Shari Weiss has a lifelong obsession with pop culture and current events. She turned her love for both into a 10-year career as an entertainment journalist before transitioning into editing and corporate communications. A native of Long Island, she relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 2014 and has stayed far longer than she anticipated. Shari also serves as The Inspiration Lab’s freelance editor, regularly editing the posts that appear on this very blog. Below, she writes about what it felt like to embrace her biggest passion again… and find herself in the process.
When I left entertainment journalism behind, it felt like I had lost my identity. But the truth is, I had already lost it years before that.
Before I was even double-digits, I fell in love with “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Day after day, I escaped into a world so very different from mine. The characters became my friends. Watches and rewatches consumed me. And my pastime grew to also obsessively watching “Dawson’s Creek” and similar shows. I figured as far as vices go, there were far worse things to have as a hobby.
But while my family and close friends were aware of my passion for the teen dramas, no one in my life actually shared my interest, at least not to the same extent. So in 2008, during my senior year of college at Northwestern University, I decided to start a blog. The purpose was to get the 93183457105713 thoughts about these shows out of my head and hopefully find some like-minded people.
I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. My blog, called TeenDramaWhore after a nickname I gave myself to represent my obsession with the genre, led not only to a virtual community, but also opportunities to connect with the very people who produced and starred in my favorite television shows. I interviewed the casts and crews of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “The O.C.,” “One Tree Hill,” “Gossip Girl,” and “90210.” It was and still is surreal.
If I could’ve focused on TDW full time, I would have. But by the fall of 2010, I was more than a year out of college, had yet to make the jump from intern to employee, and really needed to take my actual career to the next level. I felt incredibly burnt out from interning full time during the day and working on TDW at night. Something had to give. And when the New York Daily News recruited me, they made it clear they didn’t want me writing for my blog while I was working for them. So that was that. I officially went on a blogging “hiatus.”
For the next eight years, I still tweeted about the teen dramas and obsessed privately, but it felt like TDW was a life I left behind. From time to time, a former reader would message me about missing the blog and the possibility of bringing it back, but reviving it always seemed out of the question. My passion had become a burden and I just couldn’t see how I could make it work without history repeating itself. And when I transitioned from entertainment journalism to corporate communications in 2018, TDW started to feel even more distant. That I even liked, much less obsessed, over these shows, wasn’t something I shared with my new co-workers. They barely even knew about my interest in entertainment news, even though that was my background.
Who was I anymore?
I didn’t know.
But in September, I was invited to record a podcast segment with the producers of “Beverly Hills, 90210” — whom I had now known for 10 years, something 9-year-old me never would’ve believed — about how the show set the blueprint for the teen drama genre. When I finished the taping, I realized: I have so much more to say. And I really want to say it.
All of sudden, what I had to do became crystal clear.
It was time to follow my passion again.
That very night, I decided to relaunch my blog as a Substack newsletter. The next few days, hundreds and hundreds of words poured out of me. I found myself unable to sleep night after night as I kept thinking of new ideas for posts. I was running on adrenaline and felt excited about something for the first time since the pandemic had begun.
I didn’t unveil the newsletter until close to mid-October and now, more than a month later, I’ll admit some of that initial energy has faded. I still have the same fear that trying to balance a full-time career with a time-intensive hobby won’t end well. But that fear pales in comparison to how great it feels to be answering what I truly think is my calling. I’m no longer hiding this side of me. My co-workers have never seen me happier. And I know this world is where I shine brightest.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this journey to rediscovering my passion was in part fueled by The Inspiration Lab and all that I’ve learned through this community about creating the things we wished existed and doing the things we love. There’s also a few fun connections: Wilmington is where “One Tree Hill” and “Dawson’s Creek” were filmed (in case you were wondering why I moved here…), Stephanie’s husband Andrew worked on “Dawson’s Creek,” and when I first joined The Inspi Lab, Steph set Membership Manager Lisa Barrett and I up on a friendship date without telling us why. We quickly discovered our mutual “Dawson’s Creek” love and I told a few people afterward that it was like meeting my (platonic) soulmate.
That’s what embracing my teen drama passion and engaging with fellow fans feels like: It’s good for my soul. It is who I am. And I am myself again.