Illustration by Aubrey Nolan
In #adhoclifeadvice, we ask artists we love to answer questions from you, our readers. This time around, Adult Mom frontperson Steph Knipe discusses juggling obligations and politely declining an offer to collaborate. Adult Mom will perform with Harmony Woods and Goodie at Baby's All Right on February 3.
@ivyrnel: What do you do when you’re obligated to do something, but really can’t because it [...] will be detrimental to your mental health, but not doing the thing will also be detrimental to your mental health as people will bitch about you for not doing it?
Steph Knipe: I like to make a list and identify what it would mean to “push myself.” Kind of like, if I decide to go into work today, I will have pain in my back for the rest of the week. If I don’t go into work today, I won’t have enough money for my bills. If I don’t go out with my friends, they will be mad at me. If I stay home, I will give myself space and time to process through what I’m dealing with.
I like to make lists of what the true “repercussions” would be, to really size up what is more detrimental and what isn’t. Obligations are real, but, at the end of the day, we are human people, with needs that are constantly in flux. It’s important for me to make these lists to show myself what I need to focus on, what I need to value. Often my health in general is closer to the bottom of the list, and that’s cruel.
Often I feel the need to “suck it up” and “push myself” through things that end up being immensely challenging and bad for my body and brain. I’m not saying it’s always a bad thing to push through, but it should never send you to a place that would be detrimental and dangerous for you. The only reason anyone should push through is to grow and better themselves, not because they have an obligation to somebody else!
Anyways, I’m happy that you’re even thinking about your mental health.That’s an important step! It’s a skill to figure out your true limits, but the only way to start is to start taking inventory. Make the list, and if it comes around that you really cannot escape the obligation, make sure to do at least one amazing thing for yourself that day.
Anonymous: I have a friend—and I enjoy their company and think they’re a great person! But I’m not a huge fan of their music—it just isn’t my thing, but they keep asking me to collaborate on tracks, and I keep giving the excuse that I’m super busy (which is true) but then I’ll collaborate with other people and it feels really awful. Is there ever a tactful way to tell a friend that you’re just not that into their tunes...and still remain friends?
I totally understand why you would lie to your friend; it’s a difficult decision that doesn’t really have any right answers, I would say. BUT, if it were me, I would definitely have an open dialogue about it. Obviously, being told that somebody who you care for doesn’t like your art stings like hell, but there are definitely tactics to lessen the blow with some slight language modifications!
I would start with a positive—maybe something about how you can see that their fans or current collaborators really love the music, and maybe focus on a talent of theirs that you appreciate (good technical singer? producer?). And then I would just be honest: “I just don’t think that us collaborating would be a great fit for me.” The honesty there is great, and it also helps prevents the other person from being defensive, because the language is that it doesn’t work for YOU, not them.
You don’t have to go into detail; I think just a simple response is perfect. It’s not easy to be honest like this, but it’s your art and your project!! An honest and openly communicative friendship is a good one :-)