My granddaughter is a freshman in college. What advice does a grandmother who has made more mistakes than you can name give to her? She's bright, talented, her own person and so excited. Perhaps she needs to go where she's never been without advice from me. What do you think?
Take care of yourself.
What would be good for your granddaughter is an older, wiser, familiar soul (you) to whom she can speak freely and tell the truth and know that you respect her independence. A benevolent listener who will offer advice if asked but who will not pry and will not tattle, except in extreme circumstances. So make plans to drive to her town and take her out to dinner. A college kid can always use a free meal. Skip the advice. Tell her about the dumbest thing you did when you were her age, or the Five Dumbest Things. Have a good talk. Make her laugh. Get yourself a motel room and ask if you can come to a class with her. She'll be impressed that you take an interest. And you'll get to take vicarious pleasure in her adventures in the world. Don't discuss her with her parents except to stick up for her when they rag on her, as parents are wont to do. You're her grandmother. Entirely different job.
To the Host:
I am 35, and used to listen to the show when I was driving semi-truck. The music brightened my day, and reminded me how important it is to keep playing and writing my own music. What advice would you have for a young man trying to dedicate his life to his music and present himself to the world?
Newman Lake, WA
Thirty-five is not so young in the music world, Steven, and I'm sure you know that. Eighteen is young, twenty-two is young, and thirty-five is sort of a gray area. My advice is to focus on the craft of performing, developing your musical craft, and put your original music on the shelf for a little while. Try playing music that people want to dance to, or hear in the background as they eat their dinners, or that has ceremonial weight (weddings, funerals), or that you could play in a public place and make people smile as they pass by. Music that will lift up the lonely. There are a lot of lonely people in the world and music can be therapeutic for them and right there is a big vocation. Think of people at the beginning and end of the life cycle, a roomful of 2nd graders squirming in their seats, a roomful of elderly in wheelchairs, and think what you could give them in 15 minutes that would brighten their day. That's a huge service and an enormous challenge. And those people are available for music. They need it, unlike most people in the middle years who are ferociously busy, distracted, hard to reach. At the age of 35, a person has lost some of that youthful ambition and drive to excel, but he has not lost the need to Be Useful.
To the Host:
I am now living in Norway and I am faced with the ultimate question -- Lutefisk: should I try it? I have put it off for two years, should I hold out?
Let's just substitute the word "kale" for Lutefisk -- Kale: I have put it off for two years, should I try it? One: there surely are more important questions in your life that you need to be taking care of -- are you getting enough exercise? Are you consuming too much beer? Have you read enough Dickens? Two: if you have put off eating kale for two years, probably you have built it up in your imagination to the point where it would be impossible for you to enjoy kale. On the other hand, if you go on refusing kale, you might well start to obsess about this and to blame all your other problems on your kalelessness -- your inability to understand algorithms, your awkwardness on the dance floor, your shyness in the presence of lawyers, your confusion about the subjunctive mood -- I say this because your phrase "hold out" shows you already have made this into an issue, not a simple matter of choosing what to eat. I, for example, have not eaten lutefisk in the past two years: avoiding lutefisk is not a problem for me. I stay busy around the holidays so that if someone invites me to a lutefisk dinner, I have an excuse: all my evenings and weekends are spoken for. Anti-lutefiskism has not taken over my life, as it threatens to take over yours. "Put it off"? Mr. Reeves, you write as if you feel an inevitability about lutefisk. As if you have no will of your own. As if something is drawing you inexorably into the dark chasm of lutefisk. You are not, believe me. Even in Stavanger, there are plenty of people who are strangers to lutefisk, who will always prefer the meatballs. The answer to your question is very simple: you will meet a woman and fall in love and either she will be a lutefisk person or she will not, probably depending on whether her family is pro- or con- and you will, at least in the early stages of courtship, follow her lead, especially if she takes you home to meet her parents over the holiday. Either they will serve you this disgusting gelatinous offal or they will not: if they do, you will eat a small portion and smile and say it is the best lutefisk you ever ate. And in your case, that will be true.