I imagine it’s the same phenomenon as when you get married. It’s actually probably even worse when you have a baby. (Goodness, I cannot imagine what it is like when you have a baby. Someone please tell me it isn’t as bad as I think when you have a baby?)
Generally speaking, it seems as though when you make major life decisions or (not so) graciously walk through to major milestones, people will kindly offer advice to you about what to expect.
If you buy a house, people will tell you never to offer full price or to make sure you pick your own inspector or to make sure you close at the end of the month.
If you get married, people will tell you to never stop dating or to say, “I love you,” everyday or never to go to bed angry.
If you have a baby, people will tell you to breast feed and only breast feed or to make sure the baby learns to self-soothe or to refrain from co-sleeping.
But what no one tells you when you walk through one of these seasons? What no one will whisper to you in between the congratulations and the well-wishes and their best tips and tricks for a tear free emergence into your coming of age?
Everyone is going to give you advice. And it’s all going to be different.
For me, this truth displayed itself to me through the process of buying my first home.
From the very first day I started looking, people were engaged in full-fledged advice-giving. With best intentions alongside the sweetest of gestures, people would offer advice that either stemmed from a major win they had in the same area — or advice that was the result of learning the hard way through some sort of horrific misfortune that always sounded like it was right out of a Lifetime movie.
And you guys, I got a little bit overwhelmed.
Truth be told, I am a talker. I don’t necessarily like to open up (to complete strangers) about my deepest inner struggles, but I think things like, “Oh, I’m buying a house,” or “Oh, my car needs new brakes. Do you know anyone in South Charlotte?” are fairly commonplace / small talk topics that help us connect with the people around us. For example, coworkers, baristas, people you run with, etc. Non-invasive. Non-super personal. Just the real answer to, “What’s been up with you lately?” That said, the whole me buying a house thing was something I talked about a lot. This, in turn, resulted in a LOT of unsolicited advice. So, I opened myself up to this. (Goodness, imagine being pregnant. You cannot hide that. I bet that process is about three million times more magnified. Please tell me it isn’t nine months of receiving unsolicited advice?)
Now hear me out: I am stubborn. And sometimes, I am admittedly one of those 26-year olds who needs a good humbling from the Lord (and usually gets one) because she thinks she knows it all. But the truth was, even without asking for it, I craved the advice. I had no idea – none whatsoever (and am still kind of fumbling through this homeownership thing) – what I was doing. I was eager to hear all the tips and tricks and hazards that anyone was willing to dish out. All I wanted was long lists of how-tos and what-to-avoids. (And I still do… keep it coming!)
But when peoples’ messages started conflicting? When one person said, “Make sure you get homeowner’s insurance for up to 125% of the value of the home,” and another person told me that I was over insured with a policy that covered me up to 80%? My head started spinning faster than my brand new ceiling fans and I almost instantly shut down. I would clam up, zone out — my eyes would glaze over and I would stop listening to whatever was being said.
When the paths in front of me start getting cris-crossed – when the roads ahead start twisting and turning and intersecting without some pretty well-spelled out and not-up-for-interpretation signs? The control freak in my starts to panic. I’m a map girl. (Even though I can’t read them) I love maps and knowing my exact next step.
And even though our lives don’t come with maps and our next steps aren’t neatly lined up for us like a big to-do list written ahead of time, we each leave a trail of breadcrumbs. With every decision we make and with every lesson we learn, we leave a tiny little non-perishable breadcrumb for the people behind us. Assuming we make moderately wise choices, our lives all have these little footprints, our breadcrumbs are teeny subjective footprints of suggested routes to follow.
But our breadcrumbs are different. Like, really, really different. (Think Panko vs. Italian style vs. whatever Gluten-free breadcrumbs are made of!) And the truth of it? It’s really, really okay.
I had to remind myself of this truth over and over again to avoid drowning in the sea of advice that I found myself wading through. And now? Instead of having inner, silent, panic attacks when people open up about their first-time homeownership going awry or when others nudge me with their elbow and say, “I know a guy who can help you with that,” I smile, politely say thank you, take the number and listen some more.
Because when we tune out? We miss the good advice. But when we listen and filter through? We find what’s right for us, move forward and leave our own breadcrumbs for others to trip over.
What do you do when you’re inundated with advice? Is it hard for you to decipher good advice from bad advice when you’re overwhelmed?