Ask Amy: College student seeks occupation during pause
Dear Amy: My 19-year-old daughter’s freshman year of college ended with several weeks of online classes after California’s shelter-in-place mandate ended in-person instruction.
The online format was difficult for her, and she did poorly, after doing quite well in her classes before then.
During quarantine she has become depressed and anxious about the coronavirus and the social and political upheaval our country is undergoing.
After discussion we’ve agreed that her starting her sophomore year online will not be a wise choice for her and she is going to take the semester, and possibly the year, off from college.
The question is: What now? The job market is tight.
Even volunteer opportunities are limited because of the pandemic.
If it was an option, I would seriously encourage her to join the Peace Corps.
She feels adrift. She is in therapy, which is helpful. I want to help guide her, but I am at a loss as to how, and what to suggest during this break from school. Your suggestions? — Worried Mom
Dear Worried: I think your daughter should explore taking classes at your local community college. This would also enable her to continue to identify as being a student, and would keep her on track, academically. Taking at least one class would also provide an important structure to her days.
The worst thing would be for her to have too much unstructured time. This is when her anxiety would roam her brain’s hallways, looking for trouble. She should spend as much time as possible outdoors. Regular exercise will help. Make sure she makes dinner for the family at least two times a week (learning to cook will give her a sense of mastery).
She should also look for a part-time job or volunteer position. Granted these opportunities might be few and far between, but exploring options and spitballing creative ideas (could she perhaps be a Zoom tutor for an elementary school child? Does anyone need a dog walker?) will be good for her.
Also, make sure she limits her exposure to news/media/information/misinformation that triggers her anxiety. The world will continue to spin on its axis if she spends one week with no media and only rereading Jane Austen and watching filmed adaptations of her novels.
Also, podcasts. Gobs of podcasts.
Dear Amy: This morning’s paper had the obituary of the father of a friend of mine. The decedent’s younger son and daughter-in-law were mentioned by name, as was my friend (the older son). But my friend’s husband (the two men are married) was removed from the narrative.
In talking about that with another friend, she said that her ex-husband’s sibling was trans and had been mentioned in their father’s obituary by her birth name, the male name she was assigned at birth.
What these two situations share is deliberate cruelty to the immediate mourners. In my friend’s situation, what does he do: Come by himself to the funeral, deprived of his husband’s comfort, or does he bring his husband and have to explain it all at the graveside?
With the trans child, why did someone think that pretending that “Jane” was still “John” would be a good idea, when people not in-the-know will say, “WHO is THAT with the family? And where’s John?”
I’m so angry about this; perhaps you can explain it. — Angry
Dear Angry: First of all, a death notice is not an invitation to a funeral. Of course, your friend will bring his husband to his father’s service, because, well, they are married, and that’s what spouses do. He doesn’t need to explain anything to anyone.
My daughter worked for a time editing death notices for a few newspapers, and what she took away from the experience was that many families use these notices to settle old scores, punish or exclude family members, or create a seemingly false narrative about a life. She worked with funeral homes that would report former spouses submitting competing death notices, leaving out names of children from previous relationships. The absurdity of it all would almost be funny, if it weren’t so cruel.
Dear Amy: “Trapped” complained about his pal who drinks to excess without remembering the behavior. Trapped could try documenting the behavior with a video and showing him his own behavior.
I’ve recently had infections that put me in a state of confusion that I don’t remember later. My wife’s videos of me in that state were important evidence for my doctor and for me. — Recovering
Dear Recovering: Great suggestion. Thank you.