Dear….

Advice columnist is one of the best jobs I can imagine. Right up there with cotton candy maker (my aspiration as a 5-year-old) and college professor (where I might, fingers crossed, eventually end up).

Read this interview with four advice columnists, including Cheryl Strayed, whose book I just finished and who I’m slightly obsessed with right now.

Advice for Introverts

How to be an introvert and alone and function reasonably well in the world:

As an introvert, it is most advisable to be partnered with someone who understands you and has similar hobbies to your own. This way, you do not have to face the world solo very often. But as that person can be difficult to find, particularly for an introvert, a disappointing catch-22, I offer these tips:

1. Get a dog. Take the dog everywhere you go. This works best with small dogs.

2. The dog can teach you something very important about the space you spend time in. Dogs take comfort in familiar items, things that smell of home or of their owner. Observe and mimic. When you must spend large amounts of time in semi-public places, like your office or cubical, take steps to make the space more comforting. Surround yourself with pictures of things and people you like. Get a plant. Drape a scarf over your chair. Play music you like. Aim your chair so you are facing away from other people and can at least pretend you have some privacy.

3. While we are on the topic of work, in your professional life figure out how to be expert at something other people need but aren’t eager to learn to do themselves. Confuse them with an excess of information when they ask a question and you’ll be left alone to do your job in peace.

4. Find a perfume you really like and wear it every day. The smell will become comforting. It is the smell of you and since you are comfortable being around yourself, it’ll make you feel more ok in public. You could also choose a smell that reminds you of someone else who makes you feel comforted, like your grandmother. Be careful with that one though, especially if you are keeping your eye open for someone you might like to spend time with. I’m not saying your grandma smells bad, but…ok, I’ll stop.

5. Travel under the cover of darkness. That is a joke. Kind of. But seriously, sunglasses help in the day time. Which leads me to the next tip…

6. Insulate yourself with your clothing, hair, and accessories. Hoodies are great for this purpose. Hair that falls into your face–yes. But if you don’t want to look like an awkward creep all the time, try headphones. People are less likely to talk to you if you are wearing them and loud music can almost completely insulate you from your environment. Of course, this must be done only in moderation. Only when you are feeling particularly raw and exposed. Don’t let yourself become too antisocial.

7. Speaking of social, when dealing with other people, particularly new people or any person who makes you uncomfortable, focus on the intimate personal details of their life. As them questions about their wife or their children or the person they live with. Ask them where they get their hair cut or how they got that scar on their hand. Most people love to talk about themselves. This will deflect attention away from you while simultaneously disarming the other person. You will see that they are just as alone and troubled as you. Of course this tip isn’t very helpful if you are facing another introvert. If that is the case though, they probably won’t force you to chat very long. But if they stick around, and if you both keep saying things, well, then maybe you won’t need this list anymore.

Act II, Scene I

What fixes someone’s personality in one place is a determined effort on their part–usually through continually telling themselves they are this or that kind of person and acting on what they say. If you don’t like the way you are, make yourself different. You are the only person who’s standing in your way.”

This advice is sort of hokie, but pretty wise. A friend put it in other words yesterday, calling this point in my life my “second act.” Thanks, Steev, I really like that idea.

As Steev pointed out, F. Scott Fitzgerald disagrees with him in his famous quote: “there are no second acts in American lives.” But you know what, Fitzgerald is dead, and besides, he’s not the boss of me. I’m actually going to stop being the boss of me as well. Who TF is going to steer this ship? The wind, or perhaps the dog.