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Sincere Advice From a Girl Whose Life is A Mess by Kolleen Carney | 2 questions

Kolleen Carney


When I first thought of doing this column, I could hear my family and friends scoffing in my head. I have never been the one who takes the easy path, and to take advice from me would seem like the most ludicrous thing one could do for themselves. But the thing is, I give better advice than I take. I don’t know why I can apply thoughtful critiques or suggestions to everybody but myself… I guess that is just the way I am wired, an empath unable to empathize with herself. Therefore, my life is a mess, but I am here to help you, with humor and pop culture references, with all the love I have.

Q: I am in my 50’s and coming to terms with my sexuality, realizing I am lesbian. What do you think is the best way to approach this with my husband and family?

A: This is a tough one. I, for one, am a firm believer in being true to yourself. What good is this life if you are merely going through the motions, not really living? For most of my life I have carried the weight of doing what I think is expected, what is right for everyone else, but never for me; only recently have I started really living for myself. It is hard, of course, but it gets easier. Slowly, but it does.

Unfortunately, that sort of freedom often comes at the expense of others. You are married to a man, and I am sure he is going to be hurt (and angry, and confused) to learn that you have realized your sexuality is more complicated than you thought. This is where I am most concerned for your situation: your safety (The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has some sobering statistics here: Is your husband someone with whom you can sit down and have a painful but frank discussion? Can he see things beyond emotion, and ultimately be supportive? Like any relationship that comes to an end, it is bound to sting, but ending things for the right reason can be beneficial to both of you in the long run.

I am hoping that you are blessed with the type of family who will listen to and support you no matter what; so few are. If you have children, I find being honest is the way to go. Cassie Ainsworth on the British teen drama Skins once said “Secrets hurt”, and I do believe that—it is something that echoes in my brain all the time. Children, no matter what the age, hate to be condescended to and hate to be left in the dark. Even in their confusion or anger, they tend to look back with relief that at least someone was honest with them.

As for other family members, well… They are either going to be supportive, or they’re not. Either way, you must remember that we can choose the people we value as “family”, and they are so often not blood related. This is your life, and you do not have to apologize for it; this is your life, and you do not need anyone’s permission to live it.

You cannot change who you are. But you can change your circumstances. If you choose to come out to your husband and family, and can’t stay in your current living situation, is there some place safe you can go? A friend or relative’s house? There is no shame in asking for help, but it is always best to come up with a strategy for your living and financial well-being. It is wise to come up with a long-term plan (money, lodging) before you make a move, but feel no shame in reaching out for support and help! If you have to stay on some couches for a while, well, that is what friends and family are for (you can also check out for more resources).

Ultimately, I do hope that you stay true to yourself. We only have one life, and we try our best to make the most of it. Sit down with yourself and analyze what it is you want and need. You deserve to be happy. And you deserve to be supported and safe.


Q: I work with a girl I hate. She was hired as my assistant, but she is incompetent, habitually late, complains constantly, and is generally just unpleasant to be around. I have begged for her to be transferred, but no other store will take her. What can I do to stop working with her, or to get her to leave me alone?

Ah, the workplace—the bane of most people’s existence. Who hasn’t worked in an environment where they could not escape that one person who really just grinds their gears? At my last job, almost every person was that person.

It seems to me that you are in a position of power, as this girl is your assistant, but your wishes to have her moved have fallen on deaf ears. It also seems to me that she may be very unhappy with her job, seeing as though she does not make an effort to be on time, and always has something negative to say. Complaining is an inevitable part of working, but if it is affecting her performance, there’s an issue. I once told my employer, when he asked why I was so angry all the time, that I hated working for him and I cried every day because of how miserable I was. He told me to smile more. So….

Perhaps it is time to outline for your coworker the expectations of her position— the hours she is meant to be there, the tasks she should accomplish (I find lists to be helpful!), and explaining how to broach her complaints or suggestions in a more constructive way. I would hate to have you tell her to change her attitude, because I obviously have never appreciated being told to smile or be more pleasant, but something must be amiss if she is always upset and rude. Maybe a sit-down meeting with one of your higher ups (to mediate) would help diffuse the situation? Who knows, there could be some misunderstanding from a year ago that is still eating away at her, or you, that can be put to bed then and there.

I would also suggest that you meet with your higher up alone to discuss her work performance. Being late all the time and not getting her work done should be a no brainer in terms of keeping her on the payroll, so maybe expressing your concerns and suggesting that meeting with her would help. I can’t understand why any employer would be ok with constant tardiness, unless she has some sort of situation hindering her arrival (kids, crappy transportation, etc.). I am never on time for anything, and it has impacted past jobs, which is why I am grateful I work from home now.

I feel bad, because it seems like you’re so unhappy, and she’s so unhappy. And in this world, jobs are sacred; I would hate to see her lose hers because of behaviors that can be easily fixed or changed. But I also want you to not have to look at each work day as the albatross that it already is. I do think communication is best, but you may have to ready yourself for the inevitability of life: that some people are awful, and you just have to grit your teeth and hope they decide to relocate 7,000 miles away.

Of course, your workplace seems so lax on rules, you could always take a lesson from Jim on The Office and put her stapler in a Jell-O mold.

I publish all questions with a veil of anonymity. I would never want to expose someone, especially if their question is a sensitive one, such as domestic violence, sexuality, and the like. Therefore, I may edit questions down if I feel they are too specific, but please keep in mind that I am considering the whole picture when responding to you.

The advice given is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace the legal, financial, medical, or professional advice of trained specialists.

31bwKolleen Carney is a Boston- born, Burbank- based poet with a B.A. from Salem State University in Salem, MA, and an MFA in Poetry from Antioch University Los Angeles. She has served on the editorial team for Soundings East, Lunch Ticket, Paper Nautilus, and Zoetic Press. Her poetry and other writings have appeared or will be appearing in Currents, Vision/ Verse, Lunch Ticket,, Golden Walkman, The Watershed Review, Incredible Sestinas, Uno Kudo Vol. 4, A Quiet Courage, Yellow Chair Review, Drunk Monkeys, Odyssey, and Five 2 One. She is obsessed with California, Pez dispensers, and macarons. Her website is