Goodnight and Good Luck

Photo via Miramax Films
Photo via Miramax Films

Night is a vulnerable time for me. When it’s dark and still, my lizard brain crackles with long-loitering anxieties and fears, whether existential or rooted in some absurd horror movie I watched when I was 11. The day’s grimiest residue—an uncomfortable conversation, an email I wish I had worded differently—agitates me into neurotic wakefulness. I ruminate over the same dumb moments, scratching itches that refuse to relent—or to be more accurate, that I reignite through obsession. I’m inclined to feel alone, even if, technically, I’m not.


Lately I’ve sought out ways to temper my nighttime demons. In the most desperate of circumstances, anxiety medication can be one form of relief. When I discovered ASMR videos on YouTube, I rejoiced in this bounty of aural nectar—though they’re most effective when I’m already tired. Sometimes I’ll watch ‘90s music videos, or binge watch a television show (The O.C., currently). Or, if I’m sufficiently alert, I’ll write. But what’s often most soothing is the company of others.

At 11 p.m. this can be tricky. That is, it was tricky until I became a night blogger.

For the last two years, I’ve worked as a regular contributor at Jezebel, most of the time during the night shift. When I began in July 2015, I worried that it would be a solitary endeavor—howling into the void, as we Internet-dwellers so often lament. But as is often the case, I was gloriously wrong. Instead, I found a community full of verve and wit, with particular affection for memes and cat photos. Whatever the topic, you—my commenters—emerged with insights, context, and often, elegant prose.

As you’ve likely already guessed, tonight I’m bidding you a final goodnight. And I can’t imagine another part-time job that would engender such potent bittersweetness. I’m going to miss you all, and I’m going to miss Jezebel.

Over the course of my tenure here, my life has changed dramatically—even irrevocably. In fact, when my first essay was published on the site, I had only been writing for a few months. As a doctoral candidate in Victorian literature, I thought freelancing might provide an beneficial creative outlet. I composed a weird essay about teenage fantasies and rollerskating, sent it to a site called the Hairpin, and Jia Tolentino published it. A few months and essays later, Jia—together with the Hairpin’s then-editor-in-chief, Emma Carmichael—transitioned to Jezebel’s editorial team. I pitched an essay series on female friendships and, fortunately for me, they liked the idea. Over the course of the year, Jezebel became a familiar home for much of my writing.

By the time I was asked to join the site part-time as a contributor, I was freelancing regularly, at Jezebel and elsewhere. I had also signed with a literary agent who suggested I write a book combining cultural criticism and memoir. My creative pastime had, unexpectedly, become my foremost professional ambition, and I was struggling to balance its demands with those of academia. During the fall semester of 2015, I was blogging twice a week, freelancing for other venues, beginning to draft a book proposal—and teaching two college courses as well as attempting to make progress on my dissertation. I wanted to do it all. But eventually, I realized that if I wanted to live to middle age, I needed to make a choice. Half-wondering if I was making an arrogant and egregious mistake, I chose writing.


Time will tell if that was the case. For now, in the face of good fortune, I’m maintaining cautious optimism. I finally finished my book proposal, and in June 2017, it sold. My primary task now is to complete the manuscript by next summer. And for all the pleasures of night blogging, I need to stop in order to honor that deadline. I write best in the morning, but when I work until midnight, the hours prior to 11 a.m. are unpleasant. Even after I’ve finished blogging for the week, I’m off-kilter until the afternoon. Alas, it’s time to accept that I’m in my 30s and require something of a “traditional” schedule.

But I have the luxury of making this decision because of the opportunities that were available to me here. I’m proud of my work for this site, and that includes my long form essays and my blogs. In December 2015 I wrote the most difficult essay I had ever attempted—one that bares my most disagreeable qualities while reflecting on the past year. It’s entitled “Learning to Hate 2015" which, considering our current national nightmare, strikes me as foolishly naive. But that national nightmare demanded all hands on deck, and suddenly I was blogging about politics—an entirely new genre for me. Participating in the anti-Trump resistance this way was more meaningful than I can express (even when that resistance comprised of finding new, evermore grotesque ways to describe our damp-pawed, lumpy potato-in-chief). I was also encouraged to write an essay singing the praises of the live-action Casper and that, my friends, is a dream fulfilled.


This is all to say that I’m grateful for the last two years. I’m grateful that Jia saw promise in a restless academic wondering what the fuck she wanted to say. I’m grateful to Emma for welcoming my words on two websites that she successfully and gracefully helmed. I’ve been fortunate to witness the incisive and uncompromising work of the Jezebel staff. And in the process, I found Stassa Edwards, who has become something of a big sister to me, as well as a fellow Victoriana enthusiast. The last few years have in many ways been difficult, and Stassa has comforted me as I’ve blogged through some especially dismal nights. Mark Shrayber, who moved on a couple of years ago—but whom I’m sure you all remember fondly—has become another warm and loving friend. An added bonus is that he is hilarious. And to my fellow contributors—Lauren, Aimée, and Hannah—thank you for the camaraderie, humor, and empathy. You’re genuinely lovely people, and I have been fortunate to work with and count on you.

Finally, I offer my heartfelt gratitude to the Jez commenter crew. Thank you for keeping me company every week—for challenging me, teaching me, and making me laugh. Thank you for the delightful photos of your pets, all of whom I love. Thank you for celebrating Kristen Stewart’s birthday with me and indulging my nerdy literary references. Thank you for being the lamplight softening my nights.


I’m off to try to write a book now, but I’ll continue haranguing the Internet and being a dummy on Twitter. I wish you all more dynamic conversations rife with puns and memes and nostalgia. The comment section is at its best when it’s a space of mutual support and friendly inquisitiveness. I’m proud of you all for achieving that, and I believe you’ll maintain it. I believe you’ll continue to lift up one another—that, after all, is a form of resistance in and of itself.

Take care, pals. Goodnight.


Mark Shrayber