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Bullish: How Do You Improve Your Life When Friends and Family Tell You to “Be Realistic”?

September 27, 2013


I’ve been reading your column and it’s honestly become a lifeline for me. I grew up being taught that income wasn’t something you could control or seek to increase, you just got what you were handed. Being a graduate, (psychology), in this economy and walking into a dead-end job just compounded the problem, but reading your column has made me realise it’s not wrong but actually smart to think about where my money is coming from, and to cultivate multiple incomes. (I know it sounds obvious, but before that the only advice I’d ever heard on making money involved a lot of visualising and very little doing.) 

My question is how do you begin building that life when everyone around you has a completely different set of beliefs? I love to write, so another long-held belief is that choosing that path means choosing poverty. My family and friends are sweet, but if I mention multiple income streams or freelancing they tell me I need to learn to compromise. I find this really patronising since I’ve supported myself for the last 8 years and I kept the dead-end, low income job for four of them in the name of paying my rent. I’m also having health issues at the moment that mean my youthful mojo isn’t where I’d like it to be, (I’m exhausted most of the time and get debilitating headaches from concentrating on even simple tasks.)

In the last month two of my older family members have passed away and a third has gone into assisted living care. I’m more aware than ever of the need to provide for my future self when she’s inevitably hit by a train and everyone she knows gets cancer, but I feel stumped since I’m my only support and my only experience is in maintaining a job I hate. Most of my friends’ money management consists of lowering costs on food and leisure and clothes and all the things that make life awesome rather than income increase. They think I’m being childish when I say I want the awesome.

How do you survive and even flourish when you’re a team of one with limited energy? How do you forge your way when no one around you can relate or guide you? More

Bullish Life: How to Get Muscles and Ignore Haters Who Hate Lady-Muscles

September 27, 2013

I’m a fellow woman trying to find a good workout that isn’t full of bullshit and I believe that you might have the answers.

Just read a ton of your work and I think that you’re fucking awesome. I have a hard time trusting the blond haired, giant thigh women all over the fucking internet telling me how I can get sexy curves.

I want to be strong and I want it to show. I was inspired by that picture of you flexing an awesome bicep during one of your comedy stand ups so… I was hoping you could direct me somewhere that I could trust for information on workouts, etc.

Thanks! I realize how busy you must be, but I would appreciate anything! Even if it’s one website link! OK THANKS!!! More

Bullish Life: What Successful People Do On The Weekends, An Interview With Laura Vanderkam

September 27, 2013

I’m ambivalent about weekends. More

Bullish Life: On STIs And Being Responsible Under Embarrassing (and Incurable) Circumstances

September 27, 2013

Easy A, Sony Pictures

I’ve been reading your column for the last couple of years and it has quite literally changed my life. I’m a Master’s student going into my last year for library and information science. I work two part-time library jobs and I have two internships where I do library things over instant messenger. I volunteer at a third library and I do the finances for both my faculty’s student council and the university sexual education centre. I’m networking my ass off, submitting articles to industry publications and getting involved in professional organizations. I do all of this with the intention of being kind to my future self and making sure that my future self has a snowball’s chance in hell of gaining a strong foothold in a slightly precarious field.

I had to say all that because I need you to know the awesome stuff about me before I tell you my real concern: I was recently diagnosed with the herpes simplex virus (Type 1: the cold sore kind) in the genital area. More

Bullish Life: Never Opt All the Way Out, Ever: A Response to the New York Times

September 27, 2013

I spent the summer after my junior year of college in LA. I was a girl from Virginia who had been going to college in New Hampshire, so I was really unprepared for the mentally ill homeless people and the fact that, if you are a pedestrian at any time, men will offer you money for sex.

My adorable naivete led me to befriend a homeless woman, question her about her job history, insist that she could get back into gainful employment, and smuggle her into an internet cafe to make a resume. I crafted a pretty impressive resume, considering the circumstances. Roxanne had studied physics at junior college in the seventies. Sometime thereafter she had been a hotel maid. But for twelve years in the middle, she refused to tell me what she was doing. More

Bullish Life: Let’s Reclaim the Word “C*nt” for This Specific Purpose

September 27, 2013

My mother told me that my grandmother once referred to “the w-word.”

It took me a minute to even figure out that “whore” was a word so bad it couldn’t be spoken. The silent “w” didn’t help my brainstorming efforts, and I was disappointed that the answer wasn’t something much more exotic.

I feel like “whore” has passed its way into our nation’s casual greetings and dirty talk. In a world of SlutWalks (which I support) and “Damn, you’se a sexy bitch” (not my favorite song), it’s hard to see “whore” as all that horrible just by itself, outside of its presence in an already-hateful sentence.

However: More

Bullish Life: You Know What I Find Inspiring? Mediocrity.

September 27, 2013

I’ve always been inspired by people who really give it the whole 65%. More

The Williamsburg Spelling Bee in the NYTimes

August 2, 2013

Bullish Life: When, If Ever, Is a Good Time to Get Knocked Up?

July 17, 2013

On the heels of two weeks ago’s Bullish Life: If You’re Pro-Choice, How Do You Make a Good Choice?, let’s see a reader question that is basically the exact opposite. More

Bullish Life: What To Do When College Didn’t Seem To Help Your Future Much

July 17, 2013

Oh look, interest rates on student loans just doubled. July 4th approaches, and my patriotism is substantially dampened by this slap in the face to young Americans.

Let me tell you about a fairy-tale time: the late 1990?s, also known as the dot-com bubble. College students with what sometimes seemed like any kind of tech experience at all were being recruited to drop out of college and take six-figure jobs. I heard of someone getting six figures straight out of high school after learning to code in his childhood bedroom. Even web content writers with no tech skills at all were being recruited and making big bucks!

Here is a 1999 article from Inc. magazine about a startup called It sold balls. You know, soccer balls, baseballs, golf balls. Just … balls. No bats. No mitts! JUST BALLS. By 2001, the company had received $13 million in venture funds to pursue (that is, get their balls into) the “affinity and premium ball market.”

I’m saying that if JustBalls was taken for brilliance, it’s not hard to see how a hip young person could teach himself some kind of tech skills in his dorm room, head to Silicon Valley, and get a cool job that also included equity in the company. More

Bullish Life: If You’re Pro-Choice, How Do You Make a Good Choice?

July 17, 2013

I have often turned to your column for a healthy dose of common sense. I am writing to you because I think I am a strong, career-minded young woman and I want to make a good choice about my future. I am in my twenties, and after working for a few years, I went back to school in 2011 and did post-grad studies in a highly competitive creative field. I have been working in that field for about a year, assembling a portfolio and generally trying to get my career off the ground. It is going well. Over the weekend, I took a few pregnancy tests that turned out positive and on Monday, my doctor confirmed that I am almost 6 weeks pregnant. I am not currently in a relationship with the father. I was put on a new pill 3 months ago and we had been using condoms. I have told the father. He is doing his best to be supportive but is overall very surprised and finds the whole situation surreal. I am aware that the reality of this potential being is forming with every passing moment but I am also trying not to rush through it. One site I came across suggested that I make a pros and cons list for each scenario. It is attached. I know that no one can tell me what to do in this scenario but I would appreciate any words of guidance that you can give me now. Thank you.

You know, anti-choice people often presume that pro-choice people just love having abortions. As though abortions are really fun and we can’t wait to have more in order to spite our opponents’ beliefs. This, of course, is not true. But on the other hand, the pro-choice side is so often put on the defensive (today, Texas — another day, another state) that all our energy is expended defending the right to abortion. Little energy is left for the “choice” part. Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean that exercising that right is automatically the best decision for you. Read More

Bullish: When Is It Appropriate To Ask People About Their Jobs? (Ladies Say: INSTANTLY)

June 20, 2013

Around 2006, I’m out at a bar with my new guy. His friends have just arrived, so everyone stands in a circle while he makes introductions.

“This is Joe. He’s a designer. This is Mason. He’s also a designer.” Five or six designers later (I guess they hang out together?): “This is Jennifer.”

That was it. Because being female is job enough! (Might as well just change your name to Mrs. Boyfriend!)

When I pointed it out later, my guy was mortified. He explained that I had a lot of jobs (see Bullish: How to Do Many Things at Once). I explained that, since I had so many, it should have been even easier to recall one of them. More

Bullish: How to Network When You’d Really Rather Settle In With a Good Book

June 20, 2013

I’ve been in my career, as a full-time copywriter and freelance writer, for six years, and I still feel as if I have no strong connections. At this point, I sense my career has stalled, and not being able to network has held me back from moving forward.

I’ve tried networking before. While earning an undergraduate degree, I attended a networking seminar, and being that it was 2005, the speaker told us to “Contact experts at trade publications.” This befuddled me at the time: Why would someone with an established career want to even help, let alone respond to, an inquiry from a “lesser-than”? Isn’t networking a mutual give-and-take relationship?

Two years later, while earning a graduate degree, I spoke with a career counselor, who asked me to contact school alumni for “informational interviews.” A few responded to me, but from there, I didn’t know where to go. How do you keep them interested? What’s the protocol for developing a networking relationship?

By luck, I found a full-time job in my field, but in the four years I have worked there, I haven’t gone to a single networking or industry event. Where I work, you can only go to such events if you make sales for the company. I don’t have a sales personality or appearance, and I fear going to such events would make a negative impression for my workplace.

I don’t have the usual network of friends and family, either, and my coworkers are the gossiping type. Even though I have managed to get somewhere (and score freelance clients on occasion in my own time), this seems to be as far as I can get.

What is your advice for a person with zero connections to get started with networking? How do you get to events where you don’t have to represent a company? What’s your take on LinkedIn? And, once you have initially communicated with someone, how do you create a relationship?


Bullish Life: Why We Should Take The Gender Stereotypes Out Of Weddings (And Marriage)

June 20, 2013

I got married in April. This is a column about de-gendering weddings.

I’m not suggesting you necessarily should de-gender a wedding — I just want to talk about how you can do this if you want to. If people want to play-act at retro gender roles for one day of their lives, that’s basically fine by me. When I went to the prom, my date pulled out my chair and opened all the doors for me, which is not how I want to live my life, but was cute because we were kids at the prom.

But I do think it’s good to sometimes take a step back and think about what the hell we’re actually doing. More

Bullish Life: How To Stay Bullish When You’re Depressed

June 20, 2013

by Allie Brosh

Image by Allie Brosh of Hyperbole & A Half
Do you have any tips on how to be Bullish when you’re going through depression, or anxiety, or other headfrying thingy? I’d love to read you on that and I think it’d help a lot of people.

- Melancholy in Melbourne

My freshman year in college, I became severely depressed. I’m not especially prone to these things. But it’s not surprising that the confluence of being away from home the first time, having absolutely no time management or schedule-setting ability and thereby sleeping and waking at bizarre hours, and moving from Virginia Beach to a a dark and freezing valley in New England might have some kind of effect. While I was at Dartmouth, someone told me that the campus health center had a “sunlamp room,” where students who had Seasonal Affective Disorder could just lie around until they were less sad.

At the time, I was interested in writing fiction, and I had this idea that being depressed would make my work more profound. There may be some truth to this, or at least some correlation — many great artists have had serious mental illnesses — but very few of us are going to be great artists, and many great artists have also lived pretty jolly lives, holding loft parties and sexing up young acolytes. I was seriously disserved by the idea that depression was somehow “deep.” Looking at a tree on the campus green for twenty-five minutes because you think it’s so profound is not helpful to you or anyone else (or the tree).

I do have some tips. A few. But I’m obviously not a medical professional, so I’m adding the caveat here that what I have to say is meant to be helpful only to someone who has already sought out the help of a trained professional, or whose problems (general moodiness, for instance) are just a normal part of the human condition, and under the bar for a treatable condition. More

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