Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Advice - Essay from Newsletter 8

“Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood”

The Dear Abby Game

When I worked at WMJI there was a game that some of the staff would play now and then at lunch.

Someone would pick up the newspaper in the break room and turn to Dear Abby’s advice column and start to read one of the letters.

“Dear Abby”, they would read, “My husband likes to”… and then the reader would pause and allow the rest of us to guess what it was that the husband likes to do. After a few suggestions, the reader would continue, “Well, last night he forgot”… and then they would pause again and let us fill in our guesses.

At last the problem would have been laid out and the letter would be signed “Mixed up in Minnetonka” or something like that. Our reader would continue the game with Dear Abby’s reply. “Dear Mixed up, Your husband is just” and then a pause while we suggested advice from Abby.

Actual Advice

One of my favorite letters that Abby would get (or it could have been her sister Ann Landers) was something like this. It’s not that I remember this particular letter but it was a recurring theme of letters they each received over the years.

Dear Abby, it would begin, I’m forty-five years old and my kids are grown and I’ve always wanted to go to college. I figure that with some of the hours I’ve earned already, I can go at night after I’m done working for the day and finish in about five years. But I’ll be fifty in five years. What do you think? Signed Degree-less in Des Moines.

The details were different. It need not be a woman. They need not be forty-five. The reason for delaying college need not have been children. In fact, it might not be college. It might be learning an instrument, saving up for a trip, anything they’ve always wanted to do.

Abby’s advice was always the same.

Dear Degree-less, In five years you will be fifty whether you go back to school or not.

Go ahead

Degree-less and many of the others weren’t writing to Dear Abby for advice. Some were writing to see if they could get a made up situation in the paper, but others - like Degree-less - were writing for permission not advice.

And Dear Abby was saying, you’re going to be fifty anyway. What do you want to be when you wake up in five years and what does it take to get there.

Think of things you may not be doing because you lack the permission. I’m not talking about risky or unhealthy things. Got one? Now grant yourself permission to do so.

Popeye and John Prine

Popeye’s famous saying (Popeye the cartoon sailor not Popeye the Chicken chain) was “I yam what I yam.”

We got to know who we yam.

The great and sadly late John Prine wrote a song called “Dear Abby” where he sang letter after letter to Dear Abby and have her answer.

In our case it would be…

Degree-less, Degree-less, “you have no complaint. You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t. So listen up buster and listen up good Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood.”

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 8. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

See also Dim Sum Thinking — Theme by @mattgraham — Subscribe with RSS