Dear Anne, Certainly,
What do you want to say before you retire?
It's weird to be writing this. My first answers posted in October of 2011 - I've been at this for over 7 years. When I started I'm not sure I'd even declared an undergraduate major. Since then, I've finished undergrad and law school, gotten married, been admitted to the bar, and survived the first year of being a mom. So, basically, the Board's been one of the constants in my life during a time when a lot has changed.
Since no answer by me would truly be complete without subheadings, let's get some things written that I'd like to say.
Things the Board has taught me:
1. Waiting a few hours is frequently a good idea when you think you have something important to communicate. I often try to not be a jerk even in first draft answers because fellow writers will still see that stuff, but even when I think I'm writing cautiously or clearly, my writing almost always benefits from later review. This is one of the best skills I've learned from the Board: to reflect before speaking/writing. Writing on the internet is interesting because it lacks so much context. It's really hard to use inflection to convey tone (though you can do a bit with emphasis, etc.) Accordingly, I've learned to look at what I'm saying and try to see how someone else would interpret it - particularly someone who might disagree with my opinion.
2. You really can procrastinate something forever and it isn't usually that helpful. The dirty not-so-secret of the Board is that 100 hours is a goal/aspiration, but not always a reality. Indeed, we've seen questions go into the 4 digits. Sometimes this totally makes sense, and there are totally valid reasons that I've put Board stuff on the back burner to do stuff like, you know, school, or family, or other stuff that matters more in the real world than green thumbs-up. However, having that ever-climbing overdue in my inbox feels icky. I wish and also don't wish that I had that on things I'm procrastinating in my real life: "It has been +12 days since you said you were going to take care of X..." Once it hits a few hundred hours you're like "uggghhh I don't even want to deal with it." But eventually you're either going to have to do it or delete your answer and lose out the effort you already put into your partial answer, so there's that.
3. Listen not just to what people say, but what they should have said. That may sound super patronizing, and maybe I am (though I hope not), but one of the things I've noticed on the Board is that it isn't uncommon to have a reader write in a question and provide enough background to make it pretty clear that the problem they've identified either isn't really the one that's causing their issues or is only a part of the cause. For example, if I write in a Board Question that says:
Dear 100 Hour Board,
I've been writing for an online website for 7 years now, but I'm retiring. I don't really have any friends or hobbies other than writing for the website, and I don't know what to do other than sit at my computer staring at a blank screen all day once I've quit. Which should I start writing for afterwards, Quora, or Yahoo! Answers?
If that were a real question, it's pretty clear that the answer wouldn't just be either Yahoo! Answers or Quora, the answer would hopefully also encourage me to find friends by doing X, Y, and Z, and to pursue new hobbies, which I can try by doing A, B, and C so that I can have a more improved, balanced life.
While it's important not to assume that you just know better than someone else about their own life, I think that it's important to look not only for the questions that are asked but the questions people don't yet realize they need answered. This can include clarifying definitions, correcting incorrect assumptions, identifying problematic attitudes, etc.
This is useful in relating with others and understanding ourselves. When we look beyond just what someone's saying and instead try to understand their whole problem or scenario, we're able to understand and respond to them more effectively. Further, sometimes this sort of reading-between-the-lines is going to be appropriate to analyzing our own communication and what we might NOT be saying (out loud or even to ourselves.) Hopefully over time I'll be able apply to my life the skill of looking past the first level of questions to find what's underneath.
4. Some things are worth it and some things aren't. This is one that gets hit home a lot with the Board. There are some questions that are perfect for a really involved "here's this cool thing I did in the real world and photo-documented for this answer" or "here's a 3000 word essay I wrote about this topic with a bunch of deep reflection and cited sources." There are also questions that, after looking at or attempting, you can tell that you're not going to be able to answer the way you want to, or that aren't worth doing something crazy for.
5. It's okay to not know everything. The Board has allowed me to confront a lot of areas where only incomplete answers are possible. This is something that I've also experienced a lot in my life. There are tons of areas like "planning for my future" and "how to be a parent" and "testimony of the Gospel" where there's an outline of information available and plenty of ways to learn more but I'm pretty far away from being able to provide a completely fleshed out, perfectly-written answer that closes the book on every relevant issue. And that's something I've gotten to be more okay with. Not knowing everything is okay and that it doesn't make the knowledge that you do have and can share useless.
6. Helping people vs. being right. This is a principle in a lot of different places in life, but the Board has been one of mine. I was reading a comment yesterday about the importance of compromise rather than "winning" in marriage, and writing Board answers has a bit of a similar vibe in that part of the goal of the Board is for us to say what we think and believe, but sometimes we want to convince YOU of what we think and believe too - and there are some types of language that are more helpful for convincing people than others. Trying for clarity and compassion rather than writing to people who I already know agree with me helps me think more clearly and, I hope, write better.
Things I'll miss:
1. Not only is the Board cool, but the Board WRITERS are cool. This means that the behind-the-scenes is a major bonus to being a Board Writer. Though I haven't been able to make it to events since moving out of state, I've had some good times with fellow Boardies, and that includes relationships that either never would have happened without the Board or that would have been drastically different without the Board. Some of that still carries through - a text with Sheebs about whatever (usually at night when at least one of us should be asleep), seeing Owlet and her baby on my instagram, that sort of thing. But I'll miss being one of the writers. It's a pretty neat group of humans, even if I always have a hard time figuring out "Wait a minute. This person on my Facebook. They're a writer. But who are they?" (I'm not great with names to start... add in pseudonyms and the fact that you often interact with writers online more than in person and things get confusing.)
2. Being challenged and forced to think. Not that I won't find this in other areas of my life, but there's been a lot of value to me to know that there are certain writers who have different opinions than me. It makes me want to write in a way that makes my opinions defensible, even if they're not persuasive. It makes me want to write in a way that's loving even if it's not agreeing. I think that's valuable.
3. Being Anne, Certainly. Not to say that Anne, Certainly isn't going to remain a part of me (awww) or that Anne is drastically different than who I am in real life, but Anne has more time to reflect on things and is more careful with how she speaks and may be consequently be a bit wiser or kinder than [me]. Hopefully I can become those things over time.
4. A great outlet to write with an audience. I really enjoy being given an interesting prompt and being allowed to just go ham on it.
5. A great outlet to procrastinate and waste time. I mean, obviously, I can still read but the writing part.
Things I want to say:
Thanks. It's been a cool part of my life to do this for so long, and I'm going to miss it. Feel free to email me whether or not we've spoken before. Thanks to those of you who emailed me, talked to me in real life, and asked questions and read answers. Keep telling people about this place, keep reading, and keep writing in.
Closing Anne, Certainly Advice:
Here's some advice you guys didn't ask for; a few things that, in my opinion, are important to a lot of the questions people ask us here and that most of us face, or that have been important to me:
1. Pay attention to how kind you are to yourself - remember to take the time to consider whether you would judge another as quickly as you judge yourself, whether you would say to another the things you say to yourself, and whether you would treat another the way you treat yourself. Apologize when you're not being good to yourself, and then try to do better.
2. Remember that there are lots of worse things in relationships than 10 minutes of awkwardness, and lots of them come from trying to avoid every 10 minute period of awkwardness. As long as you're trying to be respectful and kind to others and yourself and paying attention to make sure you respect the wants and needs of others minor inconvenient awkwardness can really help. See, e.g. the conversation flirting with someone so they know you'd go out with them if they asked, the phone call declining a date (or being rejected), the quick discussion about boundaries on things that make you uncomfortable, etc.
3. In spiritual matters, don't forget that if faith and doubt are opposites, doubt is an action (like faith is) and not just a state of mind: this means that for those who want to continue in the Gospel despite questions, troubling concerns, or other trials, your continued Church attendance, prayer, scripture reading, and holding to covenants are an act proving that you have faith even when you do not feel you can stand up at a pulpit and say that you know X,Y, and Z. Don't convince yourself that lack of knowledge is lack of faith, or that an imperfect testimony is no testimony or no faith.
4. Get blessings. Whatever you're struggling with, God wants to help with, and the Priesthood is one way He does this.
5. It is okay that your capacity is not the same all the time. What you could do last year is not the measure of what you should be doing now. If you get sick (mentally or physically) or if you get busy or if you get overwhelmed, it is okay that "your best" may not give you the same results as it will during other times in your life (or the same results other people might get). One of my favorite quotes is by Orson Scott Card (from the book Xenocide): "We must do all we can do without destroying our ability to keep doing it." You are building a self, and it might be that this week 90% of labor goes towards working on the "endurance" part of yourself and you have to send in project delays on the "learn skills" or "do service" parts or other priorities. That's okay: you can be "engaged in a good cause" even when your abilities and limitations don't permit you to do as much for it as you want.
To borrow a quote from my namesake: "Dear old world [and Board]... you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you." Thanks for the opportunity.
Dear Anne, Certainly,
I know you aren't dying, but seeing your retirement post is bringing back a lot of memories that I had forgotten and it's putting me in a sappy mood. The Board is really good at preserving things for years and I want to be friends with you for years, so I think it might be helpful to save some of these thoughts here before even more slip from my memory. Hopefully you and the the internet are cool with that.
Remember how we became friends only four months before I finished my undergrad and moved back to Canada? I am not really the kind of person that tries to make friends with people when I know they are leaving in four months. Yet you wanted to be my friend, and that means a lot to me. I loved that summer so much because of all the fun things we did. When I moved back to Canada I didn't know we were going to stay such good friends, so I hope it makes sense when I say that you made me realize that no amount of time is too short for a friendship to be worthwhile.
Remember how you introduced me to Chipotle and See's Candies? I owe you big time. Also remember when in my first year of grad school/your last year I would third wheel with you and Man, Certainly basically every Friday night and we would play games and watch dumb movies and eat pizza? I miss those times. And speaking of that year, remember how my OCD was flaring up and you were really kind and patient throughout the whole ordeal? That meant a lot, too.
Oh and do you remember just a few months ago how I texted you at 1 am because I was thinking about the ethical issues around sexual assault laws? And you answered immediately and we had a fascinating text conversation? For some reason, that felt very classic of us and I love how you are always ready to party like that. I know we are getting old and sometimes you can't always be ready to party but you know what I mean.
Anyways, Anne, Certainly, you are a wonderful and fun human. You are a great friend. And I hope that one day Heebs and I move in next door to you and Man, Certainly so that our friendship is more convenient. (Obviously its continued existence is a given.)
Dear Anne, Certainly:
You've been a part of the Board essentially since I've ever wanted to be a part of it. I've appreciated your in-depth responses to complicated and messy questions and dating advice that is actually pretty useful. You've provided me compassion and support when I've desperately needed it, and I'll be forever grateful you took my question about escaping from the topsy-turvy-wonky-gravity Harold B. Lee Library seriously. It's among my favorite Board answers of all time, and I'm pretty sure it will one day save my life.
Good luck out there!