Have I ever told you that one of my dream jobs is to be an advice columnist? I find it exhilarating to hash things over with people and I just love thinking about different ways of tackling emotional issues, and what your diction indicates about what lies beneath.
Perhaps a scant handful of people in this world make their living as advice columnists, so let's just call it the noble and deeply meaningful hobby of my dreams, which I am amittedly not super qualified for. I definitely need a refresher course of the psychology classes I took in college. And I need to speak more honestly, since the best advice columnists don't seek to shield their petitioners from what's real and what's right.
I'm definitely learning more about neutral listening and firm, smart, compassionate response from a few of my favorite writers. Reading the variety of questions they receive makes me feel like I'm not alone in my general confusion and gobsmacked flailing through life's twists and turns. Reading their answers simply makes me feel like I'm not alone:
- Ask Polly by Heather Havrilesky: This is a relatively new column from The Cut section of New York magazine, but Heather's answers are intricate, compelling and beautifully written. The lessons applied to each single question ripple out into all aspects of the reader's life, airing out all the dusty corners we usually ignore. Heather hooked me with her first column on how to make friends and expands on the more barbed points of this topic in her latest answer to the question "Why have all my friends disappeared?". I don't agree with all of her arguments, but there is a mountain of food for thought in all of her answers.
- Friend-Zone by Sara Benincasa: This Jezebel column is penned by a super-funny Twitter favorite of mine. She is intenstely thoughtful and honest about how she's learning new things herself every single day, and I really appreciate that. Sara is also a gifted writer, and leads numerous workshops through the year, so she has constantly renewed experiences addressing different topics and voices. She fields some very tough and real issues such as "My best friend is a racis. What do I do?" and "My student's parent threatened to beat me up." She does it with a frankness and clarity that shows me how to untangle my own convoluted thoughts - a minor miracle.
- Emily Gordon: As Emily Gordon's bio states, she's a former licensed marriage and family therapist and I think it's so cool that she answers questions on her tumblr. She has the ability to translate tested methodology, philosophy and science into caring, individualized responses that truly connect to the writer. This is invaluable. She is stunningly kind, without letting you off the hook, and gives consistently great and elegant advice. I love her response to this person who saw some very devastating stuff that her boyfriend wrote on facebook and her thoughts on jealousy and exes. Emily is the therapist/friend/sister we all want and deserve.