You Asked It

Just Wondering

Advice about tattoos, switching schools, and depression.

What do you do if someone you know in a professional or academic setting tells you they will do something by a certain time and then….doesn’t? I had an email exchange with an advisor who said they’d get back to me by the end of the day. I replied, “Perfect, thank you so much!” But they haven’t done it, and I really need their feedback. I’m guessing I should just write another email to remind them, but I’m not sure what to say or when to send it. Help? —Celeste, 20, Portland

My heart is beating like a hummingbird’s right now, Celeste. My face is hot and red, and I’m starting to perspire, because answering your question will require me to reveal literally the most embarrassing, shameful thing in my life. GAH. Are you ready? (I’m not.) OK, here goes. This is the inbox for Rookie submissions:

SUBMISSIONSINBOX

I KNOW, YOU GUYS. I am just as horrified as you are! Before you go judging me (or at least take this next thing into account when you do your judging), let me explain, OK?

I get between 75 and 150 emails every day in my personal inbox. Our submissions email gets between 100 and 200 messages a day. None of this is because I’m SO POPULAR; it is just a fact that comes with my job. It is impossible, based on the laws of physics and the limitations of the human body, for one person to read, think about, and answer every single one of those messages in a single day, especially when most of the submissions require me to read a few pages of an attached document, and ESPECIALLY in addition to doing the rest of my job. So, what happens? A lot of those messages go unanswered for a very long time. If you have written to me and I haven’t answered, it is for one of these seven reasons:

  1. I read the message, made a mental note to answer it, then got overwhelmed with other stuff and totally forgot.

  2. I read the message and made an actual written note to answer it, but I haven’t gotten that far down my to-do list.
  3. I started reading the message, but it was SO LONG and SO COMPLICATED that I was like, I will come back to this one, and then I never did.
  4. I SKIMMED the message and didn’t catch the part about the deadline, so I am not aware of the urgency of the matter.
  5. The email got buried under 100 other emails that came in that day, and I won’t see it until one day much later, when I’m searching for something else and am like, “Oh shit! I didn’t see this! Is it too late?” and you’re like, “Uh, yeah, asshole.” This, unfortunately, is the most common of these scenarios.
  6. I started answering the email and then some urgent thing came up, and I forgot that I hadn’t finished or sent it and in fact believe that I DID send it, and then I’m all, “Didn’t you get my email???” and you’re like, “No,” and I have to be like, “Oh that’s because I never sent it.”
  7. I answered it, saying, “I’ll do this by the end of the day,” then I got overwhelmed with other urgent stuff and totally forgot to get back to it. This, I’m guessing, is what happened with your email to your advisor.

Ugh, I AM A MONSTER. I know how awful it is to write to someone and have them never answer, or to have someone—especially someone in a position of authority—promise they will do something, but not deliver. Like I said, the Rookie submissions inbox is literally the biggest source of guilt in my life! Thinking about it right now is making me a little dizzy.

OK. Deep breaths. The point of this confession is not to masochistically submit myself to a public flogging, but rather to give you some context. Most editors are in the same situation I’m in, which is why it takes so long for them to answer your emails. The same, I’m guessing, is true for professors and advisors. I’m positive that your advisor really wants to respond to what you sent them, but they forgot, or it got buried under an avalanche of other work they had to do. Here is what not to do in this situation: take it personally. I’m sure it has NOTHING to do with you! The worst thing you can do is get angry and start subtweeting about them like “I used to think promises meant something, thanks for murdering my innocence” or “#thatawkwardmoment when your trust is snuffed out like a candle in the wind by your academic advisor”

Here is exactly what to do: Send them another email the next day. Don’t open a new message window for this; do it as a reply to their “I’ll get back to you” email, with your exchange thus far quoted underneath, so that they won’t have to go searching for your first message. Here is what you say in that email:

Hi, NAME OF ADVISOR. Just checking in to see if you still have time to do this. Thanks!

or:

Hello! Just bumping this back up to the top of your inbox, in case it got buried.

(If you need the answer by a certain day, you can add a reminder of that deadline.)

Do you know how much I LOVE emails like this? SO MUCH, because instead of being like, “WTF IS YR PROBLEM WHY ARE YOU NOT ANSWERING MEEEEEE,” they’re acknowledging my situation by saying, “I know how much work you have; here is a helpful reminder of this one thing you said you would do.” They key is to be upbeat and casual, because the last thing this person needs (I may be projecting here, but it’s on purpose) is MORE GUILT. Now I’m gonna go enter a monastery and never talk to or see anyone ever again, but I hope this was helpful in the meantime. —Anaheed

Recently, my best friend ditched me, leaving me with almost no friends AND turning her new popular friends against me. She’s very condescending toward me, which is making me miserable at school. My parents say I can transfer to another school next year—one where many of my friends go—but the one I go to now is GREAT academically, whereas the other is known for having bad teachers. Do I stay where I am, with no friends but awesome teachers, or do I go to the school with good friends and potentially awful teachers? —Lily

When I was in the eighth grade, I was obsessed with switching schools. After my best friend in the world dumped my ass, I lost custody of all of our mutuals, and they made fun of me relentlessly as I unsuccessfully begged for their (and especially her) esteem back. I thought that if I transferred to this one boarding school elsewhere in the state, I could find new compatriots to hang with and finally be rid of the DESPERATE GAPING NEED for my ex-crew to like me again despite my knowing that what they had done to me was shitty and even though I didn’t actually, deep down, want to be friends with them after they broke my heart like that. (Or, really, at all, regardless—one of the girls used to get mad at me if I put lyrics in my away messages from songs that she considered HERS, while another frequently lectured me on how great it was to have guys let you sit in their cool cars. Do your former friends have dumb qualities like this? I suggest you dwell on them).

Looking back, I’m really glad I wasn’t able to transfer, because by staying at a school where I had roughly zero friends for a good long while, I was forced to learn one of the most useful things in the whole entire world, something that was crucial to the development of my personhood: Up to a point, lonesomeness can work in your favor. Do you know the term woodshedding? It basically means repeatedly practicing a skill in isolation until you become way, way better at it (you don’t have to do this in an actual wooden shed…unless you want to?). Since I didn’t have much company as a young teenager, that’s what I did, albeit unintentionally: I sank myself into reading and writing obsessively, and it was maybe the most formative and productive thing I could have done with that time in my life. I think that’s when I started to understand what I valued most in other people’s creative work, and what my number-one goal was in my own writing. (Funnily, that aspiration, which hasn’t changed since then, OR SO I THOUGHT, is kind of antithetical to this answer—I decided that what I most wanted my work to do was make other people feel less alone. REALLY GOING BACK ON MY PRINCIPLES HERE, I guess.)

Academics are clearly important to you, so stay where you are and flex on those grades. The whole rest of your lifelong will be better for it. This is not to say feeling alienated does not hurt like you might actually be dying from a lack of friendship, which you seem to know. So know, too, that I’m not advising that you seal yourself up from the rest of the world forever in order to master your particular brand of genius: The wonderful thing about your scenario is that you’ve already managed to make friends who don’t go to your particular school, people you can feel close to without seeing them in the hallways every day. You have the best of both worlds, my dude, so don’t give that up! Fuck your ex-friends, and relish the fact that you get to be the enigmatic brainiac who’s cool enough to roll with a mysterious passel of strangers that you didn’t have to rely on math class to find. That is one of the raddest people in high school to be, wouldn’t you agree?

So: Go woodshed until your brain is ironclad in its un-fuck-with-ability, see your friends from the other place on weekends and afternoons without having to also suffer their maybe-bad teachers, and draw scads of mean cartoons of your ex-gang getting stuck in quicksand in your binder if it makes you feel better while you’re in class with them—at least until you stop caring what they think (which, if you commit to doing the first two, will be sooner than you might guess). —Amy Rose

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24 Comments

  • MR February 12th, 2014 12:14 AM

    To the person with the friends at another school: I always thought the people at my high school who had friends-from-another-school were SO cosmopolitan and cool!! One girl in particular had a boyfriend from another school! How exotic! I grew up in a really small, rural area though, so maybe that is part of why I thought it was so interesting, haha!

    Also, your situation happened to my husband when he was in school. All of his friends ditched him and were mean to him, so he basically practiced drumming all day every day and now he’s an awesome drummer! So that advice about woodshedding really worked for him too!

  • TessAnnesley February 12th, 2014 1:17 AM

    That last answer about severe depression flooding you and making you numb = my life

  • Raissomat February 12th, 2014 2:20 AM

    I have phases where I feel really numb, like I know I should feel something -anything- but I don’t. Then there are my fears. I know they are not reasonable or logic, but I’m afraid of phone calls, and meeting people that intimidate me for some reason. Also, when trying to make something important I get very anxious. I always felt all I really needed was a kick in the pants, but reading about depression and anxiety on here makes me doubt.

  • litchick February 12th, 2014 5:54 AM

    Amy Rose, that is Literally the Best Answer Ever. Thank you.

  • umi February 12th, 2014 9:05 AM

    such wonderful and thoughtful answers. rookie is so great!!

    also, let’s give Anaheed a huge mental hug. Thanks for all your hard work,Anaheed~~

  • soretudaaa February 12th, 2014 9:17 AM

    I loved Amy Rose’s response to the second question. I was in a very similar situation all through high school (my two best friends from middle school changed schools and so I very rarely saw them). I mean, having no friends (or very distant ones with whom you don’t get to spend much time with) is a total bummer, and I did get down sometimes, but I think something really important about that was that it made me appreciate my family a lot more. Every time the friends who had ditched me did something horrible, I knew I could always turn to them. I used to feel sad about not having had the typical high school experience with parties and talking to friends about boys but I now know that I will never regret it because I got to spend so much time with my family and I’m so close to them because of that. I mean, after high school you grow up and move on with your life so I feel like those last years of family-living are so important. I have the best family memories from that time.

  • the_smartorialist February 12th, 2014 11:32 AM

    Reminder-type emails make me feel like a bitch, but that ‘top of your inbox’ message is genius, thank you.

    Anaheed, you are a boss. Please don’t punish yourself with guilt. And please don’t become a hermit, because apart from anything else I don’t think they’re allowed wi-fi.

  • giov February 12th, 2014 12:14 PM

    I actually got a reply from Anaheed once, saying that maybe one thing I wrote could potentially be published. I never heard back again (and now I see why!), but it still made me very happy (and now even more!).

    • Anaheed February 12th, 2014 1:06 PM

      Oh man, I’m so sorry. Let me circle back on that one now. And thank you for the reminder!

  • Margo February 12th, 2014 2:52 PM

    I freaking love Anaheed, she works so damn hard for all of this to be possible. It’s truly amazing and admirable the amount of work she does for Rookie…I would be soooo overwhelmed if I had her job!!!

  • LuxOrBust February 12th, 2014 4:14 PM

    Has Rookie considered getting a second Anaheed? Not that she’s replaceable. I see her kicking butt all over this all the time, but feeling that guilty isn’t so great…just a thought.

    • Anaheed February 12th, 2014 4:51 PM

      We actually have a second AND a third story editor, but it’s still a lot of work for not a lot of people!

      • LuxOrBust February 16th, 2014 5:10 PM

        I feel ya girl, keep up the good work!

  • Marykate February 12th, 2014 8:06 PM

    Loved the advice about being dumped by friends. I went through a similar experience in middle school, and weirdly,being shunned by my old friends actually helped me become a lot more outgoing, as I had to try and find new people to hang out with.

  • SWIZZLEFAIRY22 February 12th, 2014 9:12 PM

    I know this is a completely different type of advice column but as a hardcore rookie reader can I please formally nominate Hayley Williams for ask a grown woman? I have feels man!

  • rhymeswithorange February 12th, 2014 11:00 PM

    What a great response Amy Rose! I had the same thing happen to me in middle school, and it taught me to really look at everyone as valuable, because you never know what they’re going through. Making others know they’re not alone why I write also <3

  • jenaimarley February 13th, 2014 4:45 AM

    So much love and respect for Anaheed!!!

  • Moxx February 13th, 2014 3:49 PM

    The response about friends and learning things yourself and woodshedding- yes
    Amy Rose you are the coolest.

  • nug February 13th, 2014 5:00 PM

    Love the tattoo response! I just got the Venus symbol tattooed on my neck and I keep getting negative comments!!
    Rookie, you are always so relevant to life.

  • julalondon February 14th, 2014 7:31 AM

    Oh man, tattoo-girl, I feel you. I recently got a tattoo on my wrist; 2 Chinese Characters. I am European, a blonde girl and Chinese Characters are considered as “not cool anymore” to have as a tattoo. The thing is that my major at college is Chinese Studies; I can speak and write Chinese and this tattoo has an important meaning to me (which people obviously don’t know anything about). I get so many stupid comments on my tattoo and sometimes I just wanna get angry about those shitty comments…but I decided to stop caring at all. The people I care about know that I speak the language and about the meaning of my tattoo and about the rest of the world…well, I stopped giving a shit…=)

  • ungrula February 16th, 2014 10:41 PM

    Hey Katie,
    I was you last year
    I don’t have any advice since I dealt with the situation really badly but yeah I just wanted you to know that you aren’t the only one experiencing this and that if other people can get through it, so will you
    I do suggest talking to a professional (therapist, psychiatrist, hell even a school counselor) if you aren’t already; that made the difference for me
    The only way out is through
    Ok that’s all bye I love you

  • I am not telling February 24th, 2014 4:46 AM

    Hey Lily,
    If you decide that its best to stay at the current school (actuality this would work if your new as well) and need an ice breaker try joining some of the school clubs – you might discover a new talent and even if you don’t instantly bond with someone, after a while you might have some people who at least acknowledge you; if they have seen you be cool away from narky ‘friends’ then they can make up their own opinion. Its small but it helps.
    Your friend,
    The Grumpy Bear

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