Atoosa Unedited
Atoosa Unedited
I Want To Give Up!

I Want To Give Up!

But something just won't let me.

No transcript...

I use Snapchat to talk to one very important person since she doesn’t really text.


Once upon a time, I was the poster girl for ambition. So much so that 16 years after I stopped working, The Cut profiled me for their ambition series. And I fondly remember the fun New York Times profile entitled, “Coconut Shrimp? Ambition Can Wait,” in which the late, great David Carr referred to me as “one of the most ambitious editors in New York.” Fun fact: I had explosive diarrhea during the Bubba Gump leg of our Dining Out voyage and I even got some 💩 on my all- white outfit and had to come out of the bathroom smiling in my all time grossest the-show-must-go-on-moment. (You’re welcome.) Oh, and I still love Coconut Shrimp, but now I actually have time to make it – this is the recipe I use – as opposed to pounding it at Red Lobster so I can feel more “down with the people.” I am the people now. Maybe that says something about the current state of my ambition.

Not so quickly though.

Inside, I still have this…feeling. Honestly, it’s hard to put a word on it: That’s my intention with this letter. I want to understand it. I know it’s not “ambition” because if I was ambitious, I would be out there pitching new ideas, projects…pitching MYSELF on LinkedIn…having strategic lunches/dinners. I’ve been ambitious. I know ambition. But…no. This is quite the opposite: The fact that I deactivated my Instagram and the only social media I use is SnapChat…with one person (my 15-year-old who texts me every morning around 930am to remind me that our Snapstreak is about to run out!) is also suggestive that self-promotion is no longer my favorite pastime.

So, WTF is that buzzing around inside me, then? (I’m certain some of you know exactly what I mean by this buzzing feeling.)

Listen, the truth is, I do wonder if I’ll ever be professionally productive again. I’ve never told anyone this but over the years since I left the magazine industry, (and it, in turn, left us – the readers) I’ve been speaking to myself as though my comeback is just around the corner, whenever I’m ready for it.

In my vision it looks like kind of like this: A groundbreaking book that becomes a television series, a movie and a whole modality of exploring one’s own interiority. That book idea, of course, will be whispered in my ear by the Universe…God…Spirit: The same voice that whispered CosmoGIRL! and the new vision for Seventeen to me…that told me to secure an MTV reality show for Seventeen when I was charged with the task of rejuvenating the aging teenage brand. Btw, that same voice also told me when to hang up my Jimmy Choos (back when Jimmy Choos mattered). This inner voice has guided the entirety of my first chapter and career successes AND my second chapter and healing journey. Btw - I don’t want to underplay how important and necessary the past 17 years of professional repose have been – even more important than the prior 17 where I was building and becoming what society considers a success.


I have been sitting with this sense of entitlement for many years now. My book. Me. The visionary. The seeker. The one who lights the path. 🤪


I am starting to feel less certain of this white-hot future. Less certain of…myself. Perhaps that was the extent of my professional life. Which, to be clear, was fantastic. I am so grateful for that era. Grateful for the wins and equally grateful for the suffering that pushed me to leave a seemingly cushy situation and evolve on other, perhaps more important, levels.

Here in the vast emptiness left by my ambition, I sense a yearning to express… and yet, when I strain my ears…I hear absolutely nothing. Deafening silence. Zero inspired output. I expected a book to have come out by now. My literary agent would’ve loved for a book to have come out by now. (Right when I left my job I got a book deal to write An Alpha Kitty’s Guide to Having It All or some such but my little voice told me, No. It was too silly and that I wasn’t actually silly even though there were plenty of signs suggesting I had most certainly earned my Silly Stripes.) Last year, I thought maybe I’m not a good enough writer for long form and that’s why it’s not flowing. Maybe the dyslexia that plagued me as a child and made me a slow (albeit good) Editor is the issue. Maybe I need someone who feels more comfortable with words. To that end, we’ve had conversations with wonderful writers both hugely famous and solid ghosts. Alas, the universe is saying No. That path is not working out. It seems this book needs to be written by not-silly ole’ me. I have conflicted feelings about this after such a long seclusion with my own interiority.

Some people with great privilege belong to yacht clubs or post selfies from St. Barts. Me? I value low pressure and self-pacing. It’s a massive luxury that I have very intentionally cultivated. I wear a black t-shirt and Align joggers every day (yes, I have 5 of each) so I can move or stretch whenever and however I feel like it. I dress for myself, no one else (Sorry Anthony 🥰). And daily meditation isn’t my #goal, it’s is my reality. I need it, it stabilizes me. Imagine if we all just had the “goal” of brushing our teeth everyday? PU! 🤮 I cook for my children and we sit together each night for dinner not because I want to brag about it on social. It’s how I can check in on how they’re really doing as opposed to how they might say they’re doing. (“Fine” 🧐) I want to have an authentically close family system in place before they’re older. Not just cordial: The type that get together for holidays and smile for pictures. I want them to be connected. Committed. I want us all to really know each other. And to that point, I love having time for long and meaningful check-ins with my friends. Friends! Not just “friends.” (and by the way, I don’t think superficial alliances are unique to the work world - they’re just as common with the stay-at-home parent crowd.) Small, intentional and slow feels really good for me.

But most of all…

I love not being afraid. I was so afraid. All the time. (I shit my pants for goodness sakes!)

So, I guess I want both. I want to work again…on my terms. (Cue Sharpay singing “I Want It All” from High School Musical 3.)


There’s always a but.

A burst of yearning or vision followed by contraction.

But what if I am a has-been. What if I am over. What if spirit…the universe…God…whatever you want to call this little voice in my head has moved on from me.  In one of his more mean-spirited barbs during a contentious conversation during our separation, my husband said something to the effect of My how far the mighty have fallen. He was trying to shame me for living such a small life after my high profile one. Perhaps spirit doesn’t want to invest in someone with a postage-stamp sized existence. Perhaps despite how much effort I put into cultivating said postage-stamp sized life, it really IS a sign of failure, like my ex says.

I think that buzzing is the same thing that drove me back in the old days. Yes, it’s part anxiety and definitely rooted in childhood trauma.

But I don’t think it ends there…

This buzzing also fuels a flame that has always burned within me, that wants to light the path – my own and the paths of others like it’s my destiny is to be a tour guide of sorts. It. Just. Won’t. Be. Extinguished.

Listen, maybe I will never write that book. Maybe my life will end without my ever having accomplished a single other thing outside of raising my smart, ferocious, beautiful girls and unleashing them onto the world (which, btw, sounds like a pretty worthwhile accomplishment in and of itself). Maybe. 🤷🏻‍♀️ But I literally cannot imagine accepting that it won’t happen. This flame will not be snuffed even when it’s me trying to blow it out.

Mind you – I’m not saying this from a Little-Kim-&-Christina-Aguilera-Can’t-Hold-Us-Down place. I’m not trying to talk myself out of giving up. When I started this letter, I was actually trying to talk myself INTO giving up. I felt maybe that is what is necessary. That I just need to give up so I can be at peace with a No-Atoosa-Comeback once and for all. I thought maybe it was just threads of ambition that hadn’t been exorcised from my energetic body…still swimming around trying to hook into something and ZOOM like I did so effortlessly when I was guided by the rocket fuel of my unspoken childhood trauma.

But, no. This is something slightly different.

This is hopefulness and optimism. These are the traits that helped me survive my childhood…my early adulthood… cancer…and divorce. Ironically, it’s my hopefulness and optimism that made me a daily punchline on Gawker. But if I wasn’t hopeful and optimistic, maybe I wouldn’t have have survived the incest. Maybe I would have fallen into addiction or worse. It’s also my hopefulness and optimism that have always driven me to share what I’ve learned along the way. It’s what made me start Project 2024 at CosmoGIRL! – the great hope and belief that one of YOU could be President for the 2024 election. Do you remember that? That was the year the oldest of you would be eligible run. And why not? I still believe it. In you. It may be the 2024 election. It may be 2028.  TBD. We’ll see. And just as I believe in you, I continue to believe in me. I can have a third act that will feed my passion that leads readers to new and interesting places inside themselves. And whether I do, or don’t is not the important thing. My most fervent readers just may be my granddaughters and great grands many years in the future looking back on these Substack postings. To me, that sounds like a win. Wouldn’t we all have loved to know what our ancestors were really feeling and experiencing? I aspire to maintain this hopeful outlook until my last day. I will be equally hopeful for my own three girls…and for you (my girls, born to other mothers). To me, hope feels like clean beauty for the soul.

Such an honor to be in such an intimate community with you. Truly.

xo atoosa

Atoosa Unedited
Atoosa Unedited
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Atoosa Rubenstein