This is the first post in a series in which we profile people’s passion projects and let them explain their work in their own words. Learn more and see a list of all the projects profiled here.
Emily Theis is a digital designer who made The Breakup Survival Guide based on an episode of the WNYC podcast Death, Sex & Money hosted by Anna Sale. Theis explained what The Breakup Survival Guide was and how it came to be.
What is The Breakup Survival Guide? How did it come about?
The Breakup Survival Guide is a site that cycles through a randomized suggestion of something to do, listen to, think, read, or watch while going through a breakup. I was inspired by DSM’s Breakup episode and Google sheet Breakup Survival Kit — the show asked listeners to contribute ideas of what helped them get through difficult breakups, and I used those tips on the site.
It fascinated me that there were always other people viewing that spreadsheet when I opened it (spreadsheets aren’t that fun or beautiful to look at). I’d been looking for a project to practice my coding, and the show also came out around the time I ended a long-term relationship and started dating again. So the project was a nice distraction, good CSS practice, and something that could hopefully help others.
I also want to give huge props to the people who helped me make this project: Katie Broida, Regis Biron, Eric Bailey, and Elaina Natario. Katie hooked up the Google sheet using Tabletop.js, Regis made those nice card transitions, and Elaina and Eric both answered a lot of my dumb CSS questions.
What version(s) of Emily does The Breakup Survival Guide bring out? In other words, how has it allowed you to express yourself?
I am most interested in creative work that exposes honest human experience, so I hope this project reflects that in some way. Breakups are a universal pain, unfortunately, but can be pretty difficult to talk about. I really love Death Sex and Money, too, so I think the BSG expresses my podcast fandom.
This project is also an abstracted expression of myself in that I personally really needed a breakup survival guide while I was making it— I cried, drank too much wine and spent an entire night cleaning up the spreadsheet that powers the site. It was weirdly cathartic.
How have you fostered those versions of yourself with pop culture?
I listen to a lot of podcasts because I just like hearing people talk about all the things that happen to them, things I might never know about otherwise. And I’m terribly distracted when it comes to TV and film. So I gravitate toward interview-style or journalistic shows that I can listen to while walking or working on other projects — Death Sex and Money, Radiolab, This American Life, Love & Radio, Mogul, Reply All, In The Dark, The Moth, Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, the list goes on.
If The Breakup Survival Guide had a theme song, what would it be?
How could I possibly pick one? Can I cop out and answer “Every song suggested on the site?” Probably not, but there are a lot of great suggestions on there.
Some songs that got me through my most recent dating woes are Ingrid Michelson’s “Hell No,” Banks’ “Gemini Feed,” and Langhorne Slim’s “Changes.”