Sign in

Human Parts
A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

Advice

In Human Parts. More on Medium.

LIVED THROUGH THIS

Car crashes, quarry jumps, and the friends we love despite everything

I put my feet on your dashboard, sand and beach tar between my toes; we are old friends.

You pull out a Marlboro and fumble in your pocket for your lighter, holding the steering wheel with your knees. “Don’t,” I say, reaching out for the wheel, nodding toward my child in the backseat. You nod and drop the cigarette out of your lips to your lap and grin at me. “Fine, but only for you.”

“Not for me,” I say.

“For him, because he is yours,” you say.

“Yes, but also for you.”

I’ve been trying to save you for…


This Is Us

I don’t forgive her — but I learned to set my own boundaries and live my life

I’ve hated my mother since I was five years old. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word, but the dislike I have for the woman who gave birth to me is pretty strong, too. Over the past 15 years of my career, I’ve written about my relationship with my mother and the lack thereof, and the question I receive more often than any other is, “How is your relationship with your mother now?” …


Humans 101

Life becomes less devastating when you learn to celebrate the tough stuff

Well, well, well. Here we are, in the throes of a pandemic with no end in sight, surrounded by a million reasons to hate life—job loss, homelessness, illness, fear and anxiety, stress, stress, and more stress. Many of us are being put through the wringer right now as we try to juggle working from home with homeschooling kids, “occasional” day drinking, and a desperate need for personal time and self-care. Looking around, many of us can probably name 10 things to hate right now.

As an eternal optimist, however, I like to look at the other side of pessimistic coins…


If 2020 hasn’t taught us this lesson already, we’re about to learn it: Humans have a hard time dealing with uncertainty. It evokes fear. Anxiety. An obsession with hitting “refresh” on [insert your rabbithole of choice] until the world makes even less sense than it did before.

But uncertainty also presents an opportunity. When the future is unknown, we can shape it. When worries compete for attention inside our heads, we can listen to them — or politely decline to take their calls. Most importantly, when the world feels out of control, we can control the only thing we ever…


Humans 101

Let’s talk about the ‘Never-Asker’

The “Never-Asker” is a category of person who struggles to ask a friend to watch the dog when they go out of town. For the Never-Asker, it’s hard to ask for a ride home from the airport or to ask for the take-out category they really, really want.

Within the Never-Asker category, there are subcategories and layers.

One subcategory is: “I don’t want to really want anything. I’m going to be cool and chill, and I’ll be able to hang no matter what you pick.” This looks like every couple ever going, “What do you want for dinner?” …


Express Yourself

Americans have always been suspicious of people who spend too much time in their heads

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Dear Draft,

When someone asks what I do, I never know how to respond. I’m a writer, among other things, but the word “writer” feels vague. If you write creative nonfiction, how do you explain that at a party? People hear the word “writer” and think it means journalist or reporter or author of literary novels — how do you communicate the in-between?

Signed…


Ask Olive

How do I get the intimacy I crave when my partners keep disappearing?

Hi Olive,

I’m a 36-year-old single woman who is starting to lose hope that I will find sustainable love with anyone.

Five years ago, my boyfriend of four years left suddenly with no real explanation. We had very much been in love and had a genuine, deep friendship — or so I thought. He later explained it was a crippling fear of closeness that sent him running. Knowing this didn’t lessen the devastation, and for a long time, it made me question my sense of reality and my worth.

I was still optimistic after I recovered that once I started…


Most of the time, listening is enough

A 3D render of a human face with a finger on its chin, contemplative pose.
A 3D render of a human face with a finger on its chin, contemplative pose.

I have received more advice over the last six months, both solicited and un-, than I’ve ever heard before in my life. I was facing a major life decision — I hesitate to tell you what the specific decision concerned, because if I do, you, too, will immediately form your own strong and worthless opinions about it. Suffice it to say it was one of those deeply personal decisions about which, paradoxically, everyone feels entitled to give you advice: people who’d consider it tacky to tell you your shoes don’t match your suit won’t hesitate to weigh in on the…


The Draft

Be specific. Be human. Make every word count.

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth in words.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

I have a problem overwriting predominantly. That not only do I add unnecessary words, but my details are nearly always unwanted, misplaced, or confusing. Unfortunately I wasn’t taught English properly (ever). So where can I learn how to write in a manner that actually communicates my intended messages?

Signed,
Absent the Day They Taught…


What it really means when you tell yourself your students are ‘lazy’

I get a lot of emails and private messages from people who have read my essay, “Laziness Does Not Exist,” and want to ask me for advice. Usually, I answer the questions in private, if I have the time, but I thought I’d share this one because it’s particularly unique, yet also cuts to the core of a problem that many readers and commenters have raised: How do you motivate an ineffective student or employee without judging them for being lazy?

This question came from a neurologist who supervises medical residents. She’s struggling with how to handle her mentee’s mistakes…

Human Parts

A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store