On Advice Columns

Aside

I read lots of advice columns; well-expressed opinions of strangers are some of my favorite things about the internet.  (And I’ve linked to most of my regular haunts.)  Love, kink, and politics?  There’s no one like Dan Savage.  (Thanks for santorumn, Dan.)  Etiquette & social blunders?  Miss Manners is pitch-perfect polite, and Philip Galanes at the NYTs Social Q’s is warm, wry and humorous.  Carolyn Hax, who writes the syndicated Tell Me About It, is my perpetual favorite adviser–although she gets cranky when referred to as “Wise Goddess of Advice.”  (Who wouldn’t?)  She’s compassionate, benevolent, with a twist of absurd humor & the occasional snarky remark–although a confessed slow typist during live chats. (Who cares?  She’s trying to help.  And actually, you know, take time to think.)

I also read Dear Prudence–Emily Yoffe writes the column on slate.com

I don’t care for her style, she’s heavy with sarcasm and uses counseling recommendations as a panacea–one for everyone, no matter the issue. Counseling, therapy, confession, it’s all great stuff.  But letter writers surely know counseling exists.  My view of the advice columnist’s job: basic problem solving, a little listening, some empathy, and ideally a fresh practical approach to the situation.  Counseling can be a part of that approach, but if every answer is “seek counseling,” perhaps the questions selected are too complex for the format.  So readers (hi Mom!), preemptively, seek counseling.  And I’ll try to come up with a few other ideas, too.

You know that saying about doors closing, windows opening?

One of my favorite lines from John Irving: keep passing open windows.  So that cliché about whenever a door closes, a window opens–it doesn’t do much for me.  The point is to keep passing open windows, not use them as impromptu exits.  My life feels like a series of closing doors right now: my boyfriend left the state, my sister has scary not-breathing symptoms, and my job is ending a few weeks.

I love armchair psychology–some people even find talking to me helpful.  Or at least interesting.  I’ve always been the default therapist for friends & family, and if I were doing my life over, my job would probably have some sort of helping profession focus.  So scribbling this is an attempt at do-it-yourself door-making, a shot at something that lets me get closer to What I Want to be When I Grow-up.

Like the guy said, “physician, heal thyself.”  So I’m gonna try the stuff I would advise a friend in my place–my place being a sense of general impending career doom & general fear.

1) Do something: there’s the obvious updating of resume, applying  for new positions, job-hunting actions to take, and absolutely, I’m taking the actions.  But sending out resumes and applications is firing in the dark–and I need something with immediate results, something  that lets me feel less at the whims of Fortune.  Hence, this blog.*

2) Avoid sudden, drastic change.  This isn’t universal advice, this is me-specific.  Change is scary, uncertainty is scary.  Right now isn’t the time to join the Peace Corps, or move to Alaska, or cash in my 401K to buy shoes, or get married.  My decision-making skills  aren’t fully functioning at the present moment–I’m focusing on day-to-day coping. Which leads me to…

3) Practice good self-care.  The basics, sleeping, eating, exercising, paying attention to nurturing relationships.  All things that really help manage fear, quiet panic, and improve mood.

Wanna help?  Want help? Send me a question: sarahheady24601@gmail.com.  Thinking about your problems will distract me from mine.  Plus, way cheaper than therapy.  And need I say it: confidences require confidence–I won’t identify you or out you or email all your Facebook friends.

And I’m staying away from open windows.

*It’s a small step in the right direction.