Q. Every year when I settle in after summer vacation, I am so bummed to be back at my job, bummed that another year has gone by. It makes me crazy how unhappy I am, and how looking forward to taking a lot of August off is the only thing that makes it somewhat bearable. And yet, the years go by. I have been in this job 14 years (I am in my early 40s) and I sometimes feel like I will stick with it forever, even though I’m so unfulfilled. Can you give me a kick in the pants?
Sure. Here it is: Do you want to be writing me this same letter years from now, without your real teeth? Every day it gets harder to leave — that’s pretty much how inertia works. Acknowledge that staying is the easier choice, at least on a day-to-day basis. A passive, beautifully gilded path to a new job — where all you have to do is shake hands upon acceptance — does not exist. Recognize that you must pay something upfront: effort, awkwardness, anxiety, waiting, uncertainty, self-doubt, frustration (and that’s on a good day of job searching). In any given moment, that may seem too steep a price, but visualize the payoff — it sounds like it’s clearly worth it. If you’re truly in, identify the biggest barriers you need to overcome (fear usually has a starring role) and devise a plan of daily small steps to move you closer to a new job. Even if it just starts with opening the old résumé file, or writing two lines of a fresh one. Come on, now: You either want this or you don’t.
Q. My boyfriend confided in me that in high school, he went through a serious phase of stealing — shoplifting from stores, occasionally stealing from friends. He told me this with a lot of trust and openness. But I am pretty repulsed. My family owned a small store when I was growing up and I know just how much of a toll that shoplifting can take; I was raised to take it personally. I want to get past this but it seems so counter to the person I knew.
But he is likely still the person you knew. He just took a different path to get there than you thought he did. Yes, it could be that this fundamentally changes your view of him enough that it creates a bridge too far. But the more you can understand of it, the more it can help you understand him and know what it ultimately means.
So, what does he make of the forces that affected him then: Rebellion? Anger? Revenge? Weakness with peer pressure? Poor impulse control? Emptiness? A need for adrenaline? How did those forces shape him, and what remains of them now? What made him stop, and what did it all teach him? People and pasts can be messy and imperfect. But I’d argue that if he managed to make that mess into art, there is still hope for a big picture you can appreciate.
Read more Baggage Check: