Writing is an often solitary process, but it rarely happens alone. This brief email, which I hemmed and hawed over for seven weeks before finally dashing it off and sending it in a thoroughly uncharacteristic burst of un-self-conscious productivity, could not have happened without the support of countless others. While it might be only my name in the sender field, I would be remiss not to acknowledge and thank the many people who helped make it all possible.

I, of course, must begin with the inspiration for this work: the acquaintance who emailed me seven weeks ago, asking a relatively straightforward question that was nevertheless open-ended enough to make it seem like answering it would be unpleasant and difficult, prompting me to do my best not to think about it, until answering it actually did become unpleasant and difficult because first I would have to apologize for putting it off so long. You challenged me in the best way, and I hope you find this email worthy of your readership, even if it is probably arriving six weeks to six weeks and six days later than you expected to receive it.

Writing is rewriting, as they say, and I have been blessed with a fantastic editor: my roommate, Dave, who provided invaluable notes on early drafts of the five sentences that constitute the email. While I may not fully agree that “it’s not that deep, you should probably just send it and get it over with,” your tough-love feedback helped keep me moving forward.

Jason, Emma, Pete, and Julie—“the happy hour committee”—your joyful camaraderie has been essential throughout this harrowing process. And if you hadn’t all happened to have last-minute conflicts on the same day, leaving me with an unexpectedly empty afternoon, I probably could have put off writing this email for at least a couple of more weeks.

Generous institutional support for this email came from my job, whose supervisory procedures are lax enough that I could spend several hours each day staring at an empty email draft without anybody seeming to notice or get on my case about it. Thank you for the uninterrupted time to dream, and for the coffee too!

I am lucky to have had many wonderful mentors throughout my education. Even all these years later, I can still remember my sixth-grade English teacher’s wisdom: “Your paper will drop one letter grade for every day late it is.” Ms. Edwards, your words echoed in my head throughout this writing process and encouraged me to feel so wildly guilty about my delay that the shame became unbearable, and I was forced to finally respond.

Every writer is naturally influenced by those who came before. I am privileged to have received many emails that were so inane and poorly written that I couldn’t believe their authors maintained any self-respect. This helped me build the confidence I needed to write my own email, since even the worst-case scenario probably wouldn’t be as bad as that.

Thank you to my parents, my first and biggest supporters. My mother constantly emails me links to news articles vaguely related to my interests, and those thrice-daily Gmail notifications kept me returning to my inbox and subsequently reminding me of the unanswered message festering therein. And my father’s deeply taciturn nature meant that even when I called home in a desperate attempt to ignore the unchecked “REPLY TO EMAIL!!!” box that had stagnated on my to-do list for a month and a half, flimsily papered over with the pretense of “being a good son,” it was never too long before I was saying goodbye and getting back to work. I love you both.

And finally, Hannah, my partner in life and love: everything I write is for you, and this one is no exception, since you told me you would seriously consider breaking up with me if I didn’t stop complaining about how stressed I was about this email and just send something already.

My sincerest thanks to you all. And thank you to you for reading all the way to the end of this acknowledgments page (ha ha). Writing it has been a great way of avoiding a different email that I’m even more scared to send. For this, I am profoundly grateful.