Daily Opportunities

I have a job where I have the opportunity to be both yelled at by people who are frustrated and cried to by people who are desperate. And, I promise that I am not being facetious in my use of the word opportunity. These interactions have not only opened my eyes to the real struggles that so many people grapple with, but they have also helped me realize the type of person that I want to be.

There are two types of people in this world those with real problems and those with fake problems. Each day when I awake and am safe, warm, and know that I will be able to eat, I am grateful that I fall into the latter category. I am privileged that I am faced with the annoyance of having to complete my homework for grad-school, the challenge of finding time to do basic household chores, and the looming fear of always being single.  My issues seem so petty and small when I am talking to people who in pained voices tell me about how they are losing their homes, jobs, or children. It is true that these people might be the catalyst for their own problems, but that fact is really only indicative of other, real problems lurking beneath the surface.

I am often blamed, implored upon, and taken to task on how to best solve challenges that generally are far beyond any help that I am able to give. After a year of being on the receiving end, I have decided that, no matter the situation, there is a basic three-step approach that can be applied to any social interaction.

  • Listen: How often do we allow ourselves to be distracted when friends, family, new acquaintances, or colleagues are trying to relay information to us? I am embarrassed to admit that I used to promptly forget peoples’ names after being introduced.  But in the past year, I have been forced to be an active listener, and for that, I am grateful.  Sometimes all people need is somebody to listen to them and be able to say, “I am so sorry. This sounds like a really challenging situation.” Listening to complete strangers all day long has led me to truly listen when I interact with those people I do know well and actually listening has deepened my relationships.
  • Be Kind: There is very little to be gained in life by being rude or short with people. I have never once felt good about myself after being snarky or snapping at someone. However, I have been proud of myself when I have been patient or bit my tongue when I wanted to be rude or short. Certainly, I stand up for myself if need be, but I try to avoid being petty. There are three areas in which we can be kind: thoughts, words, and actions. Sometimes in life you have to fake it until you make it. I am not suggesting being insincere, but if you choose to be kind in words and actions, kind thoughts will follow. The being is in the             becoming.  Choosing to be kind has brought me peace. Being on the receiving end of rude behavior only reinforces to me that I don’t want to be burdened by that type of behavior.
  • Be Honest: Honesty is the best policy, and honest responses should be delivered with sincerity. I am sure there is something behind the saying, “cheaters never prosper,” but more than that, I want people to tell me the truth. I don’t want to give people false hope, but rather, I want to help in whatever way I can. Sometimes the only way that I can be helpful is by saying, “I am so sorry but this is not something that I am going to be able to help you with.” We should all be honest and not just with others, we also need to be honest with ourselves. The alternative is being dishonest. And, who wants to be known as dishonest?

Taped to my computer on a very professional pink sticky note, I have written a Charles Dickens quote that reads; “have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” It serves as a daily reminder to listen, to be patient, and to be kind. It describes the person I want to be not just at work but at all times.


That’s All She Wrote

100 Fewer Friends

Today I have 100 fewer friends, and I am apathetic about the loss. In fact if I am being entirely honest, I feel freer, lighter, and even a little relieved. I realized a while back that a large portion of my “friends” on Facebook are virtually strangers to me—or, I suppose it is more apt to describe them as “virtual” strangers. Scrolling through my newsfeed, I was bombarded by engagement announcements, wedding photos, new babies, new puppies, vacations, funerals, and an assortment of other major life events. Facebook was the sole reason that I was cognizant of these passing occasions. Although generally intrigued by the onslaught of personal information, I found one of the three scenarios to be true: the news had already been shared with me in a more personal manner, I was entirely disinterested, or the updates inspired me to be either judgmental or jealous. At best, it was old news, and at worst, Facebook was making me a small person.

Since I seem to be continually on a self-improvement kick (out of sheer necessity), I took a thirty-day hiatus from Facebook and reflected on what it means to be and have a friend. Our Facebook friend lists are deep and generally include acquaintances from high school, floor-mates from college, and fellow conference attendees from our post-grad lives. But, are these people really our friends? I think that we can all agree that they are not. Friendship is far more than liking flattering photos and remembering to wish people well on their birthdays.

Most of us have a best friend. Some of us are lucky enough to have a handful of close friends that can be entirely relied upon: the childhood friend who knows your entire family and the name of every pet you’ve ever had in chronological order, a smattering of college friends who stuck by your side during both toga parties and late night study sessions, and of course, the friends you make after college who help you navigate your way through adulthood (I am sure that there are other types of friends but this is as far as I have gotten in life). No matter the stage of life they were acquired, my friends are the people that I have laughed with and whose shoulders I have cried on (only the truest of friends love you enough not to complain about mascara stains and runny noses—this is doubly true if you are a female crying to your male friends). They are the people that I have stayed up all night with talking about both everything and nothing at the same time. They are also the people with whom I have been silent. I know my friends’ hopes, their business schemes, and how they plan to make a living if magically transported back to the 14th century (I plan to marry but have some concerns about being freakishly tall). Most importantly, my friends are the people I would do anything for and the people I could ask anything of. It is almost an abuse of rhetoric to use the same word to describe both the individuals to whom we bare our souls and the folks who know little beyond what is included in our “about” section on Facebook. But, thus is life, and I suppose there are more significant battles waiting to be fought.

At the end of my 30 days (and after being mildly chided by a friend who I do not get to see on a daily basis), I reinstalled the Facebook app on my phone. I recognize that it can be a great way to stay in touch with family and friends who live far away, but I decided that I do not need to keep up with people to whom I never talk or who were at the height of our relationships barely acquaintances. Society’s definition of friend might not be as lofty as Aristotle’s (see the Nicomachean Ethics or read a summary of it on the internet), but I think that, at the very least, I should only apply the term to individuals whose successes bring me joy and whose sorrows I am able to mourn. So, today I have 100 fewer “friends.” Do all of my current friends fit my qualifications? Probably not, but I got tired of being on Facebook.


            That’s All She Wrote

Surviving Single

I have been out of college for two full years, and if you take that number and divide it by itself you will get the total number of dates that I have been on since graduation, one. In fact, I have had two different jobs and two different apartments but just that one date. I highlight this statistic not to inspire sympathy (but seriously, let me know if you want to set me up with someone) but rather because during my stint in singledom, I have learned a number of life lessons that are worth sharing.

  1. Lesson One: It is never appropriate, no matter the context, to ask a man his credit score. At least, that’s what I have been told. You might think that it is a reasonable question when somebody explains to you that they have bought both a small airplane and a large truck with straight cash. Be warned, everyone that overhears said conversation will not interpret your question as merely logistical intrigue. Go ahead and add credit scores to the list of topics to avoid in casual conversations. But really, what is your credit score if you only pay in cash? Asking for a friend….
  1. Lesson Two: Be wary of feeding male friends that are especially hungry. They will be so immediately grateful that they will wrongly conclude that the two of you are destined to be together. It is just the food talking. Hours later he will come to his senses and remember that the two of you actually drive one another crazy. There is nothing more threatening to the delicate balance of a cross-gender friendship than a well-timed, delicious meal. If you do find it necessary to provide nourishment to your male friends, be sure to prepare distinctly feminine dishes such as kale chips, veggie wraps, or gluten-free pizza. Avoid prime-rib at all cost, and proceed with caution.
  1. Lesson Three: If you have two friends that you think would be perfect for one another, sabotage any potential meeting. You are all going the same sporting event? Buy seats on opposite sides of the arena. Interested in seeing the same movie? Go to different theaters. Their union can only bring angst to your life. If introduced there are three probable outcomes: they have no interest in dating, they date, or they break-up. The first out-come is actually the easiest to deal with. Everybody feels awkward for a few days, and that’s that. The second two options have the potential of being far more disastrous. If they hit it off and date, prepare to spend an inordinate amount of time extensively discussing their relationship with each of your friends. There are a few perks when your friends date: everybody you want to spend time with is actually in the same place, you already like your friend’s significant other, and they might feel eternally indebted to you for setting them up. When your friends date, it is the best of times often followed by the worst of times. There is nothing worse than dealing with the aftermath of your friends’ breakup.
  1. Lesson Four: Remember the above scenarios when your friends suggest setting you up with their best friend/roommate/brother. It might work out, or it might be awful. Either way, don’t forget how your actions are bound to impact those around you. That being said, doesn’t it make far more sense to date someone highly recommended by a trusted friend?Feel free to hazard a guess on how I ended up going on that one date.   #Doublestandard.
  1. Lesson Five: Don’t forget that not all advice is good advice. Always consider the source. It seems intuitive that your male friends would give the best dating advice, but that isn’t always the case. Having male friends that you are comfortable enough with to ask for dating advice sounds great in theory, but in reality, you will have to deal with male friends who feel the need to give you dating advice. In the past few weeks, I have been told to try harder, to try less hard, to go on dates, to turn down dates, and to up my texting game (whatever that means). As it turns out, the road to singldom is paved with well-intentioned, but often misguided, advice.

To survive single, take the above lessons to heart. Already have these down pat? Don’t worry–there are many more faux pas out there waiting to be made.


That’s All She Wrote.