ask.spoonah


on taking risks in love (part two)
December 7, 2010, 10:21 am
Filed under: advice, life, love | Tags: , , ,

What is the greater risk? Loving or not?

-facebook fan

dear fan,

at first, I thought, “well this is an easy question. loving is always worth it.” but as I thought about it more, I realized this has not always been an easy question for me, and is not an easy question for most people. so I asked myself, “spoonah, why is it that you think this?”

the answer is that I’ve tried it both ways. I’ve risked myself by loving, and I’ve risked myself by not loving. I now prefer risking myself by loving. It doesn’t always work. The movies and tv shows and songs are not all right–sometimes things don’t work out, even if you try your hardest and you love your hardest. but what I’ve found is that if I do put myself out there, love in the face of risk, and fail…I am usually ok (in the long run). I eventually pick myself back up, learn something about life, and move on. I tuck that experience into my pocket and start walking again.

on the other hand, when I’ve risked myself by not loving, I have always regretted it. those experiences I also still carry with me, but in a negative, “what if” kind of way. I don’t like that feeling. Also when I hold myself back from loving when I want to, it has negative consequences for me, mentally and physically. I’m prone to panic attacks, and they come on strong when I’m holding back big emotions (like love tends to be). I get sick. I get nauseous. I become a total wreck, and not in a good way. When I let myself love, however, I become a total wreck (in a good way).

I may have mentioned (probably several times) how much a fan I am of cheesy pop music from the 80’s and 90’s. one of my favorites is “Take on Me” by Aha. the song is about making a decision to take a risk in love, despite being totally unsure that it’s welcomed or reciprocated. this line is in particular appropriate:

So needless to say
I’m odds and ends
But that’s me stumbling away
Slowly learning that life is OK.
Say after me
It’s no better to be safe than sorry

read that again. “It’s no better to be safe than sorry.” there’s your answer, my friend. it’s just not better to be safe than sorry. you will not regret the risks you take, only the ones you never do.

good luck out there.



on eating (and being) alone
November 15, 2010, 1:49 pm
Filed under: advice, life | Tags: , , , , ,

Dear Sponah,

My best friend/roommate recently moved far away. We used to eat dinner together almost every night- it was always enjoyable. We’d talk about our day and have fun. Now, I hate to eat dinner alone. I just don’t enjoy it at all. In fact, it is sort of anxiety-provoking, a chore, and stressful- it is upsetting. Any suggestions on how to dine alone happily? It is too much to invite people over every night. I did give my cats their wet food on the table but they didn’t stay very long of course. The other night I made my favorite meal, perogies, and I didn’t even enjoy that.

Thanks,

Distraught Diner

P.S. I do feel this is sort of a silly problem but it is a problem nonetheless. Tonight at dinner I approached it with a feeling of thankfulness, grateful that I have a lovely, nutritious meal while so many people in this world are not so fortunate.
I cried however through a portion of my dinner at hearing a sound which reminded me of my friend- keys in the hallway. Sounds dramatic- I know- but some days are better than others and I suppose this is a more difficult day. I do know this will get better with time. My friend has been away for three weeks. The underlying issue is missing my friend very much, and these upset dinners are one of the ways that this issue manifests. I wish I wasn’t crying, of course, but I am also glad that I am able to do so, as I’ve spent much of my life suppressing emotions. Anyway…

dear distraught diner,

first, your question isn’t silly at all. I applaud your braveness in admitting that this is something that happens for you. I think a lot of people (myself included) can understand the feeling of loneliness and sadness when life changes, even when those changes are not necessarily bad ones. It can just be all a little overwhelming sometimes. it manifests in different ways for different people, and for you it looks like it is taking the form of dinnertime. this could be an especially difficult time of day since it’s probably when you get home from your day and want to just unwind, only to be reminded that you’re alone and there’s no one to talk to. it just isn’t an easy thing to be faced with.

the best thing for this is going to simply be time, and adjustment. In the short term though, it sounds like you’re doing good things for yourself. allow yourself to feel the emotions you’re feeling and think about where they are coming from. if the issue is loneliness, it might help to get out and try and spend more dinners with friends for a while. If the issue is that you really miss your friend, perhaps writing a letter to them or giving them a call would help. I often write letters to people that I never send, just so I can get out what I’m really feeling. journaling might help too.

other options could be to change up your routine. if you usually ate with your friend at the table, try sitting somewhere else. maybe watch some TV or read while you eat. try ordering takeout sometimes so that you spend less time focusing on dinner (by not cooking it). make smaller meals so it won’t be so obvious that it is meant for more than one person. and above all, forgive yourself for being sad, and keep on keeping on.

good luck out there,

spoonah



on being good enough
November 3, 2010, 2:04 pm
Filed under: advice, life | Tags: , , ,

Dear Spoonah,

I’m a 30 year old queer male who has been blessed with great family, friends and a positive outlook. Seriously, my life keeps getting better with every year and I’m very grateful to the Universe and God for all the wonderful people and things in my life. A natural extrovert, I am friendly and warm, which brings me a lot of joy. However, every so often I find myself feeling quite shy and insecure, and my mind is invaded with horrible thoughts about the central insecurity in my life: that I’m just not good enough. Not good enough to find a partner, not good enough to hold and keep my job (which is going fine, fyi), not good enough to make my parents proud (although they say they are!), not good enough to meet other cute guys (which I do!)… the list goes on. Every so often this feeling comes and I try to fight it off with positivity, or even just noticing the thought and letting it pass. (Because I’m an extrovert and grew up with a lot of parental pressure not to disappoint, when I feel shy I feel very badly about it, instead of just realizing it’s a natural emotion or reaction.) But some days it really bothers me that I still grapple with this insecurity, which I now realize has been central to my self-perception for many years. Spoonah, I would like your advice not only on letting go of this fear in the long-term, but also how to deal with it when it comes along in the short-term.

well my dear shy and insecure queermo,

you are on a journey. do you have a destination in mind? it sounds like you are (possibly inadvertently) on a journey towards meeting other people’s expectations of you, and what it means to be you. do you know what it means to be you?

one day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began.

I think what you said about noticing what you are feeling when it is happening is the first step. reaching out for help from loved ones is also going to be helpful. when you feel like you’re “not good enough”, think about all the ways in which you are good enough, and the ways in which you have already achieved what you want, by being perfectly enough. think also about who you are trying to please. who are you trying to be good enough for? are you not good enough for yourself? or is it someone else that you’re trying to get the approval of? listen to yourself.

though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.

ask yourself whether the feelings and thoughts you are experiencing are serving you. if your goal is ultimately to simply be happy, to be “enough” for yourself, then they do not serve you. let them pass. you are not your thoughts.


But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

when these thoughts come up for you, it is easy to let them waylay you. I know they are for me (because don’t we all have this problem?). they are rocks in your path. learn to climb.


It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,

take time to look up on your journey. notice the stars. notice the improvements you have made, the milestones you have passed. from your email it sounds like you have achieved a lot of what you have set out to do already.

and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,

as you get further along in life, listen for the voice which you “slowly recognized as your own”. your parents, your friends, your partners, your coworkers–all of their voices are important, but none of them are yours. whose life are you living?

determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
*

taking care of yourself is “the only thing you could do”. make this your work. make this your goal.

good luck out there,

spoonah

*poem is The Journey by Mary Oliver.



on school vs. work
October 18, 2010, 9:16 am
Filed under: advice, career, education, financial, life | Tags: , , ,

Spoonah,
So I’m 24 and its about time I get my act together. I am little to no credits towards a degree because I have always been worried that If I don’t work full time I won’t be able to pay my bills. I’m really at a point in my life where I would love to work minimally and be able to dive into school full time. The problem at this point is that while I qualify for student loans, thats about all I qualify for. I know there are a ton of scholarship options I could look into but I don’t see anything being susbstantial enough to not have to take on full time work. I don’t qualify for private student loans on my own and don’t have a co signer and my federal loans are not enough.
Where should I go from here?

Thanks!
Wanna be educated

hey wanna be educated,

an age old question, one I have fielded many times. a tough one to be sure. the answer is not any gentler: you will probably have to keep working, or stop going to school.

if you do not have the ability to get private loans (which, by the way, I think are basically the devil incarnate and tell everyone not to get, even if it means it takes you 10 years to finish school), and no scholarships, your only option is to supplement federal loans with hard-earned cash. you can apply for grants or work study (typically you are entered for these when you fill out your FAFSA), but other than that, there isn’t much to be done. there is no real magic bullet, short of a sugar-daddy, that will pay your bills for you. if you want to go to school full time and not work, then you’ll have to find a school (and life) cheap enough that it can all be paid for with about $3500/year in stafford loans. if you find that, please let me know. I’ll be right there. otherwise, you’ll have to work.

every solution to this is a little different, depending on your situation. I’ll tell you a little about what I did to give you an idea. when I was an undergraduate, I went to school usually 3/4 time and worked part or full time. depending on when your classes are, you can sometimes find a job with flexible hours. I worked at AAA in the emergency roadside department, which is open 24/7, so I was able to work nights and weekends and save my days for classes. I have also found a surprising flexibility with employers in terms of hours (assuming it is the sort of things with shifts, such as retail or call centers) when you are going to school. now that I’m in graduate school, I supplement my loans and scholarship (which luckily, cover almost all my expenses) with petsitting and more petsitting. another nights & weekends gig, usually. check out care.com and sittercity.com to find dogjobs. they also have listings for child and elder care, housekeeping, stuff like that. if those sorts of things aren’t your deal, I recommend selling your body on the streets.

so all that said, I wish I had better news for you. now is a good time to think long and hard about your long-term goals. do you need to go to college to achieve them? could you do an apprenticeship instead? college is a very expensive way to figure out what you want to do in life (just ask my student loan companies). if you’re not sure you need it, put it off for the time being. if what you really want is to not have the job you have, or the life you have, college isn’t necessarily the answer. check out my previous post, on college, to see my views on this, as an overeducated and underemployed person. a word from the wise: I am just a few months away from my MBA, and I’m pretty sure I just want to move into the woods and make crafts and have some goats after I graduate. except I have $999999999999999999 in student loans, so now I can’t. let that be a lesson to you.

spoonah



on taking risks in love
October 10, 2010, 9:23 pm
Filed under: advice, life, love | Tags: , , , ,

Dear Spoonah,

I’m hesitant to ask about this because it’s somewhat of a difficult issue, but maybe you can offer some perspective. My friends have given me advice, but I can’t help but feel like their opinions are mostly subjective. I’m hoping you can help out.

I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for almost a year. I do care about her a lot, and I want this relationship to work, but…in moments when I’m being honest with myself, I notice problems. Things have been up and down for a while, we’ve been on and off for the last few months. Every time we break up, I just want to get back together with her, but every time we get back together things are only good again for a few weeks before I start to remember why we broke up before. I feel a lot of pressure to make it work. I really don’t feel like I have my shit together enough for other people to be in a relationship with me, and I’ve already invested almost a year in this, you know?

I have a friend that I’ve been hanging out with a lot recently, and I feel like maybe there are sparks there. When things happen and my relationship with my partner kind of sucks, she has been there to listen and give me advice. I don’t know what to do…maybe there is potential with her for things to be really good, but I feel so overwhelmed by what’s going on with my partner that I can’t even think about it. I don’t want to hurt her, I don’t want to hurt my partner, and I am tired of getting hurt. I want to go to a therapist but I already feel crazy, so I don’t think it’s going to really help.

What can I do? Sorry to be the debbie downer of your blog. ):

Thanks,
Heartbreak Hotel

dear heartbreak,

it sounds like you have two separate problems here. first, you need to deal with your current relationship. second, you need to figure out what feelings you may or may not have for your friend, and what you want to do about them.

as for your first issue, your current relationship, I think you know what you need to do. you are at a point in your relationship where it is high time to do some stock-taking. what is it about this relationship that is worth all of the pressure and stress of going back and forth? know that you can love and care about someone but not be able to have a successful relationship with them. I will refer here to the masters of all thing love: singers of rock ballads in the nineties. in the words of Don Henley and Patty Smythe:

I don’t want to lose you
I don’t want to use you
just to have somebody by my side…
…but baby sometimes love just ain’t enough.”

ask yourself, do you see yourself with this person long-term? does she light up your heart? does she support and inspire you? because it sounds like you’ve been with her long enough at this point to know what she is really like and to have a feel for what it is like to be with her. if it isn’t what you need, it is going to be best for both of you to end things before they go on much longer. you both deserve someone who is totally supportive and right for them. do yourself a favor and end things before you hurt yourself or your partner any further.

as for your other issue, your (potential) feelings for your friend. what it sounds like to me, not knowing the whole situation, is that you are feeling like you aren’t worth having a relationship that might work. that might be part of why you have stayed with a partner that you have continual problems with, and why you are so hesitant to pursue something with someone who sounds like she has your best interests in mind and really wants you to be happy. you mention that you feel like you don’t have things together to be with anyone other than your current partner, and that you’ve considered therapy. maybe it would be worth taking some time alone and trying to figure out what it is you really want in love. if what you really want might be taking a chance with your friend, give it a try. if she is a good friend, you can take things slow and see where they go. start by asking her to spend some more time together. watch a movie together (always a good bet for making a move) and try snuggling up, or holding her hand.

in both of these situations, it sounds like you know what you need to do and want to do. that’s the easy part. the hard part comes now: having the courage to go for what you need. love is all we get in life. go for it. always, always go for it.

I leave you with this:

“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it…It really is worth fighting for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.” – Erica Jong

good luck out there.

-spoonah



on going to grad school
September 11, 2010, 9:46 pm
Filed under: advice, career, education, life | Tags: , , , , ,

dear spoonah,

I finished my BA a few years ago and have a decent job, but am feeling unsatisfied with my life. I don’t make very much money and there’s no real room for growth in this job. I love working with young people, especially high school age people, so I have been thinking about becoming a teacher. I applied for an accelerated M.Ed graduate program and was accepted, and am supposed to start in a few months. Recently I’ve been feeling like maybe this isn’t the right choice, and that I am not sure that I want to be a teacher or even stay living in this area any longer. Am I signing up for a life of debt and disappointment?

-worried at work

dear worried at work,

it sounds to me like you are stuck in a situation that may not be all that bad, but is not where you want to be right now, regardless. my advice when you are stuck is to move in any direction, even if that direction is backwards (or feels that way). it’s like if you’re in quicksand, you can’t be picky about branch that pulls you out. the key is to get out of the situation so that you can see things more clearly, and make a decision without feeling bound to it. perhaps that graduate program really is what you want and will be happy with, but it sounds right now like you aren’t in a position to make that decision. if you go into it thinking you might be making a mistake, it will color your whole experience, and an accelerated graduate program is no place to be if you aren’t committed to the outcome.

my advice is this: do something that is nothing like what you are doing now, for a little while. maybe you want to move, try out a different kind of job, or travel. spend a few months to a year doing something you think you might want to do more, and find out. if your worst case scenario ends with you moving back and going to that program in a year or so, I think you’ll be fine. there’s no point in doing anything that intense (emotionally, mentally, and financially) while spending the whole time wishing you were working as a waitress in Mexico. I mean, you’d probably hate that, but at least you’d know.



on where to put your money
July 23, 2010, 7:20 pm
Filed under: advice, financial | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dear Ask Spoonah

I recently sold my car to cut back on expenses and am looking to put the money from the sale to work. I heard that online banks have higher interest rates for savings and money market accounts, but I wonder are they better than a brick and mortar bank in the long run? Also is there a big difference between a money market account, savings account, or certificate of deposit?

Cordially
~Savings Newbie

dear savings newbie,

first, congratulations on having the courage to make such a big move to support your financial goals! that’s a tough choice.

to answer your first question, there are a number of differences between traditional brick & mortar banks and online banks. obviously there is the issue of convenience and time, in that traditional banks allow easy access to our money just as soon as we can get there, where online banks are accessed online only and can often take up to several days to transfer funds to an account you can “get at”. this can be a good thing if you are trying to use the online account for savings (as it keeps you from making impulse withdrawals). the other main benefit, which you brought up, is online banking often offers higher rates on interest bearing accounts such as savings and money market accounts, and often offer interest on traditionally no-interest accounts (such as checking accounts). so to answer your question, the benefits to using an online bank for savings accounts are higher interest rates, so it can definitely be a good decision in the long run, especially if you plan to deposit large enough sums of money or for long enough periods of time that the difference in interest rates will make up for the lack of convenient access to the funds. I use online banking for my emergency savings accounts myself, as well as when I’m saving for other things and want to “hide” the money from myself so that I can’t take it out for impulses.

as for the differences between savings, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs), there are again a few benefits and drawbacks to each. the differences are primarily in terms of interest rates and liquidity (ease of access). savings accounts are the most liquid but generally offer the lowest interest rates. these are great for things such as short-term savings (of a year or less) or when you think you might need the funds within a few days (i.e. emergency savings). CDs are purchased for a set period of time before maturation, and the longer the time (from a few weeks to several years), the higher the interest you will gain. CDs promise a fixed interest rate determined at the time of purchase. they are a safe investment with a rate you can be sure of, but they lack access to the funds before the maturation date. money market accounts, on the other hand (not to be confused with money market funds, which are not FDIC insured and are riskier), are more liquid (like checking or savings accounts), and offer a competitive interest rate (which may vary). these often have a high minimum balance and limit the number of times in a month you may withdraw from them.

to summarize:

in order of liquidity, high to low—savings, money markets, CDs
in order of interest rates, high to low—CDs, money markets, savings

if you’re sure you won’t need the money for a specified amount of time (like a year or more), then I say put it in a CD. otherwise, shop around for the best going rates on a savings or money market account. all three of these options are FDIC insured.

happy saving!




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