John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book, No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults, hit shelves this month. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to email@example.com.
If it’s all about you, why would you care who seems to disapprove as you gaze around you? And, I suspect, a lot of selfies in crowds are done to tell the world, “Look where I am and you’re not.” If you take the snapshots only when you’re by yourself, with no one around, people might think you’re lonely and needy. And we wouldn’t want anyone to think that about us, would we?
Keep snapping away and hope that there are people out there who want to share in all your moments. We all want to be wanted.
Your situation is completely normal in modern America. At least your parents make a pass at being civil to one another. But every sighting they have of each other reminds them of failure, and the blame game creeps in. It’s just human nature, and it could be a lot worse. I think that my own parents eventually had a mutual dislike of each other. But they muddled through, mostly because there was so little divorce in that so-called greatest generation. There was too much societal disapproval of divorce then. I didn’t have one friend in either grammar school or my large high school whose parents were divorced. Only in college did I meet contemporaries from divorced households. During and after college, my mother used to complain to me about my dad in every phone conversation. “Don’t tell me,” I’d say. “I can’t do anything about it. Tell him. How do you think this makes me feel?” All of this made me concentrate on the future, not on the past, about which you and I can do nothing. And family, which I’ve written about a lot, can suck the oxygen out of your room like almost nothing else.
Your parents won’t shoot the messenger. It’s your adult life now, and you’re trying to free yourself from the past. Don’t enable them. Pour your feelings out. Meet the problem head-on and look to your own future. You’ll feel relief, and your parents won’t feel any worse than they already do.
It’s admirable of you to try to keep up with friends far away. And as you get older, they will mean more and more to you as all your lives become more complicated. Skyping or FaceTime will prove awkward eventually—too contrived and tough to coordinate schedules. Long-distance romances are hard, if not impossible, to sustain, and the same can be true about friendships: Life gets in the way of good intentions.
So, I’d concentrate on a few things that might keep your network alive and well. Number one: See if you can plan a reconnecting trip with as many of these friends as can be assembled. Bear in mind that one friend has to be the point person in making the arrangements and coordinating the details. All of this can be a friendship breaker. But an annual escape to neutral territory can renew friendships and keep them fresh.
The second thing you can do to keep friendships rolling is to be a little original. Periodically send your far-flung buddies colorful postcards—funny ones or ones recalling past adventures or scenes of mutual interest. They will tend to put them on refrigerators or bulletin boards, and keep you on their minds.
Come on. Guilty pleasures are guilty pleasures. Often, while doing mindless workouts on the treadmill, we can get hooked on Real Housewives of New York City or Duck Dynasty or Jersey Shore. Do I condone or applaud their behavior or actions? Mmmm, well, what do you think? But it’s fascinating to watch how other people live, or pretend to live. Some folks love to watch train wrecks…or train wrecks of people who seem to come from different planets than ours.
We’ve all got real things to keep us feeling guilty enough. Don’t worry about you what you watch. I’ll never tell.