Archive for the ‘Career’ Category

Yenta Gets Educated

In Career on April 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Yeshiva boys photographed by Margaret Bourke White

As many of you have noticed, the frequency of advice giving has waned over the past year.

This was due to a serious Torah intake, and a revitalization of the information Yours Truly has to offer.

As the Jewish Education of Your 29-Year-Old Yenta continues, watch for workshops like this one in your area.

Keep your eyes peeled, post Yenta sabatical, for a bigger, badder, and more Jewish voice to come.

Prayer On The Road

In Career, Mental Health on February 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Even on tour, Madonna finds time for G-d.

Dear Yenta,

I am 27 and just got a job that involves traveling. I am from a small Jewish community and am worried about missing Shabbat and feeling isolated. Is there anything you have to offer? My job is based in the US, and only rarely we go abroad.


Wandering Jew

Dear WJ,

Vagabonding is a normal and easy state for some, and rocks the core of others. If you have a Type A personality, the lack of control and structure can be torture. I heard many a story from the Obama campaign about moving and roaming on a nightly basis. A few things in the face of such constant travel can help.

One, a gentleness and kindness with oneself. Keep a journal, bring bath salts, invest in a robe. Two, friends and family. And three, well, G-d. Yes, that three, or in my case, two letter word and the community that goes with it. Church and synagogue, a meditation session, an AA meeting, pick your poison. Whatever it is that reminds you that you are connected to something bigger than the roving body you inhabit will help as you flit across the country and beyond.

In lieu of actual Jewish resources, here is a list of some of my favorite synagogues and communities across America. In addition to these, you can find your own with just a little research. When I was a constant traveler I made sure I went to synagogue every Friday, a meditation center whenever I could find one, and yoga twice a week in a effort to stay as sane as possible. If you call a synagogue in advance and tell them you will be in town on business, I guaruntee they will find a home to host you for a homecooked Shabbos meal. If they don’t, I will cook you dinner myself next time I am in America.

The List:

There is one in practically every city, and they are very welcoming to travelers looking to honor Shabbat.

Adventure Rabbi
This woman brings her torah on ski trips, to hiking summits, etc, and leads services and weddings in the wilderness.
Boulder, CO

Nashuva: A Soulful Community for Prayer in Action
Services involve live music, chanting, silence, etc. Feels like revival.
Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Naomi Levy – famous, particularly for her book “To Begin Again.”

HaMakom: The Place for Passionate and Progressive Judaism
Santa Fe, NM
Led by a lesbian rabbi who leads community discussion and learning as part of the service.

Rabbi Malka Drucker

B’nai Jeshurun
“B’nai Jeshurun is a passionate Jewish community that inspires spiritual searching, lifts the soul, challenges the mind, and requires social responsibility and action.”
New York, NY

Tikkun Leil Shabbat: Songful, soulful sabbath services featuring a teaching about a social justice issue and followed by a potluck vegetarian dinner.
Washington, DC

Bet Mishpachah: An Egalitarian Synagogue Embracing Diversity
GLBT synagogue in DC with services led by congregants. No rabbi.
Washington, DC

Gishmey Bracha: Rain of Blessings
Online resource for spiritual Judaism.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon

Am Hayam: Cape Cod Havurah
Community-led prayer, potlucks, and learning. Mostly elderly, but a terrific model for positive Judaism and community.
Eastham, MA

Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center (Reform)
Services conducted in a circle around a table with a seated female rabbi.
Parsha is delivered in a discussion form with the whole community.
Vineyard Haven, MA

Rabbi Caryn Broitman

Pardes Levavot: A Jewish Renewal Congregation
Lafayette, CO

Rabbis Nadya and Victor Gross

Yesod Foundation: The Reb Zalman Legacy Project

Nevei Kodesh: Jewish Renewal Community of Boulder, Colorado
Boulder, CO

Rabbi Tirzeh Firestone

Fabrangen: An Independent, Egalitarian, Particapatory Havurah
Washington, DC

Have a favorite synagogue or community? Please share!

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For more Yenta, visit Ask Your Yenta at

Merissa Nathan GersonCreate Your Badge

My Coworker is “A Pig”

In Career, Drama, Mental Health on December 21, 2010 at 10:54 am


Loud, large and boisterous: Mimi Bobeck of "The Drew Carey Show"


Dear Yenta,

I work in an office with about 10-15 other people. The problem is this particular woman. She’s a 55 year-old reject, who gets off on not doing her job correctly, cussing people out after she gets off the phone with them and stealing. All of this upsets us, but the real thing that is the worst, is the fact that she’s such a pig. I do not say pig loosely. For example, her first day of work, it was a girl’s birthday and she brought a bunch of cupcakes in. Well, she took one to eat and then she took two and hid them under her desk to take home with her. Another coworker thought it would be funny to hide them from her. This lady went around to every person in the office asking, “Where are my f-g cupcakes?”

I had a party for my wedding at the office, we ordered pizza and she ate 5 large pieces. Whenever we have any sort of food or candy here, she immediately stuffs her face and half of the people here don’t even get a taste. If there’s something in the kitchen, for everyone, she will take the entire plate to her desk and leave it there until it’s gone. She only works on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, so on Tuesday & Thursdays we will bring in goodies to share. Well, apparently she started coming in on Tuesday and Thursday specifically to steal our candy. We had an entire bag of snickers bars and we look this morning and they’re ALL gone. We have a service where we provide candy and snacks to clients who use our offices. She constantly steals all those snacks blatantly.

How can we stop this? She makes it unbearable!

-KK, Baltimore

You say traif, I say troubled. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear KK,

In the paradigm of meditation and religiosity, it is asked of the individual to look at every feeling, every emotion, and every reaction as stemming from within their own troubles.  Not only that, but taking it to the next level, it is up to the individual to see those around them, and their irritations with the world, as mirrors of their own irritations and impatience with themselves.

This being said, perhaps you see yourself as “A reject who doesn’t do their job correctly, a pig.”  These are rough and strong words, fully judgmental, and they act as a distancing device between you and your co-worker.  It sounds to me like she is not “a pig” but a woman with food issues.  This is an opportunity for compassion, for patience, and for extending your heart to another.  For help with this, try DharmaSeed.  You can download hundreds of live talks to your ipod that will help make you a better person.  It is not her who makes your workday unbearable, as you said, but it is your reaction to her that makes your day so awful.  That reaction, unlike her, is something you can control and change.


You have a tall order ahead of you.  If I were your boss I would take you aside and ask that you cultivate a more open relationship with your community.   A banding together against this woman for her ways reminds me of the rough edge of a middle school playground.  Your first task is to look at yourself.  Why you are so judgmental, and why you don’t find a place for this woman in your heart?  What is a “reject” but the person we are afraid of accepting?  What about her mirrors your own fears, dilemmas or troubles?

And second, why not seek to understand, or at the very least, remedy the situation rather than balking and repelling.  Be honest, “I know you love candy, so we brought you extras.”  If she is ashamed of the breadth of her desire for food, showing her that you accept it without shaming her might prevent her from feeling the need to hoard and hide.  Bring her extra cupcakes.  Don’t scorn, pander.

This woman might need help.  (See Overeaters Anonymous,  She may, in fact, feel like “a reject,” explaining why you see her as one.  Even troubled women who hoard food and seem like losers in an office setting are human and in need of a little love.  Find her story, take her to lunch, and humanize the person you have marked as the enemy.  You will be surprised, I promise, by what you find.

Merissa Nathan GersonCreate Your Badge

The Perils of Genius

In Career on August 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

"Mirror, Mirror on the wall, when I'm famous will I have it all?" Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear Yenta,

I am 27 years old and am famous. My art is hugely successful and I am slowly feeling miserable despite. I feel enormous pressure to create more art of the same caliber and am terrified that people will know me as an artist with a sick case of beginner’s luck. I find it hard to be polite or kind and am generally frustrated with this trapped feeling.

-Stuck On Top

Dear Stuck On Top,

Oye. This is the dilemma that no one warns you about, the pain of success. There is a saying that goes, “If people are jealous of you, then you are doing something right.” I am guessing that people are not easy to navigate when you already sparkle so brightly.

A few questions come to mind. Do you love your artistic craft? Does it fuel your day, inspire you, make you feel more beautiful? While many of your friends are probably choosing husbands, you are going to have to get busy marrying your work. This means being sure you want to keep going, that you chose this field rather than it choosing you. There is no rule that one must commit to their genius.

On the other hand, though, that commitment part is the most fantastic and arduous element of your bright gift. It is as if you just passed through the honeymoon period and are now committed to this thing you are unsure you want to wed. Forget what everyone is saying about you. Shut down the tabloids. If you love making art, then get busy loving it. Your art will evolve, with highs and lows, and even if the public can’t be patient, you need to try.

If you love what you do, chances are with time it will again reveal beautiful results. Be diligent, perseverant, and learn to engage even when there is no return. Try not to get attached to the spotlight, to the glory of it all, and link in instead to the basic animalistic fever of artistic dedication. Also, remember that you and your art are separate, and nurturing yourself and learning to love yourself even when the world thinks you are failing will eventually provide a stronger base to your projects.

Ask Yenta Anything!

E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta

Writer’s Block Psychosis

In Career, Mental Health on June 4, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Careful with your image. Sometimes its a deflection from your reality. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear Yenta,

I have lost the ability write. An initial, hiccupy writer’s block that originated with a piece of assessment I disliked has grown into an all-encompassing loss of words. I get my housemate to dictate birthday cards to relatives because I cannot be sure I’ll say the right thing, and have become lax in replying to emails because the construction of even a simple response is onerous. The only thing I can write is lists, on post-it notes, of all the essays I have to complete. I feel paralyzed, and rather ashamed. It’s only words, after all: how difficult can it be to arrange them into coherent sentences?

This issue is all the more painful because it isn’t new, but rather is something that I thought I’d overcome. I’ve had a rather chequered university career: my transcript alternates between blocks of High Distinctions and Failure: Non-Completions. I was expelled from university for a period of a eighteen months for failure to maintain sufficient academic progress, primarily because I’d failed to hand in essays. This year, I started off very well, handing in essays on time and getting brilliant marks. I’d thought I was fixed. However, here I am again, faced with the voiceless fear when faced with a blank page.


P.S. This email took me two hours to write, and I don’t like it very much.

Dear Mute,

What you call writer’s block, I call a need for a lasso.  Simple.  Writer’s block has a million causes.  Your particular brand seems to stem from inner voices out of control.  Yes.  You have some internal critic that is on fire and preventing you from expressing yourself.

This is when every move, every thought, every utterance is stuffed back inside out of fear or shame.  If you think you will f up, a piece of you might be chanting, “you will f up.  You will f up.”  That voice’s job is to paralyze your creative expression.

Why the nasty inner mantra?  Only you know.  Be honest.  Stop calling this “writer’s block” and look at it as what it really is, an indulgence of the negative and cruel voices inside of you.  Help yourself.  Get those voices under control and start really living your creative life.

My personal favorite: meditation.  Why?  Because it is gentle, it is self-taught, and in doing it you find a community, depending on how you tackle stillness.  All it does is make you aware of the constant inner monologue in your head, and slowly, through focusing on the breath, teaches you to live without it.  Shambhala centers nationwide offer free meditation instructors who can help guide you through your mind until it is ready to quiet down.

Other things that help?  Stopping the voices before they start with excessive positive affirmations.  “I am smart.  I can write.  I write. Write. Write.  Written.” Try Tara Brach, Ph.D.’s Radical Acceptance for help.  Other ideas: see a cognitive behavioral therapist and explain you need to undo the stifling voices that cut off your writer’s blood flow.  Do whatever you need to uninvite the negative from your daily mental repertoire.

There are a million other ways to cultivate the positive.  Break your normal routine, touch nature whenever possible, exercise more, poison your body less, etc. etc.  You, however, sound like you have some more specific hard work ahead of you, acquainting yourself with your mind so you can do some solid summer cleansing of unneeded mental energy.

To write is a simple act of expression.  We complicate it with pressures and cruelties all our own.  If you don’t trust your voice, or don’t believe in that which you want to express, it is nearly impossible to let it loose.  Mean voices are an addiction.  Get clean.  Stop leaning on the negative and write your manifesta!

Ask Yenta!  E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta

Is It A Date?

In Career, Dating, Drama on May 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Dear Yenta,

How can I tell if my next meeting is a date?  We got drinks to talk business and then we got dinner again to talk business.  And then, we got dinner again to talk business and I paid.  Then in an e-mail we talked a little business, she said, “Going out of town, when I get back, let’s hang out.”  Which is different from business, but our business is kindof a business of hanging out. Is it, or is it not, a date?


Whatever you do, try not to be creepy/skeazy or sleazy. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear Confused Cornelius,

A few things…

1) It is not a formal date. A date is obvious, and not veiled in business.  A better question, Is it romantic?  This only you and this woman know, and to test these waters all you need to do is dip a toe in and check the temperature.  If it is freezing, retreat and continue business chatter, if it is warm, proceed.  You know this.

2) When you paid for a meal you tilted the power dynamic which is often, oddly, a tilt towards romance.  Whenever it is not split evenly, you are making a statement about something, somehow.

3) Don’t mix business with pleasure.  This is simple and sane wisdom of the sages and is a good rule of thumb to follow…depending on the type of business.  If advancing sexually towards this person could potentially complicate your job and threaten your professional relationship, then heel, boy, heel.  If your business is one that can handle a bending of boundaries, OR, if you really think this is for real, then proceed.

The semantics of dating are irrelevant.  All that matters is whether you really want this person, and if so, then fearlessly pursue them and deal with the consequences, for good or for evil.

Or, when it doubt, said a rogue therapist of mine, do without.

Ask Yenta!  E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta

An Interview With “The Forward”

In Career on April 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Lifted from, the Sisterhood section of The Jewish Daily Forward.

April 11, 2010, 10:02pm
Merissa Nathan Gerson: A ‘Yenta’ for a New Generation
By Michael Kaminer

By her own admission, Merissa Nathan Gerson’s qualification as an advice columnist is mainly “10 years of talk therapy.” “Add a few rabbis, a Buddhist-inspired education, monks, stupas, shrine rooms and the like, stir, and you get a 28-year-old Yenta,” writes the former farmer, waitress, teacher, lamp-maker, and creative writing teacher at a juvenile detention facility. But bona fides aren’t the point of her burgeoning site The site riffs on traditional advice columns to provide distinctly feminist perspectives on local, global and personal issues. Gerson answered the Forward’s questions via email from Johnson, Vt., where she is at a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center.

Michael Kaminer: The site says is a “self-help resource hub masquerading as an advice column.” Can you explain?

Merissa Nathan Gerson: Yes. I don’t just give advice. For a lot of questions I supply resources, from books to magazine articles, Web sites, stores and hotlines. Sometimes I need to do research for a question, but more often than not I know a book title or a support group that could help my readers. My life experience somehow tacked resources on to my repertoire daily. … It is as if I have been soaking it in for years and this site is a collection of all I learned, for everything from how to find a BDSM support group to locating a meditation center in your community.

A recent question for the Yenta comes from a woman who apparently upset a friend by going out with a guy the friend had her eye on. What other kinds of questions are you getting? What was the weirdest?

I get all sorts of questions, everything from “Help, my boyfriend wears a sock on his penis when we have sex” to “My roommate washes his hair in the kitchen sink with MY shampoo.” I do know what “weird” means and what it looks like in theory, but I don’t think there is a “weirdest” only because if I judged people as weird, I would not, honestly, be able to answer the questions to begin with. At this point in my life, nothing fazes me.

Your site cites “wise people” from Joan Nathan to Martin Buber. How do they figure into the Yenta’s advice?

From the long list of Jewish wise people, everyone from Allen Ginsberg to Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi, it is funny (and perhaps a veiled endeavor) that you happen to pick these two from the list. Ms. Joan Nathan figures in quite heavily, since she clothed, fed and bore me into this world. I quote her every now and then, and learned a lot of social codes from watching her.

People like Martin Buber shaped me in my understanding of my own self, the world, and my view of other human beings. He also molded my pride in being Jewish, unfolding a whole beautiful side to the religion for me. He, along with a yeshiva student, helped answer one question from someone asking what they would be when they grow up. If I am not quoting him, you can bet, in my purer advice-giving moments, that if I am being nice he may have something to do with that “I-Thou” relationship.

It was a little disturbing to see some of the definitions of “Yenta” on — “Meddler, gossiper, meddlesome, busybody, nuisance. Mostly Judaic and female”, was one. Another: “1) Yiddish word which describes an old woman who is a matchmaker. In modern use the meaning has become that of an annoying old hag.” How are you reclaiming the word?

I am reclaiming the word with humor. Think Heeb magazine and Bitch magazine. Neither hates Jews or women, instead they are imploding a word saying, “See, this is what we are. Is this really something to hate?” It is tongue and cheek, but also making a point. I am taking the Yenta veneer and imploding it.

One woman recently defined a Yenta as someone “who minds other people’s business.” Isn’t that exactly what is happening here? Me minding their business? There seems to be a generational gap in the understanding of this term. Jewish women in their fifties and sixties are generally repulsed when I mention the title, whereas Jews in their twenties and thirties always chuckle knowingly. People have called me a Yenta for years, based on my ability to see through people’s masks, straight to what is ailing or moving or exciting them. At times I was a nuisance, a gossip, completely meddlesome. And now I have made a life out of it, only in a purer form without hurting others (I hope). The key to my post-nuisance Yenta-ing is that people invite me to meddle in their business.

In the age of Oprah and reality shows, what makes a Yenta’s advice different?

A Yenta, I don’t know. This Yenta is like a Jewish Oprah with a feminist, Buddhist, pop-culture, youthful spin. The point is 40% entertainment and 60% begging my generation to raise their personal standards. I want people to be happy and healthy, to dream way bigger and to have the tools to do so.

Can you tell me a little about your Jewish background?

Yes. I was raised in a Conservative Jewish home. We had Shabbat dinner at my father’s parents’ house every week. After they passed away, we continued the tradition at home. Jewish food was an integral part of our existence, to say the very least.

Post-college I was a farmer for a summer and read a lot of Martin Buber on the beach and spent a lot of time in silence picking beans. That was when I started going to synagogue regularly and began taking pride in my Jewish identity. I think that was the first time I connected to the religion without obligation, wherein I discovered a softer more readily accessible side. Mystical thought explained my understanding of the world far better than the angry wrathful god and religious shame so often interlaced with synagogue in D.C.

No matter where I go now, I always find a Shabbat. I have been to Chabad in Salvador, Brazil, Eugene, Oregon, Venice, Italy and Santa Fe, N.M. I made challah in a township in South Africa, did Rosh Hashanah with ex Umkhonto weSizwe [resistance fighters], and found a tiny chapel full of middle-aged Jews in the middle of Eastham, Mass. Once I had Shabbat in Panama City. and was amazed by how much everything sounded smelled and tasted like my grandmother’s Friday nights when I was little. That was priceless, finding those memories so far away.

The more I learned to love Judaism for the religion, not the warped politics, the more important it was to tag myself as Jewish, and in this case, a Jewish Yenta.

Jobless Boyfriend is Mooching

In Career, Dating, Drama on April 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm

He should be rubbing your feet after a long work day, not begging for cash. Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear Yenta,

I have been with my boyfriend for over 2 years now and we love each other very much. I am 25 and he is 28 and we were best friends for a couple of years before we even started dating. However, lately some issues have been cropping up that I don’t really know what to do about.

I have always made more money than he does, and both of us are okay with that and it’s never really been an issue. I have a job that I love (but I work long hours and it doesn’t pay very well), and he is a musician who works part time. He pays when he has money, I pay the rest of the time, and we’ve never had a fight about it or anything.

The problem now is that boyfriend lost his job several months ago and while he told me at the time that he was going to do everything he could to get a new job, that hasn’t been the case. His mother convinced him that he should stay jobless and just focus on his music. She has been paying for his apartment, car, etc. to help facilitate his career. This is all great, and he is doing very well with his music career and things are really happening for him. However, this has not translated into him making money…at all. He brings in maybe $100-$200 a month. So, he is constantly asking me for gas money, food money, etc. which I really wouldn’t mind paying for except that I really don’t make enough money to feed two people, keep 2 cars full of gas, and pay my rent and bills. On top of this he is always wanting to go out to the movies, or go get a “treat” after dinner, or go out with friends to places that are a little out of my budget when I’m not paying for two people. I find it really frustrating and I know he is mooching, but at the same time, I love him and if I had the money I know I wouldn’t mind, but I really can’t afford to be spending this much money on him.

The other problem is that now that he is not working, he spends most of his time at home alone (since he doesn’t have the money to go out and do anything) and it has resulted in him being really clingy and constantly complaining about how we don’t have sex often enough and how I don’t hang out with him or sleep over enough. I see him almost every day and we have sex about 3 times a week and I sleep over 1 to 3 nights a week. I feel like this is pretty reasonable considering how much I work and that I have a really stressful job as well as several hobbies I take part in and I am working on starting my own business.

Essentially, how do I talk to him about this in a kind and gentle way so that he doesn’t feel attacked? He is sweet and treats me nicely, we have a ton in common, and I love him very much and I really don’t want to break up with him, but I need things to change.

–Bringing home the bacon

Deart BHTB,

What his mommy thinks is best for your boyfriend might not be what is best for your relationship. Your boyfriend IS mooching, in a sad and selfish way. You, however, don’t seem to be doing your job which is to set limits.

To begin with, you sound like you have been lying to yourself for a while. Your question begins, “I have always made more money than he does, and both of us are okay with that.” Both of you, obviously, are not ok with that. You also say, “he is a musician who works part time,” in the present tense, only to later reveal that he has been jobless for months. How long have you been feeling uncomfortable?

Some men have a tendency when given a little love, a favor, to thirst for more. It is like a disease, the “I remember what it felt like to be my mother’s prized possession” disease, one that can wreak havoc on a girlfriend’s patience.

Yes, we would all like it if people knew never to walk beyond boundaries, to never take advantage of others. But in truth, communication of need is a two person job. How is he to know that he has gone too far if for what sounds like months now, you have been biting back your words?

On the one hand, you need to stand up for yourself. On the other hand, he shouldn’t be acting out in order to wake you up. What part of “small paycheck” does his not understand? It does not translate to exorbitant spending. Your man needs to know when enough is enough, both independently and from your cues. He needs to know that you work hard, and should appreciate that fact if you are busting ass to support his extracurricular habits. So step one, should you wish to keep him, is to sit down and have an honest talk about limits. Your paycheck is not a negotiable reality, it is what is paying for your life, sans stipend from home.

This conversation could be hard because in theory you should have been articulating your limits all along. Your boo is probably testing the edge of your generosity. He might not consciously sense what he is doing, but what you describe sounds like deliberate button pushing, squeezing and molding your generosity and affection in hopes of finding where they might run thin. Think adolescent boy. You need to be the woman you are and tell him how you feel, lest you return to teenagerhood yourself.

To do so, just gently tell it like it is. Don’t accuse him. Explain your needs, your limits, etc, speaking from a personal perspective. The only way this will work is if you don’t make him out to be a jerk, rather show the flat truth of your five figure waning salary.

Also, be realistic and prepare yourself for the possibility of a tantrum on his part, a shutting down, or a lack of adult understanding. If his mommy is treating him like a king, he might expect you to do the same. No one sets rules for the king. Your boundaries, however, are your god-given right. Stand firm for taking care of yourself.

As for the job situation, I would like to give a shout out to my many artist and musician friends who do find a way to bring in cash and focus on their craft. When I worked in Adam’s Morgan in DC there were tons of well-established musicians, rockers, singers, painters and more who tended bar and pulled espresso shots. As I travel from artist residency to artist residency I can’t tell you how many people I meet who straddle artistic success and a side-job. I am not inclined to agree with his mother, not if he wants to keep you in his life. Money doesn’t grow on women.

Your boyfriend’s mom might need to stay out of it, and you need to step up the backbone. You can love someone and tell them, “no.” In fact, good pure love always seems to have a safe expression of when enough is really enough.

Should I Give Up and Move Home?

In Career, Mental Health on March 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Dear Yenta,

Several months ago I made a big, gutsy cross-country move, leaving a college that simply felt wrong. I don’t regret this decision; if nothing else it’s made me feel brave, accomplished, and that almost anything is possible. However, now I find myself unemployed, a “college drop-out” (with intentions to transfer when I attain state residency next year), and almost entirely without community. Though aware that I am unsatisfied, I’m unsure of where to turn from here. My family urges me to come home, but I’m reluctant to admit defeat. Should I stick it out and follow my original plan until things fall into place? Or is it time for retreat? Perhaps there is some middle ground?

Thank you,
Lost in the Possibilities

Focusing on dreams can slough away confusion.

I give you an applause and a standing ovation from my little studio. Hoorah for leaping and feeling brave and for facing the terrifying reality of possibility, expansion and change. Alas, those good things come with a heavy underbelly. Think about the matrix existence of Alice in Wonderland, “sometimes I dream as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

I went home to my parents twice after college, tail tucked and all. Both times were prompted because my life was in actual danger. That was when I knew I needed home and family, when I knew it was time to abandon the plan. I think this is a good law to follow: pursue dreams unless health/life are threatened. Then, put dreams on lay away while addressing pressing needs in immediate reality.

One thing no one tells us is how awful it can be, en route to the palace of our delights. I have had some amazing and good things happen in my life, but never without a price. In the end, only you know if this new place is a land of possibilities or a dead-end. Only you know if your dream is one of heart or one of ego, one of real positive trajectory, or one based on running away from another life.

Nick Friedman of College Hunks Hauling Junk, a kid I went to high school with, recently suggested people read this. It is like a ouji board of your own future. He wants people to make a collage of things they desire, a board that outlines the specifics of their dreams. My dad had a book on the same topic, I used to read it years ago, called Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Creative What You Want In Your Life by Shakti Gawain. Same concept: only one from a self-help guru, and the other from the author of Effortless Entrepreneur: Work Smart, Play Hard, Make Millions.

The unifying idea is to outline your goals so you can start visualizing them. The clearer the vision, the more you begin to shape your life towards it. And remember, the closer you get to your vision, the more things might feel like they are falling apart around you, when, in fact, they may just be falling into place.

Parents, friends from home and relatives can be tricky and often interfere with clarity of vision. Do not let their fear become your fear. Make sure they aren’t, in their attempts to console and comfort you, clipping your wings. I don’t think anyone gets on the phone with this intention, but people’s desires to have their friends and daughters near to them often translate as “don’t fly!” If all birds stayed in their nests, I think those nests would get top-heavy and fall off the tree.

One therapist once told me that my job, as a human, was to leave home and find my place in the world. That this, despite their efforts to squeeze me and keep me near, would be the ultimate way to make my parents proud. Find your own voice. Make that ouji board collage: focus on and locate the specifics of your goals. Giving up kills the soul. Only give up if your actual life is in danger, if you are hurting yourself in any number of ways, or if you feel completely blind.

Start being your own cheerleader. Write yourself kind notes, keep a log of what you did well and right each day. Pat yourself on the back whenever you can. In order to stay strong, you need to build an internal voice that will drive you. As my cousin once said, listening to my low self-esteem as a teenager: “If you don’t believe in yourself, you may as well be sitting on the bench.” You, I am guessing, are more like the star player than the bench warmer.

Your vision sounds alive and clear, so I encourage you to fly far, fly hard and fly high. Know that it won’t be easy, that there will be moments that you will be sure you are insane or lost or completely stupid. But if you have faith in a greater plan for your own life, those moments will be quick, and the fruits of your intent measureless.

For more help building dreams try:
The Creative Visualization Workbook by Shakti Gawain
The Millionaire Course: A Visionary Plan For Creating the Life of Your Dreams by Marc Allen
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
by Julia Cameron
The Complete Vision Board Kit: Using the Power of Intention and Visualization to Achieve Your Dreams by John Assaraff

Bitch Loves Yenta

In Career on March 2, 2010 at 10:12 am

The notorious Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture gave AskYourYenta a hefty shout out in this month’s Spring 2010 issue. Thanks to Andi Zeisler, cofounder and editorial/creative director of Bitch, Your 28 (then 27) -Year-Old Yenta is number 10 on this month’s BitchList, a list of the editor’s favorite emerging talent. For a former Women’s Studies major, this is the holy grail of media. Hollah.

Bitch: The Feminist Response to Pop-Culture, BitchList Spring 2010