APIECE APART WOMAN
Rebecca Misner’s bio is as follows: classics scholar, former lawyer, yoga instructor, creator of natural beauty products, and senior editor at Conde Nast Traveler. In brief, she does a lot of different things. We’re inspired by the way she regards exploring new opportunities—a lesson that many of the most fulfilling paths turn out to be the non-linear ones—and spoke with her here about focus, risk-taking, and the importance of having good friends.
Can you share more about your upbringing — where you are from, what your childhood was like?
I was born in Australia (my parents are American, but one of my dad’s first jobs out of law school was teaching at the University of Sydney), we moved to Arizona when I was about one year-old and I spent most of my childhood in Phoenix, AZ. This was the mid 1970s to late 1980s and Phoenix was still the wild west in a lot of ways: We rode horses through citrus groves and stands of palm trees, went on all-day picnics out in the desert, swam almost everyday of the year. It was a great place to grow up, we had a lot of freedom. We also had tremendous family friends—I credit my parents with teaching me how important friends are. Many of the families I grew up with still play a huge role in my life. When I was in 8th grade, we moved to Portland, OR. I was so pissed off, as one might expect, at my parents at the time, but that only lasted a few months. Portland was and still is, one of the most interesting, beautiful cities in the country.
All throughout my childhood we’d travel. Since my dad was a law professor and my mom always had a fairly fairly flexible schedule, we’d go on these epic, two-month-long adventures in the summer—usually road trips, but not always: we moved back to Australia for six months, we lived in Charlottesville while my dad was a visiting professor, we’d go to Greece or Italy and do it on the cheap.
You have a fascinating background — law + yoga teacher + editor + classics scholar. For you, where do the disparate pieces connect?
Golly! I’m not sure they do connect! Well, perhaps they connect in that they are all fields where you are constantly learning and exploring, where you get to be a student. I have always been interested in many, disparate things. I was that kid that was both in the Science Olympics and running track, friends with the football players and the stoners. I’ve always been a little suspicious (and probably jealous) of those people that are like, “I’ve known since I was six that I wanted to be a heart surgeon.”
I’ve always been really focused on whatever I’m doing and I’ll do it full-on while it’s working for me—intellectually, financially, creatively. I really liked being a lawyer, and I did for years, but when I found myself in a warehouse of an armored vehicle plant in Jacksonville for weeks on end eating two meals every day at the nearby Olive Garden while my daughter was back in Brooklyn, I realized that it just wasn’t working for me and I had to try something new. I’ve had amazingly supportive people in my life—my family, my husband, dear friends who have become bosses, that have always encouraged me to try different things. I think the biggest way you can motivate someone to succeed is to believe in them. I’ve been incredibly fortunate that people have taken risks on me and believed in me and I work really hard to not let them down.
Rebecca wears GALISTEO WABI SLEEVELESS TOP in cream
Today, travel and uncovering new things/places/ideas are a big part of your work + daily life. What are some of your favorite recent discoveries?
The Dominican Republic was more of a rediscovery—I’d been a few times before but it didn’t really speak to me. This recent trip I went to the northern coast, to a tiny town called Playa Grande, and absolutely loved it. I spent some time recently in Downtown Los Angeles and I cannot believe how much is going on there. Same with Mexico City, the energy and creativity in both cities right now is palpable and really exciting. I was in Palm Springs over the summer (I know, great time to visit) and I feel like it’s changing, in a really good way. Feels chicer—less just golf retreats and bachelorette parties. The newly redone L’Horizon hotel there is pretty special.
At what time of day do you create your best work? Do you have any rituals or personal practices for getting in the work “flow”?
I guess have I have two different sets of rituals. For my day job, editing—I work best in the morning, I try to get into the office a little early (which, in publishing is like 8:45 am). I need a minimum of two cups of coffee to get going. I usually listen to a podcast on my commute into work—Longform is a great way to learn about up-and-coming writers or hear what major writers are up to, or I’ll listen to Serial, which keeps the lawyer part of my brain working. If I’m really tired, I’ll listen to the Pixies or Dinosaur Jr. or something else loud and driving to force me into the day. For my night gig (I make natural beauty products), I’m a bit more mellow—tea or a glass of wine, the music gets a lot groovier—Fairport Convention or Fleetwood Mac.
What makes you feel most alive?
Being in nature—surfing or going on hike.
Describe a personal ritual.
I’ve always been very impacted by scent and have worked with essential oils long enough to know there’s a direct link between smell and mood. This is maybe too much detail, but every morning before I shower I do a quick dry brush of my entire body. In the shower, and then after the shower, I use a blend of different essential oils in a base of jojoba oil—in the morning, the blend is heavy on uplighting, invigorating oils—lemongrass, juniper, cypress, bergamot, grapefruit with some earthy notes to keep me grounded—vetiver, patchouli. It sounds a little out there, but I’m a much happier, present person post-shower.
How do you spend the first 10 minutes of your day?
I wake my kids up. I crawl into bed with my daughter for a few minutes and wake her up and then I go in with my son. I don’t know how much longer they’ll let me do this so I try to get in as many cuddles as I can while I can.
Do you have a hard time turning off your work? How do you separate your work life from your personal/family life?
I’m dying to chat with the person who has figured this one out. I do have a hard time turning off work. The combination of being able to check my email on my phone and working with freelance writers who don’t have normal work hours and often aren’t in the same timezone can make it challenging to PUT THE PHONE DOWN. I’m trying really hard not to do the “impulse email check.” You know when you pick up your phone to check the time or the weather or look at a map and then, without even realizing it, you’ve checked your work email and are responding to a non-urgent email? I do that a lot. I’m trying to check occasionally and then only answer emails that are time-sensitive.
Where do you go to be alone in New York?
It seems I’m only physically alone when I’m out in Montauk. I love running along the cliffs there and have had some beautiful early morning runs where I’ll stop and look out at the water and there isn’t another soul in sight. To be metaphorically alone—I’ll go to a neighborhood in the city where I don’t usually go and just wander. This is one of my favorite things about living in the city. Before I had kids, I would start in Harlem and work my way downtown. It would take most of the day, but it’s a wonderful thing to have no agenda and just roam. Last week I took an hour and wandered around Avenue B, where I hadn’t been in years.
What’s your mantra?
It sounds a little cheesy, but it’s “You’ve got this.” It’s served me pretty well.
Rebecca wears PUEBLA SHORT WABI DRESS
What do you make for dinner alone?
A fried egg on an arugula salad, a piece of toast and a glass of white wine. Ideally, there’s a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.
Something that is underrated:
Hall & Oates. Go back and listen to their “Abandoned Luncheonette” album from start to finish and you can almost erase the memory of “I Can’t Go For That” and “Man Eater.”
What you’re doing, or experiencing, or feeling right now is, in the scheme of your life, pretty fleeting... it feels like everything in the minute, but it won’t be more than a bleep when you look back. Don’t give the little things too much importance or you’ll let them define you. Move on.
Something that is overrated:
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
It’s a simple one, and, ultimately, a really hard one that I struggle with constantly: Be kind. Another one, and I’ve really taken this one to heart, is that life is long. What you’re doing, or experiencing, or feeling right now is, in the scheme of your life, pretty fleeting. I try and remind my kids of this when something at school isn’t going right or a friend is being mean—it feels like everything in the minute, but it won’t be more than a bleep when you look back. Don’t give the little things too much importance or you’ll let them define you. Move on.
Photography by TIM HOUT | Styling by ALEXA HOTZ | Interview by LEIGH PATTERSON