Goodbye for Now

1stphotofromspacejpg__600x0_q85_upscale.jpg__800x600_q85_crop

Today is the third birthday of this site. It started as an outgrowth of our career group, and turned into a place to talk about the personal backstories behind big life choices. We’ve devoted hundreds and hundreds of happy hours to it in that time, writing pieces, recruiting and editing guest authors, and making it into a site we were proud of. And now we have some news to share, which is that we’re going to stop publishing Small Answers (at least for now). (read more…)

Small Answers Readers Recommend…

the-reader-marguerite-matisse

Do you remember the feeling, as a kid, of losing yourself completely in a book? That dreamlike state, composed of emotion and timelessness, that comes with complete absorption of something outside yourself?

When I remember that feeling, I think of the “Little House” books, of “Bridge to Terabithia,” of the “Alanna: Song of the Lioness” series. I still chase that feeling when I pick out books to read now, as an adult, and a few months ago I captured it. After hearing for many years about Jane Smiley’s “A Thousand Acres,” I took it out of the library and spent the whole weekend reading it on my couch. It had been a long time since I had lost myself so wholly in another world; for two afternoons I became fully consumed with the story of the Cook family, their choices, the world of Zebulon County, IA. It felt intoxicating.

Since we know that the Small Answers community is full of dedicated readers, we wanted to mine the wisdom and taste of our audience. We asked you to tell us about a book or two that has been meaningful to you at some point in your life. What follows is an amazing list of book recommendations along with notes about why these reads were significant. (read more…)

Where are they now?

Edward_Collier's_trompe_l'oeil_painting

In the nearly three years that Small Answers has been running, we’ve had almost 40 guest authors who have shared stories about everything from how they avoid marital disappointment, to finding love in Craiglist’s “Missed Connections,” to dealing with not being a prodigy. We wanted to check in with them to find out how they’re doing: are they still struggling with the things they wrote about? How have their lives or careers changed since then? WILL THEY BE OK (of course they will!)? Read on, if you’re curious… (read more…)

Reinventing Your Job

Royal Hawaiian Feather Art

There is a narrative from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, now largely mythical, about what a career looks like: graduate from college, find a job, then put in twenty five or 30 years before retiring at 55 with a gold watch and a pension. In other words, it used to be very typical to stay at one company for a long time, maybe even your whole career. But in the intervening decades, our cultural expectations of career have changed. Having many jobs has become normal — actually, valued. And there is a general belief that once a job ceases to fully satisfy you, it’s time to get a new one. While there are times when this response is justified, sometimes I think we’re too quick to assume a new job will be the answer. Sometimes a workplace reinvention can be as or more effective. (read more…)

The Rent Is Too Damn High

waynethiebaud_gumball_machine

The dream doesn’t always start the same way, but the fundamental story is constant: I unexpectedly discover that the tiny San Francisco apartment I share with my husband and our cat contains previously undiscovered rooms. It could be that I find them through a hidden door, a closet I’d never bothered to open, or a separate entrance I’d never used. Whatever the path, all of a sudden my living space doubles or triples in size, and I don’t have to move or pay more in rent. I’m so relieved, I think. This is great.

I’ve had this dream probably a dozen times. The fact that it is recurring and so literal makes me laugh, but warily. I really do want more space, but I can’t bring myself to make the sacrifices it would take to get it — either putting more of my income toward rent than I feel comfortable with, or leaving San Francisco. At least not yet. This is the huge, looming question facing many of my friends and people in my peer group who live in expensive cities: what are we going to do when we finally decide that the rent is too damn high? (read more…)