Sick family, selfish friends, and sorry financials
Dear Birdie: My grandmother’s health is getting pretty bad, but I’m not even in the same province, and I haven’t seen her since August. We used to be really close when I was younger, and I miss talking to her since I’ve been away at school. My workload is insane this time of year, but I’m really worried that I won’t get a chance to say goodbye if the worst does happen. Any suggestions?
— Worried Winifred
I’m so sorry that your heart feels split between your life at UVic and your life at home with your grandmother. If you can afford it, I would encourage you to take a trip back to visit her, even if it’s only a short trip to accommodate your school responsibilities.
When you’re in university, every single assignment or quiz can feel like this momentous step towards getting that handy-dandy key to happiness (i.e. a degree). It can be very difficult to see situations with the required perspective when you have those final exam blinders up, so let me be the one to say that spending time with your grandmother far outweighs anything to do with school. Missing a few days will not break you. Even missing an exam will not prevent your graduation. What will be difficult to get back is that lost time with your grandmother.
If returning home to see her is not within your budget or coincides with something that you really can’t miss, maybe it would be just as valuable to start calling your grandmother more often. You say that you used to talk a lot more when you were younger, so perhaps it’s just a matter of getting back into that habit.
Make a commitment to chat with her every week and let her know that you’ll be calling so that she expects your calls. It can be difficult to coordinate if she’s in and out of the hospital or attending a lot of doctor’s appointments, so get an ally back home to help facilitate conversation.
Maybe your grandmother is a tech wizard and already know how to text and use Skype. If not, you can also get this ally to teach her these alternate forms of communications to make it even easier with both of your busy schedules. Send her a card or a handwritten letter. Make a connection in anyway you can. In the end, I know you won’t regret it.
Dear Birdie: I’ve always been generally okay with the fact that I’m single and my roommates are all in relationships, but recently I’ve noticed how much time we spend talking about their boy problems. It’s all they ever want to discuss, and because I’m single my problems always take a backseat. Am I selfish for wanting to be the centre of attention every once in a while?
— Sidelined Susan
That is not a selfish response at all! You are absolutely justified in your desire to be heard. Relationships are rife with material to over-analyze among friends, which is why they so often get the bulk of our attention. Does Johnny’s boyfriend Derek have a crush on his new swim coach? Is Alex’s girlfriend Jessica just pretending to like Rick and Morty? How weird is it that Alice’s partner Pete can’t name a single prime minister? However, if your friends are really friends at all, they will overanalyze your non-romantic problems as well. The next time you and your roommates discuss the latest text message from Bethany’s deadbeat boyfriend, be upfront: maybe say something along the lines of “I was wondering if we could talk a bit about (insert problem here). I’d really appreciate your opinion on these kinds of things.”
While there’s no way to force them to take an interest in your issues, that’s sort of the point of friendship. If they don’t change their ways after an honest conversation about your feelings, I’m inclined to say that they aren’t actually your friends. And yes, that sounds harsh, especially if the issue is that they don’t know that you feel excluded. But if it’s something more — like an apathy about including you even after you’ve laid out your feelings — and they are not fulfilling the emotional support category of friendship, then that’s not okay. You don’t sound like the kind of person who settles in their love life, so don’t settle in your friendships either!
Dear Birdie: My friends constantly want to go out and do things that cost money — don’t ask me how they have the time — but at this point in the semester, I’m working paycheck to paycheck and trying to save for the holidays. I still want to spend time with my friends, but there’s just no way I can do all of these activities with them. How do I make them understand my situation?
— Broke Betty
I apologize if this sounds mean, but your friends must be pretty clueless if they don’t realize that most university students are living off three packs of ramen and a piece of cheese at this point in the semester. (Who are your friends anyway? The Kardashians?) But seriously, I would not feel any shame in telling them that you simply cannot follow in their steps of fiscal irresponsibility. It shows maturity and practicality to stick to a budget and save for the future.
However, I do understand that for some people money is a very uncomfortable point of discussion, and so chatting openly with your jet-setting pals may be easier said than done. That’s okay! Don’t feel pressured by anyone (including me) to divulge your financial situation.
Regardless, it’s no fun being the person who constantly has to say no and risk gradual exclusion from the group. So, instead, be the one to suggest alternative activities that don’t require money: movie nights at home, a picnic in the park, a visit to the petting zoo, a hike up Mount Tolmie, a night of card games, volunteering at the SPCA, etc. Take the onus out of their hands and be the person to organize outings or hangouts so that you have complete control over how much money you spend. If these people really are your friends, they will likely catch on to your situation without you having to say anything. Who knows? Maybe they’re all secretly broke and just in denial.
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