Dear Flagpole Readers,
Thanks for having me.
Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective. Sometimes you need a third party’s opinion to make your roommate or colleague or friend see how right you are. Sometimes you’re mired in a situation and need some help getting unstuck. Whatever the issue, I’m here to help. I’ve been in Athens and worked in the greater Athens area for close to a decade. I’ve been a Flagpole reader since I moved here, and I’m excited for the opportunity to read and answer your questions.
Like Pete mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’d love to hear your questions on any topic: your work, your career, your relationships with your parents, children and friends; your romantic entanglements, your roommates, your education, your money, your home, your travels, your wellness, your happiness, your life and whatever else is keeping you up at night. I’m not an expert in all these areas, but I have a little experience in all of them and a lot of experience in some of them. I’ll do my best to help you find your way through or at least point you towards someone or something who can.
You can send your letters via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, I won’t share your name or identifying information, but if you want to remain completely anonymous you can submit a question to flagpole.com/getadvice without using your email account.
People love to read about other people’s lives, problems and questions. They will be delighted to hear about yours, and you might find some relief in putting the problem on someone else’s plate. I always do. And, as is almost always the case, if you have a problem or question, a few other Flagpole readers probably have the same one.
Advice for Everyone
One reader threw me this easy one for my first day on the job:
I’m so glad you asked, Wondering.
• Start saving for your retirement. Today. Automate it. On a related note,
• Any time you get your hands on some money, put it in the bank where it belongs. Or in a Roth IRA.
• Walk through your bedroom or house or office and find 10 items you can donate to Goodwill. Repeat tomorrow.
• Keep your counters, tabletops and desktops clear.
• Always tell the truth. Do your best to avoid being cruel and hurtful and always be honest. If it seems as though being honest will get you in trouble, do it all the sooner. The freedom will be tremendous.
• Don’t put your glass on the floor by your feet. You will knock it over. Even if you plan to “be really careful this time.”
• Caffeine is a drug. Use it with caution.
• Facebook is a jealous and vicious taskmaster. Use it with caution. Actually, realize that you don’t use it; it uses you.
• Very rarely is buying something the solution to a problem. Fixing, borrowing or using something you already have, taking a nap, calling a friend, giving something away or reading are the solutions far more often. Especially borrowing—borrowing is particularly good, because you don’t have to spend money on an item and then you don’t have to store it at your house when you’re done with it.
• DO NOT look in your email’s spam folder. It is a cesspool. Someday, someone will tell you they sent you an email which you haven’t received. They’ll tell you to check your spam folder. Don’t do it. Add that someone to your address book and tell them to resend it.
• If you haven’t already, cancel your landline. And probably your cable. This will free up some money and time. For the money, see the second bullet point. What you do with the time is up to you.
Advice for Myself
Some of the things above are easier said than done, and you’re probably thinking, “Physician, heal thyself.” In that spirit, I share with you my New Year’s Resolutions and goals for 2014. We’ll see how sound my advice is and how strong my resolve is a year from now.
• I resolve to stop spending so much mindless time online. I will not succumb to that lethargic state in which I keep clicking links, fall down an Internet rabbit hole and end up reading a mean-spirited article about how awful Gwyneth Paltrow is. Or, at least, I will not do this more than once a week. Once a day, maybe.
• I resolve to read 30 books in 2014. This is within the realm of possibility only because I am the one choosing the books. And counting them.
• I resolve to increase my upper body strength. I will be strong enough to carry a 24 pack of bottled water easily, without carrying it against my stomach and supporting most of its weight with my back. (I know, I know, the environment. That will be a resolution for 2015.) As a point of reference, right now it is about four weeks into the new year, and I can do three push-ups, each of which is really more like half a push-up. Ten complete, real push-ups seems like a good goal.
• I resolve to stop eating in the car. And standing up. Taste of Athens will be an exception to this.
• I resolve to learn the basics of plumbing troubleshooting. No more $95 service calls for a running toilet that can be easily solved by turning this little knob thing inside the tank. I’m pretty serious about this one, but the potential downside is obvious: I turn a small problem into an emergency that floods my house and brings the cost to a new order of magnitude.
Advice I Aspire to Follow
• Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
• Everything in moderation, including moderation.
• A marriage proposal shouldn’t be a complete surprise. On a related note,
• Never marry someone you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.
• People first, then money, then things.
• It’s better to be kind than clever.
• DTMFA. Obviously, this isn’t applicable in every relationship, but it perfectly conveys the clarity and past due-ness of certain situations. It’s advice that is maddeningly apparent to everyone outside the relationship and practically unthinkable to the person who needs to do the dumping.
• If a man’s tall, make him taller. If a man’s short, make him shorter. (Out of context, I’m not sure it’s clear what this quote is saying. I understood it to mean you should play to your natural strengths.)
I’ll be back next week with responses to some of your questions. If there’s something eating at you, drop me a line. If you have any general advice, New Year’s Resolutions or wise words of your own to add to the lists above, send those to the same place.
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