Claire Mutchnik

Dear Sohum,

How do I move on from someone I was never together with to begin with? Especially when it screws with me being invested in other people… we have been “more than friends” for over a year but here we still are, just “friends.” What do I do?


Friends, No Benefits

Dear Friends, No Benefits:

It’s not clear to me quite what you’re looking for — whether you want to begin dating this person or are hooking up or if you’ve already been doing that or if you really are as ready to move on as your first sentence would suggest. I sense that this is exactly the problem — even you are likely unsure of quite what you want. My gut tells me that I have been in your precise shoes and that you are not having trouble moving on from someone, but rather, having trouble moving on from an entire set of possibilities — what you hoped, what could have been, with this person. A possible future, but entirely made up. The problem with fantasies is that they can grow uncontrolled, coming to encompass every positive future and leaving you — in the present, and in the real future outside your fantasies — with a series of worse alternatives. The fantasy is better and feels better to live in, so you have trouble leaving it behind. It is hard to hear, but I need you to know that if there was anything between you and your friend, one of you would have acted on it by now. Instead, there isn’t anything and so the two of you are just friends. Moving on requires that you forfeit hope in the fantastic futures you saw with this other person — that you understand there isn’t anything between the two of you and that your future with them is less likely to be the beautiful set of possibilities you continue to entertain, but rather, more of the uncertainties that are leaving you frustrated right now. It takes a little bit of time, even once you’ve had that realization, to truly shed your investments in that person, but it’s the first step. And once you have been able to give up on that future, it will leave you free to envision new futures with different people — ones more likely to pass and more likely to leave you seriously satisfied in the long run.

Dear Sohum,

I don’t know how to tell my father I’m not looking at architecture internships for the summer because I want to be a writer. What do I do?


Architecture is Agony

Dear Architecture is Agony,

This is a funny letter because it conceals a much bigger question within a smaller one — the question of how do I tell my father I want to be a writer is likely to be more difficult than the one of how do I tell my father I don’t want to look at architecture internships. It has to do with the foreclosure of possibility and the forfeiture of certainty.

I don’t know if this is the kind of conversation with your father that is likely to be easy or if it is one that will generate conflict. Frankly, however, I am much more used to parental conversations that generate tremendous conflict — and if you’re writing to me, that’s likely what you expect as well.

The first thing to do is launch a trial balloon of sorts — to propose to your father that you might be looking at other opportunities for the summer. Specifics are key — I expect you’ll be much more successful if you suggest that you’re applying for specific fellowships at newspapers or working with other writers, etc. than if you propose the summer as a great blank space for you to “explore” or to “find yourself.”

As to the question of telling your father you want to be a writer — I advise caution there, as much because writing is much maligned as a career option and because it seems like you might be claiming to know too much too soon. You are young — and the decision to become a writer can be challenging for parents, particularly in contrast to what I perceive as relative stability of an architect’s life. So keep it to yourself — for now. Work on your writing, and seek out writing opportunities for the summer. Once you have a strong sense of what that writing life might look like — specifics are key, as I’ve said — let your father know. He’ll likely be amenable.

Sohum Pal | .