Asking for a Friend with Blair Stokes
1) Tell us a little bit about you!
I’m Blair Stokes (and yeah, I do take every opportunity to say, “I’m stoked” because I love a solidly terrible pun). I work at a health care software company managing our external communications, including social media and public relations initiatives. I’m originally from South Florida, but I’ve been living the *~*yee-haw*~* life in Texas for almost 3 years now. Traveling is a big priority for me because I’m extra as hell, and I want to see and do everything I possibly can in this life. That’s part of why I’ve been doing improv comedy for the last six months; it’s also a fun (and nerve-racking) exercise in getting over my perfectionism and just doing the work. I’m easily excitable, my laugh can only be described as “booming,” and I’m pretty optimistic.
2) When you were a child were you raised to be competitive?
I definitely enjoyed winning as a kid, but I only cared about it in academic contexts, specifically related to writing. I wanted to be the best writer in AP English, get the highest verbal SAT score (I did not have similar aspirations for the math section), and write the most and best articles in high school and college newspaper. I was always a pretty good writer, and I liked it well enough to make it *~*my thing*~*. But the pressure of wanting to be an extremely good writer bred some unhealthy perfectionism that I’m still working on today. I’m reminding myself that perfect doesn’t exist, and that everything is a draft, evolving and changing. I’m working on prioritizing actively making things, rather than passively worrying about whether or not my latest Instagram caption deserves an award.
3) When was the first time you remember feeling like you were successful?
Successfully getting a job outside of Florida and having the audacity to move to Texas was a massive turning point for me. I’d lived in Florida for 23 years, but I wanted to challenge myself and make a complete change. (Related: I also cut off all my hair just before moving.) It was scary, but I was thrilled at the prospect of doing something new, becoming someone new. The ability to learn, change, and grow is what I consider success. For me, it’s definitely not a singular destination but an ongoing process that can take so many shapes. And that means there are countless more exciting ways to succeed.
4) When was the first time you remember feeling like you had failed?
Welp, I got a 3 on my AP English Language exam in 11th grade because I got too proud to write an explanatory essay, and decided that I was so good, I could express my rhetorical analysis in an experimental poem instead. Whoever graded the AP exam did not share my vision. Even though a 3 is a passing score, I was absolutely ashamed, and I refused to tell anyone my actual score. My 17- year-old, moody self wouldn’t let go. I internalized that failure and began to question myself and my abilities. The shame of that 3 both haunted and motivated me. Out of spite and a compulsive need to redeem myself, I got a 5 on the AP English Literature exam next year. Ten years later, I’ve failed way harder than that. Time gave me valuable perspective and taught me to be kinder to myself in the face of my more recent failures. At 17, I made that specific failure a justification to detract my self worth. At 26, I’m recognizing that failure is discovering new ways I can continue to grow.
5) What part of your day-to-day routine is most beneficial to you?
As much as love to go out and socialize, I also love making time and space to decompress alone at home. I generally try to do as much as possible, whether it’s work or socializing, but that also means that I tend to overexert myself. I need a certain amount of time on my own to function in social settings. Devoting energy to myself and my wellbeing after work or going out is incredibly important to me.
6) Where do you find your joy?
Sometimes it’s screaming along to pop punk alone in my car after work. Other times, it’s staying in on a Friday night and journaling. Sometimes it’s staying out until 4 a.m. and striking up conversations with random new people. I like to take stock of little vignettes of happiness and hold tight to those. Traveling brings me so much joy because I’m physically removing myself from my comfort zone and constantly exploring. I tend to travel alone, which means that I get to better understand myself and who I am in different contexts and settings.
7) What are three tools that help you succeed?
1. Notes app: This is where I catalogue random thoughts, fears, to-do’s, and aspirations as they come to me. It’s as comforting as having a pen and paper on me at all times. (It also helps me comfortably write thoughtful or challenging messages so no one can see me typing lololol)
2. Calendar app: It’s the only way I remember to do important adult tasks, like go to the dentist, pay my rent, or do my taxes.
3. Cold brew: Yeah, I totally consider this a tool.
8) Who is the first person you call when you’re celebrating a win?
It’s a few people. I call my dad, my brother, and my best friend Setareh. When I’m winning, it’s because I’ve got this incredibly supportive team. They’re some of the folks who are always rooting for me — even when I panic-text them about something I’m dreading or embarrassed about. My dad in particular has always been an incredible mentor for me. We have a very similar temperament and sense of humor, so we get each other. He’s reinvented himself so many times throughout his professional career and personal life, and I aspire to that kind of agility. His willingness to grow and learn is inspiring. The other day, I was telling him about a new project I’m working on, and he gave me space to voice my fears about it, but ultimately he helped me understand that’s it’s an exciting new challenge, and that I should move forward with it.
9) How do you handle failure in adulthood?
I’m trying to be more aware of moments when I’m internalizing failure at my own detriment. And I’m trying to be more patient with myself and kinder to myself as I fail. Beating myself up about failing doesn’t help me avoid future negative outcomes; if anything, it makes me more prone to repeating the same patterns. Owning my failure is something I’m trying to exercise more. When I own it, I have power over it and feel empowered to move forward. Like, yeah, I did that. That happened. It sucked. It didn’t like how that felt. But I can choose to stagnate, or I can change how I handle similar situations in the future. I’m not stuck and I’m not less worthy just because I failed.
10) What’s one thing you’re proud of in your life right now?
2018 was one of the most emotionally challenging years of my life, and I’m proud of myself for going to therapy and actively working on myself. I’m proud of myself for recognizing that I needed support to work through a lot of negativity and grief. I’m still working through it, but I’m glad I’m making progress.