AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

Help Me, Rhonda

New Opportunity

I’ve got a decent job now, but a potential new opportunity fell in my lap. My ideal job would be something that advances environmental protection. I finished college five years ago, and I’ve worked at several different jobs since then. Some of those jobs they had an environmental protection aspect—one was blogging for an environmental NGO—and some they let me pay the bills and live in the city I wanted to live in.

My current job is in PR. My PR company is pretty indiscriminate when it comes to clients, but they tend to steer the environmental clients to me when they can. Enter this new opportunity. I wasn’t looking for it, but it found me. This possible new job is in an environmental field, but it’s sort of a step back career-level-wise (it would mean being a writer again). How do I know if it’s a good move long term?


Unless you have a crystal ball or a time machine, there’s no way to know with certainty whether taking this job is a good long-term move. (And if you have either of those things, we could put them to much better use than scoping out how this job ends up. Call me.) But that’s OK, because there aren’t many things about your future life that you can know for certain, so you just have to make some educated guesses, point yourself in the correct general direction and take some reasonable risks.

You don’t seem to find either job very compelling. Listen again to what you said: My current job is “decent” and occasionally intersects with the field I’m truly interested in. I want you to want more for yourself. If you graduated from college five years ago, you have a lot of working years left. You need better than decent and better than occasionally related to your field.  

It’s time to explore your options in a narrower and more intentional way. You want a job that comprises the right position, the right field and real potential to be part of your long term career. To find (or create) that job, you need to be discerning, selective and deliberate. Really selective and really deliberate. You can afford to do this, because you have a job right now, so you’re not desperate for work. What you can’t afford to do is stay exactly where you are and only consider things that pop up in front of you. You need to chart a path for yourself and move yourself forward on it.  

Here’s one possible path: You stay where you are, learn as much as you can at your current job and focus on making a serious niche for yourself as the PR person for environmental groups. No green group wants to work with anyone else. You’re able to work exclusively with environmental clients.

There are lots of paths, and yours doesn’t have to look exactly like that, but you do need to have a general plan for yourself. You need to be facing and actively moving in the right direction. You can start to formulate your plan by discreetly inquiring about other opportunities, so you know what’s out there. You can find other people in your field who have something you’d be interested in doing, take them to lunch and ask them about their paths. With every day and every career decision you make, you need to ask yourself, “Will this move me a step or two closer towards my end goal?”

Best of luck. P.S. Take it easy calling writing “a step back.”


Two years ago, unbeknownst to me at the time, my sister and I both went off the pill at the same time. Now I have a one-year-old, and she and her husband are still trying to conceive. They had an early miscarriage last year, and it’s really just been a rough go of it for them. My husband wants to start trying to have another baby this summer, but I’d really feel more comfortable having a second once they are on their way with their first. Am I over-thinking it?

Baby in Waiting

You’re not over-thinking this decision, Baby, but you are weighing the wrong factors. I understand the feeling of wanting happiness for your sister, but altering your life in this fashion is the wrong way to help her. Sometimes, when we love people, we blur the boundaries between our lives and theirs, because we want so badly for them to be happy. The trouble is, doing that is actually about easing our discomfort with their pain, not actually easing their pain. Delaying your second child won’t alleviate your sister’s pain. The difficult truth is that this is a problem of hers that you can’t solve.

That’s not to say you can’t and shouldn’t help her. Try to figure out what she needs from you—time, attention, someone to hang out with, space, time with your child—and provide those things. And, of course, be sensitive to how painful a time she and her husband are having right now. When you are having trouble conceiving, or when you don’t have children and want them, other people’s pregnancies are painful. It sometimes feels like people keep blindsiding you with their huge news and expecting you to be as thrilled as they are.  You do need to be sensitive to that. That means telling her privately that you’re starting to plan for a second child. And then telling her privately when you do get pregnant. It means not asking her to throw you a baby shower and not complaining about how uncomfortable being pregnant is. But being sensitive does not mean suspending or distorting your own life.

Having a child is a decision that needs to be based on what’s right for your family—the family that consists of you, your husband and your one-year-old. I suspect my own sister is reading this column right now. She has often told me that each of us needs to make the decisions that are right for ourselves. You need to do the same.

You’ve mentioned what your husband wants and what you think your sister would want.  Somebody’s got to represent your interests in this decision. If it’s the case that you aren’t quite ready to get started on baby number two, and this is your smokescreen, you need to come clean with yourself and your husband. Then you can wait as long as you want or need, but you need to be honest about why you’re waiting.

Tiny Mess

Rhonda, my bedroom is a total disorganized mess. I know this sounds like a child’s problem, but I really don’t know what to do—I don’t have much stuff, but I do live in a tiny room in an apartment I share. Help!


Phase I: Reduce. This is the most important phase, In. Buying storage containers and organizers is a seductive idea, but if you go that route, you’ll end up with the same amount of junk, just rearranged. Let’s get rid of some stuff first. The aim here is to keep only things that add value to your life and that can only add that value if you own them.  

Put your hands on 10 things in your room you haven’t used or worn in the past six months. I promise you can find them. Donate them. Now put your hands on 10 more things that are just flat-out garbage. Throw them away. No item, including furniture, has immunity during this phase. 

Next, put your hands on 10 items that you’re holding onto because they require some kind of action—an unpaid bill, a shirt you need to return to the store, a book you borrowed from a friend, etc.  Do whatever action is required. Do not plan to do it later. You’re getting rid of physical and mental clutter.

Phase II: Restructure. Now that you’ve pared down your things, the goal in this phase is to restructure your storage plan to keep all horizontal surfaces clear. This means the floor, the desk, the bed and the top of your dresser. This can be tricky in a small space, but I have a lot of confidence in you. Use vertical space. Hang everything you can. I suggest lots of hooks and a minimum number of shelves.

You must keep the floor completely clear. This means you need to find a permanent space for your ab ball, your free weights and your cardboard cutout of Chipper Jones, assuming they survived Phase I. Actually, if you still have Chipper, revisit Phase I, please.

You seem like a reasonable and intelligent person, so I’m assuming you already make your bed every day. This is the single most important thing you can do to make your room feel better. If I were leaving my house because it was on fire, I’d make the bed on my way out.

You have roommates, and you share space, so now is the time to assert yourself the littlest bit in using common space for some of your things. Your bike cannot live in your room. I think your DVDs and raincoat can also live in the common space.

Phase III: Remind Yourself. This whole process is easier if you remind yourself of two things—why you live in a small space and what you gain by having less stuff. As I understand it, you’re living in a small space so you can afford to do something bigger—work at a job you love, work in a city you love, pay off student loans or credit card debt so you can have financial freedom or live in a sustainable way. These are all worthwhile goals and will make you happier than having nice things.

Also remind yourself that you open up a lot of physical, mental and emotional space when you clear out the things (which can themselves be physical, mental, social or emotional) that don’t add value to your life.

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