Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi, friends! I’m Berna Anat. I’m a Filipina-American she/her/hers from California’s Bay Area, but I’m better known on the internet as HeyBerna, Financial Hype Woman. That’s my totally made-up way of saying that I create things on the Interwebz to teach people about money. I’m a writer, a video producer, a partner, a dancer, an auntie, and a 3B/3C curl pattern. And a Hufflepuff.
Were you scared to start the process of becoming a full-time creator?
Absolutely, and I love this question because I don’t think we talk enough about the heaviness of fear. It felt so badass to tell people last year, “I paid off $50,000 in debt, and now I’m quitting my life to travel the world!” What was hard to talk about was how terrified I was to physically leave all these comforting things — a full-time job, my home, my family, my 7 pairs of sweatpants.
And it’s not like I had this brave epiphany that finally got me on the plane, smiling and glowing. I was scared the entire ride out. I was legitimately trying to talk myself out of the trip the night before we left. I cried terror-tears when the plane took off. In stories like this, I think we focus too much on the “…but I did it anyway, because I’m Xena, m–f– warrior princess, and look where it got me!” part. We don’t honor the heaviness of the fear, and how endless it feels when you’re in it.
I was absolutely terrified, and I thought that terror would never end. I thought fear meant I was doing the wrong thing. And you’re in the middle of a major transition and you’re absolutely terrified: You’re right, I see you, and I respect you. There are other worlds, boo, and you’re on your way!
Do you have a mentor? If so, what have they taught you?
I have a lot of incredibly inspiring mentors, but one comes to mind specifically because she doesn’t have that typical “Reach for the stars!” mentor mentality. I started a podcast with my mentor, Jema Patterson, who writes at HalfTheClothes.com, and she is constantly teaching me practicality. I am a total idealist and people-pleaser, which makes me creative but also hilariously unrealistic about my time and my goals.
She’s constantly teaching me to do less; to use math to realistically map out my life; to say no to 99% of things and watch the world adjust, as I’m always so afraid to do. She’s always like, “Berna, you don’t have the capacity do that, and furthermore, I know you don’t want to.” She’s always reminding me that work should supplement your life, not dominate it. A good mentor encourages and inspires, but a great mentor gently scares the crap out of you, and that’s who Jema is to me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t remember where I received this — and depending on how you do your Googles, this was said by either Einstein or Senator Feinstein — but my mind always goes floats to this one line: “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than everyone else.” This resonates with me so much because I’ve always been painfully aware of my goody two-shoes-ness. I always imagined that the rebels and badasses of the world win. But the older I get, the more I see this pattern: Every system, every industry, every environment has a set of rules. These rules say who the kings and queens are, who the winners and losers are, and how you become one or the other. Now, you can make a splash by following the rules, by bending them, by shoving ’em off entirely — but you have to know those rules in order make any kind of impact either way. It isn’t sexy advice, but it’s been incredibly useful for me.
I also really love this line from Stephen King’s The Gunslinger: “Go, then. There are other worlds than these.” I’ve clung to this line during every major transition in my life — career changes, rejections, breakups — because it reminds me that you won’t always live in the world of emotion you’re in now. This world is made up of infinite baby-worlds, and there are infinite versions of you crushing it in more worlds than one. It’s a line about hope.
Have you always had confidence in yourself?
I think there’s a difference between confidence and faith. I’ve always had faith in myself — probably a narcissistic faith, that being so extroverted about my passions and my personality would take me somewhere good. That faith has been affirmed over and over, in achieving things like fancy jobs or major speaking gigs, and in the quieter ways I’ve impacted and been impacted by the youth I work with one-on-one.
Now, confidence? That’s the kind of thing that would bolster me into negotiating for higher pay, or shoving a project out of the door that I haven’t picked apart with a perfectionist eye. That has wavered a ton, especially now that I’m my own boss and there’s no one to seek approval from except myself. So, whew, absolutely not. I’m working on it!
What would you say to 16 year old you?
Oh, goodness. One side of my brain says: “Put the frickin’ books and resumes down and make videos, you gregarious lil’ tornado! Quit ignoring the call of performance and vlogging to pad your college resume, and GET. OUT. THERE.”
But there’s another side of my brain — one that appreciates all the years I put into career building and networking, because my full-time creator life now would be a zillion times harder without all the connections I’ve made. That side of my brain wants to say, “You keep going, you lil’ weirdo. The world will reward you for You-ing so hard, so just keep GOING.”
What motivates you most?
As much as I wish I could say something sexy motivates me, like Beyonce or the hopeful glint in a child’s eye or whatever, here’s the truth: Two un-sexy and slightly embarrassing things legitimately motivate me. One is regret: I am terrified of looking back on my life, full as it is of love and privilege and blessings, and thinking, I could’ve done more. I could’ve taken that risk. I should’ve taken that leap.
The other un-sexy thing is other people’s approval. I hate running, but signing up for a half-marathon and thinking I might look dumb on race day? BOOM. 8-week training schedule. I’ll sit on an idea forever, but let me share that idea Google Doc with at least one other human? ZOOM. Bad boy’s done in a week. I’ll always be a teacher’s pet, and I try to use it to my advantage.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I make my bed every single morning. The idea is that if the whole day turns into a hot dumpster inferno, as it sometimes does, I can at least say I did that — I can get back in that bed like, Yes, this part of my life makes sense!
I also journal every day, relentlessly; sometimes twice a day. I truly don’t know how other humans tolerate all the thoughts a brain can think without writing them down — I always think about Dumbledore physically pulling thoughts out of his head and into his Pensieve. I’ll feel completely bogged down, even physically constipated, until I write out my feelings and organize myself. I write and I write and I find the truth, eventually.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
Sometimes I blanch at this question, because it’s typically only ever asked of women — the gender that is expected to multi-task for the betterment of the humans around them, AMIRITE LADIES — but I do try to strike balance between being a Human Being vs. a Human Doing. I will fully forget, for weeks at a time, that the point of my life is not to be Doing Something 24/7. I have to trust myself: I know my default is attempting productivity. But if my heart is like, “Bish, sit down and get a Capri-Sun and watch Spanglish,” then I’ll trust that for some reason, I need that.
I can tell you this: When I find myself so thirsty for solitude and rest at the end of the day that I stay up for hours after everyone’s gone to bed, curled in fetal and looking at memes? Ding ding, I need more mental and social rest!
What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
I love making videos, I love personal finance, and I love being on the internet. But, honestly? I’m doing all of this so that some day soon, I can easily take off 3 whole months every year to work at summer camps. I freakin’ live for all the cheesiness that overnight camps offer, all the disconnection and nature and tiny-world-ness, and I’m an over-excited youth program director at the very core of my heart.
But, as we know, youth programming and non-profits suffer the same affliction as teachers — everyone is horrendously underpaid. So, I’m Adulting as hard as possible to eventually, comfortably, passively fund this whole other life.
Berna Anat is a financial hype woman. That’s her made-up way of saying: Berna is the creator of a financial literacy media series for young people that lives at @HeyBerna all over the Interwebz.