In this special episode, the Adult ISH team drops some big news: co-host Merk Nguyen has made the tough decision to leave the show. Merk unpacks this turning point with her longtime co-host Nyge Turner, as the two reflect on their five-season adulting journey together and the path ahead.
Speaking of change, Nyge and the team are trying something new for Season 6 – but we need YOU to make it happen! It’s time to throw your own personal adulting challenges our way, and we’ll talk to professionals, celebrities, and general smarty-pants adults to dish out advice in return. Whether you’re facing a big life transition, curious about a taboo subject, or entangled in a love triangle, we want to hear all about it! Send us a message on any of our socials (or YR’s) with your challenge, or fill out this submission form.
Adult ISH (@yrAdultISH) is produced by YR Media and brought to you by PRX’s Radiotopia.
Merk: What is up, my fur-end? That’s right, you heard fur-end, because something you should know about me: I am a cat person. Who’s this crazy cat lady standing in front of you anyway? My name is Angela Nhi Nguyen. I also go by Merk, one of my friends came up with the idea, “Oh, let’s start addressing her as German Chancellor Angela Merkel!” That turned into Merk, and then it just kind of stuck. I am a cisgendered sis, I’m a punny twenty oney honey who loves listening, laughing and last but not least, loving. Why do I think that I’ll be a good fit for the host? I have four different answers, but I’m going to break it down for you. Reason number one….
Nyge: Boopety boop boop music.
Merk: OK, countdown. Three, two, one.
Nyge: What’s up AdultISH fam? We’re in nostalgia mode today. So we went into the Wayback Machine to dig up Merk’s host audition tape, which you just listened to. This is a weird episode. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. I’m not going to beat around the bush. I feel like we should just get into it.
Merk: Ok, Nyge has some big news.
Nyge: I do have some big news.
Merk: Yes, it’s, um: Nyge finally got the Jeep Wrangler of his dreams. [laughter] He finally got it, everybody.
Nyge: I didn’t, actually. Now I’m going to deal with the fact that I don’t have the Jeep Wrangler of my dreams. And also, Merk is going to be leaving Adult ISH. And leaving me by myself.
Nyge: What do you have to say about that?
Merk: Ok, I’m not leaving you by yourself because you have Georgia, who is amazing, and awesome.
Nyge: Big facts, big facts.
Merk: But Nyge does tell the truth. I am heading out of the Adult ISH castle. Princess Merk is going to reign in some other place. And that other place is… her life outside of the Adult ISH universe!
Nyge: Yeah, we thought it would just be super on brand to just be incredibly honest and vulnerable with y’all… which we do so well over the years!
Merk: You know, just had three years of experience, basically grad school of sharing our most honest thoughts with all of you and our lives, yeah.
Nyge: Yeah. And I think people would want to know if like, you were like, “Oh me and Nyge aren’t friends anymore,” and you left, and stuff like that.
Nyge: The people want to know the tea, Merk. So why are you heading out?
Merk: Well, I’m heading out because I just, I got some life to live. I mean, you know, clearly we have been in every single episode telling you bits and pieces of our lives and talking to our guests and whatnot. But I think that this time period, like Season 5 in particular, was really eye opening for me because, you know, we tell you all we’re going to go deep, really deep. And I think I got to a point where I’m like, I really do believe that I have accomplished these goals I’ve set for myself by being in Adult ISH, getting to learn how to tell narrative stories in a stronger and just a whole bunch of different ways. Getting people to know your stories and my stories. But also just you know, it’s, it’s no secret that I’ve been wanting to do voiceover and voice acting. And I think in order for me to really pursue that, I, you know, I got to focus my energy on that.
Nyge: Yeah. Nah, this isn’t like a new thing. Like, you didn’t just tell me today. When did we first start talking about this? I think, like.
Merk: Well, let me ask you a question! I – Ok, Season 5 was great. It was our first time me, you, and Georgia running the ship.
Merk: However, there was also stuff going on in the background. When — Do you remember that bathtub day? Why don’t you tell them, Nyge?
Nyge What? Am I supposed to?! Ok. So… this isn’t funny at all. This is a nervous laugh. Anyway… So, you were fully clothed. Let’s start off, let’s frame this story with: Merk was fully clothed in the bathtub and she hopped on our morning meeting that we do every day. And I think we started off like, yo, what’s up with the bathtub? As a joke. And then — instant tears. And you were just letting us know, like you were just in a really dark place and you kind of just didn’t really see the way out of that dark place. I think that’s like the big moment where it kind of started for us as a team where we were like, ok, like, “How are we going to get Merk to this place?” And even you for yourself, like, “How am I going to get myself to this place where I feel like myself again?” I mean, you’re always you and you shouldn’t have to feel like you have to get back to yourself. But it was — get back to happiness. And that was hard. To — to see you really battling to try to find that happiness. Because, you know, that’s what we’re used to, we’re used to, to you being that way and that’s what we want for you. So, that was difficult.
Merk: It really was difficult, like, getting through that — that chunk of my life, because honestly, I just went through this huge mental funk where I think everything that had happened in 2020 finally caught up to me. And I’m like, “Oh, ok now it’s time to process all this stuff.” And as we talk about mental health on the show, like, I think there were lots of times during interviews that we had where I was like — I don’t know, like just really going through it myself.
Nyge: Yeah, it was kind of a thing like after interviews, you were kind of like — you would cry after. After a couple of interviews. And you could just tell it’s taken a lot out of you. And you were like, questioning a lot about yourself. And so I guess I’m curious, like, what point did you get to where you felt like, ok, this is what I have to do for my mental health?
Merk: There was like one production day. I just — I felt like I couldn’t do anything. And to just sit there and be like, oh, shoot. Like, this inner critic is really loud and telling me, like, I can’t to the point where I felt like I was paralyzed. I’m like, “Ok, this, this isn’t right.” This isn’t — I don’t know. I’ve just never experienced something like it. And so I think it was at that point when I was like, “You know what? I want to get to the point where I’m able to do something for myself,” because it was getting so bad, to where like I think I would get quiet during interviews because I was like, “Ok, what you say is not good enough.” And it’s so ironic because this show is all about like, we’re figuring out our stuff. It’s totally fine. But because it’s what we promote all the time and we’re thinking about like, “Ok, what from my life should I bring up?” It’s so meta all the time. And I think having that analytical switch on. I think it, yeah, it came to a point where it was… it was too much for me.
Nyge: I think the point where it kind of really hit me that you were like leaving was, uh, you wrote me a poem. And it was a line poem where you said, “I gave all I have to give.” And just how, the kind of emotion in your voice when you read that to me, I was like, “Man. Wow, this is like, this is for real.” I think that’s an incredibly admirable decision, and also it’s a decision that a lot of people don’t know that they have. That’s why I think it’s important that we talk about it, because, like, a lot of people are afraid of change, for one. And then they also don’t know that they can exist in another space, and so I admire that so much about you. And working with you has been amazing, and before I get too sappy, I do have a few more questions.
Merk: Ok, ok.
Nyge: What is your most memorable Adult ISH moment?
Merk: Oh my gosh. There’s so many. First of all, thank you for all of that. I’m going to get into my sappy Nyge stuff later, also. Um, the move to New York, I moved to Brooklyn. And when I was there, I could get the haircut of my dreams.
Nyge: The pixie.
[CLIP: Merk: Can I touch it? Whoa, that’s so c… it’s like my brother’s head! But I love it, oh my gosh…]
Merk: Opening up to everyone, coming out as queer and Catholic, like that was a huge thing. I also read a breakup letter to my now – because I haven’t told you all yet unless you follow me on social!
Nyge: Yeah I was about to say, you better let them know!
Merk: Fiancee, Samuel and I are engaged!
Nyge: Pew pew pew pew!
Merk: Ew ew! Getting to read that letter.
[CLIP: Merk: Remember when you picked me up for our first date, you barely spoke, at least in the beginning, so I pointed that out. Then you said, “yeah, that’s just the way I am.” Then more silence. And then you cranked up your car stereo and blasted the Hamilton soundtrack?! Wow, I thought. Someone equally confident and expressive as they are quiet.]
Merk: I got to do those things on this show.
Nyge Wild stuff, wild, wild, wild stuff.
Nyge: Let’s actually just give the people some like behind the scenes stuff. So like, what is, what’s a memorable behind-the-scenes moment?
Merk: Oh, I remember when I was living in the bay, when I was living there, I had a death in my family happen. It was a father figure to me. And our then-senior producer was like, “Hey, if you need to take the rest of the day off, you’re fine.” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah, I will.” And then I went into a booth at YR and you went in with me because you’re like, “Hey, do you need to talk?” I’m like, “Yeah, I do.” So I’m like, “He just passed away.” So then, I think you’re like, “Do you need a hug?” And I’m like, “I do,” so we’re hugging and it’s just like a me crying moment. Then all of a sudden you burped. And it was like, oh, moment over! And we just started laughing. And then we’re like, “Ok, ok, that is, that’s a good moment.”
Nyge: My intestines and stomach are notoriously loud –
Merk: – very much.
Nyge: And they have interrupted many a work-session and many an interview. I’m curious, how do you feel like this job has changed you?
Merk: I think it really helped me see that my voice does matter. And voice has been something that, you know, part of the reason why I went into this industry in the first place was because I wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. Like my voice did matter because I felt like my voice didn’t for a long time. And I kind of think that part of the reason of me leaving is to rediscover my voice, because I think that for the past five seasons we’ve been Merk-and-Nyge, right? And I think I want to rediscover who Merk is and who she can be. But I do think that you and I specifically have been really blessed to be in an environment where we’re being super supported.
Nyge: Right. I think that kind of leads to something else that I was wondering, too. Like, although we did have so much guidance and such amazing mentors, there still was a lot that even personally like I wish that I knew before I started this job. I wonder if that’s like, the same for you. Like, do you have a lot of stuff that you wish you knew before? And if so, like, what is it?
Merk: I wish I knew how important it is to have forgiveness and self-love in your life. Because in the smallest parts of this job, like putting together interview questions, or editing some piece of audio, leveling something, there will be mistakes made and there will be things that you don’t know how to do. And it’s ok to ask for help. And just because, like, you don’t know how to do something or you do something, the quote unquote incorrect way, it’s like, you, you can forgive yourself for doing it that way and do it differently the next time. Something that’s really helped me in the past few months is reading a book called “The Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz. And in it there’s a chapter where he’s talking about, like how to have a happier and just a richer life. And there’s three specific things that I took away from what he said, and that’s, like, accepting what is the truth, learning how to forgive yourself and others, but mostly yourself, because forgiveness is for you, and then how to self-love. And so I kind of break that down to like, ok: truth, forgiveness, self-love, TFSL, The Fancy Slug Lady. When I have some kind of wack thought coming, whether it’s a self-criticism or I think like, “Oh, my gosh, someone’s thinking about me in a certain way.” I’m like, “Ok, T, truth, what is, what is fact?” And I kind of fact-check like, “Ok, did someone literally say that they don’t like me, or like this? No, they did not. They said that they actually really liked this. Blah blah blah blah blah.” And then if like I know that there’s that impeding thought still there, I focus on the F, the forgiveness and I’m like, “Ok, you know, I’m talking to myself, I forgive you for thinking that someone else would assume this of me thinking the worst. The reason why I’m doing that is just to protect myself.” And then, you know, the SL, the slug lady, the self-love part, I just put a hand on my heart and I say like, “Hey. I love you and I know that you might be scared, but it’s, it’s ok.” I wish I knew – there’s going to be a lot that you learn in this show, and it’s ok to take time to process it.
Nyge: I think that’s so true. I think it’s just even like a testament to just how much you’ve grown in your knowledge of yourself and what calms you down, what brings you to center. For me, that was something that was really hard to find. But once you kind of find that or you kind of find the types of things that do that, then, I don’t know, it’s like the kind of matrix kind of unfolds in a way.
Nyge: And then you’re like, “Oh, this is how I counteract this.” Once you learn those skills, it’s like, man, I wish I learned these earlier.
Nyge: I mean, now I guess we can move on to just working with each other. Like, what were some of your favorite things about working together?
Merk: Hmm. Just really getting to know you, I mean. You know, if we look at life as if we’re all students, and we’re still learning something every single day, I’ve gotten to take this class with you and we’re the only two students in it. I mean, obviously, we have our listeners and our producers and stuff like that but, I really felt like you and I got to take this course of, what are your twenties like, what are your early twenties like?
Merk: And we got to explore so much together. Who we are as working professionals, who we are as hosts, who we are as people. Getting to know more of who you are, and in that, being inspired by you, and getting to know parts of myself that I didn’t know before either.
Nyge: Yeah, I feel like most people start shows when they’re older, like much older. And so with that, they do an episode and then the next episode they do they don’t regret the episode that they just did. But with us, like we’ll have a stance, and then next season be like, “Ey yo, that stance was totally wrong. I know what I told y’all last season, but, I was –”
Merk: Let me rephrase.
Nyge: “– I was on some stuff back then.” Like, for example, I felt like that with Black ISH, like when we did Black ISH I feel like my opinions and my thought process and even my stances on even like something that’s so close to me, being Black, like has changed and grown and evolved so much, like I listen to myself on that episode. And I’m kind of just like, “You didn’t even know.” And that’s fine, because that’s the point, maturity is really just realizing you don’t know anything. I also have a question. Speaking of not knowing stuff, what are you going to do now that you’re not working on Adult ISH? Like this was — a lot of people don’t know this for some reason, but this is our full time job. And —
Merk: Yeah. It is.
Nyge: And now that you’re leaving this job, like, what’s the plan? What’s the move?
Merk: Well, the plan is partially to travel. I’m going to be going to see my sister. So I’m really excited about that. And I’m moving back to Washington. So if anyone’s going to be in Seattle, Washington State, hit me up. Planning out this wedding with Samuel, that’s going to happen in 2022. And really just, take some time to rediscover myself and what my passions are. And I do have an inkling that voice over is very much still that passion. So researching animated films, working with a voice coach. Yeah, I’m going to figure out who else Merk is, who she can be.
Nyge: That’s dope. That’s super clean.
Merk: What about you? What are your plans after this? I very much plan on listening still. I just don’t know what I’m going to be listening to.
Nyge: I am not leaving Adult ISH, uh, imma, imma hang around and also Georgia is hanging around as well. I’m super excited. Like I’m juiced for what we got planned for Adult ISH. You took a little time off and it was just me and Georgia. We started scheming and dreaming and we came up with an idea called Dear Adult ISH. So Dear Adult ISH is a format that we’re trying, modeled after old fashioned advice columns where we’re going to ask the listeners to submit their own adulting challenges to the show questions, social conflicts and other challenging topics in the form of these short letters. And then we’re going to work on the back end to get experts and celebrities to help them figure out whatever issue it is and bring light to their ish that they’re bringing to our show. And with that, we’re bringing in so many more opinions and so many more thoughts and so many more minds to Adult ISH that, like, we’re really going to be encompassing the voice of the youth.
Merk: OK, so let’s say that I was a listener of Season 6 and I wanted to get involved. How would I go about hearing my voice on the show?
Nyge: So if you head to our website, you can find a submission form where you can submit your adulting challenges. We’re down to tackle anything, academic, romantic, professional, familial, you name it, adultishpodcast.com is the place to go if you want to get involved.
Merk: So if I wrote in the letter, I, Merk, would you – Nah, I’m just kidding. I’m kidding! You’ve got enough of my voice on this show!
Nyge: You can just text us, honestly.
Merk: Speaking of my voice on the show, should we do the last credits?
Nyge: One last time for the one time.
Merk: Ok, well, thank you everyone for listening to Adult ISH produced by YR Media, a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation.
Nyge If you want to follow Merk on her future adventures, she’s our ultraraduberfad on Instagram and Twitter. And don’t forget, if you’re trying to get involved with your Adult ISH and Season 6 head over to our website at adultishpodcast.com.
Merk: Thank you’s go out to our producer, Georgia Wright. Executive producer Rebecca Martin. Oh, ok. Here it comes: my bro host. Nygel Turner for everything, all of you for listening, seriously. It means so much.
Nyge: Thank you too for everything, Merk, with you I found an amazing friend, and sister, and confidant and, you know Imma still be hitting you up regardless. So I can’t wait to act wild at your wedding. I already told you I’m about to show out and get kicked out, that is my goal. I’ve seen you grow so, so, so, so much into the amazing human being that you are today. And I’m just so proud of you. I know you’re going to make huge change, and you’re just one of those people. And so, I love you with everything I got in my body. And you got this, man. For real.
Merk: Ok. Stop the recording.
[CLIP: Merk: And as Alaska from Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race says, “Byeeee!”]