Carr: Ditching bad habits and attachments vital

Advice columnist Cary Carr answers reader-submitted questions.

Cary Carr

Cary CarrMy boyfriend brought an important point to my attention the other day: I’m a mess. As we were discussing this advice column, he poked fun at me, reminding me how often I’m tripping over my own feet. And I must admit, I can’t argue with him. I put all of the whites and colors into the same laundry load, I always forget to zip up my purse, I gravitate toward danger and I routinely break my phones.

So why the hell would any of you take advice from a gal like me?

Well, turns out, those of us who are the biggest messes — those of us who repeatedly screw up — we tend to be a little bit more enlightened on what to avoid doing. You know that super perfect friend you have who has never had a bad breakup or worn her pants backward all day — guilty — she won’t be able to help you. Why, you ask? Because she’s never had to deal with craziness like deciding between two friends — also guilty — and she’s never made any horrifying mistakes. What does she know?

I, on the other hand, can relate with you when you’re trying to recover from that blackout on Friday night. And I won’t judge you when you desperately need advice on how to let your best friend know she reeks of egg salad.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve probably done it twice. And I, the expert in all things messy, will guide you to the cleaner route than I have taken.

So yes, I am a mess — a big, hot mess. But I’ve done it for the greater good. Now, I can lead others to the less destructive path. Plus, being perfect is so boring anyway. What’s life without a little gum in your hair and a bit of broccoli stuck in your teeth?

Q: How do I manage a full course load and extracurriculars that take up a lot of time but are relevant to my major?

A: Funny you ask because I’ve been wondering the same thing lately. It’s hard enough being a full-time student, working to make enough money to survive and struggling to maintain a semi-decent social life.

Adding organizations on top of that can be a major stressor. I currently write for a few publications, dance for Philly’s lacrosse team and edit for Her Campus on top of two jobs, and recently I’ve been considering cutting down. It’s just not feasible to get involved in a ton of extracurriculars and to give them all your one hundred percent effort. So maybe your best bet, along with mine, is to pick the one or two activities or organizations that you enjoy the most.

Yes, I said enjoy. Forget about what you think you should do and focus on what makes you the happiest because if you force yourself to dedicate two nights a week to meetings that make you want to rip your hair out then you’ll end up half-assing everything. But if you narrow your extracurriculars down to things that you look forward to doing, then you’ll gain much more out of it than a measly addition to your résumé. It might be hard saying no to people or turning things down, but that’s a skill you’ll need to acquire to make it in the “real world,” whatever that is. So ditch the guilty conscience for not being able to do it all and save your energy for what really matters — your happiness.

Q: How do you make sure you get enough sleep during “hell weeks”?

A: Before I answer this, you should know that I am kind of an obsessive studier. I make my own study guide a week in advance and devote hours each day to preparing. I lose a good amount of sleep reading PowerPoint slides, highlighting like a maniac on my notes and going over my material even during other classes.

This is probably not the healthiest method to adopt, so here’s what I would do if I could change my own habits: pick certain hours of each day to focus on one major project, test or paper. Devote that time fully, no interruptions — hello, cute puppies on Instagram — just full-on, giving it your all study time.

Most people I know combine studying with talking to their friends, watching a new show or checking their Facebook. This just makes getting everything done so much more exhausting. So tweak your habits a bit — focus and then get some much-needed rest.

Q: Calling all parents — this one’s for you: How do I let go of my children when they go to college?

A: News flash: it’s not going to be easy. But your best bet is to not make it any harder than it has to be. Sure, it’s going be super weird when you walk past their room and all that’s left is the dishes they always forgot to clean up, the unmade bed with sheets that haven’t been washed in weeks and a strange odor lingering on the furniture. But then you’ll turn that room into your own personal gym, an office or a second kitchen — hey, why not? — and the pain will start to fade away. You’ll have some “you” time, and you’ll get to relax, like really relax, for the first time in years.

You just need to embrace that personal time and not be so caught up in fears that your baby is going to get drunk at a party or get lost in the city. The truth is, your kid will probably make a ton of mistakes, but that’s called growing up. And isn’t that what you’ve worked so hard to raise them to do right anyway?

Cary Carr can be reached at

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