Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I should be an Advice Columnist

Two posts in one day! Man, you guys are really getting spoiled. Now if only I ever put up pictures anymore...
by Ruth

I have discovered that I LOVE giving advice. In fact, I think I like it too much. I used to be a great listener because I would just listen and not tell people what to do. Now I'm afraid I like giving advice so much that I might have lost my listening touch.

I especially like giving advice to students. I think it is so gratifying because 1) I am their teacher and therefore respected and 2) I am a foreigner and therefore cool and interesting, so they really pay attention to what I say. I'm gonna guess that 3/4 the time they don't actually follow my advice, but they still ask for it and want to know what I think. Also, a lot of times I feel like I am telling them something new that they haven't heard before. (Like, "No, eating an apple does not count as a meal and you're the second skinniest person I've ever seen so please stop this crazy dieting."

Each week one of the American teachers gives a culture lecture. This week was a little different; we worked together to do a Q&A time entitled "Your Questions about Life and Love." We split up the girls and the guys. There were only 2 guys, who went with Kevin (the English department is about 90% female), and the remaining fifty or so girls stayed with Christina and I. There were a lot less people than usual, but that was kind of nice...more intimate. We had students write down questions they wanted to ask and then we collected them and answered some.
There were some interesting questions. We skipped over the "how do I learn English better" questions and sorted out the rest. About 2/3 of them were related to love and dating and relationships.

I love giving relationship advice. And now that I've actually been in a relationship and am married, I feel slightly more qualified to do it. There were lots of questions like these (except with slightly poorer English)...
"How do I have time for love and study?"
"What do I do if I like a boy but he does not like me?"
"What do I do if a boy likes me but I don't like him?"
"I am dating a boy from my hometown but we are far apart. Do you think the relationship can work out?"
"How do I relate to boys?"
"Do you think the true love exists in reality?"

Some of them were particularly poignant...
"My boyfriend often beats me. He says he does it because he loves me. What should I do?"
"I don't have a boyfriend. Is it because I am not lovely?"
"I talk to a boy on the internet and maybe I like him, but we have never met. I am thinking maybe I will live with him instead of my parents."
"I feel very lonely. Should I find a boy to tell my feelings to?"
"There is a boy who has hurt me deeply in the past but now wants to be friends again. What should I do?"

Others were related to friendship...
"How do I make many people like me?"
"How do I overcome my shyness?"
"If I am angry with a friend, what should I do?"

Then there were some other interesting questions...
"I often have nightmares. I am threatened by them this year. Do you think something is wrong with my health?"
"I find I feel sad and terrible and fear, and I don't know how to find happy."
"I feel that the college life is meaningless."
"I want to quit school and get a job. What do you think?"
"What is the meaning of life?"

Some of them I wanted to address but they were so hard to answer. We told the students, "Please talk to us if you have more questions or still aren't sure." I wish so much I could talk to some of these girls face to face about their questions. I am thinking about the girl with nightmares because even though I didn't say it, maybe it is something deeper that is causing it. We urged the girl to get out of her abusive relationship, but will she? We told her to be careful and tell to other people and not try to talk to him about it alone. I don't want her to be hurt more. I don't want the girl to feel alone in her sadness and fear, and I wish I could talk to her more about it. I want to keep telling these girls they are beautiful and valuable and that their lives have meaning and purpose because some of them honestly have never heard it before.

I love giving advice, but sometimes it's just not enough. I want to think that I am telling them something useful and good, and I think I am, but I am struck by the realization, "It's not enough!" I am frustrated by all the shallow "Do you like China" and "How can I improve my English" conversations when all these issues are underneath. I know these are necessary and that it takes such a long time to build trust. I can't be friends with everyone, but I want to be deeper with at least a few. I hope this time tonight will open up the way for deeper conversations and more opportunities. I know I'm not the answer to solve all of their problems, but darn it!...[sheepish grin] I have so much more advice to give...

1 comment:

Anna said...

So Flickr won't let me log in, but I am fairly certain that 1 and a half and 2 and a half months are far too long to go without adding new photos. What if you have decided to shave your heads? Or... something equally strange? Really, no hurry. It just makes me sad that I look at them every day or two and they are still the same photos (very lovely photos but they get a little tiring after a while). New and exciting always brings joy to my life and I love surprises. Granted, updating Flickr photos may not be much of a surprise, but hey, I have to live vicariously through something, eh?