NJPen’s advice columnist is here, and she’s taking requests.
By Shannon McGill
Full disclosure: I am trying to write an advice column having failed in nearly every arena of my life.
To date I have: ruined a marriage, fallen victim to mental illness and addiction, wrestled with infertility and my own mortality, made a complete mess of my finances, allowed myself to become overweight and out of shape, had terrible haircuts, burned dinners, stained countless blouses, obliterated vibrant friendships, and failed a survey course in World History for undergrads at a liberal arts college.
More important than the myriad disasters in my wake, though, has been my hard-headed, dogged faith that everything was going to turn out ok. And so by some strange and inexplicable phenomenon, it actually has.
My first piece of unsolicited advice for you: don’t listen to anybody who tells you to leave the past in the past; to forget about your failures and move on.
No. Don’t do that.
Some people will tell you, “Oh, don’t blame yourself.”
No. They’re wrong. You should totally blame yourself.
Blow up your failures, and examine every inch of them. Find out where you went wrong, and figure out what you can do differently next time. Good news is, more often than not, there is going to be a next time.
The past is your greatest teacher; don’t write it off. It’s very sexy to talk about living in the now, but let’s be honest. Your past has made you who you are. Without your experiences, especially your unpleasant ones, you’d be a character-less, naïve, empty dope. You’d be a dumb old Guy Smiley who nobody’d want to invite to parties.
Some people will tell you, ‘Don’t blame yourself.’
They’re wrong. You should totally blame yourself.
Your mistakes make you interesting. They make you wise, and—see, here’s where my qualifications as an advice columnist start to shape up—I have made more mistakes in my life than I can even name.
Big mistakes, little mistakes, right-side up, up-side down, striped, spotted, wit’/wit’out, wild, domesticated—mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.
I have reached the point in my life now where I can see its trajectory. I can see the things and people that I have let pass me by, and many times I have practiced what I might have said or done, or what I might still say or do if given the opportunity.
I have dissected and analyzed the situations that I’ve sabotaged with anger or selfishness, and that is my best endorsement: perspective.
Send me the problems that you think are your most terrible problems, and in return, I will give you perspective. Because chances are I have been in your place (or in a place a lot like it, but with worse lighting).
Of course, you are welcome to get your life advice from somebody more traditionally fit for the task; perhaps a person who is very accomplished and accustomed to success.
You would be wise to remember, though, that a person who has never really failed also does not understand or appreciate the mechanics, and the miracle, of redemption.
I do, though, and that’s why I can help you.
Got a problem no one else can tackle? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “McGill-a-Grams,” and watch for a reply in a future column.