turns two which means it is approximately two years, six months and three days since the idea for this publication first blossomed in my head during a fateful drive home after a meeting with friends. From March 1, 2016 we have soared, flailed, laughed, cried and eaten a hell of a lot of Book Club snacks, all while creating and publishing hundreds of pieces of original content. 585 to be numerically exact.
Before I get a little self indulgent, I want to thank each and every single person who has ever contributed to this publication. I am only one small cog in the machine that is Leiden: so many amazing people, each with unique talents and perspectives, make Leiden what it is. Special thanks go to my de facto husband Jesse who is not only the best copy editor around but also chief putter up with all my shit, to Lexi our art director who dedicates so much of her time creating beautiful artworks for us (including the one above), and to every single contributor who has ever written, spoken, photographed, modeled, created stunning hair and makeup looks, or given administrative support, we would be nowhere without you.
As people are wont to say at milestone moments such as this one, it feels as though we are just getting started. For example, I am only now, two years later, bothering to discover just what the Ultimate SEO plugin I installed actually does. And after two years of managing our entire content schedule in my head are we developing a more structured method of creating and publishing content that exists on paper… well, Airtable.
I am still yet to answer all my emails in a timely manner. But hey, it’s only March.
I read something the other day that profoundly resonated with me. While cleaning out her phone during a period of metaphoric nesting in the lead up to the impending birth of her twins, Leandra Medine Cohen of Man Repeller came across a note saved in her phone. It read:
‘Can you love your life but hate yourself?’
She couldn’t recall the circumstances that prompted her to pose this question but could still conjure how it felt — how it feels — to be wrapped up in a whirlwind of guilt and shame, but also gratitude. Perhaps because I have been undergoing a period of reflection in the lead up to Leiden’s birthday and also perhaps because I am feeling vulnerable due to my laptop being broken (I have hijacked Jesse’s laptop to write this), that sentence hit me harder than when I accidentally smashed my knee with the hammer thing at F45 and made myself cry.
I tried to take a break from Leiden over January which, to put it mildly, was a disaster. I’ve talked about my struggles on our podcast recently and, to be honest, I feel like I am still struggling. Until now I had never thought of myself as someone suffering from mental health problems. I have always been neurotic and erratic, sure, but lately I am not so sure if something else is going on inside me.
Although on the surface I feel like I have all the ingredients for an amazing life: a home, a job, amazing friends, a loving family, a supportive partner, I feel heartily sick of myself and like I am slipping into a dark cave that I may not be able to claw my way out of on my own. Leiden has become such a core part of my identity that its success as a publication has become inextricably linked with my success as a human being.
Sometimes I do feel like packing it all in, and instead living a ‘normal life’ whatever that might be. But then I meet a stranger who tells me all the things they love about Leiden, or a friend reaffirms everything I needed to hear about why what we do here actually does make a difference. During these moments a chink of light, radiating warmth, cuts through the darkness of my cave and I begin to feel like maybe I can get out after all.
I find what mostly keeps me going is that rush of energy that only a brilliant idea can ignite. That spark that burns within you like wildfire. However, with such a gift comes the burden of learning to nurture that flame, so that rather than letting it burn ferociously before it becomes quickly snuffed, you can guide it, protect it, so that it may burn softly, surely and sustainably instead.
Leiden may not have the most Instagram followers or have the biggest Facebook reach, and I may not always like myself, but I do love my life because it is full of beautiful people doing incredible things and for now I get to share that all with you, our readers.
Thank you for your support over the past two years, it truly means the world. Here’s to many more to come.
You can also watch/listen to me read this story out loud.