Archive for the ‘Career’ Category

Med School Vs. Art School

In Career, Health and Body, Mental Health on February 4, 2010 at 3:11 am

Dear Yenta,

I’ve had seven internships over the course of eight years because I’m afraid of job commitment, and haven’t found anything that excites me. I finally chose a career path to become a physician because I wanted to make a difference.

Although I got accepted and will get a free ride, I’m not excited and am confused. I view myself as more of an artist than an intellect, and want to pursue my art, although I want to help others and know I am good with people. What should I do?

-Lost in Med Schol

Jenny Holzer does what she loves AND helps the world.

Dear LIMS,

Have you really not found anything that excites you? Or is it more a matter of not allowing yourself to do the things that turn you on? Honestly, honey, eight years is long enough to spend avoiding your dreams. Art school beckons your name.

Why on earth would you go to med school if it does not excite you? You want to do good in the world and help others, so do good and help others. This is not limited to physically saving lives in an ER, it extends to every moment of every day. You can do good to others by helping a friend, by lifting someone’s heavy load, by doing Tong Len meditation, by doing yoga, by volunteering your time.

And…you can help others by doing art. As Pipilotti Rist, my personal favorite artist said in “The World’s Most Colorful Video Artist,” a New York Times Magazine article: “The whole question of how to put art into regular life is what interests me the most. I treat art as a service. I think of myself as a service worker.”

Artists are healers. They speak to the unspeakable and allow for the repressed undercurrents of society to breathe and be spoken for. Without the artistic so many humans might shut down. Just think about how music, fashion, film and words affect your daily life. Shame on you for presuming art to be a selfish path, it is the ultimate act of giving and serving – of making a real difference.

Ah, and “selfish” is a myth. In seventh grade my girlfriends and I used to use “you are so selfish” as the ultimate insult. Later, after college, it was shown to me that selfish is selfless. What does this mean? By actually facing and addressing yourself, from your darkest corners and demons to the best and most beautiful parts of you, you are serving your community, your family and those you touch with your work.

By repressing your dreams and living an empty life, you are dragging people down with you. Lift yourself, and those you love, by actually addressing your heart and your spirit. If you need help, so be it. Find a life coach or career coach or therapist; or, sit down and force the good out of you. If you really can’t, you might have some internal dragons to slay. Brave moments of truth are never regretted in time, only those decisions guided by fear and doubt.

A lot of people feel worthless unless they can outwardly be seen as a do-gooder. Learn to love yourself on your own because you will die. I promise. And so, before that death, why not bother beginning to live? This means really sitting and remembering what feels good and attempting to build it into your life. And be patient, it might take a hot minute to manifest. But I guarantee, when you are true to what makes your heart thump and your eyes widen, it always comes to you in ways you least expect it.

A numb doctor saving lives who can’t see herself is no good to nobody. She’ll trip and fall. Save yourself, baby doll, and then save the world. Give that full ride to someone who dreams of being a doctor and can’t afford it, someone who will love their job and bring that love and glow to their patients. Last thing you want to end up as is a fifty year-old doctor resenting her daily life. Going to art school could mean you become the doctor to the social subconscious.

Other artists that use their talent for the greater good:

Jenny Holzer, Installation Artist
Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Roberto Sifuentes
, Performance Poets
Davis Guggenheim, Filmmaker
Joshua Cogan, Photographer
Kara Walker, Visual Artist
Guerrilla Girls, All of the Above

Add every other person who dared to depict their interior, the interior of another, or the gruesome many sides to issues the rest of us are to afraid to venture near. For you to become this amazing artist that you are, step one is unlocking your own pent up inner world.

Tipping Etiquette

In Career on January 7, 2010 at 11:07 pm

20%, baby, all the way. Photo courtesy of

Dear Yenta,

My friends come to my bar and I give them at least a couple of free drinks. Do they not realize that they’re supposed to tip me? What is an appropriate tip on a free drink? On a drink that’s only 2 dollars? On a drink that’s 10 dollars?

-Sucker Punched

Dear SP,

I was once an extremely generous tipper. I learned this habit from my restaurateur, bartender, barista and service-working co-workers. It was a revelation to me, how people who earned not a huge amount still were able to give so much back to other servers. No rich person of the many I had dined with had ever dished out so much dough. In the service industry there was a code of conduct and I learned to follow.

This meant, if you sat at someone’s bar and they gave you free drinks, you tipped at least 20% of the would-be price, or in our case, sometimes we would leave up to a hundred dollars on the bar. If you hadn’t been drinking for free, those bar stools would have been occupied by paying customers. While a bar seemed like a party to us on one end, our buddy behind the counter was earning a living from our good time.

My friends got free diner meals as managers and still left a twenty on the table every time. It was a way of saying thank you, of saying, “I know even though I am eating free that you are still working damn hard.”

Later, a rich friend of mine from childhood came into my restaurant and I saw that she tipped my co-worker 10%. This was after sitting and using a seat, asking for water, and taking up potential revenue space for hours. I was ashamed of my friend in that moment, and then realized it wasn’t her fault. If you never worked in the service industry, you never learned a number of things.

For one: what is a tip? A tip, in America, is not just a sign of gratitude for service. European customers often tipped a dollar or two for a forty-dollar meal. This wasn’t because they were rude, it was because they came from a whole other world of tipping culture where waiters were paid in full, and tips really were just an extra perk. In America, generally, service workers are paid around $2.75 an hour, expecting that the rest will be made in tips. This means, in theory, by tipping ten percent, after taxes, etc., your server ends up paying to bring you your meal.

It is standard to tip 20% everywhere you go. This includes a snack counter, where it seems like they aren’t working: but honey, they are. Tips, often unbeknownst to the untrained tipper, can make or break someone’s day. I had customers who left a twenty after ordering a $2 cup of coffee, and others who dangled dollars and lewd compliments in front of my face after ordering $100 worth of alcohol.

My boss on a farm once taught us that a customer’s bad mood is an opportunity to change someone’s day. He revolutionized how I saw rudeness, less as an affront, and more as an opportunity for change. Moral of the story? Tip, tip always, and tip well. If you are given a discounted meal, tip 20% of the original price. The server should never get stiffed because you were given a freebie.

If you order a $2 coffee, tip at least one dollar. Always round up. I would tip at least $2. $10 drinks: tip at the very least, $2. If the bartender is your friend, tip double. I would probably leave $5 for a $10 drink if I knew the bartender. Remember that bartenders often deal with horrible human behavior. Your tip is not just about money so much as about extra appreciation for not having to mix your own martini in your living room.

These tipping moments won’t bankrupt you; they will pass on the love. You don’t need to be as gung ho as servers are with each other, but you do need to give back appropriately upon receiving.

No matter what, it is still a deal. Money at a bar is less a payment and more like applause for a fabulous show. You want to applaud and give appreciation for the human busting ass to keep you drunk and happy. Also remember that a service worker serves everyone, the good the bad and the ugly, and that they deserve a little cushioning in gratitude for enduring the public and all that comes with it.

For more on tipping in other situations, go to

Have a burning question? Ask me anything by clicking here and sending your e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

In Career on January 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Dear Yenta,

Will I be happy with the career I choose, and for that matter, which
will I choose?


Photo courtesy of Joy Wood.

Dear Couched,

While I am not a psychic, I do love Martin Buber, a famous Jewish philosopher who wrote a number of books addressing, on a basic level, how to live and breathe in the world.

In his book, The Way of Man: According to the Teaching of Hasidism, Buber writes of how Rabbi Baer of Radoshitz once said to his teacher, the “Seer” of Lublin: “‘Show me one general way to the service of [the best that you can be].’ The zaddik replied: ‘It is impossible to tell [people] what way they should take. For one way to serve [the best that you can be] is through learning, another through prayer, another through fasting, and still another through eating. Everyone should carefully observe what way his [or her] heart draws [them] to, and then choose this way with all [their] strength.”

Jewish Philosopher, Martin Buber

Buber’s method is based on the presumption that a divine spark lives in every thing and being. He sees life as an opportunity to realize this spark, and to use it to better the world. Tikkun Olam is a fundamental Jewish value that literally means, “To repair the world.” Anyone, Jewish or non, can use these guidelines in search of a career. As Buber says, “[The best that you can be] dwells wherever [an individual] lets [this] in.” He suggests you, “Seek peace in your own place,” find a way to live with yourself, and use this as a model as to how to live in the world.

I had a boyfriend once who believed that a job was where you made money, and that after work you were meant to do the things you love. I always disagreed, a strong believer in using the hours from 9-5 to BOTH earn a living AND do what you love. It sounds like a privilege, but I also believe that with a strong vision you get what you wish for. Wishing for things, though, is the hard part.

According to my friend, Mendy, an Orthodox Jew in Yeshiva (intensive religious study), “it is known that life is 20% of what happens and 80% of what you make of it.” He suggests that a person evaluate themselves with a true friend or wise mentor, and see in what field their skills are best suited to, as well as in which field they have the best chances of succeeding and then go for it all the way. He also said that the texts state that whatever is hardest for you is what you are meant to do with your life.

This sounds obvious, but rarely do we stop and assess ourselves. Make a list of the things you have enjoyed in your life. Make a list of the things you have done to better someone else, or the world. As Buber writes, “How about forgetting yourself and thinking of the world?” List your skills, list moments where you felt fulfilled. Find what those moments were, what fed them, what you did to make them happen. You will know when you find the right path because your life will feel right, your body will relax, and people around you will smile more often than you thought possible.

To read The Way of Man online, click here.
For books by Buber, click here.
For a career counselor, click here.
For life coach resources, click here.

Freeze My Eggs?

In Career, Parents, Sex on December 30, 2009 at 6:42 am

Dear Yenta,

I’m 27, I’m single, and I’m really busy with my career. Should I freeze my eggs now? If so, how much does it cost and how do I do it?


Photo courtesy of

Dear Impatient,

According to a number of sources online, you are too young to be freaking. I do, however, like your forward thinking. The concept of freezing eggs means you don’t want to rush. Too many women flip out about the ticking clock in their uterus, and jump into loveless fear-based marriage.

As for freezing your eggs, women and fertility don’t necessarily follow some kind of code. As stated by the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago: “Every individual and couple is unique and could be more fertile or less fertile as compared to the average for their age. Some 30 year-olds already have significant egg quality and/or quantity issues and some 43 year-olds can be fertile.”

If you want to freeze your eggs now, go for it, but there is only a 50% chance of pregnancy and the price is steep, $10-$15,000 a frozen crop. For more on freezing eggs now to have babies later, read this article.

To freeze eggs and for more information about the whole ordeal, try They have locations in Austin, Boston, New York, Beverly Hills and Seattle.

One friend said she would never freeze her eggs, because “that’s just like giving up.” Another suggested letting life take its course, and if time runs out, head for an adoption agency. Tons of children need mommies. In the end, though, know that you never know how long your eggs will stick around, possibly well into your forties.

You don’t know whether you even have any viable ones at this moment, and statistically, if you buy numbers, you are not in the “danger window” at 27. Even though the body is unpredictable, and infertility comes without forewarning, I would say write back when we are both 37, then those freezers might make a bit more sense.

The Perils of Genius

In Career on November 29, 2009 at 11:50 pm

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.