Short Question & Answer Friday, July 26, 2019: Part 1 of 2

Hello! It’s time for the monthly ritual where I answer short questions and give priority to the patrons who keep the lights on and the web-hamsters running. We’ve got twelve questions this week, I’ve written up the first batch and will post the rest later in the weekend. Topics: Passive-aggressive coworkers, celebrating a climb out of depression, figuring out fit a new job, settling in in a new town, becoming a therapist to the stars, and becoming better at conflict.

Q1 After started making it big, did you ever think about going back to school to become a therapist to the stars? (she/her/hers

A1: This question made me smile, not least because of ‘making it big.’

Upon consideration, I think I would like not to ever go to any more grad school, I would make a terrible, unethical therapist unless there is a school of therapy where you tell patients “you know you can dump people who make you feel awful” and then bill their insurance for a jillion dollars, and probably “the stars” are gonna be just fine without me though they are free to write in any time, I don’t discriminate! 🙂

Q2: How do I know if I just have the new job jitters or whether a job is fundamentally wrong for me? I feel like I’m lying when I say I’m doing ok in this job, and it’s very stressful. People say I’m suited for it, but the day to day is so difficult for me. Should I quit and go back to school or stick it out? (she/her/hers)

A2: You’re allowed to quit things you hate and do something else! And as long as you have a plan for how you’ll swing it financially, it’s really nobody’s business but yours. I quit a job after a single day once, another job after just a few months, I regret nothing, there was no amount of money that made it worth…that. But if you have a history of letting jitters/imposter syndrome talk you out of things you actually want to do, it’s worth sitting with the discomfort for a bit and asking yourself some questions before you flee. Here are a couple of workbook/research questions for you to figure out if you’re done here and where you might want to go next:

I) Who is happily doing the kind of work you want to be doing, roughly where you want to be doing it, at the intensity and salary and prominence you want to be doing it someday? Take the annoying “Where do you see yourself in five years?” job interview and actually answer it, for yourself, by looking for some real world examples. Find a few people you admire who do work like the work you’re interested, use social media, LinkedIn, professional associations & publications in your field, alumni networks to read up on them a little bit without being creepy, and see if there’s a story in what they did for you. Did they need more school than you have now? Did they need to move geographically? Was there a period where they did a job like yours and the learning curve just sucked but it was worth it for a year or so to break in to whatever came next?

II) Look at the job description you were given when you were hired. Now add to it/edit it according to what you actually do with your days. Classify the list of tasks according to two categories to start:

a) This is a task/skill that is necessary and useful in multiple companies and fields, there are lots of situations where [creating artifacts like reports, proposals, web pages, apps][creating and managing budgets][planning & coordinating big projects][managing people][whatever it is you do, make it specific to you!] can be useful and the experience I gain here can be applied.

b) This is a task/skill that is useful within this company but not necessarily transferable [figuring out a horrible legacy proprietary system][navigating specific office politics and personalities].

Do you end up with more A things or more B things? Is there a certain subset of duties that contributes the bulk of your stress? Are you spending your time on the things that feel essential to the company’s mission and to your own professional growth? Maybe you’ll see some patterns that tell you that the same role in a better company or team is where you need to go, or maybe you’ll get some insights about the parts of your job that stress you out the most and think about reprioritizing your work or finding roles where you have to do less of that bullshit and more of what you like, or figure out pathways to take advantage of training and professional development opportunities where you are.

III) What is your job role and your employer doing in the world and for the world? Good, ethical things, or not so much? I think that’s an important part of well-being, knowing that what you do makes the world a better, or at least not a worse, place.

IV) If you apply the Sheelzebub principle, what happens? Imagine more of this for another year, another 2 years, another 5 years. At what point do you put a cutoff date on a calendar and say, “if I’m not feeling less stress by _____, time to go.” Does the thought of quitting fill you with relief or more anxiety?

V) Can you afford to do less for the next month or so to give yourself time to breathe? Work within set hours, leave at a reasonable time every day, say no to impossible projects, spend time with friends and family and hobbies, take every single scrap of leave time? If you don’t feel like you can slow down, where is the pressure coming from – since your bosses say you’re doing great, is it them or is it you?

Good luck sorting it!

Q3: How do I get better at confrontation? I finally got a feel for boundaries (Ty!), but when I set them and people ignore them, I just… Avoid them. With people whom I trust and like (and vice versa), I have no trouble addressing stuff again and holding firm. But with those who’re boundary violators anyways, it costs me so much energy to address stuff and then when they ignore it, I tend to resign. Help. (she/her/hers) 

A3: I think it’s very good news that you’re having better results with people close to you. You are speaking up for yourself, and the people you like best are listening and respecting you, you’re enjoying more harmonious relationships with them, that’s good!

With people who are “boundary violators anyway” what if you stopped assuming that you aren’t communicating clearly or well enough and gave yourself permission to write them off, to an extent? What if the way you asserted yourself was excellent and necessary, what if others in the group saw it and felt more confidence as a result, and what if someone’s choice to keep being a jerk after they’ve been told to stop isn’t your burden or your fault? You told them what the problem was and how to fix it, they chose not to change anything, time to do your thing without counting on them for anything, avoid them where possible, work around them where possible, build consensus with others where you need to, kick them out of spaces where they aren’t wanted where possible, and stop giving them so much of your time and attention. Maybe the next step in leveling up is telling yourself: “I tried my best, other people’s behavior is their problem, not mine.” 

Avoiding someone who can’t take no for an answer after you’ve told them no as an answer isn’t a sign that you failed, it’s okay to save your energy for cooler people who make it easy to be around them. But I don’t think it was wasted effort to speak up, I think it was important even if it doesn’t work the first time or at all, because now you are a person who speaks up for herself and others, and you’re never going back to being afraid. You’ve also got some handy friendship/social scene curation tools for who can be trusted and who cannot. Few people are so “good at conflict” that they can be confident of always persuading assholes to stop being assholes. You’re good enough!

Q4: I’m moving cross-country for the first time in 3ish weeks. Any ideas for settling into and learning a new city? I’ve lived in and around Chicago my whole life… (she/they)

A4: When I moved to Chicago on August 1, 2000 I was on a really, really tight budget and I didn’t know anybody here. MeetUp, etc. hadn’t been invented yet, but The Chicago Reader and a folding laminated map (which I still have) became my new best friend for a while, and what I did for about the first year was to go to as much free stuff as I possibly could. I basically haunted every open mic and art show and free day at the museum and festival for almost a year, and I gave myself permission to be a total tourist. I always carried something to read and something to write in/with along with me in case I got stuck or bored or there was nobody to talk to. I gave myself little challenges, too, like: “I have $20, I’m going to take the CTA to a stop I’ve never ridden to before, hop off, and see what I can find to do/see/eat there, when I run out of cash or if it stops being fun, I’ll go home.” This adapts well as a photography project: Once I spent a day walking through Paris, France and snapped a photo of “everything yellow” I saw, another day it was “blue doors,” another day it was “fun haircuts” (winner) another day it was “cranky statues.”

When I met people, I told them I’d just moved here and asked them what their favorite cheap or free thing to do was, and I wrote down the things they told me in my little notebook, turns out people LOVE to show off about their town and don’t mind being asked in the least. If I met anyone who seemed at all nice, if they invited me to a thing, I would say yes and I would go at least once, which is how I found myself guest-judging the Uptown Poetry Slam one week, volunteering at a film festival devoted to home movies another, and listening to the worst ‘music’ I have ever heard and eating the worst ‘chili’ I have ever tasted in the basement of an anarchist collective that smelled entirely of feet. If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have just taken a class at Second City, but I’m not upset about having taken a weirder path.

Not gonna lie, I was 26, single, and internet dating was new and shiny, “I just moved here and am learning my way around, is there a place you really like that’s cheap or free to hang out?” was a pretty irresistible proposition and a fun way to see the city, it’s how I found out about Record Store Day and Free Comic Book Day and Myopic Books, it’s how I learned that sitting under giant ferns at Garfield Park Conservatory on a cold February night didn’t suck, and not everything has to be True Love to be a good time.

You’re leaving Chicago, which has an embarrassment of cultural and culinary riches but the principles of enjoying this place apply anywhere, almost everybody everywhere gets tired of staring at their own four walls and eating their own cooking sometimes, there will be cool stuff to do wherever you’re headed. Find the paper with the best local arts/entertainment/hobby listings, go to breakfast at the place with all the chatty old people and ask them tons of questions, swim at the public pool, check out the wall of flyers and bulletin boards at the library and the cafe and the grocery co-op, see who is coming to give free lectures or play music at the nearby college, find the local ice cream parlor on a hot day, ask everyone you meet who seems the least bit friendly to tell you where they love to buy coffee or groceries or watch birds or where you can find a decent tattoo artist or death metal music scene or board game night or book club. Be generous with compliments:  “I love your haircut, do you mind if I ask where you got it? I just moved here and I need a new salon.”I loved that book. Where’s the best bookstore here?” Pet some strange dogs, see some stuff that you might never otherwise see, show up to some things that sound good to you, if you hate it don’t go back, if you like it, keep going, when you get tired, take breaks. Do that for a year and you’ll probably be some version of home. I hope the move goes smoothly!

Q5: Advice for dealing with a colleague who tends towards passive-aggression in conflicts when your manager won’t let you directly address the potential issue (specifics unknown because: passive-aggression)? This is my peer, senior in time by about a year but not in skills or level, and the comes out through managerial-adjacent behavior. (AKA “I just want to make sure your task xyz that I don’t have a say in has the proper foundation.) (Frustrating!)(she/hers please)

A5: I have met several versions of  This Coworker. I vastly prefer to be pleasant, straightforward, constructive, helpful, assume good faith, and get along with people at work and in general. Life is hard enough, work is hard enough, no need to add friction! But when that doesn’t work, and a person decides to self-appoint themselves as my supervisor/editor/gadfly/personal pain in the ass, and my manager is no help, it’s not always pretty (there are no heroes here) but I have been able to mitigate their behavior without getting myself in trouble. Lessons:

Kindness and professionalism isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a strategy. By making a habit of being generally friendly, constructive, easy to get along with, prompt and professional in my communications, and pleasant to work with to everyone at the company, this one highly difficult person’s picture of me as a The Weakest Link is much less sticky. Make sure all written communications you ever send to this person are friendly and professional. Address them as you would any reasonable person, and use your company/client manners at all times with them.

Stop, drop, and do your due diligence before responding to anything they say. Is it possible they are right about whatever it is even if they are really annoying about how they express it? Don’t let the fact that they have reached “b eating crackers” levels of annoying you cloud the fact that crackers might work with a little cheese on top. A script of “I hadn’t considered that, let me think about it and get back to you” can cut an annoying conversation short AND give you a chance to actually think about what they said.

Ignore all subtext, respond only to text. Hovering, sighing, a tone dripping with condescension, an attitude of “do I have to do everything around here,” barbs and digs, stuff muttered under the breath so only I can hear it, personal insults, the sense that someone is unhappy with my work (but no actual actionable feedback about what to change), generalized complaining, talking behind my back, the problem person dragging their feet about submitting their piece of the work, long rambling emails with no specific suggestions or changes = not my problem or my job, esp. when coming from someone who is not my manager.

“The draft needs to be turned in one day earlier, and can you include/fix these specific details” = my problem and job (to at least consider).

When someone is endlessly complaining or showering me with disapproval (but not telling me anything that would help me fix whatever it is) I’ve had success with reflecting back what the person is telling me they are feeling (“You are unhappy about ______”), both to indicate that I heard them and hopefully get them to stop repeating it, and then re-directing them toward solutions (“How would you like to handle ____ in the future?” “Do you have some ideas for solving ____?”), and it works with coworkers, too. Keep asking this person what they propose to do or if there is something specific they need you to do, and until or unless they come up with something that you can do (or consider doing and reject because: Reasons), it’s okay to consider their complaints as background noise.

Document the living shit out of all interactions with this person. Specifically, put all the things you & this colleague have agreed upon about work that needs done in email form. If they harangue you for half an hour about a project, write that chipper, brief, factual follow-up email every goddamn time.“To review, after our conversation this morning, you’re handling x, I’m handling y, we’ll meet at [time/date] to compare notes and finalize. Thanks!” 

It may feel disingenuous to keep saying, “Just to make sure I’ve got this right, we are NOT sending the document out until Friday, August 2, so we can make edits until then. Can you confirm?” when you already know damn well what’s going on, but you need to cover your ass and make sure there is a paper trail in case of problems, and you especially need to document it when they are giving you ridiculous and impossible suggestions.

Strategically invoke your supervisor. When a peer is trying to BE your supervisor, it’s time for a mantra of “Whoa, I should run that by my manager” or “Interesting, have YOU run that by my manager?” or “I really need to check with my manager before I veer off from what she and I agreed upon” or “Hey, why don’t we loop in Manager before we change the strategy.” The person will try to tell you it’s okay, they’ve always done it this way, or they spoke to your manager, etc. Possibly so! That’s cool, but you would just really rather take these questions to your actual manager. If your manager backs up your peer and not you, that’s good information (possibly it’s “Start job hunting, this place sucks” good information, but it’s good information). You can also ask your manager questions like:

  • “Hey, do I actually report to Peer? Because if so, this is the first of me hearing about it, do we need to amend the org chart? Are they going to be weighing in on my review? 
  • “Peer sometimes gives me instructions that are confusing and time-consuming, what do you want me to do when that happens?” 
  • “I’m trying to stay positive and focused on work, but when Peer drops by my desk to ‘chat’ about work it can suck a whole afternoon away. I’ve tried to ask them to email me changes or schedule a 15 minute catch-up, but it’s not working. Can you speak to them?” 
  • Show your boss the weird shit, especially if Peer is mean to you in writing, but keep your attitude very professional if you can. “This email from Peer is pretty confusing. Can you help me parse it and figure out what they want?” 

Additionally, while it’s annoying and frankly a little hostile to CC your manager on all trivial interactions with a peer, if your peer is micromanaging you and your manager is unhelpful, your peer forfeits the benefit of the doubt and your manager gets to see all the minutia and bullshit you have to deal with.

What this means, in practice, is redirecting all communications with this person to exactly one topic: “Is this helpful or necessary to the work we are trying to get out the door (& what specific piece of information would make it so),” plus setting things up so that you can keep doing your work without them as much as possible, plus making it crystal clear if there are consequences for giving into their “helpful” suggestions, as well as making sure that everything you’ve agreed upon is clearly documented, while also ignoring almost everything else. Fun! A sample email for getting this done:

“Hi Coworker, thanks for the notes about [project/draft] this morning.

I looked into your suggestion to do x, but [company policy][our manager][past project best practices][per our client’s request] shows that y is the best course of action. Is there a specific reason you’re suggesting x in this case? We can do it, but it means adding at least [estimate of time/dollars to the budget][or another unintended consequence].

Manager/Additional Team Members [whom you have definitely cc’d on this message], can you clarify? I’m going to move ahead with y to stay on track for the [date] deadline, so please weigh in by [tomorrow] if we need to revisit the plan. Thank you!” 

To review: The goal is for you to seem friendly, reasonable, detail-oriented, constructive, proactive, diligent about raising legitimate questions, thoughtful about how best to apply resources to the problem, open to feedback from the team at large, and focused on the work at hand. You get there by actually BE-ing those things. Over time, this strategy will either defeat the annoying coworker with sheer competence – maybe some people at your company are not on top of their game, but not you! – or they will escalate things to the point of an embarrassing (for them) public meltdown and confrontation, at which time you will have a well-documented practice of being The Cool One, or you will have bought the time necessary to find a new job with fewer irritating people. Good luck wherever this leads!

Q6: I’ve been depressed a long time and finally am having a moment with good self esteem. I want something to remind me how I feel right now, for when I’m feeling depressed in the future. To remind me this will pass, and I’ll like myself again someday. Have you done anything like this? Or have a favorite way/s of saving moments of happiness? Words are good, but I’d like other tangible ways to remind me. (she/her/hers)

A6: How wonderful to know that you’re feeling better!

Things that come to mind:

  • Get your portrait taken by a professional photographer. (Or friend who is very handy with a camera). Print it, frame it, and display it somewhere in your home. “The day I felt and looked awesome.”
  • Are you a tattoo person? This seems like a good time and reason for a tattoo!
  • Go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, or sign up for a class for something you’ve always wanted to learn. “This is the year I learn to be a blacksmith!” 
  • Host something fun and relaxing for people close to you. A friend had the greatest theme for a dress-up party ever (that I am definitely going to steal someday): Tell your guests to wear something from their closet that they already own but never wear. Everyone will look AWESOME (I wore my wedding dress), nobody will spend money to look awesome, you can drink punch out of paper cups and eat crackers and have a fun night.
  • Write a letter to yourself on nice paper, about how great you are and how good you feel today and how proud of yourself you are for all the work you did to get here. Address it and put a stamp on it, give it to a good friend with the instructions: “If you see me feeling down and depressed again, can you mail this to me?” Alternately/Additionally: Create a round robin of affirming letters with a group of friends.
  • Be honest. Do you need kittens?

I’m sure readers will have excellent suggestions for affirming rituals, let the self-care fountain flow!

That’s all for today, comments are open, Part 2 will come later this weekend.








104 thoughts on “Short Question & Answer Friday, July 26, 2019: Part 1 of 2

  1. ‘Be honest. Do you need kittens?’

    This may be my favorite of your very excellent advice.

    1. It’s flawless, really.

      Y’know, there could even be a physical photo album of Happy LW Snuggling With Kittens (whether they’re actually adopted or just shelter-kitten visits) for them to flip through later!

      1. Have you seen those events where they put up a kind of plexiglass tent thing with ventillation and bunches of baby animals (usually kittens or puppies but I’ve seen bunnies) and you make a donation to their shelter or something and get in the box and sit on the grass with a pile of critters and their toys for awhile. I’ve never seen one advertised anywhere near me, but I’d do that and take pictures and totally steal your photo book idea.

        You could even go snuggling kittens at a shelter. They let people do that .

        1. Another thing most shelters need is people to take care of a few kittens for a few weeks if they’re just a little too small to separate and adopt out. Or a mom and babies.

          Save some kitties, and it’s short term so it works for people who can’t commit to actually adopting an animal.

          1. When I lived in a place that this was a geographically workable option, I used to volunteer for a local rescue organization who placed some of their adoptable cats and kittens in a big-box pet supply store that was about six miles from where I lived then.

            The organization was deeply grateful for someone who could get to the store that quickly from their home and who was willing to come in a couple of times a week (there were other volunteers who did the same job, too; this set of tasks needed to be done daily, but they didn’t expect any individual volunteer to be the one to do it every day) and clean the cats’ litter boxes and food/water dishes, refresh the water, food, and litter for the kitties, clean the area in general (which basically amounted to wiping off the flat surfaces with pet-safe cleaning products and paper towels and sweeping the floor afterward), and play with them (“socialize” the cats).

            One morning that I covered the “cat area” tasks, I had the greatest bad hair day in the history of ever, because a kitten climbed my back while I was sweeping and played Monarch of the Hill on top of my head. (I have long hair, and it was up in a bun that direly needed tidying/redoing when I finished with my volunteer shift that morning, LOL.) Kitten hat FTW!

            So if you (general) can’t foster a cat or kitten, but you can handle that type of volunteer work, it may be an option to get your RDA of kittens. 😉

    2. This is *the* advice of perfection. I wish I could cross stitch because I’d put this on a pillow or sampler. With a cute kitten picture. I will probably have to settle for doing it graphically on a computer. But it’d be an awesome mug.

        1. Is 4ish still considered a young adult? If yes, this is excellent news, as I need my darling cat to Chill the Fuck Out, please and thank you.

          1. To my understanding, 2-4 is considered “young adult” but this is also my first cat so I could be Very Wrong about that. But also I don’t know her exact age as she was a feral.

    3. I’m waiting for the summer traveling to end for us before we get cats. My kids know we’re getting a cat but I’m actually planning on 2. I’d prefer adult cats but we’ll see what the shelters have in another 2 months or so.

      1. A single datapoint, but we adopted two adult cats from a shelter, and I got the strong impression that they had more trouble finding people to take adult cats than kittens, and a bonded pair of adults was particularly hard to place. The adoption fee was less for adult cats than for kittens, and the fee for two cats was less than twice the fee for one.

        (One of those cats is lying on my desk, between the keyboard and monitor, as I type this.)

        1. I wanted a snuggly cat last time, but we got a kitten, and it grew up to be pretty aloof. That’s part of why I’d like to get an adult cat; hopefully their personality will have expressed itself.

          1. I have never heard of a shelter or rescue that didn’t have waaaaaaaay more trouble finding homes for adults than for kittens. Maybe they exist in some parts of the world, but that hasn’t been the case anywhere I’ve ever lived, volunteered, or adopted. Kittens are easiest to find homes for. Followed by young adults. Most shelters have reduced fees for middle aged or senior animals because they’re so hard to place.

            You can also google cat rescues in your area and look for cats in foster homes if you are interested in seeing how they have been in a home environment.

            Or mention to local vets that you’re looking. Sometimes they know someone who’s looking for a home.

          2. The great thing about adult cats is that what you see is what you get. A snuggly cat will stay a snuggly cat. One of mine, adopted as a middle-aged adult, is SUCH a “living teddy bear” that she will purr at the vet’s! She. Purrs. At. The. Vet. She has had an outgoing, friendly purrsonality right from the start. 10/10 would adopt adult cats again!

  2. First of all, that haircut photo–amazing!

    And second of all, “Be honest. Do you need kittens?” is my favorite advice ever. Awwwwww.

  3. Q2 – why are the choices stick it out or go back to school? I’ve had the same general job for almost ten years, and the difference between companies is huge! Maybe examine whether your specific environment is not supporting you in the ways you need, or if this company is notorious for people burning out, etc. The work might be suited to you, but not every company/location/worksite vibe will be.

  4. If you are moving to a smaller city/suburb then check the city website, they usually list local events, fairs, activities in the park, firework nights or even local organizations that need volunteers. Also, talk to your neighbors and ask what activities happen nearby/ block parties/ best restaurants? I would also keep an eye on any protests that might have meaning to you – I’ve met some great people at events like that, and there is so much to protest right now.

    1. +1 to this! At least in my city, it seems like the fun departments (like parks and rec, the library) use Facebook pages as much as or more than their websites, so you might try looking for events/clubs that way too.

      1. volunteering about stuff you’re passionate about is a surefire way to meet new friends with common interests!

  5. Q6 – I like to make a list of 5 good things that happened today, which can be a nice way of capturing a moment that felt good. Not necessarily big things! “Talked to a friend, had a good cup of coffee, snuggled a cat, saw a cool cloud, read for half an hour” is a perfectly acceptable list. But writing them down in a form I can refer to later helps keep that memory and energy alive.

    1. I find it helpful to write down both good and bad things for each day (I write it as things that make me feel alive or drained). It helps to have that log, and I’ve gotten use out of looking back over my list to see what made me joyful or…not. For example, I might drop an activity I think I like bcs every time I do it I feel drained, or call a person that I really like who always makes me feel happy. Things like that.

    2. In my more organised years, I kept a jar of good things that happened, things like “got a free haircut”, “went to the botanic gardens with Sue”, “ate a really amazing crumpet”, “bought a new cat”, “passed a phd milestone”. And I’d read them back on New Year’s eve. It’s really amazing how many things you forget, or how many seemingly trivial things actually had a huge impact.

      1. Yess – depression makes you forget good things in a flash, so lists etc can be really helpful. I learned when I was doing my masters that if I kept notes all day of what I’d accomplished, then when it got to bed time and I was gripped by fear that I had wasted another day and was never going to graduate, I could just look at the list and go “huh! How did I forget all these cool things I did today?!?”. And it works just as well for reminding yourself of fun or happy things, as it does for productive things.

    3. I do this sometimes with the MoodSpace app. One of the activities is to list three good things from that day, you can set a reminder to help you do it, and it has a function to let you go back and read a random day.

      My favorite thing about it is that is prompts you to reflect on the causes of each nice thing you write down. Often, I am part of the cause! Even if I just showed up with a good attitude. If the LW doesn’t need this ritual to improve their mood at the moment, maybe now is a good time to be doing it just because they will end up recording so many good reminders about how they are contributing to their own happiness and good health.

    4. YMMV on this because of all the usual caveats regarding social media platforms – this is how I use my personal instagram*** account. I take pictures of the small things that make me happy. I rarely spend a lot of time scrolling through other people’s stuff (though they are deliberately designed to make that addicting, hence the caveat up front), but when I’m feeling low I pull up my own history and take a walk down (happy) Memory Lane. It’s also helpful for me to note that there are some time gaps in there that represent low periods but I also find it a useful reminder that all previous gaps have ENDED with more nice moments, so it’s likely this one will too.

      ***there may be other apps that lend themselves better, this is just the one that works for me

  6. Q6 — what about doing some sort of guided craft experience? Like a paint-your-own-pottery place or a wine-and-paint event or one of those things where they walk you through blowing a glass ornament or paperweight. I bet there exist even more flavors of this concept out there. You don’t need any specific skills, you can have a fun experience and take home a tangible Thing You Made, even if it’s an imperfect thing.

    1. Yes, my first thought for Q6 was “Time to do an art!”. It doesn’t have to be structured or representational at all; make a collage, or throw paint at a canvas/your wall (even if you rent, you can always paint over it when you move), or take photos of whatever feels like it represents how you’re doing right now. During the happiest summer of my childhood, I went through roll after roll of film photographing trees against sky because something about the combination of green and blue just felt right, and I still have all those photos (which are incomprehensible to anyone else) because they still remind me of what it was like to let everything else go and look at green against blue.

      …over the past couple of years I have been slowly accumulating ritual objects that are green and blue, and I just realized that this connotation is part of why. Gosh.

      Anyway, you can genuinely do whatever strikes your fancy, with no concern at all about whether it would make sense or look like art to someone else—just a way to put your good feelings where you can see them both now and later.

      And speaking of ritual objects, if you are at all a spiritual/religious/woo sort of person, this might be a great time to do a ritual of some sort, either premade or DIY. You could do something with support from your spiritual community or a few close friends; light a candle without putting any words at all on what you’re doing, just making a gesture of marking a significant time, and drink some wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion; meditate on joy; read poetry or religious scripture that makes your heart sing; or whatever works for you.

      I’m so glad for you, Q6!

  7. Q3: some people are just boundary-crossing jerks no matter how politely or rudely, quietly or loudly, you assert your boundaries. My condolences – I’m related to an entire family of them, and in the end there was no way for “they are happy” and “I am happy” to coexist, because what made them happy was to treat me like crap, and I don’t like that at all. So I walked away (technically I got in a plane, which was faster and more expensive) and was extra-nice to myself for having tried to make it work for so long. In order for boundaries to work, there have to be consequences to crossing them – and generally the consequence is ” I don’t hang with you anymore” (in the parenting business this is called a natural consequence).

  8. Re Q5: Ignore all subtext, respond only to text.

    This works in so many ways. I do this when I am pretty sure people are making fun of me in a not-very-nice-way but the words aren’t themselves cruel. So they ask a demeaning question and I just literally answer it and they’re usually silent after.

    Ex: “What are you going to do this weekend, write the entire paper?” (because it’s a thing that I do our assignments early)
    Me: “Yeah probably.”

    Q6: I concur with all options. If the weather is nice, too, I think of an outdoor restaurant I want to try (or enjoy) and eat a great meal outside (within budget, etc). Then sometimes if I am down, eating that meal in that place can bring it back.

    1. This is just good advice in general and it’s something I’ve been working on (re: Q5). No subtext, and don’t tell myself a story about what’s happening that involves the other person’s inner landscape.

      1. It’s also … incredibly fun when someone *is* being passive-aggressive because they are so frustrated that their underspoken messages aren’t being heard: “oh, I guess I’ll make my own tea then.” “Sure, feel free to use my milk!” “Wait, *you’re* taking over that account?” “Yeah, Humaira asked me to! If you’ve got any background info about it, feel free to let me know!”

  9. Definitely did the tattoo thing! They’re like markers for me and each one reminds me of a time I was awesome. Also written letters to my future sad self, like hey, remember me? I’m you and I can be you again, we’re not as far apart as you think right now.

  10. I am ALSO stealing that dress-up theme. What a fun idea!

    Content note: fitness/exercise talk.
    In the spirit of “stuff to do when you’re feeling better”: my chronic illness sometimes saps all my energy and strength for months at a time, and one of the best things I ever did for myself was sieze upon a period of relatively good energy to explore fitness classes. I was using this service called ClassPass that lets you try out different activities at a bunch of different gyms, and if you hate a class you never have to go back. I tried a bunch of things, discovered beginner ballet for adults, and eighteen months later I’m still taking ballet classes. I like the music and the movement, and that it’s a skill I can develop with practice. (I’m one of those people that is used to being good at things right away and dropping activities when I’m not, so it’s been a real growth experience.)
    Bodies are gonna body and I still sometimes feel the fatigue creeping up on me, but I keep going even when I don’t feel great and trust that the routines will carry me through. They usually do. So that’s my testimony in favor of learning a new skill while you’re up, especially something that might let you literally go through the motions when you’re down.

    1. +1 to routines, as long as you don’t beat yourself up later if you slip! When I’m feeling great I like to get up a little early and make coffee before I check any email/phone/etc. when I’m feeling poorly I can sometimes lift myself a little by going back to that routine.

      Also, maybe do a day or short project of volunteering somewhere? I sometimes have to remind myself that even though I’m down now, I have done things in the past (and will in the future) that we’re v good for others.

      1. Absolutely! I appreciate the nudge to make that more clear–I don’t recommend going through the motions of any hobby or activity just to clear a bar, or if it’s painful, or if you feel that you would be better served by conserving energy. Moving your body has many benefits, but not if it becomes something to batter yourself with. (Hence my content note.)

        I like your coffee ritual. Mornings are hard when your energy is low, but it’s pretty radical to save a slice of the morning for your own self-care before going off to work or wherever.

  11. Q5 – I like to address the passive agreesiveness a bit more head on. Putting on a Very Concerned expression I might say, “i get the sense you’re not happy with this. Let’s talk about it!” and enjoy watching her figure out what to say. Or “Oh! I couldn’t hear what you said just then. Could you repeat it?” and see if she actually has the nerve to repeat that nasty thing she said under her breath. keep your tone cheerful, cooperative, and concerned and feign innocence about her intentions. This, LW is YOUR passive aggressive way of letting The Coworker know you’re onto her. I find it’s a great way of politely saying, “I’m not going to tolerate your BS here, Karen.” Plus, she can’t accuse you of not considering her point of view. After all, you did ask her to repeat that comment. And you proactively asked her to share that concern, right? (Note: If she does speak up, you are under no obligation to kow-tow to her if her way doesn’t make the best sense).

  12. I have a huge jar that I write happy things/events in and it’s really good to read them sometimes. It started as a New Years thing, but now it’s a Whenever I need it thing.

    1. I like this idea! Another twist could be to write things that you like about yourself to read when you need a boost.

    2. A friend once gave me a gift of a jam jar filled with notes about shared memories and jokes and things she loved about me. I treasure it to this day, so much so that I’ve made similar jars for others going through rough patches.

      Jars with positive notes are just amazing.

  13. For Q3, in addition to not considering “asshole is no longer an asshole” as your success criteria, I think there are ways to not have to change your own plans just to avoid them. Avoidance is a perfectly legitimate strategy, btw, but it makes a difference for me when I frame things as, “I don’t have the energy to keep enforcing boundaries so I’m going to choose to attend a different event” vs. “I can’t go do the thing I want because That Person will ____.” Something you chose vs. something that is done to you and you’re trapped by. And if you choose not to avoid them, you may need to practice sitting a bit with the uncomfortable feelings like “I refused to answer a nosy question and now it feels awkward but I didn’t cause this awkwardness by myself and it’s ok not to be liked by everyone.”

  14. Re: Q1, never underestimate the power of irreverence in therapy! Signed, a therapist

    1. Right?? I was like uhhhhh that is pretty close to some things I’ve said to clients lol

      1. Well, that’s one hurdle down, how do I skip the grad school part and is there a kind I can do without having to do any listening?

        1. the grad school part was honestly terrible, of course. can’t help with the listening but I will say it would be very hard for me to read letters thoughtfully enough to provide meaningful advice, so I’d be a terrible advice columnist!

        2. I believe the key there is to call yourself a life coach rather than a therapist. Fixer heaven!

      2. I was thinking “if it’s unethical for a therapist to give you good solid advice like that, then I don’t want an ethical therapist”

    2. Agreed! I often take inspiration from CA’s specific viewpoints and scripts. Honestly, being exposed to Very Good Advice helps me get out of the Purely Theoretical Conceptualization Space that I can sometimes be stuck in with clients. I feel like grad school drilled into us that “therapy is not just about giving advice” to such an extent that it took me a few years to be comfortable with giving advice AT ALL, when really that can be an important part of therapy for some folks.

  15. Aaaah I can’t have kittens because I have dogs, including one that is Not Good with cats despite being otherwise a very good girl, but I went to a pet store and they had kittens for adoption and I did go to look at them and then one stuck his little paw through the cage and batted my fingers, and sigh. Kittens.

    1. My spouse ended up with his kittens (a sister pair) because one of them reached out of her kennel, while I (not a cat person) was standing in the lobby of the humane society waiting for him to finish squeaking at all the kittens, and grabbed hold of my bun with both paws. I ended up telling someone, “Can you tell the guy in the green button down that his kitten is holding his wife hostage in the lobby?”

    2. I love that. My grandfather used to say, “there are two good times to plant a tree: forty years ago, and today.”

  16. Re: Q6, I feel like if you have the garden space and have ever wanted to, this might be a really nice moment to plant a tree – I’m thinking start with a sapling rather than an apple core. The tree will always represent this happy time in your life, but you’ll also grow and weather future storms together.

    1. I love that. Any reason to plant a tree is a good reason! I also like to plant them in memory of loved people/pets who have passed. It helps me feel connected to them still, and that a piece of them carries on here.

      My grandfather used to say, “there are two good times to plant a tree: forty years ago, and today.”

      1. I came across that recently and love it. My last attempt ended badly (although the deer appreciated the meal), and said quote gave me extra gumption to hopefully try again in the fall with whatever fencing I can rig.

        1. The deer eat everything they can get where I am, too. So frustrating! I’ve found chicken wire is fairly effective, and cheap.

          1. Thanks, I’ll try that! There’s overgrowth everywhere hereabouts that they’re welcome to, but I was trying to put in sassafras trees, so I should’ve known better than to think they wouldn’t zero in on them.

    2. Wow I absolutely love this idea and never would have thought of it! I planted some trees on Earth day when I was 7 in my parents backyard and I’ve loved watching them grow, but never considered planting another one now that I’m in my own place!

  17. Q3 — Avoiding people who crash boundaries IS enforcing boundaries. BC (Boundary Crasher) asks a bunch of nosy questions. You tell them you’re not answering those questions. They continue to ask anyway. You ask them to stop. They continue. You avoid them. Bingo! They’re not bothering you with nosy questions anymore. Substitute any boundary you want for “asks a bunch of nosy questions,” and the sentence still works.

  18. Q5: I’m not clear exactly what you mean by “your manager won’t let you directly address the potential issue” but it almost sounds like a situation I was in where co-workers were passive-aggressive because they’d learned it was the only interaction style the manager was okay with. All specific coworker-to-coworker feedback had to go through the manager rather than person-to-person and the manager wouldn’t deal with it well when it did, so deniable passive aggression was all that was left. (And following the Captain’s excellent advice of “ignore subtext” got me pulled into a one-on-one meeting and told “you have to be able to read people, you can’t expect everyone to just say it outright when there’s a problem! And also you are being unprofessional when you insist on clear verbal communication of things”.)

    I honestly don’t have a good answer when the passive aggression is being reinforced from above (I solved it by having lots of social anxiety and outwaiting the situation, mostly) but stay kind and professional, documenting everything as best you can, due diligence, etc. still helps.

    You may find that if the management problem ends, the passive-aggressive senior coworkers become wonderful people to work with – “I just want to make sure your task xyz that I don’t have a say in has the proper foundation” may mean “I’m pretty sure you were trained improperly but I’m not allowed to say so and I don’t want you to be in trouble for something that isn’t your fault” for example.

  19. Q6: If you have the money, buy an item of clothing or jewellery that you will actually wear, and which you LOVE. I really like sneakers, so a couple of my more outrageous pairs are ‘good moment markers’ where I felt good enough to spend money on myself and to buy something I didn’t actually need, but wanted and could afford. And sneakers are good in that you don’t need an Occasion to wear them.

  20. Q6: I use the Notes app on my phone to write myself notes that I know I need to read later. There are certain topics my brain likes to grab and ruminate on, so when I’m in a good place I write the narrative I want my brain remember in my notes, so I can refer to it when I’m in a “Dangerous Thoughts” spiral.

      1. Or live in places with no pet policies. Or that don’t have much home time and don’t want to neglect.

        1. I’ll be honest. I tend to feel that things like cat allergies and no pet policies are not signs of not needing kittens so much as the workings of the powers of darkness to keep you from being able to fulfill that need.

          1. I was about to say that too lol. Y’all still NEED kittens, you just can’t HAVE kittens.

          2. My child self, who stubbornly played with the outdoor cats through endless severe allergy & asthma attacks until I built up such an immunity that adult me has ZERO remaining cat allergies at all, would heartily agree with you.

    1. Personally I don’t need kittens. They are cute but I don’t have the patience for them.

      What I need, apparently, are sweet middle aged homeless animals of various species, including cats.

      I do think there are people in the world who genuinely don’t need animal friends in their house. They are confusing to those of who do, but there you go, that’s life.

  21. Re Q4: As someone who works in newspapers, can I just say how much I love that you advise your LW to turn to their local newspaper to get to know their new home? And how sad I am that many cities no longer have wonderful alt weeklies like The Reader to serve as a guide. For those who do, use and enjoy the hell out of them while they’re still around!

  22. For the LW who’s moving, also check your local library website/Facebook! Most libraries have a ton of cool stuff going on, and resources that people don’t know about, so maybe there’d be something there that would pique your interest and get you out of the house and meeting people!

    1. We would love to have kittens (snuggly, fuzzy, have mysterious anti-depressive properties) but alas, we also have an allergic person in the house. 😦 I’ve looked into hypoallergenic cats, but it’s apparently a crapshoot as to whether they cause allergies or no, and I don’t feel okay adopting a kitty and then giving it up again a month later if it turns out that nope, this will not work for us. So we vicariously live through other people’s photos and stories.

      1. My mom and sister both discovered their dog allergies about 2/3 through the life of their previous dog. Said sweetie had been abused at the rescue place we got her from (don’t even get me started—we had known her mom’s human and had planned to adopt directly, but apparently we took too long and had to chase her down. And then there’s where she went in the meantime), and she still had some behavioral quirks and could be extremely picky about humans. So we kept her, of course. We were obligated at that point, and mom and sis took all the allergy meds. And after she died, our next dog was (and is; the new one is a little over a year old) a low-shed low-dander breed.

  23. LW2, I want to pull out this sentence: “People say I’m suited for it, but the day to day is so difficult for me. ”

    Since you didn’t say “my manager” or “my colleagues”, I’m going to assume these people are not familiar with the actual day-to-day of your job. So heavily downweight their opinion when it comes to this decision. Give it the same pinch of salt you would give if someone said you should hire their friend – the friend could be lovely and competent, but you’d still need to make sure they could do the actual job.

    A script for those people if you leave: “I also thought I would be well-suited to llama grooming, but the actual day-to-day is more focused on gaining the llama’s trust before you can even start shampooing it. Now I know more about where my strengths lie and I should do much better in rice sculpture, since I won’t be spending all my energy convincing the rice to stand still”

  24. Regarding a new city, here are some ideas. One of them echoes the Captain’s idea of public transportation. Several years ago I moved to a big city in a new country. I couldn’t find a map anywhere (seriously, this place has been around since before most Europeans knew that my continent even existed, surely there’s a map somewhere??), but I got a map of the public transportation. I then spent some time just getting on a bus or tram, riding around until I wanted to stop, and then getting off. I got to know the city itself fairly well, and could tell where we were in a matter of seconds by whipping out my public transportation map, finding two local intersecting lines of transport, and pinpointing them on my map. A great way to get to know a city.

    I also find that looking for holes in the wall can help. It’s easy to stick to big and familiar (hey, I know this restaurant chain/big box store/etc.), and there’s nothing wrong with that, but a hole in the wall is better. You are more likely to meet people interested in visiting with you at the local quirky pub or tiny cafe than at Applebee’s, and the quirky pubs are more likely to have a trivia night or other activity. A tiny local bookstore might sponsor book clubs. A game store might have game nights. Etc. This is slightly more apt for a city than a town or rural area, but I grew up in a small town (population around 3000) and it worked there too so not impossible.

    1. Apologies if this is too off-topic, but I love the little cultural and linguistic variations this site throws up. I’m guessing from context that “hole in the wall” means a small independent shop or cafe where you are? It threw me for a minute because for me (UK) a hole in the wall is a cash machine (ATM).
      Anyway, this is good advice. I got to know one grid-shaped city by deliberately walking a slightly different route every day and calling into any interesting places I saw on the way, which was fun and low-risk as I needed to get to and from work anyway.

      1. You are correct. Originally “hole in the wall” had a connotation of a place that was shabby or not very inviting, but these days I’ve heard it used much more in the sense of a tiny spot that is very local (as in, of a highly local and idiosyncratic nature) and hard to find. Frequently the type of place that you could walk right by and easily miss. I’ve discovered a number of these over the years and they are almost always worth my while.

  25. Q2, my boomer parents who have both gotten fired more often than me (in other words, take this advice with a grain of salt) always told me to try to last at least six months at a job, ideally a year.

    More than most career advice that they gave me, I felt like this helped me orient myself in the workplace. Of course you’re allowed to quit an abusive/toxic/terribly uncomfortable job earlier. You should! The shorter the time, the more easily you can just… leave it off your resume and never think about it again. But 1) it usually takes me a full year to dig out of the financial hole of unemployment 2) it’s often taken me a full year to become competent enough in my job to tell whether it’s a bad fit or I’m just having imposter syndrome.

    I personally tend to have massive Smart Kid Syndrome in new jobs – I expect myself to know everything immediately, and when it takes a while to learn processes/get a grip on systems/navigate benign but perplexing personal dynamics it feels AWFUL. Especially coming out of school, where, no matter how rocky the instructional experience was, there was a professional specifically in charge of teaching content! Whereas in work it’s just supposed to… osmose in, with some training here and there? And of course if you’re great at learning ideas but bad at learning processes, it can feel especially bad to hit the working world, where everything is sort of a jazzercise routine of “if it’s tuesday and the email is from Glenda I tag it “fruit department” and forward it to Gary, but if it’s Monday I have to print it and give it to Phil”.

    It’s also hard, if you’ve just been in an instructional environment, to suddenly be in the workplace where it’s common to literally never hear if you do something right, but only be notified if you do something wrong. People make fun of The Youth for this but I think anyone would find it brutal in workplaces where most tasks are incredibly abstract. If I, idk, wove cloth on a manual loom for a living I would be able to see that I produced x many bolts of good cloth this month, and had to discount or discard y number of yards for flaws. When you can see your outcomes, the positive feedback is built right in. But if you’re just forwarding emails to Gary and tallying them on a spreadsheet, etc, and you only hear about it when you were supposed to give them to Phil, it’s really hard to build any sort of sense of competence. In theory you’re supposed to be able to get positive feedback from a manager, but… management ability and temperament are highly variable.

    1. Osmose in is the right word. I did well in school where everything is concrete, but in the fuzzy world of work, I feel like I’m trying to guess what to do each day without much direction.

      1. Are you coming out of undergrad? If so, that’s such a hard transition. There are workplaces where the tasks are much more concrete (welding and nursing come to mind as examples I’ve seen people pursue after a liberal arts undergrad). But also, it does take a while to build self-management skills, especially since they’re basically never taught and then we just fling people into the workplace to sink or swim. (I had finally caught up on this after 7 years of work – then I went back to school and now I’m having to regain that skill set again in a different job).

        If you are coming out of a bachelor’s, I do want to warn you: the concrete direction also disappears in higher ed past a certain point. I know many, many people who pursued thesis and dissertation degrees who just… foundered and gave up when it came time to structure their own research project and be their own supervisors for months or years of solitary writing. You might not need that warning, but I was glad that someone gave it to me, it helped me know what kind of master’s program I could handle (I did a program with partnered theses and worked with someone else who needed a lot of collaboration to stay motivated).

        Tips for adults with ADHD might be useful for you: lots of people with ADHD have specific skills deficits around task planning, assigning out time to tasks, and then rewarding themselves (ourselves, in my case) when the task is complete. But anyone can have a skills deficit in an area that they’ve just plain never been taught! You don’t have to have ADHD to use ADHD tips.

        It also does just take a long, long time to learn a job well enough to feel like you know what you need to do every day. I really do think a year is just long enough to be starting to understand how to structure your time. There’s a lot of confusion and dead time in that first year. That said, a good manager will be happy if you ask to have a sit-down meeting where you clarify what should be on your daily/monthly/quarterly to-do lists, and then help you set out what “success” looks like in those tasks. It’s normal to expect you to come into that meeting with a concrete list of questions, to take good notes, to follow through on your own, and to use their time as well as possible including potentially having to wait a week or two to get onto their calendar, but it’s not normal to not want to give you any guidance at all.

        A bad manager will fight you on this, insist that the list of tasks is totally unknowable (because they don’t structure their own tasks, for example), or will have a vague, always-changing idea of what “success” is that allows them to move goalposts. I once had a manager who refused to give me a core list of job duties at all. He was interpersonally nice but hoo buddy, I did not stay at that job. So trying to get concrete feedback about what you should be doing and what should be “good enough” – in a siloed interaction where you take responsibility for finding out – gives you information about whether the problem is your manager.

        If you try to structure your tasks and it is true that your job is vaguely defined and success is hard to measure, you might get information from that about what you want from your next job. (Maybe something concrete where you can measure your output? Maybe a closer managerial relationship with more mentorship?). My unsolicited advice is that if you’re frustrated enough that you’re considering something as expensive as going back to school, it might be worth it to just try the experiment of following the Captain’s steps, and professionally pushing for a little more guidance.

  26. Q5: I love this advice, it’s spot on.

    I would add: when possible, put the onus on Jerkface to at least define and ideally implement the changes he wants. Oh, you don’t like the name I chose for this file? By all means, go into the file system and change it! (He never did, he actually was more interested in criticizing my use of spaces vs. underscores, and generally bossing me around, than actually making the file system easier to use.) Oh, you don’t like Method This Entire 100,000+ Person Company Has Been Using For The Past 30 Years? Please write up and distribute a better method. (He never did of course, he just wanted to list flaws with Method while I gazed on in rapt attention and then have me do the work to define, advocate for, and implement his desired changes.)

  27. Q6: I have a lot of things that preserve moments well for me and I think you will know whether or not this is good advice FOR YOU, because your mileage may vary wildly on these!

    1) start a journal and write down what you did, how you felt, thoughts you had, whenever possible. I used to do this and whenever I read them back it takes me back to that time.

    2) do you have a band you like who have released an album you haven’t yet listened to? Listen the fuck out of it every day. Then in future whenever you play it, it will remind you of now

    3) if you have a local park or nature reserve, just go there and sit quietly listening to the sounds of nature, as often as you possibly can. There was a time in my life when I used to take walks in a local park every evening, and now whenever I hear evening birdsong it takes me back to that time.

    4) your sense of smell is linked really strongly to memory. You could try smelling a particular scent as often as possible when you’re happy, like lavender or jasmine or whatever you like.

  28. Q4: For learning where things are — X is north of Y, P is twice as far as Q — a good physical map works much better for me than a screen that is always scrolling and rotating.

    Most places have “reference” streets and landmarks, like Michigan Ave in Chicago or Mass. Ave in Boston. Learning those first will help you get oriented.

    When I moved to a new city for work years ago, I did pretty much what the Captain said: got the local paper(s) and a map, read the events calendar, and got my butt out the door. I figured it was a clean slate and a great opportunity to try some of the things on my “someday” list. Inexpensive ballroom dance classes at the university turned into a weekly session and a new group of friends.

    Don’t overlook clubs. The world is full of people who would be delighted to share their interests with you. I went to a lot of club meetings, ranging from origami to homebuilt aircraft. Most I only went to once because they weren’t quite my thing, but all were friendly and interesting.

  29. LW2: Do you enjoy the work you are doing? Would you like doing it if you were better at it? (If so, ask for more training.) Do you respect the company you work for, do you feel like they are doing the best, most ethical work they can? Do you like the people you see every day, do you feel like you and your team are pitching in together to get stuff done? Is your commute at least okay? Are you tired but okay?

    OR do you have dread in the pit of your stomach? If someone told you “You’ll be in this job for the next three years” how do you feel? Sick? Or okay?

    Take some time and separate out what is good and what is bad about your job. Let yourself write down the most trivial things (“don’t like the way the bathroom door closes”). Figure out what you like and don’t like and then go from there.

    Do you have otherwise an okay work history? Do you have real world experience or are you fresh out of school with no professional background? If you have had jobs before and this one sucks, this job is probably the problem. If you are right out of school, and the job sucks, the job could still be the problem (taking advantage of your ignorance about professional norms to prevent you from saying no to truly shitty work). But it could be you still adjusting to the new routine and seemingly INFINITE ENDLESSNESS of work, 2 weeks off per year for the resssst of your liiiiiiiiiiife.

    Either way, spiff up your resume, it’s time to see what else is out there. Stick it out vs quit and go back to school are not your only options! You can get an internal transfer, a new job elsewhere, a new job in a different industry that will accept your current qualifications. But you have to figure out what is and is not working about this particular situation before you try to improve your situation.

  30. “unless there is a school of therapy where you tell patients ‘you know you can dump people who make you feel awful’ and then bill their insurance for a jillion dollars”

    I don’t think the APA considers reminding clients they can make choices about their lives unethical – that form of therapy is “therapy”?

    There’s a non-zero chance John Cusack is going to party at my house during the 2020 Democratic National Convention here in MKE; shall I float the idea by him next year to see how it might play with his compatriots? 😛

    Q3: You’re doing it right, change nothing. One of the primary functions of boundaries is to help sort people acting in good faith whom may be worth some effort (you tell them what you need/want and they resepct that) from people who are not. Avoiding the latter is how to deal with that set!

  31. Hi! Q5 here for anyone who is…still paying attention 😀

    Additional helpful details: said colleague is my peer and also reports to my manager. They are close (were/are friends before manager became colleague’s manager) and both went through some objectively challenging periods at the company. They’re also super similar personalities, which is why I haven’t been able to address things as directly as I normally would (my manger doesn’t have quite there perspective I think they need to manage my colleague in a way that will set them up for long term success). To be clear, I *like* both my colleague and manager, and so it’s more challenging to navigate than if I was ambivalent.

    I think my next step is more documentation: it will happen that my colleague will want me to do something that simply isn’t a priority or a value-add, or create a part of the project that is unnecessary, and when I advise against it, do it anyway. Then, several months later, they’ll go “I shouldn’t have done that thing” and forget that I said it was likely not going to work out.

    All that said, I do really like my job and team, including this colleague, and I’m looking forward to being with the company for some time to come. I also just got a surprise raise on top my already-above-market pay, which certainly helps.

  32. LW2: If you’re considering heading out the door anyway, it’s worth entertaining a hypothetical: What would you need to feel like you’re doing okay in this job? A more defined role and duties, better communication with managers, situational feedback, smaller client load, to not work overtime? Are there any quality-of-life or accessibility issues that aren’t being addressed?

    If you can think of a couple of concrete answers to that, what if you asked for said things? Put aside worries about seeming high-maintenance, if they decide you’re a bad fit because you’re self-aware and proactive, what do you have to lose except a job you don’t actually want?

    1. This job would need a complete overhaul, but mostly I’m left to my own devices trying to figure out how to do the job with my boss sometimes setting aside ten minutes to tell me how to do something but mostly saying its on the cheat sheet ( it is not on the cheat sheet)

      1. People don’t leave jobs, usually, they leave managers. Sounds like your manager sucks.

  33. Thanks for the City exploring advice for LW4! I just moved to a new city, not so far away from my old one, but far enough that I’m still not familiar with it. I’ve been trying to figure out how to fill my time once I get done with the unpacking and the settling in, and I think I may try some of your suggestions.

  34. Q6: I send myself greeting cards of the “go you!” and “you rock!” variety. I write myself to tell myself how awesome I am. I have even sent myself gift cards! I display the cards and they make me smile to see them. Sometimes you have to be your own “Team Me”!

  35. Teen level reading but…anything by Tamoura Pierce. Anything. Especially recommended for girls. Strong heroines and heros (she has 2 universes, 1 exclusively has the main character be female) growing up in sexist societies who prove themselves in male dominated fields (depending on what series) who have healthy relations with friends or partners of both sexes (straight couples predominantly but she’s been writing 30? years for the young crowd so as acceptance has become the norm she’s opening that up). Some big themes in these books are communication, saving the fantasy world, learning about yourself, and exploring healthy relationships. If I had a daughter, God daughter, or niece, I would buy every book she has ever written for her 10th birthday. It touches on briefly and healthily (in my opinion, age approximately for the preteen set) about sex and safety concerns and sexual assault. Takes on other subjects age approximately of childhood abandonment, wartime PTSD, and racism. Also has acceptance of bisexuality and homosexuality. All set in high fantasy in semi medieval worlds. Main characters strive for good of world, country, family, or friends. Big emphasis in one series of your chosen family. This isn’t teen romance though there are romantic elements in some books as they follow the characters through their life.

  36. Q6: I have a chronic physical pain disorder. I’ve had five occasions in my adult life when I truly existed with no pain whatsoever. They lasted between a few minutes and a few hours each.

    I didn’t do anything specific the way you’re using (though I think it’s a great idea!!) — I usually had these periods for very brief moments and without advance notice, so all I could really do was to concentrate hard for 2-5 minutes at a time on EXACTLY how it felt to be pain-free. I locked it into my memory so hard that I still recall each and every one of those five occasions, in detail, even though the most recent one happened more than four years ago, and the longest-ago almost three decades back.

    I applaud what you’re trying to do, and I think all the other suggestions lovely folk have made here are awesome; use whichever ones feel right to you! But I also wanted you to know that simply focusing on intensely experiencing the moment with all your consciousness and deliberately taking out the memory often for the first few months after installing it can work wonders, whether you do anything fancy to commemorate the occasion or not.

    Of course, I also have kittens.

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