Awkward Live Chat Today

Send your short questions on Patreon or Twitter (with the hashtag #awkwardchat) today – I’ll answer as many as I can before noon.

Last year, my aunt wrote to me that I’m going to hell for being gay. What do I say to her at grandpa’s funeral?

I’m sorry for the loss of your grandpa. That’s hard enough without adding the extreme awkwardness of bigotry and hellfire to it!

Fantasy answer: “See you there, you crusty bigot.”

Actual answer: It’s okay to completely keep your distance from her and stick with the family you trust. Imagine she is a stranger or work acquaintance if you must interact with her briefly – express sympathies, keep the topic of conversation on your Grandpa and the loss to the family, try not to get drawn into a lengthy conversation.

If she seeks you out and either tries to perform a close relationship with you (without actually repairing the relationship with an apology) or tries to renew or justify her mean words, try this, “I’m very sad about Grandpa and so sorry for the loss you must be feeling. I’m still very angry about the hurtful letter you sent me last year and we are not friends right now – let’s drop this for now and talk another time when you’re ready to apologize.” Then move away, and remember, she created the awkwardness.

Family doesn’t listen when I say Anxiety Disorder prevents me frm driving. Insists I get license. Am 29 in therapy. Scripts pls.

First step is probably to talk to your therapist specifically about this, and see if they will generate some kind of letter to your family (that can help make it “official”) and/or help you fashion & practice scripts.

Scripts that come to mind for now: “I’m seeking medical help so that I hopefully can drive at some point, but I’m not there yet. It hurts that you don’t believe me, but whether or not you believe me, I still cannot be a safe driver at this time.

I am crossing all my fingers & toes that you live somewhere with decent public transportation.

You know someone likes you/may want to date you; you’re not sure if you feel the same. How do you figure out if you like them?

One way is to go on a date if they ask you to and see if you enjoy it and want to do it again sometime. Remember: Going on a date doesn’t mean you are agreeing to “feelings” or “a relationship” or “returning their interest at the exact same level.” It’s okay to be undecided and give it time to develop or not.

I’m going to be starting my own business in the next year (excited squees!) What are some good scripts for those well-meaning, advice-pushing folk whom I love but really don’t know what they’re talking about (or may know what they’re talking about, but are not people I wish to discuss my business/financials with)?

How exciting for you!

For the “don’t know what they’re talking about” crowd, try some version of, “Thanks for the tips!” + a subject chance to something they are the expert on.

For example, “Thanks for the tips, Dad! I’m very excited to jump in and get started. By the way, I’ve been thinking about replacing the furnace at my place, what should I look for?

When the people probably do know what they’re talking about, try this: “Wow, I’d love to pick your brain in detail about this sometime when I’m further along in the process and I’m not in ‘holiday mode’/’having fun mode’/’celebration mode’/’relaxing mode’/’vacation mode’/’calm before the storm’ mode.” You want to communicate “I can tell you have valuable insights/I’m not in the right frame-of-mind to receive these oh-so-valuable insights, let’s wait until I’m not hopped up on holiday punch and can take notes!”

By complimenting people it disarms potential conflict, and saying “thanks I’ll think about it” is literally the fastest & most efficient way to get past any kind of unwanted advice, even if the advice is total shite and the intentions of the person are not good. Since you love these people I think it pays to think of their intrusions as evidence that they are excited for you – reward the excitement with compliments and thanks and channel the firehose of “expertise” away from the present moment.

How to approach academic group work when you think/know you’d do it fine/better on your own.

If you know you’d absorb the material you’re supposed to learn just fine on your own, and you know you can handle the writing and presentation skills involved, then use the project to level up skills group work is purportedly there to teach and model those skills for your partners-in-group-project-heck:

  • Delegating/Dividing up tasks
  • Listening/Inclusion
  • Consistent communication
  • Accountability
  • Constructive disagreement & critique
  • Peer-management
  • Assertiveness

It takes skill & practice to be gentle-but-firm with a teammate who isn’t pulling their weight, like, “Hey, you’ve been missing deadlines and group project meetings and it’s making me stressed that we’re not going to finish on time – what’s your plan for catching up?” or “Hey, you keep vetoing suggestions I make without offering an alternative solution. Can we make a rule that we don’t veto anything without proposing an alternate plan?” or “I have a lot of outside commitments right now, I really need meetings to start and end on time, thanks” or “If we try to run something by you and you don’t respond to any emails or texts within 48 hours, you kind of lose your vote” or “I don’t really understand your take on this, but I want to! Can you walk me through it again?” 

I think that 99% of professors know who is really pulling the weight on group projects and who is not and the learning experience is not so much about the specific material or individual excellence as it is preparation for white collar working environments which are like one lifelong group project.


[Eeep, I got interrupted by something I had to take care of during #AwkwardChat, so had to step away.

Let’s finish this.]


I feel like every single person I know is still in shock from the election. How do we support one another, and how do we seek out support, when everyone is exhausted and terrified? The Ring Theory breaks down when everyone is at the center of the crisis at once.

I’m not sure I have the answer to this beyond:

  1. “Only connect.”
  2. Don’t try to be perfect or put pressure on yourself to say the exact perfect thing to everyone at all times.

Support each other by spending time together. Support each other by listening, by being kind, by taking a shift to babysit for friends with kids, by throwing your doors open for a friendly pot luck if you can (or going to the pot luck if you’re invited), by giving what material support you can manage to organizations and individuals who will be affected the most. Pick up the phone or open up that Skype window or send that text or email when you have energy to connect. When you need to turtle, say “So sorry, I can’t talk right now” and rest/read escapist literature for a few hours so that you can come back to it. Take care of your own mental health to the extent that you can. Be present with each other and connected to each other to the extent that you can. Make some of the time about activism and grief and anger and some of it about silly jokes and pleasure of each other’s company. Be gentle with yourself and each other.

Way to say to friends, “I know you don’t like my partner of 14 years, I don’t bring them around you, stop sniping about them”?

I think you nailed it with a script right there in your question! When the sniping starts, interrupt it immediately and say, “I know you don’t like X, that’s why I don’t bring them around when I spend time with you. So stop sniping about them when we do hang out. I don’t want to hear it.

If you want to start with something slightly less confrontational, still interrupt them and try, “Why do you think I’d want to hear this about someone I love?

It’s okay to be pissed off/emphatic/not having it about this. It’s disrespectful to constantly run down someone’s partner to them. If they continue and insist, end the conversation/hangout and try again (or not) another day.

Favorite scheduling system/to-do list app/other organizational resources to help self-employed person get stuff done?

Ha, as I said on Twitter, this is probably a question for an organized person? I use a pen and a notebook and sometimes (when I remember where I put them) star stickers next to completed items. One of my students has a neat system where she uses a different color pen for each day of notes so it’s easy to see when things were written down, and I think I’m going to adopt that from now on. Besides, interestingly colored pens are pretty.

Family keeps putting you down for having only a BA; thinks you should be over failing last time, doesn’t acknowledge disability. 

Consider the possibility that your family are a) dead wrong about you, b) acting like assholes about this, and, c) that the energy you might put into changing their minds about this might be better spent getting the hell away from them. Take all possible steps to create a life for yourself where their opinions matter as little as possible to the choices you make about your life. Those steps could mean seeking out therapy & other support for your disability, moving away from them, spending less time with them, ending conversations where they act like jerks whether that means leaving a room or hanging up a phone or just letting a mean email hang there unanswered. Over time that also means surrounding yourself with people who DO appreciate you and believe in you and who don’t try to throw your real or perceived failures in your face at every turn.

Any tips on telling the difference between self-care and irresponsible avoidance (i.e. “I can’t because brain chemistry” vs. “I don’t wanna because activism is inherently stressful”)?

“Tips” I can ethically give:

  • If you know you have issues with brain chemistry that interfere with your ability to do stuff you want to do, treat those issues like the medical issue they are to the full extent that you are able. Do you need counseling? Start the process of finding a counselor or therapist. If you’re not already on meds, try to get some. If you are on some, take them. If you don’t like the ones you’re on, see if you change them up. Take care of yourself so that you are more able to do the stuff you want to do.
  • There are some great Twitter threads by former congressional staffers (thanks,@leeflower) on how calling officials in the U.S. is better than emails/postcards, and I really like this one by @sharonw that breaks down exactly what it is like for people who are anxious about calling. Best advice: Focus on *your* elected officials, the call itself is not terribly interactive, the staffers are too busy to really converse with you and nobody is going to argue with you or be mean, think of it like “casting a vote” – your opinion is recorded and everyone moves on with their day.
  • There are lots of kinds of activism. Find the thing that you are best set up to do consistently and do that thing. Go at the pace that you can sustain.
  • Consider that small actions can be ways of breaking a low mood cycle and that there can be a positive feedback loop from doing what you can.
  • You don’t have to be perfect or do it every second for it to count. Just start somewhere, however you can.

I’m “lazy” af. Depressed brain says “just get up & do the thing OH WAIT”. Strategies to confront/sidestep this logic?

See above? Treat depression like the medical issue it is. Try taking baby steps and seeing if you can break the negative feedback loop. Be gentle with yourself. Try again tomorrow.

How do I stop myself from getting too invested too soon when I start dating someone?

Three tips:

  • You’re gonna feel what you’re gonna feel, so keep in mind that beating yourself up for having feelings or talking yourself out of your feelings isn’t a good use of your time.
  • Pay attention to reciprocity. Does your dating partner do as much of the work of planning dates, initiating communications, expressing feelings, etc. as you? Try to match their level of enthusiasm and see how you feel.
  • ‘ware the bubble. It’s tempting to spend all your time and energy on a shiny new partner, but make sure you’re not losing connection with friends and family. You don’t have to see this new dateperson every minute of every day or leave your entire weekend schedule open for them. Get some alone time. Hang out with friends and family. Keep your routines going. The happier you are in your overall life, the better you’ll be able to make good decisions.

That’s all for now. Comments are open to add to suggestions herein!






64 thoughts on “Awkward Live Chat Today

  1. Anxiety and driving: can you change the story you tell them to ‘i don’t actually want to learn to drive at this moment in time’? Or something similar? Might not work if your lack of ability to drive is holding you back but if you do live somewhere with good public transport it might work, probably not immediately but over time.

    I’m also really curious as to why they feel they have the right to insist, that’s a really strong word. Why on earth do they feel so strongly? The only two scenarios i can think of to increase your ability to work (if you aren’t able to find a job you can travel to, which is reasonable although clearly their focus on is unreasonable) or to give them lifts/drive them around (which really isn’t).

    If you live with them having a plan to move out might be good, even if you can’t action it very quickly. If not, is it possible to lean away from them a bit?

    1. The questioner lives in Boston (their family doesn’t), so it’s not an issue of living with them and being dependent on rides.

      I like your framing – “I prefer not to.”

    2. You might be surprised at how much people think they need to convince people with mental health issues to behave “normally”.

    3. People get weird about non-drivers! I don’t drive due a vision condition, which you’d think would be “unimpeachable” in people’s minds, right? (Quotes to point out because I realize how awful it is that people take some conditions more seriously than others). Nope! I get constantly told about people’s grandmother who had the same condition I did but drove all her life, or told ways that I could fake the vision test (!!)

      I hear snotty comments all the time about how many non-drivers are in the group of people I see regularly (all for different reasons, some just don’t want to!) But you know, we live in a medium-sized city (with kinda crappy public transit, but oh well) and it just seems normal to me…

      1. After I tell people about the three accidents and one speeding ticket I got in the first year and a half of driving, people shut up about me driving. Funny how that works!

      2. IKR?!
        Even without the odious ableism,
        I get well-intentionned people bugging about “how are you going to get to X?!”, because in their mind driving is the only way, but in fact this area has pretty good public transit and getting a ride would actually waste both my time and theirs.
        It gets very boring having to have that same conversation over and over.

        Is is it mental driver goggles? Car culture blinders?

      3. Yeah, I’m in a sort of similar boat. I don’t technically have a vision condition, but I did have an illness which left me with sub-par ability to track motion. I can’t play ball sports at all, but I can drive, because cars are big things going relatively slowly across my visual field, and it’s all good… but I’m also a space cadet, and I’ve gone through red lights because I just get lost in thought. I miss people, I miss other cars, I just can’t be mentally present. I don’t feel like I should be driving, but I do, because I live in a small city, and I’d be stranded if I didn’t drive, and I don’t want to face the inevitable ridicule from my family members.

      4. “told ways that I could fake the vision test”

        W O W

        I learned to drive in high school–not very well, but I got my license and drove for a few years. Then I ended up stopping driving, partly because I just enjoy taking public transit, but also because I always had trouble with it due to mental disabilities. I lost my license (literally lost, I left it on a Greyhound) and decided to replace it with a non-driver ID.

        It was partly a symbolic decision. I had just finished college and was distancing myself from my parents, who were not very supportive of me being realistic about my disabilities. They really, really wanted me to continue driving and saw it as unthinkable that I wouldn’t drive. (At one point they insisted that “you need a driver’s license to apply for a job/apartment” and didn’t believe that a non-driver state ID is equivalent as a form of ID.) I just really, really didn’t want to be pressured to behave like I didn’t have a disability anymore. I could pretend that I did it for a selfless reason like I didn’t want to potentially get in an accident and injure other people–but the truth is, I just always found driving very scary and confusing and I did not feel safe doing it, and I didn’t want to be pressured to do it anymore.

        That was 5 years ago. I’ve always made sure to live in places with public transit and while it’s obviously harder to get around without driving, it isn’t impossible and I find that drivers often have a limited idea of what is possible for a non-driver. There’s a bizarre guilt trip and an insistence that I not only could but MUST learn to drive (why should I feel morally obligated to do something that has no moral implication, and actually improves the safety of others?). A while ago I posted about this on a forum of people talking about similar things and some rando as usual popped up to insist that driving is really hard for EVERYONE and I just need to give it a chance to get used to it, which, I mean, really. First of all, they don’t have my disability; and second of all, why do I NEED to drive? I’ve been able to live and work independently without driving, and the argument that I am a burden on others just doesn’t hold water. I do not need rides from family and friends to get places.

        I always imagined if I was visually impaired people wouldn’t be obnoxious like this; I’m shocked to hear this is the case for you as well. I feel like people project this weird moral/guilt dimension onto driving…I mean, if anything it would be pretty terrible if a person faked a vision test putting themselves and other people in danger, yet this is something you’re supposed to feel obligated to do?

    4. Dia how depressing 😦
      I drive and we have a car but I’d love to get rid of the bloody thing. We’d be so much better off.
      Strength to you, non-driving OP!

    5. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 24 or 25, and didn’t own a car until a bit after that. I didn’t live in areas with great public transportation, so it was mostly shank’s mare or taxicabs (and, for a brief moment before it was stolen, a bike). It was initially a physical limitations plus unidentified anxiety plus uncorrected astigmatism + nearsightedness issue, then it became primarily an issue of being too poor to afford even a crappy vehicle. I do vividly recall how many people gave me grief about it, and (in my case) asking them if they wanted to pay for a visit to an eye doctor, a car new enough not to have many repair issues, insurance and registration, we could discuss it further, but, if not, they needs to butt out and let me continue to get by the best way I could at that time. When the financial burden was laid out like that, no one ever dared bring it up twice. I doubt this is completely applicable to the querent’s situation, but when someone suggests I do something I can’t For Reasons, then (when I remember to do it) shifting whatever legitimate (or personal) roadblocks are in my way back onto them seems to shut it down. They are free with advice until their own wallet or personal safety are on the line.

      1. I’ve been on all sides of this situation. I learned to drive because it was mandatory in my HS, and got a DL because I’d had to go through all that effort. But I didn’t actually get my own vehicle until I was about 28. And some of that time, I lived in rural areas working for the Forest Service or Park Service and living in government employee housing far from grocery stores, post offices, etc. And it sucked. I could get a ride from a coworker into town, but I’d usually have to hitchhike back. And it took all my time off to walk around town to handle my various basic errands. So I rarely got to explore and enjoy my days off. Getting a vehicle made life so much easier! And I got to go do fun things! And see the area!

        But now I live in a city. With an okay (not great) public transportation system, and I have an affordable bus pass via my employer. Plus the city has invested heavily in bike-friendly infrastructure. And as part of my breakup, I made sure to find an apartment walking distance to work, a grocery store, a hardware store, and a post office. My ex kept the car (and truck and motorcycle). So most of my essential needs can be met without great inconvenience to myself. And I have friends that are willing to share trips to more specialist/distant stores so that errands and socializing happen together. Plus, I joined a carshare program. My current lifestyle suits me very well, and I don’t have to deal with all of the headaches of car ownership: parking, insurance, registration, repairs, etc.

        But boy is my family really unhappy with me not owning my own car. They keep expressing their concern, offering me secondhand vehicle options, etc. I have to wonder how much of it is because I am so much less inclined to make the long-distance trips to visit them now. They’ll never come visit me, and I don’t visit much anymore. It’s no longer so easy and convenient to make those trips. Hard to say how much of their discomfort is because they can’t envision a happy and free life without a personal vehicle, and how much is because they can’t just expect me to show up anymore.

    6. Agreed that it’s ridiculous people feel they have the right to “insist.” I feel like many people react to non-drivers in a similar way to non-drinkers. They get pressurey. “Have a beer!” and all that. They try to argue you out of a choice you made. SMH

      1. There’s a whole category of things like that—eating meat, drinking, smoking, using drugs, having certain kinds of sex (or having sex at all), enjoying lowbrow media—where sometimes people who do (or want to do) those things see other people’s abstention as a moral referendum on everyone who partakes (e.g. meat-eaters getting pissy at vegetarians because they think vegetarians all think meat-eaters are awful human beings). It’s as if literally everyone has to do, or want to do, this thing, or else it’s not moral for *anybody* to do. I wouldn’t have put driving in that category before hearing these anecdotes, but maybe that’s because I have only ever lived in two kinds of cities: cities where a car is more or less an absolute necessity, and cities where having a car is an extreme liability. I wonder if anyone’s researched this line of moral reasoning because it’s always been incredibly fascinating to me.

        1. I don’t think it’s exactly analogous. I’d compare it to…well, I can only think of disability related comparisons. Like when someone says they can’t do something that supposedly everyone can do (walk, ride a bicycle, work, go to college) people will often try to argue them out of it. It seems like the reaction to vegetarianism et. al. is, “I’m mad because you must think you’re better than me,” but the reaction to driving et. al. is some combination of, “I’m mad because I think you’re lazy/making excuses for yourself and this offends me,” “I’m mad because I assume you’re inconveniencing other people,” “I’m being confrontational because I’m trying to be encouraging, I feel sorry for you because I see your life as limited so I want to argue you out of not being able to do this.”

          Like, it’s certainly possible to not drive for ethical or health reasons, but other people don’t seem to read this into “I don’t drive” like “I am a vegetarian.”

  2. For Self Employed people:

    I’m self employed in a work-alone-at-home type job, so here’s my two cents.

    I use Evernote (paid account is worth it for me, but YMMV) and Google Calendar (free).
    At least in my field, it’s mostly about setting reminders/scheduling and actually sticking to them (which can involve multiple staggered reminders in case I blow the first one off, like a snooze alarm but with specific DO THE THING notes).

    I use the colour coding in Google Calendar consistently for different types of tasks.
    Red for client deliverables, Green for money, Blue for maintenance tasks, and so on.
    Personal, non-work plans NEVER use the same colours as work.

    I also like to group similarly-themed tasks together on the same day, so I might have a green GC date that says just “do money stuff”, then my Evernote has up to date notes on what needs to be done for each client.
    I also make “money stuff” day be consistently the last business day of the month and don’t try to do things like invoicing piecemeal, as they come on, because my particular brain is likely to let things slip through the cracks, e.g., by thinking a half-done thing was fully done, then never finishing it.

    In other words, I decide ahead of time which days are for what and stick to that.
    Every morning, I can look at my phone and see when the next Red thing is coming, and whether there are blue/green tasks to do.

    When you’re self employed, it’s also useful to decide ahead of time on internal deadlines, and how hard they are.
    So, I can look at a project due to the client on Monday, decide that the previous Thursday will be dedicated to final revision, and so MY due date is Wednesday.
    This ideal scenario gives me the weekend as a buffer, but I can bump everything down (except the client deadline) if needed, so Wednesday is a soft deadline and Monday is a hard one. The consequence for missing Wednesday’s deadline is that I will probably have to work on the weekend, so it keeps lazyness in check.

    I also have clearly labelled EVERYTHING – extra hard drives, spreadsheets, work files and folders, email folders, everything.
    No “bucket” of in-progress things means I’m not going to misplace any of it.

    Hope that helps

    1. Thanks for this. I’m going to be starting my own business early in 2017 (massage), and while I’m darn good at what I do, I’m famously disorganized, and trying to run a business myself scares me more than a little.

      Anyone have any suggested reading?

      1. Oh, forgot to include: Delegate what you can to professionals.
        That means, get a working relationship with an accountant/tax advisor type person, a legal person, etc.
        Self employed doesn’t mean you have to do ALL the things yourself forever!

      2. OK, so the wonderful Unfuck Your Habitat isn’t about organization, per se, but the principles have really helped me develop a vision for the Organized Version of Me Who is Still Me. “Don’t put it down, put it away,” becomes, “Don’t let it float in your mind, Parenthetically, write it down in the notebook you have for the thing/title the file properly/get it on the calendar/whatever.” And “laundry and dishes have three steps: wash, dry, and put away,” becomes, “What are the steps to doing the thing, and what do I do first, second, and third to finish the thing?” Etc.

        Given that you’re starting a business, I feel like it might be worth the investment to find a professional organizer and pay her for a few hours of time in helping you set up a system. But vet thoroughly before you hire someone so you know she is willing to work with you to develop a system that is intuitive and practical for you, rather than imposing one on you just because it works for her.

        Good luck!

    2. Similar to Nanani, I use Google calendar with colour coding.

      (I’m just starting to use Evernote; my partner finds it really useful and we’ve started using it for ‘home’ tasks with a Getting Things Done type method (active verbs for task headers, tags for ‘now’, ‘next’, ‘later’, ‘someday’ etc., tags for where they can be done ‘home’, ‘supermarket’ etc.).)

      Workwise, I’ve stuck with something simpler (so far but may start to use Evernote for it more as I get into the habit for home), which is generally just Google calendar. For the work I do, I have projects with immovable deadlines and I quote hours for each.

      These go into the calendar across all days the project will run labelled: [client name] – [project name] – [hours quoted] – D/L [deadline date]. These are pale blue when quoted but not confirmed, changed to bright blue when confirmed (this helps me keep track of both the definites and maybes when I’m putting together more quotes).

      I don’t usually formally block out specific hours each day for working on a particular project (e.g. 09:00 to 12:00 work on client A project; 13:00 to 16:30 work on client B project) only because my work tends to be a bit ‘stop-start’ and a lot of it depends on what my fickle brain feels like doing at that moment (research for client A, writing for client B, graphics for client C etc.). I probably could be more strict with myself but it works ok for me for now.

      The actual, immovable deadline goes in at the date and time of the deadline in red, labelled: DEADLINE – [client name] – [project].
      Any internal deadlines I’ve set myself, or days where I’m due a draft or more info back from a client – basically anything a project hinges on to move forward – go in, in turquoise.

      Individual tasks (phone client A, quote client B, email questions to client C, invoice client D etc.) go in, in bright yellow, usually as ‘all day’ unless they’re time sensitive, and when they’re completed, I leave them in the calendar but change the colour to grey. This bit is extremely useful to me because it helps me keep track of what I have done and when in case I need to chase anything up later but turning them grey means they don’t stand out anymore and distract me.

      I find Google calendar easier for tracking projects and tasks because if I need to I can just move things around easily.
      Invoicing I tend to do either as soon as I finish a project or the next working day rather than bundle them together to do at once. This works for me because I might only be sending an invoice once or twice a week to different clients (and I want to start the ‘payment due [x] days from date of invoice’ clock ASAP).

      Paper-wise, I keep timesheets for each project and just note down start and stop dates and time, then transfer these into an Excel sheet at the end of the day and at the end of the project before raising the invoice. I did try a few online or phone based timesheet apps but kept forgetting to stop and start. Paper is just easier for me for that as it sits next to my keyboard and coffee cup.

      I write a lot of notes when talking to clients and I mark the top of the page with the client name, project and date so I can sort through and find things more easily.

      One thing I have learned to do is recognise my ‘best times of day’ for certain tasks and plan my days around those. I focus best earlier in the day so I get the dog walked early, settle in at my desk and get cracking on anything that needs brain power. By about 3:30pm I’m done thinking so I save the ‘no brainer’ tasks until then. I snack throughout the day but eat a proper lunch late as it makes me sleepy (no matter what it is!). I try very hard to ‘let’ myself finish work early if my work is all done and not sit there looking at the internet or making up work for myself. 6 years on, that’s still easier said than done – that 9-5 (or 8-6) mentality is hard to break!

    3. I also use Evernote. (though since now you only try two devices I might be switching) but paper is my cryptonite so I try to digitize my notes as much as possible.

      I have also used asana and workflowy as task management apps for my team. Workflowy did not have due dates but I liked how flexible it was. Asana has more structure and a calendar and I like it. You may not need either of these, but having to coordinate with a team but I really value being able to get to my tasks and status from anywhere.

  3. Strategies on (mild?) depression and activism-thing: give yourself stickers, points, kudos, cheers for things you’ve done. Make actual lists where you visually reward yourself. The absolute magic move was that I included both ‘do things’ and ‘set boundaries / slow down / make a decision to not do it’ on my list, so I always get points!

    It realy helped – it isn’t cheating, it actually reinforces that very important thing: that you do get to choose. And that’s so easy to loose track of in the midst of being overwhelmed. There’s so much difference in feeling you’ve failed doing something, or actively making the choice to not do it (yet), and seeing that as a valuable act in itself.

    1. Sometimes the activism has to be small, to fit around where your life is at the moment. I am finishing grad school (in two weeks!) and having a baby (in a week, more or less!), and working full-time. I literally cannot go marching or organizing or many of the other things I kind of wish I could do.
      But my front porch has new BLM flags and queer flags and peace flags out the windows. For this period of time in my life, that’s what I can do, so that’s what I did.

      1. TurquoiseDra9on, I really agree with that too. I wrote (and deleted, and now write again) how I’ve also actively try to see that every act, as tiny as it is, is twice as good as nothing. In doing it, you change yourself a bit by strengthening your values and your resolve by choosing some act of activism, however small, and with that you also change the world. Everyone totally gets points for that.

        (And yes, I do believe it really helps. Just imagine walking on the street, feeling down and all, and seeing those flags with someone else. It is a comfort to know you are not alone. It will leave your day just that little bit better than if you hadn’t seen it.)

        And then, when possibility allows, you do some other thing.

        Your life sounds very exciting and busy right now, so I wish you good luck and all the best for the upcoming time!

      2. It’s what you can do, yes, and nobody can do everything.

        I’m old enough to remember when those queer flags were a new thing and a sign that this bar or that shop was a safe place, and be cheered by them still. (And I should find some flags or signs.)

  4. Non-driving LW: Has your family ever seen you drive? I don’t drive due to ADHD which led to being a shitty driver which led to anxiety about being such a shitty driver. My family bullied me for not driving, but *every single time* I tried to drive with my dad in the car I’d manage to do something wrong and both of us would freak out. So they had first hand evidence of how much my driving sucked and how unable I was to control it, even if none of us knew the reason why. After I moved away to a city and got a job the bullying stopped dead, although they say they’re still “disappointed” I never got a license. (I am diagnosed and treated now, but I still don’t drive, as I already became accustomed to living in cities with good public transportation before that happened.)

    OTOH, if you don’t live with them and you’re not begging them for rides, it’s none of their business. I’d ask them why they care so much and if the answer is some variation on “it’s what normal people do” tell them to go pound sand.

  5. About self-care and doing what you can and beating yourself up when you haven’t done enough….

    One of my teachers said this wonderful thing. Maybe you know you have a bad habit and you are trying to change it. Maybe you do a little bit better, or interrupt the bad cycle, ONE TIME. That is success. Now you are just working on your percentages.

    I tend toward wanting to make grand gestures, and change everything at once. I tend to intellectualize things and neglect the very real habitual and emotional components of change. Also the brain chemistry stuff is so real. I have a hard time seeing the progress that is incremental change. Also I tend to be very hard on myself. Simple to do lists that I cross off remind me what I really AM getting done really help me feel like I am making progress. I tend to ignore what I actually do and focus on all the things I have left undone.

    So this idea that even one successful thing, however tiny, is a sign of real change was a source of radical optimism for me.

    About the overinvesting in the new person….I think the Captain’s advice is, as usual, spot on here. I had to confront how much I was letting the fact of being in a relationship steal my power of self esteem. I wasn’t attractive or worthy unless SOMEONE OUTSIDE OF ME validated that. If I was alone, there must be something wrong with me. Taking back my power, trying to stop considering myself unworthy or attractive unless someone else was saying so, was huge for me. I had to learn how to give myself those strokes and not outsource that.

    It was hard but that was a real turning point for me in relationships.

    Thanks as always, Captain.

    1. Oh my god oh my god I love you.
      One time is success, then you’re just working on percentages. THANK YOU FOR THIS.

      1. Omg yes I’ve been trying to think similarly to this and this is an incredibly helpful way of framing it for me.

  6. Several of my coworkers and friends use Asana for staying organized, and love it. I’ve been thinking of trying it out.

    1. We use Asana in my office and I love it! So much that i’ve started tracking personal tasks/projects there, too. It’s a great tool with lots of useful functionalities and different ways of viewing progress, plus cool features (e.g., unicorn/sasquatch GIFs when you complete a set number of tasks) that make it fun. I highly recommend it!

  7. For non-driver: I didn’t get my license until I was 35. So I have some experience hearing complaints about that, and I didn’t even have the reason of disability — I just didn’t wanna. My mom would say “But it would be so useful!” and I would say “So would learning Spanish or Japanese, but you don’t bug me about that.” She didn’t actually have a comeback for it. Also I would say “Every person I’ve ever talked to about their car, without exception, complains about the expenses. And I live in an apartment without parking, so I’d have to move or rent a parking space.” Those were true facts. So if any of that is a factor for you, you could bring that up when the arguments come. (Later I moved to a different area of the country and had different priorities in my job search, so I finally learned from my surprisingly patient husband. So “nondriver now” doesn’t equal “nondriver forever”, something I wish my parents had accepted.)

    For “only a BA”: I was tempted to write several lines of “ha ha ha ha — pause for breath — ha ha ha”, not laughing at you but at your parents. There are so many many families who consider it a triumphant event when all their children graduate from high school. There are other families who take that for granted, but are thrilled if any of their kids gets a degree. So I just hope you aren’t internalizing their criticism, because it’s both unhelpful to you and also not some rule set in stone. Also, I had a BA and kept thinking “I’ll go back for my masters someday,” and instead I got a BS in a totally different field years later. I think we have some ideal in this culture of the path to a career, and it goes from A to B to C nicely, with stepping stones and flowers along the edge, but many (probably most) people don’t do it that way. I agree with the Captain that you would do well to not argue with them on this one, and just concentrate on your own awesome life.

    1. Regarding the non-driver part of your comment. I think these could be helpful points, as long as the person you’re addressing doesn’t feel like they *need* to have other reasons besides anxiety (that’s enough of a reason even if people in their life don’t accept it) or feel like they need to be/have the goal to be a driver in the future.

      1. Right, good point. If the OP’s goal is “get people off my back about the nondriving”, these other points could be useful. If it is “get people to accept that I have anxiety and that it contributes to nondriving”, these comments won’t help.

  8. Regarding “How to approach academic group work when you think/know you’d do it fine/better on your own.”

    As always, the Captain’s response is excellent. The skills listed are needed by everyone who wants to succeed not only in business, but in relationships.

    One piece of advice from a different perspective. Make sure you do a reality check before you “dismiss” your fellow group members. They may have more to contribute than you realize. I teach Advanced Placement courses at a highly ranked high school with some very competitive and competent students. One year I had to have a conversation with a student who had taken over a group project. She wasn’t dominating because she possessed the valuable skills listed by the Captain, she thought she knew the material better. She didn’t, for example she thought the Buffalo Soldiers hunted buffalo – argh. Meanwhile she was ignoring input from the top two students in the class.

    1. Group projects are one of those 80/20 things. As an educator, I can pull out sheaves of research on why peer-to-peer projects are a good and necessary part of the learning process; as a student, I can absolutely commiserate with people who’ve had terrible experiences with them. I keep assigning them because in my field (language teaching/learning) the benefits massively outweigh the drawbacks, but it does mean you have to keep sharp on your classroom management to make sure everyone pulls their weight and reaps those benefits.

    2. If you truly know the material better, you can help your classmates. Don’t want to help your classmates? Then you are destined to be miserable in your work life, where professional work has become more and more team oriented in the three and a half decades since I got my BS. You MUST be a team player to succeed in the working world, unless you are that rare creature who possesses such superior knowledge and skills (in engineering we called them gurus) that your employer will put up with you not being a team player. Gurus aren’t a little bit better than the rest of us, they’re rock stars in their chosen field. If you aspire to that, fine. If you end up playing second guitar like most other people, you need to play well with others… and not minimize others’ contributions.

      Having said that officious bit of fluff, I have to admit I have been in working groups that nearly made me tear my hair out, both in academia and professionally. The people who were frustrating me weren’t those who didn’t know their stuff so much as those who didn’t give a rat’s patootie and wouldn’t carry their share of the load. There was the spring quarter class project where all of my partners were graduating, had jobs lined up, and didn’t need a decent grade in the class. They had serious “senioritis”. I, with two quarters left, ended up doing the whole thing and resenting the heck out of the situation. Then, in a continuing education class, there was the group where everyone but me was juggling schoolwork with full-time parenting plus parent/in-law wrangling. Their home duties were so extensive that they simply could not meet their academic commitments; and in all honesty, they didn’t really care, because they were in school to get away from their families, not actually learn anything. And finally, in the professional world, I ended up working with a group of hardware and software engineers in a department where the two specialties were actually almost at war with one another. The situation was based on a host of misunderstandings, some of them personal, some cultural. Too many members of the group were too busy trying to sabotage other members of the group. What did we accomplish? Exactly what you’d expect: nothing.

      And yet, it takes effort to remember those things. When I look back on my professional life, I mostly remember a lot of very successful team projects. And learning how to play with the team was the key to making them work, and work well.

  9. I just want to send consensual hugs to the person dealing with the homophobic aunt. Almost 2 years ago, my maternal great aunt (whom I hadn’t seen in over 3 years) attended my father’s funeral and then decided to write me a letter telling me that I’m going to hell for “the gay”TM and wrote my sister and mother sympathy letters. I wish I could say there was resolution of some type with my family, but there isn’t. What I can say is that you do not owe anyone your time or your attention, especially during your grief.

    The captain’s advice is good. I would add that if you have a family member (sibling? cousin?) or close friend who will be attending the funeral as well, ask them to help extricate you from conversations with this aunt if necessary. It’s easy to get cornered and overwhelmed when grieving, so find an ally.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, and I hope your aunt will focus on her own grief and the loss of her father (??) as opposed to you. May I also recommend “No Mud, No Louts” by Thich Nhat Hanh. Good luck and my sympathies.

    1. LW with homophobic aunt here!

      Thanks for the hugs – consensual Jedi hugs to you too!

      And thank you thank you Captain for your advice! I think it is excellent. I may soften the last script a little bit – “I’m very sad about Grandpa and so sorry for the loss you must be feeling. We both know that we disagree about political issues like gay rights, so let’s not fight about it when we’re here to remember him.” + escape is what I’m thinking.

      My dad will be at the funeral too, and can probably be an ally in this! That’s a great idea. Homophobic Aunt really respects my dad (unless she’s lost respect for him for raising and being proud of a queer heathen daughter…) so he might well be able to run interference. I told him about the Captain’s excellent advice, and he and I are in agreement that this is a good tactic!

    2. Anybody who’s looking for that recommendation: I think it’s “No Mud, No Lotus”.

  10. I’ve struggled with depression for around 30 years, so I’ve got lots of tricks for handling the “laziness.”

    * The book “Get It Done When You’re Depressed” by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston changed my life, I swear.

    * The baby steps trick is great. You can’t bring yourself to go to the doctor? That’s fine, today just look up where the clinic is. Tomorrow, get dressed as if you are going to the doctor. The next day, get dressed and get in your car, but you don’t need to go anywhere. The next day, get dressed, get in your car, drive to the clinic, but you don’t need to go in. Work up to it until you can make it.

    * Depression usually comes from feeling like you don’t have control over your own life. So little tricks that make you feel like you have some control can make a huge difference. Wear your hair in a way that your ex hated. Hang up some curtains you like that you were afraid your friends would think were tacky. If you must take a call from a family member who makes you feel like crap, count to ten when the phone rings before you pick up. The family member will have to wait for the count of ten before they get to talk to you.

  11. Regarding anxiety and activism: does the OP really want to be involved in activism in any way, or is s/he being pushed by other people to get involved out of the audacious, sickening, and wholly incorrect misconception that everyone must be an activist?

    1. Question: do you have ideas on how to combat the status quo through methods other than activism or running for office? I am also having a hard time with my activist friends and have been attending rallies/protests/etc but I thoroughly DO NOT ENJOY but I also want to DO something.

      1. I am in the same boat. I do not want to participate in marches. Fortunately I’m in a good place money-wise so I’ll be supporting the causes financially, and hope to work behind the scenes to help with implementation. We all have a role. Some bring attention to the issues, and some work to implement change.

      2. I have yet to attend anything organized in terms of demonstrations, protests, teach-ins, speak-outs, whatever. I do find that other people often consider me a go-to resource. So maybe think about how you can support people who want to do the on-the-ground in-person activism? Let people know what’s being organized and where. Let people know what item just got made public that needs wider attention. Direct people to resources to educate themselves about X issue. Have elevator speech and 1-3 links for whatever items are most important to you to share in person or online. Basically, signal boosting and matchmaking. That’s what I do most of.

  12. “Family keeps putting you down for having only a BA; thinks you should be over failing last time, doesn’t acknowledge disability. ”

    CA’s advice was great, I just want to add this:

    I have a disability / chronic illness, and I’m finally going to get my undergrad degree after six arduous years in college (many semesters I only had a part-time schedule so I could focus on wellness). Getting a degree with a serious illness or disability, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, is a motherfucking triumph.

    Like, serious question: did you hella celebrate when you graduated? Do that. Throw a party, invite all your friends. Any kind of party you like. Home-spa party. Coloring party. Dance party. No parents invited. And before the party, try doing this: every person invited, write them a nice letter, as long or as short as you like, telling them what you like about them and what you’re thankful for about them.

    I did this once, and writing these letters reminded me, in a concrete way, how amazing the people who love me are. Then I gave them all the letters and everyone cried. Except my bff, of course, who laughed and said I was a dork. If your friends don’t live near you, you can mail the letters.

    So, the party: it is about how awesome you are, the great things you have done, and how much you love your friends.

    Anyway, I’m rooting for you.

  13. “If she seeks you out and either tries to perform a close relationship with you (without actually repairing the relationship with an apology) or tries to renew or justify her mean words, try this, “I’m very sad about Grandpa and so sorry for the loss you must be feeling. I’m still very angry about the hurtful letter you sent me last year and we are not friends right now – let’s drop this for now and talk another time when you’re ready to apologize.” Then move away, and remember, she created the awkwardness.”

    I think it’s worth asking whether Auntie Bigot is the type likely to to seek social revenge for this – ‘Ohmygosh I was just trying to connect and LW turned around and demanded an apology! For something a year ago! At a FUNERAL! SO SELFISH to make MY FATHER’S FUNERAL all about HIM/HER!’

    If it were me, I’d play ‘plays at closeness’ and ‘tries to justify meaness’ two different ways.

    Tries to justify meanness: ‘Oh, Auntie, let’s not talk about that now. I want to spend the day thinking about Grandpa.’ Escape to conversation with nicer relation.

    Tries to be all friendly like she didn’t send you a horrible letter: ‘Hi, Auntie, glad to see you’re well. Sorry, but I just see someone I have to talk to/need the bathroom/have to go save the funeral from the ray-gun-toting aliens I see at the door – talk to you later!’ Like, much later. In the apres-ski lodge of the hell she’s so certain you’re going to, after it’s frozen over. But you don’t need to say that out loud.

    With some people, the long-run strategy is to be … aggressively unobjectionable. Deny them anything they can use for drama and focus on getting what you want, which presumably is a life free of time wasted by bigots. Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and deny-any-excuses-to-involve-you-in-their-bullshit.

  14. LW with homophobic aunt here!

    Thanks, I think you’re right that asking for an apology could turn into a feelingsstorm. That said, my extended family is already pretty much divided into a few people who are close with her, a bunch of people who put up with her because they’re closely related, and quite a few people who think she’s full of crap. So if she stirs it up, most folks will know that she started it and I’ll have plenty of allies, but I’d rather not deal with it at my Grandpa’s funeral anyway.

    1. Glad to hear you have at least some reasonable relations! Hope you can spend the day surrounded by them and having the peaceful time you deserve. Xx

  15. For the non-driver: I am 33, and I didn’t really drive until about 2 years ago. For years, I wasn’t ready to drive because a.) I was so scared b.) I was still trying to recover from being verbally abused by a driving instructor years ago. So, if you have anxiety about driving, there is probably good reason and you are not alone. And I am sorry that your family is pressuring you into doing something your heart and mind are not prepared for. CA has good advice. Also, you can reassure them that just because you aren’t ready to drive now, doesn’t mean you won’t be ready someday.

    For “Only a BA”: I was appalled when I read this—not at you the writer, but at your family for putting you down! They should be proud of you for even attempting college, much more graduating! A lot of people I have worked with for one reason or another didn’t even go to college, and they DON’T have a disability! So, I think it’s quite an accomplishment to graduate college and have also had a disability!

    1. I have to agree with this (re: ‘only’ a BA). I don’t know what a BA symbolizes in your family, but in mine, it was both expected as the bare minimum and a sure-fire step toward success. Well, I have four degrees, two of which are BAs, and I have been poor enough to be on food stamps and accept donated food from nuns. I’m still poor, but better. A degree (or four) is no guarantee that your skills will translate into success, but making it through and getting that degree IS an achievement, especially if you (like me) struggle with depression or other mental/emotional/physical limitations.

      I don’t know if it will help or not, but maybe parsing what the BA symbolizes to LW’s family will add some valuable insight into why they are treating LW so badly about it. It certainly doesn’t excuse the mistreatment, but it might shed some light on why they have latched onto this particular bone of contention and won’t let go. Are they being dismissive of an academics-triggered PTSD-like situation, or a related condition? I can’t see how demanding someone “just get over it” is helpful! Are they high-achieving multi-degree holders concerned LW should be, too? Well, I’m a case in point that good academic skills and multi-degrees do not guarantee success, economic security or happiness. And there are plenty of people who don’t even have a BA (right off the top of my head, isn’t newscaster Brian Williams degree-less?) who manage to find their niche in the world and thrive. Lastly, not everyone is suited to the typical workplace or work schedule, and we like to pretend that is a failure of the individual, not a failure of the system itself. Some of us work best alone, or without a boss, or on a variety of projects at once, or on a flexible schedule (etc.), and some people thrive with routine, or early mornings, or socializing with co-workers / working in groups or a well-defined chain of command (etc.)

      What I’m getting at LW, is that, without knowing why your family is torturing you about this, all I can do is be supportive and tell you that you’re doing fine, and this issue isn’t about YOU as far as I can tell. This has something to do with your family’s attitudes and beliefs about post-grad studies, and probably very little about you, except that you’re having to bear the brunt of those (probably) unexamined attitudes and beliefs.

      Some of my smartest friends couldn’t hack grad school, and it wasn’t for lack of effort or smarts. It’s not for everyone, and it shouldn’t HAVE to be. I’m ABD in my field and I have zero plans to address that any time soon. I LIKE school and tend to thrive there, and I usually get good marks, BUT I got really exhausted with grad school by the time I was within that short jump to getting my terminal degree. I got worn out, and my personality actually THRIVES on academia. So, if I’m well-suited for school and my depression was actively being treated and my life was going OK, I still got worn out and I still made the decision that I was done (for now, if not for good), clearly I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Neither should you.

  16. Re: election shock

    I do think there is still a bit ring theory here. This election was first and foremost a GIANT win for white supremacy. It was also a win for pretty much every other ism and oppression but white supremacy took the cake. And I think white people need to be especially mindful of that. One way to practice this to seek out other white people for emotional comfort – not POC and *especially* not femme POC. And if you are listening to a POC’s feelings, just listen and give them all the space – don’t try and relate. (unless, of course, you have POC friends who have made it clear they are ok with having these conversations with you).

    For an example: many MANY people have come to me literally crying because they don’t know what they’re going to do this holiday season when they have to see their trump supporting racist, homophobic, sexist uncle Bob/how betrayed they feel by [close family relative] for voting for him. Meanwhile, I am terrified that my undocumented family (some of whom have DACA and so the gov’t has ALL their info) are going to be deported, probably after spending months/years in a holding cell they may not survive. So I truly have no cares left to give about awkward family holidays when my family’s life is in jeopardy.

    This isn’t to say the feelings of white people (and especially anyone not a cis, straight, dude) aren’t valid or don’t deserve to be addressed, just be very, very mindful who you process your feelings with and maybe be extra generous with allowing POC more space and air than usual.

    1. This is true and very well-put.

      Things are terrifying right now, and definitely more for POC and undocumented families than they are for me. Good wishes to your family.

      I am also at the end of all “awkward holiday advice” threads for 2016 and maybe until 2020.

    2. This is so true.

      I spent part of the day after the election talking with some colleagues from a marginalized group who had received a credible death threat and were afraid to go home that night. We strategized for what they could do to keep as safe as possible. (Given who they were and where they lived, police help was not an option.)

      I found myself with little willingness to talk later that day with folk who were worried about losing health care. Not that their concern isn’t justified (it most definitely is), but I was exhausted from talking with people with more immediate and more urgent concerns. One of my friends who could end up losing health care was furious at me for not having energy to listen that same evening, despite my explanation of how I had spent the day.

      I do believe that ring theory does apply. In other words, I agree with thetigerhasspoken. And I’m so sorry for the problems you face. Although it was exhausting, the terror of folk who were being targeted with threats to their lives was a wake-up call for me in how little I understood the problems others faced and how little I understood how few options many actually have.

  17. Oh, the driving. I don’t do it. That leads to me cadging drives from others.
    Others occasionally want to know, Does your husband not let you drive? Do you not drive because your religion doesn’t allow women to drive? Did you lose your license for DUI? &c.

    Rude questions are apparently the price of the free ride!

    And so I gift to you, awkward folks, my answer. There are medical reasons I don’t drive, when my doc OKs it, I’ll start looking for a car. What medical stuff? That’s private. That’s between me and my doc. That’s not really relevant, is it? &c

    Somehow, people have been trained to believe in medical privacy even when they don’t believe in personal privacy.

    Actual medical problem: rude questions get up my nose *phhhbbbbt*

    1. @SylviaMcivers: If you already give your rides gas money, please disregard this comment.

      If you don’t give gas money, you may wish to consider doing so. Your rides could be resenting what they see as an imposition and could be taking it out on you by being rude.

  18. Academic group projects take almost everyone outside their comfort zone, with the lone exception of the complete slacker who is perfectly happy letting others do their work. In the workplace there are more defined roles, reporting standards, and known areas of expertise. In the academic setting it can be a bit of a free-for-all.

    Everyone is going to have their preferred “role” in a group project. There’s the “Slide compiler.” That’s the person who doesn’t necessarily understand the material that well, but is dedicated to pulling their weight and so focuses on organizing the work everyone else does and doing most of the write-up. There’s the “Know-it-all” who knows ALL of the material really well and is fairly certain they could do a better job on their own (and probably can.) They’ll do as much work as needs to be done, but will probably complain the entire time. There’s the “know-one-thing-slacker” who knows how to do this one tiny part really really well and is completely uninterested in learning how to do anything else. They devote all of their time to that one piece and don’t really help out much in the overall project.

    What actually works best is when the “know-it-all” steps back and takes over the role of “slide compiler”. This can be tricky, because “slide compiler” is usually someone who’s very comfortable in that role and doesn’t want to give it up. It also takes “know-it-all” out of their comfort zone and puts them in a position where they have to completely rely on everyone else to do their job. However, it also puts them in a position where they can jump in and help in any area where a group member is struggling.

  19. For the person looking for scheduling/get-stuff-done apps, I’ve been using one on my IPhone lately called 30/30. It lets you list out all the things you want to do and enter the time you want to spend doing them. Then you start it and it gives you a little alarm and a prompt to move on to the next thing when each period is over. I have an office-type job with various self-directed tasks and it helps me make sure I get to all the tasks I want to get done that day.

  20. Scheduling stuff: Rather than keep a ‘to do’ list I have a list of next steps for every project I handle, so I can check in whether something is due, what should be done, and who I hand it off to. I also keep a list of ‘could do’ items: all those pesky little things that will never be a priority (and don’t let them GET to be overdue and urgent) but which I can do in situations where I have fifteen minutes before lunch and no brain left. [Return books to their shelves. Check out a new app. Sharpen my pencils.] This stops me from ‘I can’t start anything major now, I’ll just read the internet’ and gives me more breathing room.

    1. Wow, I love the idea of the ‘could do’ list. I’m borrowing that. Thanks!

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