Kara Gordon

Returnings

A fortnightly letter to the people going at 100 miles an hour. We all have the things that keep us grounded: to-do lists, morning routines, communities, and rituals to keep us sane. But when things get tough, they often fall to the wayside. Here's a reminder to refuel.

Thursdays Are For Therapy

This letter, for once, is kind of about design and was written for the Alphabettes’ Remember December series. The Alphabettes are a badass group of women in type from around the world, and you should go read the other posts, including the ones I’m not directly linking to. Long live letterforms.

At 2:30pm on Thursdays, I take the key to the bathroom to reapply my lipstick. I wrap up whatever email I’m writing or article I’m flowing and at 2:45, I walk across Madison Square Park for my weekly 3:00pm appointment.

My therapist is kind and empathetic. She knows how to watch for the moments I physically zip my anger inside myself, lodging it in the base of my throat. She knows how to listen to what I’m saying and how I say it, probe into the thing I'm dancing around, and coax the hurt and the anger out. She is possibly the only person in my life who consistently asks me questions about myself that I don’t know the answers to. (I hate not knowing the answers, but if your therapist isn’t asking you questions that you don’t know the answers to, you are smarter than they are, and you need to find a new therapist. If you’re seeing a therapist, and you probably should be, you’re paying them enough money to be seen and heard, and if you’re not seeing a therapist, you still deserve to be seen and heard. Seriously.)

Some weeks, our sessions are light and easy and I crack jokes about the neuroses I inherited from my loving parents (we all have them) and the emotional ineptitude of those men in my life (we all have them). Other weeks crack me open in ways I’m not always certain I’m ready to be broken open and these sessions are hard and painful. I pay a good chunk of change for these sessions but they’re always too short and after the hard sessions I need to buy hot chocolate to calm myself down before going back to work. And I’m lucky—I have the means to go (thanks parents) and the support of my studio to go leave in the middle of the workday once a week to take care of myself.

But these sessions are exhausting. Necessary, but exhausting.

On the first Thursday of every month, whether the 3:00pm appointment is easy or hard, I go to TypeThursday. I still remember my first one, literally three days after I moved to the city.

My first TypeThursday, in June 2016, before there were multiple chapters and when it was still held at the Bakery in Brooklyn.

My first TypeThursday, in June 2016, before there were multiple chapters and when it was still held at the Bakery in Brooklyn.

It was wonderful. There is something so special about having a bunch of nerds come together to discuss spacing strings and the consistency of terminal angles for an hour. I was hooked. So I kept coming back and eventually, Thomas Jockin roped me into leading the critiques for the New York chapter. This past November marked my first full year of being part of the TypeThursdayNYC team. (Thomas, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.)

So on the first Thursday of every month, around 6pm, I leave the studio and walk up to the TDC, reapply my lipstick. Then it’s my turn to listen and watch, ask questions, and steer the conversations. Some months are easier than others: sometimes the people who come are open and witty and hilarious, sometimes I have to probe a little more and coax more people into offering their opinions. But I love it and the leadership team that stepped up the past year: Whitney DobladilloJulie Thompson, and Lexi Earle especially, thank you for sharing your brilliance and making showing up so easy, even when it’s hard. The laughter, the camaraderie, the discovery, the learning—all exhausting, all necessary.

Jean-François Porchez, myself, and Thomas Jockin (left to right) at TypeThursdayNYC February 2017.

Jean-François Porchez, myself, and Thomas Jockin (left to right) at TypeThursdayNYC February 2017.

We often use human characteristics to describe letterforms: serious, sassy, sweet, salty, and other adjectives that don’t begin with everyone’s favorite letter to draw (s’s are really hard to draw guys). These characteristics are not fixed, but dynamic, and not just in variable fonts. When we work with letterforms, we constantly rework these qualities, fine-tuning and pixel-pushing and re-interpolating and adjusting spacing until we think we’ve got it just right. Then a couple years go by, everything’s changed, and what worked before just doesn’t work anymore.

In my most existential moments—and there are many—I often wonder, What’s the point? What’s the point of anything? (This is just the tip of the Why Kara is in Therapy Iceberg, but you all know this by now.) At the risk of harping a cliché, it is actually entirely about the process, the literal inching forwards and backwards to something better. Why? Maybe it’s about God (if you believe in Him/Her), maybe we’re just trying to make our lives a little more bearable. I’m not really sure, but I am so glad I’m doing it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go reapply my lipstick.

Love always,
Kara

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