Archive for category Unsolicited Advice

Things We Need to Stop Telling Our Youth

I’m about six months away from turning 30, which prompted a recent interesting conversation with another nearly-thirty friend about certain expectations we each had had about the way our lives would look at 30. We both agreed that our expectations were severely skewed. And while I’m sure hubris and youthful ignorance are 80 percent to blame for our misconceptions, I think we both grew up being told things by our role models and mentors that were simply untrue. And so those things have inspired this post. Of course we want to motivate our youth to work hard and pursue their dreams, but I think there are a few things we just need to stop telling them. Here are four of those things:

1. You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.

People love to throw around this statement. It’s then usually followed by some one-in-a-million example: Oscar Pistarious has no legs but still competed as a runner in the 2012 Olympics; J.K. Rowling was living in a mouse-infested apartment and subsisting off of government assistance before becoming one of the richest women in the world; Liz Murray was homeless but still got into Harvard. The reason people cling to these examples is because they are so few and far between; that’s why they are great inspirational stories. And, of course, we should not discredit these people for the amazing things they have accomplished, but we are fooling ourselves if we believe that all it takes is a little bit of hard work. There are a lot of hardworking people out there. If a little elbow grease was all it took, we’d have thousands of J.K. Rowlings and every valedictorian in the country would be rewarded with an admission offer to Harvard.

This waitress is about to be awarded a million dollars for all of her hard work!

The truth is that hard work is only one part of the equation and by telling our youth anything otherwise we are sending them mixed signals. People work hard every day, but still fall short of meeting their goals. If you don’t believe me, look at the Olympic trials and the number of people who dedicated their lives to a sport, never to see their Olympic dream come to fruition. Or let’s look at something a little more obtainable than becoming an Olympian: becoming a lawyer. In 2011, thousands of hopeful law school graduates walked the stage at their respective law schools to accept their diplomas. Nine months later, only 33.75% of those students were employed in full-time, legal positions. So is it really fair to say that the other 66.25% of these students were a bunch of slackers? What if they had just worked harder; would the results be different?

It is nice to think that if you work hard you can do anything, and we should certainly be encouraging our youth and young adults to put forth their best efforts, but let’s stop telling all the fish who can’t climb trees that maybe they should just work harder at it.

Goldie is going to have low self-esteem.

2. Do what you love and the money will follow.

The number of people who told me this with a straight face as I was growing up is astounding. If I wasn’t a naïve little kid, I would have thought to ask them,

“(1) do you love your job; and (2) did the money follow?”

Instead, my little kid brain absorbed this stupid piece of advice and then about six months after graduating from college, it resurfaced. As I was sitting at my shared cubicle, getting yelled at by some stranger who was annoyed that I had called him at work to discuss the benefits of attending my employer’s for-profit legal conferences, I realized that I most certainly did not love this job. In fact, I hated it.

Wait? Where’s my office? I thought I was special.

I used to fantasize about being lucky enough to slip on ice and break my leg on my way to work because that meant I would get to take the day off. I knew it was time to quit. And I did quit. And I found another job. And guess what? I didn’t really love that job either. But the source of the problem wasn’t the jobs. The source of the problem was me and my unrealistic expectations of what a job could do for me.

This is how your job should make you feel, right?

Jobs are not fun. If they were fun, you would have to pay to go to them. Let’s think about this logically.

  • If you want to ride rollercoasters at Disneyworld, you have to pay.
  • If Disneyworld wants you dress up as Mickey Mouse while little kids puke and pee all over you, they have to pay you.
  • If you want to get a relaxing skin exfoliating spa treatment, you have to pay.
  • If the spa wants you to scrape dead skin cells off of pasty old women, they have to pay you.

It’s just how it works. But for some unknown reason, we have been telling the youth of America that they can find happiness in their jobs. And then we turn around and wonder why everybody has five different advanced degrees. It’s not because my generation is a bunch of lazy Peter Pans, it’s because we’ve been told our entire lives that our careers will make us happy.

This exit will cost you $150,000, but don’t worry, the Dept. of Education will lend it to you.

So when we are not happy in our careers, instead of realizing that it’s because 98% of jobs suck, we think it’s because we are not in the right field, i.e.,  we haven’t found what we love. This is stupid. Let’s stop telling our kids this. Instead, let’s be a little more realistic with our advice. Little Johnny isn’t going to become an unmotivated slacker if every once in a while you tell him, “sometimes mommy’s job is boring, but she does it because she really likes getting to watch you play Little League football.”

And yes, I realize that just like there are really inspiring stories of people who have beat all odds to become successful, there are examples of really awesome jobs out there. And it’s cool if we all acknowledge that these jobs exist, but let’s not let our optimism bias cause us to make stupid decisions.

3. Everybody should get a college degree no matter what they want to do.

I know this is going to be a touchier subject, but I really think we need to stop telling every single high school student to go to college. My generation is frequently criticized for “expecting” jobs, but considering that we grew up being told we had to go to college to get one, is this result really all that surprising? Quite frankly, I think this is part of the reason why a lot of unemployed college graduates go on to get advanced degrees: we’ve been told our entire lives that education is the answer. If you follow the rules, you get rewarded…

This cat followed all the rules and is ready for his job now.

And this advice was just thrown at us with such reckless abandon:“it doesn’t matter what you major in, just go” we were told. “If you don’t go to college, the only thing you will be qualified to do is flip burgers,” our teachers warned. We were shown graphs and charts of our different earning potentials: “did you know college graduates will make [insert some high number] more than those with just a high school degree?” our guidance counselors asked.

This is actual letterhead you can buy.

Notice there is no mention of the cost of education on this chart.

And so we did. We all went to college. And maybe for some parts of the country this was actually good advice, but I grew up in Appalachia Ohio where the number of factory jobs far outweigh the number of office jobs. In fact, when I was in high school, my parents actually encouraged me to not go to college. They were mad at me for going because they thought it was a waste of money. And I was mad at them for feeling that way. I stayed mad at them for a long time, longer than they deserved. And now that I’ve had some time to reflect on things, I don’t think they are the “stupid hicks” that I so wrongly accused them of being.

They were realistic.

Don’t worry; I didn’t say these things to their face. And, yes, I was a bratty teenager.

They knew they couldn’t support me financially and to them, taking out loans for education seemed irresponsible when my dad could have easily found me a position with him at the Post Office, a decent government job with good benefits. But I was 18, so “decent” and “good benefits” weren’t things I cared about. My job, after all, was supposed to bring me happiness!

There is more to life than good benefits and I am going to find it!

So I went to college as did many of my classmates. And I watched a lot of my friends enter a continuous cycle of dropping out and then re-enrolling, taking them six or seven years to earn their associate’s degree in things like communications. I think it was hard for us because almost all of us were first generation college students. We all tried, but many of my classmates found themselves buried in debt, yet no more qualified for a job than they were when they graduated high school.

So is college worth it for everyone? No, it’s not. We need to be more realistic with our advice. If little Johnny hates school, well then just maybe more education isn’t the right recipe for his future success. I wish we could remove the stigma from opting out of college because, honestly, six years after earning my bachelor’s degree, I still can’t answer whether it was worth it for me. As I sit here making nine bucks an hour to work from home, “as-needed,” for a small medical malpractice firm, well that “decent” post-office job, with “good benefits” sounds pretty appealing to me right now.

4. Dance like nobody is watching.

This is bad advice. If you are in public, you should not dance like nobody is watching. People are watching and most of them have video recorders on their cell phones.

I danced like nobody was watching. Somebody was watching and they had Facebook.

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If You Feel Bad about the Bar Exam, You are Not Alone

I think the bar exam is over for everyone (my condolences if you still have another day to go)! Now we’re just left to wait.

At this point in our careers, we should have become expert “waiters.” We took the LSAT, and then waited for our scores. We sent out all of our law school applications, and then waited for acceptances. We went through the stress of 1L year, and then waited for our grades. We spent a week busting tail for the write-on competition, and then waited for journal acceptances. As aspiring lawyers, we have to do a lot of waiting. And once again, we will wait and hope that our hard work will pay off. And for some people it will and for some people it won’t, but either way we will all be okay. I promise; we will.

But if it makes you feel any better, you should know that if you feel nervous or bad about how the bar exam went, you are not alone! I have actual scientific proof. WordPress allows you to see what search terms have brought people to your site and I have included some of those searches below:

  • how to feel after the bar exam
  • anxiety bar exam
  • feeling bad after second day of bar exam
  • “stupid people” pass the bar
  • “bar exam” what if power outage
  • the bar exam will be okay
  • breakdown of friendship while studying for the bar exam
  • bar exam suicidal feeling (this one makes me sad, I hope the searcher is okay)
  • feel terrible after bar exam
  • bar exam study no shower sleep stress
  • people who don’t pass bar exam stupid
  • are you stupid if fail bar exam?
  • feel like shit after bar exam
  • things to say bar exam
  • mbe bar exam afternoon
  • today’s mbe exam
  • how should i feel after bar exam
  • how i felt after the bar exam
  • i feel sick after bar exam what does that mean
  • feel bad after bar exam
  • things to say when people finish the bar exam
  • do you feel like shit after the bar exam?
  • bad feeling after bar exam
  • feel after bar exam
  • july 2012 bar exam mbe was so hard

So see, you are not alone. A lot of people feel bad about the bar exam. But it will be okay!!

Congratulations on finishing the exam! I know it is easier said than done (says the girl who was crying yesterday!!), but try not to let the anxiety you are feeling now overshadow this accomplishment.

Now get back to googling pictures of cats!!

Fact:  Googling MBE questions will make you feel bad. Googling pictures of cute cats will make you feel happy.

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5 Things to Say to Your Friends Who Are Studying for the Bar

Since my last post mentioned things you should not say to your friends who are studying for the bar, I thought I would follow-up with five things that would be very nice to say to a  friend the next time he or she mentions being stressed about the upcoming bar exam:

1. You are the smartest person I know. If you don’t pass, it will because the bar examiner is jealous of you.

2. You look really thin.* Are you eating enough?

3. I am going to bring you some ice-cream. I will be over in 15 minutes and I will give it to you on the porch/front door so you don’t have to worry about cleaning your place.

4. Stress acne? What are you talking about? That little thing on your face. I didn’t even notice it.

5. I know this is hard and if you don’t pass the first time, I know you will be disappointed and maybe even embarrassed, but it will be okay.  I will be there for you either way and I will never judge you. If this were easy, everybody would do it. Keep pushing. It will be worth it. And go eat a cupcake, you look so thin!

*If you are talking to a friend who does not want to be considered “thin,” replace it with the adjective that they would like to be. This isn’t a time for truthfulness, it’s a time for puffery and motherly-like confidence boosting. You can make them go running/work out with you when it’s over if you feel bad. 

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Don’t be a Hypocondriac about being a Hypocondriac

After several months of inactivity, I have found myself back on my wordpress page. I keep saying that I’m going to write more and real life people seem to like my stories, but whenever I sit down to write, I get performance anxiety.

This picture comes up when you google “performance anxiety.” It makes me laugh.

But all that is beside the point because today, I am here not so much to tell a story, but to share an important message that I think we sometimes forget, especially those of us in our 20s who are still feeling young and healthy. And that message is:

If you feel like something is off with your body, GO TO THE DOCTOR!

I don’t really know why, but this is something I have always struggled with. I have always had this fear of being accused of overreacting over an illness. Probably because sometimes (okay okay…often), I overreact about stupid things. I get too upset over a breakup or take a criticism too personally. Those things are silly and I should work on them. But you know what is not silly? Going to the doctor when you don’t feel right! I’ve been a grown up for ten years, but I have still managed to screw things up by ignoring the above advice.

I FAIL AT ALL THE THINGS!!

Some examples:

1. I walked around on a broken leg for three weeks:

About three years ago, after running a marathon, my leg was really hurting. I figured I was just sore and it would go away. I walked around on it for about three weeks until the pain became really bad. I finally went to the doctor and I had a pretty bad stress fracture. If I had gone right away, the stupid plastic boot I had to wear would have been off in time to wear heels to my annual holiday party and maybe my leg wouldn’t also now serve as a rain predictor.

My leg tells me that it is raining in this picture

2. I let myself look stupid by being stupid about going to the doctor:

After starting law school, I was noticing that I was having a very hard time concentrating, but I just blamed it on the fact that I found studying law very boring (one of the MANY reasons I regret law school) and tried to push through it. I finished my 1L year at the bottom of the class with a C+ GPA. Over the summer, during a routine doctor’s appointment we were talking about law school and I made a joke about my inability to focus and my bad grades (I dont remember it exactly, but I’m sure it was funny). The doctor, however, thought I was exhibiting signs of ADHD. I started taking medication and went from being a C student to an A student, even earning a couple of CALIs. I told you I was smart! If I had gone to the doctor sooner, maybe I would have a job.

I thought a rap song about CALI awards, would be better than a picture.

3. I did nothing for several months while my immune system ate my brain* (maybe)

For the past few years, I have had these weird episodes where I get tingly fingers and feet and sometimes my face gets numb. They were very infrequent and so I just wrote them off as the result of stress and a poor diet. But about two months ago, they started to get worse and since I had paid the extra money for insurance during the bar exam studying period, I decided to get my money’s worth and get it checked out. The doctor was very concerned about these symptoms, ordered an MRI and some bloodwork, and told me to come back in two weeks for a follow-up. After spending hours earning my M.D. at the University of WebMD, I was convinced it was diabetes and began the grieving process for all of my favorite foods that I would soon have to give up.

I was a dual degree student, majoring in sexiness and online self-diagnosis

Despite my attempt at self-diagnosis, when I went back to the doctor’s office for my follow-up appointment, I got the diagnosis equivalent of a sucker punch.

“The MRI showed some lesions on your brain,” the doctor said. “We can’t be sure what it is until you see a specialist, but the MRI indicates multiple sclerosis.”

She said some other things, but I was bawling and I have no idea what those things were. I dont even know why I was crying because at the time, I had no idea what MS was. I had not taken that course at WebMD just yet and the only thing I knew about the disease was that there is a foundation that sometimes sponsors races, which I suppose was enough to make it Sarah-Mclachlan-Arms-of-the-Angel worthy to me. I’m still waiting to see the specialist, so I don’t have  any other news (or peace of mind), but what I have learned about MS is that the earlier you start treating it, the better. In fact, there are some studies that show that starting treatment right away severely slows down the progression of the disease, allowing many people diagnosed with it to live fairly normal and healthy lives.  So I guess what I am saying is that it I am really glad I went to the doctor’s office. Maybe (and hopefully) it will be nothing, but if I had continued to second guess myself, it really could have been so much worse!

So the moral of the story is this: if you don’t feel right, get it checked out. You know your body best. I’ve had friends who have felt sick and it took them several visits to several different doctors (and a lot of perseverance) before getting a diagnosis. Medicine is not an exact science (I should know, I do have my WebMD degree), but you know yourself better than anyone else. Be your biggest advocate and even if it turns out to be “just one of those things,” dont feel stupid for looking into it because, as the kids seem to be saying these days, YOLO (that’s “you only live once” for everyone my age and older) and you probably want to make that “once” last as long as possible.

Be well and feel free to share your own stories in the comments.

*MS doesn’t actually cause your immune system to “eat” your brain. My understanding is that it is an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks itself causing the lining of your brain to thin, which causes lesions and scarring, which then affects certain functions depending on where the damage occurred on the brain. For more info see the National MS Society’s website.

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