My coworker wants to tell me about her higher power. Should I welcome the conversation?

The other day I had a coworker tell me that once she gets to know me better she wants to tell me how her higher power changed her life. How do I respond?

I really like this coworker. We’ve really connected recently and although we’ve never spent time together outside of work, I think we could become good friends. 

But we’re definitely an unlikely pair.

She’s Christian and everybody knows it. She’s proud of her faith and is pretty vocal about it – even on the clock.

I don’t think she knows I’m an atheist. I told her I don’t go to church and that’s as far as I got.

So if this conversation about her “higher power” takes place, can I tell her why I’m an atheist? It seems only fair but I’m extremely skeptical. I feel like a conversation like this could either leave me feeling liberated or feeling ostracized. 

Deep down, I really want someone I can be open with. 

I really think this coworker is an awesome person which has made it easier for me to overlook our differences. She’s very resilient and her heart is in the right place.

Have you ever been in this situation? Would you welcome a conversation like this or avoid it? How should I respond? Please keep in mind that I live in a red state in the Midwest and I have to work with this coworker every week.

Where Lies My Empathy — Animals vs. Humans

I spend a lot of time watching true crime documentaries. Out of all the outrageous, horrible, violent stories I’ve heard about humans, it bothers me more when an animal gets hurt.

Does anyone else feel this way?

A few days ago I was watching a show where an alpaca was attacked. While they didn’t actually show the attack you could hear the alpaca crying out in pain. It was the most disturbing thing I’ve experienced in a long time. I keep hearing the alpaca’s cry in my head and found it necessary to cuddle with an alpaca plushie I bought a few years ago. My throat just stays in my stomach.

The true crime documentaries never made me do that. 

Am I sensitive about animals? Desensitized to human suffering? Both?

I am an animal person. As I write this, five of our eight cats are enjoying their new gigantic kitty condo. But even if my house wasn’t ruled by a small army of cats, I think I would still feel the same way.

Humans are capable of evil whereas animals are innocent and just trying to survive. I think that’s why it bothers me so much.

I am a sensitive and emotional person in general. I cry a lot when I watch TV. I just thought it was interesting how the alpaca had such an emotional impact on me – more so than other stories involving people.

Can anyone relate?

Are you intense like me? Is that good or bad?

My husband describes me as intense – and he’s absolutely right. That’s exactly how I feel most of the time. It can be unnerving and I don’t know if it’s worse for me or the people around me. But despite the emotional war in my head, I try my best to be pleasant and polite – after all, I’m still a Midwesterner. 

I think my intensity stems from a lot of things – my mental illness, my personality, past experiences, etc. However, I can’t think of one singular event that left me feeling this way. In fact, I don’t ever remember not feeling this way.

Did this get worse with age? Maybe. Everything became more intense when I became a parent. I love my playful, spunky little girl, but motherhood came with a million new things to be anxious about as well as a few crippling bouts of depression. I find relief in knowing I am not alone in this. For once in my life, I’m not the odd one out because I’m sure many other parents feel the same way.

Even though I experience overwhelming highs and lows, I don’t always see it as a bad thing. I’m a very passionate person. When I’m interested in something, I grab ahold and give it two thousand percent. I’m organized, driven, and ambitious and I will just run with it. I’m proud of my accomplishments – accomplishments that probably would have never happened if I wasn’t this intense. 

I don’t mean to be dramatic but that seems to be how my brain interprets everything. Some days I wish I could turn it off or at least down a couple of notches, but I can’t. I feel fragile and anticipate that whatever happens next is going to break me.

Then again, some days I really see the positive aspects of my intensity. I accept it and wouldn’t change it — maybe even view it as a strength. I want everyone to feel my intensity through my art and writing. I think if you took it away I would be pretty boring. It’s just a part of me and I wouldn’t be the same without it. 

Can anyone relate? How do your loved ones describe you? If your highs and lows were amplified, would you find a way to use them to your benefit? If you have a mental illness like me, how do you separate your illness from your personality? Do you have the magical ability to relax?

The Value of an Education

When I was younger, I went to a university but dropped out due to mental health struggles. I never finished my degree and it was a sore subject for a very long time. I wanted to go to college so badly so when it didn’t work out, I felt like a complete failure. 

In my early thirties, my mental health was a little more stable and I enrolled in a community college. I eventually graduated with an associate’s degree in commercial art. I was never really great at school but the commercial art program was very hands-on; everything I learned was very practical and I actually did really well. I enjoyed my time there. 

But it still wasn’t a four-year degree.

For the longest time, I said one day I’ll go back – even as I got older. That would be nearly impossible with the amount of student loan debt I have, not to mention my other responsibilities – taking care of my daughter and paying bills. Still, I wanted to go back to college…one day.

But something’s changed. For the past few years, I have been able to pursue the things I love – art and writing. I also have a part-time job working in the arts and mental health. It’s perfect. It is right where I need to be, and for once, I don’t want to go back to school. I’m happy where I am.

When I think about college now, I don’t think it would be worth the money. I’ve gotten lots of opportunities without it and I’m fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong – I would be very proud had I finished a degree when I was younger, but it doesn’t seem to matter to me anymore. Is that wrong?

I’m not going to lie – sometimes I feel guilty for not wanting to go back to school. It was something that was expected of me and I didn’t follow through. Shouldn’t I want to finish? Obviously, it’s not impossible or unheard of for someone in their forties to return to college; I just don’t want to. It’s no longer important to me. 

I certainly don’t regret the time I spent at the university. I found a few classes really interesting and some of the things I learned have really stuck with me, but I wonder if I could’ve gotten the same experience elsewhere. Was it really worth the boatload of debt I’m in now?

Can anyone relate? Is a degree really worth it? No matter what path you took in education, if you could go back in time, would you do the same thing? Is there a better way?

Most jobs that actually pay a livable wage require a four-year degree, but if that wasn’t the case, would a college education really be worth it? In many ways, we pay a hefty price to go to school, would a degree still have value? What about the value of the college experience? Maybe it’s a rite of passage that needs to be challenged.