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The worst advice I've ever gotten

The worst advice I've ever gotten

I’ve entered a strange phase of life where people often ask me for advice. Maybe it’s that I have a wise face (also known as having wrinkles), or that I smile a lot and carry stain remover in my purse which somehow makes people think I have it all together.

Regardless, I try only to give advice if someone asks for it, and to only share specific things that have worked for me. Which got me thinking about all the bad advice out there. I’ve received a lot of it in my lifetime, and thought I’d share some of the worst offenders here.

#1 Do what you love and the money will come

The world is awash in inspirational stories about how people’s obscure passions led them to successful, lucrative careers. The artist who went on to international fame. The cupcake baker who ended up with a dessert empire. The cat lover whose Instagram turned into a multi-million-dollar company. These stories are the exception, not the rule. They also usually leave out key facts, like that the cupcake baker had an MBA in marketing and a trust fund, or that the artist is the daughter of two already-famous people.

So, if you have a trust fund or famous parents, sure, do what you love. For the rest of us, especially women, this is a downright reckless axiom. First, it perpetuates the idea that you shouldn’t pursue money. I love money! Money is how I’m able to take care of myself and my family. Money makes life easier. When I was on my own, it gave me the power to live life without depending on anyone else. These days it gives me the confidence of knowing I could take care of myself and my son if anything happened to my husband. I’m not talking about making millions, but about the basic principle of having a self-sustaining income or the skills to generate one if needed. I vote instead for a decidedly less-sexy but more practical adage: “Do something you don’t hate that pays your bills and allows you to contribute to your 401(k).”

Second, this advice mythologizes the dangerous idea that our jobs should be our passions. See #2.

#2 Find your passion

Passion is a stupidly high bar. I spent a large portion of my life chasing it, following close on its heels through multiple career changes and reinventions. I lost years of my life trying to solve the impossible equation that is passion + income I can live on = happiness. My failure to solve it felt like a personal shortcoming. These days I have a job I like that allows me to do things I love. This has brought me more happiness than the quest for passion ever did.

Also, maybe I’m getting old, but “passion” feels like a word for young people who live in a state of beautiful naiveité with most of their life experiences ahead of them. Along with phrases like “living your best life” and “finding your bliss”, it’s best served alongside avocado toast, Kombucha, and the boundless energy of a twenty-two-year-old. Like a night of skydiving and ayahuasca, passion sounds exhilarating but exhausting and fleeting. I’ll stick with my glass of wine on the couch, thanks.

#3 Blood is thicker than water.

I’m fortunate to have an amazing family that has always loved and supported me in mostly healthy ways. This is not the case for so many people I know. I’ve witnessed how damaging it can be to wax poetic about how family relationships and loyalties are the strongest and most important ones. What does that mean, then, if your family kicked you out for having a same-sex partner? Or if you had abusive parents who have never acknowledged the pain they caused you, or changed their behavior? Are you really supposed to prioritize those relationships over others who accept and love you? I’m a big believer in chosen families, often over biological ones.  

#4 If it doesn’t smell weird it’s probably fine to eat.

I don’t think more details are needed here.

#5 Don’t go to bed angry

I don’t know about you, but I find the best time to try to resolve an argument with my spouse is at the end of the day when we’re both exhausted and unable to think clearly. No? Well, you’re not alone. It’s rare that both people in the relationship have the same approach to conflicts. My husband prefers to seek a quick resolution by getting everything out on the table, whereas I’m someone who needs longer to process my feelings and cool down. The worst thing I can do is slog through an argument without stopping to put some distance between my emotions and my reaction. I will get defensive and say terrible things. And yet, for years I thought we were supposed to argue ourselves into exhaustion rather than let the sun set on our anger. In truth, if I just go to bed instead, ninety-nine percent of the time the argument vanishes by the morning.


What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?

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