Then, one week this summer, after sending our financial modeling to an angel investor who had already expressed interest, I couldn’t get out of bed for days. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t keep my food down. I threw out all the old explanations for how I was feeling until it could no longer be denied: I was worried she’d say yes, not no.
I went to a lot of therapy. We did guided meditations and I did stuff like picturing my evolved self sitting by a river and asking what her days consisted of. My gut was quick to tell me, and it looked very different from this whole process, or from what was to come. Big-picture goals are exciting, but it ended up being more useful to think small; to picture the daily work that would come with building Rookie further, to imagine that this next stage would be a whole new job—which was sort of true—and not something I’d already been working on for so many years and had such personal ties to. I also took note of the writing and acting projects I hadn’t hesitated to pursue all this time. And it was helpful to pay attention to who I felt envious of, and what they were doing: studying, writing, immersing themselves in acting projects, but not building companies or editing publications. I even applied the advice from that one investor: Consider the last few years as just research. Imagine starting anew.
I’m harboring regret over not knowing all this sooner, even though I know that that is stupid. Cognitive dissonance is part of the decision-making process; so is gathering information. A year or two years ago, folding or selling was not an option in my mind. The only option was growth. Not just because of Bryce—no, Bryce was annoying, but he was not at the heart of my resistance against building Rookie but also against letting it go. Do I need to state the obvious? I started it when I was 15!
Who would I be if this was not such a big part of my identity? What would it force me to confront—about youth, the passing of time, myself—if it were to end? What loss would I feel if it were to just go away? What kind of guilt, if it had been my choice? These are important questions to me, and I think that leaving them as hypotheticals would be a mistake. Another important question: What would it do to my brain to know what it’s like to not be responsible for a business, and/or synonymous with a brand? That’s another thing I would tell myself when I was really anxious and stressed: You’re just sad that you have to live on your own now and support yourself; that making work which people are meant to consume means having/being a brand; that you’re growing up and that capitalism exists. But those responsibilities are different for a writer and actor than they are for a business owner, or for a figurehead of a business that has to make enough money to pay its workers fairly. I would also tell myself that once Rookie was in its next, better-functioning state and I could step back, those anxieties would cease, or they would be only symbolic. But I also knew in my heart that even if Rookie was not my literal daily job, even if my name was no longer on it, it would still feel like mine, and thus be my responsibility in some way.
I know Impostor Syndrome and now Scammer Syndrome, and I know when I don’t feel them at all: when I am reading, writing, acting, or helping a friend with their own writing. When I do these things, I am not thinking about my own worthiness, because I am working in service of the character, story, or idea at hand. For a long time, working on Rookie was just that, and I was comfortable with the amount of hustle required of me to then promote it. (More than comfortable with it, I enjoyed it; I’m a performer, after all.) Now, like I said, the industry requires more hustling. It would not be possible for me to make Rookie work, and do other work I care about. I am also less comfortable being a figurehead of anything, let alone people younger than me, than I was before. Also, art projects typically have end dates, while a business is pretty much supposed to go on for as long as possible. That scared me, too. Anyways, I don’t need to get into the merits of one career over another. There’s no better or worse; there’s just what’s right for you. If I’m in a position where I can follow my instincts around that, it would be silly and untrue to myself—and actually, not very Rookie—to ignore them.
I have spent the fall learning what it would mean to sell Rookie to a new owner who could fund it, build it, hire more people. I have learned that I can’t take on the responsibility that would come with remaining as its editor, or even transitioning it to a point where I could leave completely. Also, to sound like a broken record because they are cool and good for DJ’ing, most media companies are also struggling. They can’t afford to buy other publications that are struggling, and/or they are understandably not interested in spending the money to get Rookie to sustainable profitability without the founder/editor/owner since day one—in other words, me. I can’t make that commitment, and at this moment, Rookie can’t exist without it.
I am mourning Rookie in its current state, and in those past future-states. I will be for a long time. I still want to see it become something new. But wants are not needs, and I need something very different from what that would require. Besides, that next iteration of what Rookie stands for—the Rookie spirit, if you will—is already living on in you. You’ve made friends with each other. You’ve made your own zines, blogs, clubs, collectives, bands. You’re Nathan Fillion, and you’re starring in a TV show playing Rookie as a sentient being. I’m joking, which is a coping mechanism. You didn’t need Rookie or me to do any of that, but maybe we gave you an extra nod of encouragement. You felt bad one night and read an article on here and then you felt better. That was all 15-year-old me wanted. 21-year-old me wanted more. 22-year-old me has enough.